Working Late by Lisa Brand

  You’re sitting at your desk, grading test you should have passed out today in class like you had promised your students, but you’d decided to watch hockey the night before and leave the work for later. Now it’s later and here you are, still awake at almost midnight, and trying to get these grades in before you allow yourself to sleep. You let out a deep sigh and scratch your head out of frustration, every minute that passes by is one less minute you get to sleep, and when you have to wake up at 6 am, it makes every single minute all the more dreadful. Next time you weren’t going to make the test as long. You’re almost done with the multiple choice problems when suddenly, the power goes out.

            You groan and stumble around to find a match and candle, of which your roommate seems to keep more than enough around. You end up tripping over something in the dark and you curse under your breath. You hear a shushing noise from your roommate’s room and you, being a good roommate, shut the bedroom so you don’t risk disturbing them again, quietly apologizing in the progress. It takes you two to three minutes, but you find one. Finally! You light a candle and place it on your desk. Maybe the power going off is a sign to go to sleep, and you start to ponder if the students will notice just how tired you are. Well, that was nothing a little coffee couldn’t fix. You sit back down, taking a moment to study the flame on the candle, it flickering softly in the darkness only made you feel more tired.

            You continue grading papers for a little while longer. Well, you might as well get the short answer portion over with already, if anything that could be enough for tonight. You start on the first one, gentle tapping your pen against the table as you read along, when a pungent, rotten smell comes over you, causing you to gag. You look to the window facing the street and notice it wide open. Why did your roommate always leave the windows open? The least they could do is close it before going to sleep. The smell must be coming from a skunk outside. That is what you tell yourself as you get up to close it, plugging your nose and hoping the stench will fade soon. As you pushed the chair out, it scrapped against the wood floors and made a loud noise, causing you to close your eyes and sigh out of frustration. You heard your roommate’s door open and before you would let them say anything you say “I’m sorry, go back to sleep, the powers out.” Silence for only a moment, and then you hear the door close again.

            Shortly after closing the window, you head back to your desk and sit back down, but the smell has still not faded and if anything, you think it’s getting worse. You hope the skunk didn’t sneak in when you weren’t looking, but you’re too tired to search through the house and you don’t want to wake your roommate, you already made them upset with you earlier.

            You grade the tests for about another hour. It’s now past 1 am, your head is drooping and you can’t even concentrate on reading anymore, and honestly the only thing your mind is thinking about is how soft your pillow is. The smell is still lingering in the household, but you’ve grown used to it. You lay your head on your desk and let your arms stretch out, accidentally knocking off the lamp that sat on your desk. It was plastic, so it didn’t break, but it made a loud noise. You’re too tired to pick it up, you let your eyes close and your head rest. After a couple moments you hear footsteps heading towards your room. Maybe if you keep your eyes closed and pretend to be asleep your roommate will leave you alone. But you soon grow tense, for as the footsteps enter your room and as you feel hot breath on your back, the realization comes over you…your roommate has been out of town for two weeks.

Photo by Louis on

About the Author:

Lisa Brand has just recently graduated from Cal State Channel Islands with an English Degree. While she hopes to go into book editing, she spends her time working on old stories and at her current job as a content writer for an accounting firm. She has currently been published in the Island Fox, a college Literary Journal, but hopes to expand her horizons even further. 

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