Kenneth awoke with a start and jumped off the bed. He looked at the clock on the bedside cupboard, and it was 10 AM. His interview with the Investment Banking Group was supposed to hold at the same time. He must have woken earlier to shower and dress before he slept off again because he was fully dressed, wearing a necktie and shoes. He had no memory of having woken up to shower and dress, but that was not important. He had an interview to get to so he picked up his folder containing his credentials and investment portfolio at Abey Capitals and rushed to the door. His left hand was on the doorknob when he remembered Skippy.
"Skippy! Hey Skippy, where are you hiding?" he asked as he looked around the living room. There was no sign of Skippy, his four-year-old Siamese cat. He was a gift from his girlfriend, Fiona. He is a constant reminder of his relationship with Fiona. He often forgot that she was now an ex and that this fact made Skippy a parting gift.
The whole building seemed more quiet than usual. He pulled out the cat's plate from under the sofa and placed it close to the window - Skippy's favourite spot, and poured some cat food in it.
He looked at his reflection at the broken mirror hanging on the door as he straightened the knot of his red and blue striped tie, and he was pleased with the young man in the black suit that stared back at him. He was late for the interview, but at least he looked good.
He opened the door and stepped into the passage. His neighbours seemed to have all gone out. The large apartment building was quiet - something he had always wished but had never experienced before. There were none of those biscuit wrappers littered along the passage. His footsteps made clicks on the polished concrete floor, and as he walked, the sound echoed. This is the way he had always wished to have things be, but the silence and the calmness of it all was a little disconcerting.
Iskaba Street was a busy, sprawling urban environment. The roads were usually crammed with traffic made up of mostly rickety tricyclists and taxi drivers. As he stepped out of the building, he was met by a cold gust of air. The weather was surprisingly cold for a June morning. On the street there was something noticeably different; the roads lacked heavy traffic. Here and there, you could see pedestrians walking fast to their business. He was about to hail a taxi when one pulled up in front of him.
Biswarup Ganguly [CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]Source
"Upper East Street?" he asked, smiling. Kenneth looked at him, mildly surprised but pleased that things were working out so well for him that morning. He was a chubby, almost hairless man with a very cheerful disposition. Kenneth opened the passenger door and sat in the vehicle.
"I wonder how you knew where I was going. Have we met before?" Kenneth asked.
"When you know, you know," the driver replied as he engaged the gears and drove down the street. There was none of the usual clutter of traffic caused by tricycles and other public transport vehicles. Usually, the journey to the Upper East Street took about thirty minutes due to heavy traffic by that time of the day, but it took a little less than ten minutes that morning because apart from the traffic being light, all the lights turned green for them at the appropriate time. Kenneth took no notice of this time difference because he was preoccupied with the interview he was about to take. Was he too late? Would he get the job? Would the pay be as good as he expected?
He had worked hard in preparation for the interview. He had done his due diligence on the company, and he even has a little bit of insider information from his friend Luis who told him about the opening in the first place. The taxi pulled up in front of the Investment Banking building and the driver smile knowingly. Kenneth paid him and stepped down from the car.
"Knock them dead, Tiger," the driver said as Kenneth walked away.
"What a strange one," he thought, concerning the driver. He reached the entrance of the building and stood very straight, looked at his image in the reflective glass and walked in. The doorman greeted him with a smile.
"Right this way, Mr Angi, the team is waiting for you," the man said. He was a tall fair-complexioned man, dressed in a navy blue shirt and trousers and wearing an equally dark tie. He motioned Kenneth in the direction of the conference room as he led the way. There did not seem to have been anything else going on in the offices because apart from the receptionist and the doorman, there was no other person in sight. The doorman led Kenneth through a door that led to another passage then they took a right and found themselves facing a big mahogany door which was in clear contrast with the white colour of almost everything else in the offices. The doorman motioned him to walk right in. He did.
The interview panel was a team of six. Four middle-aged men and two ladies that seemed in their early thirties. They each smiled when Kenneth walked in. One of them, a white-haired man, motioned Kenneth to sit in the empty chair left at the conference table. He was made welcome by the man who seemed to be the team lead. He introduced himself as Alf Ockendon. He also mentioned the names of the other members of the team.
The interview was casual and conversational. Kenneth was sure he had the job dead to rights until it was time to discuss remuneration. Kenneth's confidence, bolstered by his performance in the interview, he figured that he should ask for as much as was reasonable so he went for the highest amount he could imagine. None of the people in the room flinched. They all seemed to think that it was a reasonable sum. This made Kenneth uncomfortable because he was prepared for negotiation. Would they still offer him the job or would they let him go on account of him being pricy? He began to sense there was something wrong. He looked at the faces of all the team members, and suddenly they seemed familiar, but they could not be! This was the first time he was meeting them all. His rambling thoughts were dissipated when Alf asked him a question.
"When do you expect you would be available to begin?" he asked.
Kenneth thought about it for a moment. He had been out of work for six months, so he did not mind starting immediately if it was possible. It was the end of the month, so he figured he would ask if he could start the next day.
"Can I start tomorrow?" he asked.
The team members each shook their heads slowly, "No". Kenneth was confused. He searched their faces, and they all seemed sad all of a sudden. He could not understand it, and his heart was beating very fast.
"How about the day after tomorrow?"
The same response came from the six. Kenneth was at the point of panic, so he asked the only question that came to his mind:
"Because tomorrow does not exist here," Alf responded.
More confused than ever before, Kenneth asked, "So how do you differentiate one day from another?"
"We don't. We don't have to. We just have a day after a day," Alf responded as the other five nodded their agreement. Suddenly, Kenneth realised that he knew Alf except his name was not Alf. He was Ufere, his headmaster when he was in primary school. Mr Ufere had died about fifteen years ago. As soon as he was sure of this, Alf faded into the wallpaper of the conference room as if he was never there. He recognised the others too, and they faded away just like Alf until he was all alone in the room.
As he sat there, he tried to remember how he came to be in this room. He traced his thoughts to when he woke up just an hour ago, and he tried to remember how and when he slept the night before. He remembered going to study in an empty classroom in his old primary school block. He recalled the school being empty because they were on vacation. He remembered having an asthma attack and searching for his inhaler but could not find it. He clutched his chest as he experienced the pain and frustration of not being able to breathe.
The office walls and everything within it dissolved, and Kenneth found himself standing over his body still curled up in a fetal position on the floor of the classroom. Somehow, he could no longer associate himself with the mass that lay down there even though it was all so familiar. He was not sure of what else to do when he felt a tap on his right shoulder. It was the doorman again.
"I could see you needed to get that interview thing over and done. Are you ready now?" he asked.
Kenneth nodded and followed him out of the classroom.
Authored by @greenrun
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