);

LIKE A FIRE DRILL by Gary Duncan

1

They found him in the stairwell, two days later. Wedged behind the door, his hand still clutching his chest. We had to evacuate the building and wait in the car park like it was a fire drill. All in our designated places, like we’d practiced. Editorial near the gates, then IT, then Sales, then Warehouse and Support. Some of the salespeople sloped off early, said they were going to the pub to sink a few for him. It’s what he would have wanted. He didn’t even drink. One of the women from IT, the one he liked but was too nervous to talk to, asked if I was going to join them. “Me neither,” she said, crying. “Poor guy, I didn’t even know him.”

2

I mean how terrible is that, someone dying, actually dying, and no one even noticing. The poor man, I just feel so awful for him, for his friends and family. I can’t stop thinking about him, lying there in the dark on his own, behind that fire door. I didn’t even know him, not really, but I wish I’d said something to him, just hello, you know. Made the effort to say just one thing to him. One of the guys from Editorial, he was crying and I was crying, and we just stood there crying together, not knowing what else to do. They said we could have a few days off, to grieve, but I don’t want to stay at home on my own, not now. But I don’t want to go back to work either.

3

They said the fat bastard had been there for a couple of days, but you ask me, it was probably more like a week. One of the security guards, one of the lads who found him, said it had to be a week, the state of him. You know what he said? He said the guy’d shat himself. Said the place stunk to high heaven. Flies and everything. We didn’t know that at the time of course. We didn’t know much at the start because they dragged us outside straight away, into the bloody car park, in the rain. Not really rain, more like a heavy drizzle, that thick drizzle that clings to your clothes, you know, so me and a few of the other sales guys we thought fuck that for a game of soldiers, let’s nip over the Red Lion for a pint. Make the most of it, make an afternoon of it. I didn’t know the guy from Adam, to be honest, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded.

4

I didn’t think anything of it. You don’t, do you? Just a niggle in the chest, more towards the shoulder really. A twinge. I thought I’d maybe pulled something when I was loading those boxes onto the trolley. Printer paper, boxes and boxes of the stuff. Thought I’d be clever and do it three at a time, even though we’re not supposed to do that, what with health and safety and everything. But it was just a twinge, nothing to worry about. I’d forgotten all about it, then it happened again when I was going up the stairs. This was different. Scary. Like someone had reached into my chest and ripped it apart with their bare hands. Christ, the pain. I was near the fire door, at the top of the stairs, and I thought I’d be fine if I just sat down there for a while. So that’s what I did.

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