Jones sat at his desk, warm mug of coffee in one hand, a small stack of mail in the other. He had just gotten into the office but already he felt like something was off. After a moment's consideration, while he sipped the sweetened beverage, he decided that it was too cold in the office. It was usually a bit nippy, but this particular morning, it was unbearably so. Even with layers of business clothes, Jones found himself shivering. He sighed, setting his mug down. Dwelling on it would not do. He'd ask someone to see to the thermostat in a bit; though he was sure someone had to have complained already. There were women who came to work wearing far too little for a day at the office and they were sure to have said something about the chill.
Holding the mail in both hands now, he flipped through the pile. He was always amazed by how much junk mail was sent to a business office. After tossing half the pile into the bin to the right of his desk, Jones reached for his letter opener and routinely opened his mail. Of the remaining letters, two were sent to the wrong department and one was illegible, but he was pretty certain was meant for him; at least he was able to make out his name in the first line. The last letter was junk mail disguised as something important; he tossed it in the bin with the other trash, muttering to himself: "…don't even own a car… how can the warranty be expired?"
Jones turned on his computer and while he waited for it to boot, he held his coffee in both hands, enjoying the warmth at his fingertips. In the distance, sirens blared. Glad I got to the office early, he thought. Traffic always stopped all over the district with even the most minor accident. He smiled at Susan Mire as she passed by, her skirt just short enough to make a man forget his wife for a brief moment, then looked back at the black screen with the familiar slanted square logo as the computer began to whir to life. He sipped his coffee again, placing it on the desk, and then adjusted the keyboard and mouse as the login screen appeared. Typing his username, jones1847, he wondered if his number sequence was random or if he was the 1847th person named Jones to work for the company. He habitually typed his login number next and waited again while the computer loaded his profile. He loaded the four programs he would use throughout the day and grabbed a bunch of files off the "inbox" tray on the upper right of his desk and went over file after file with experienced eyes, entering information in the computer, changing addresses, printing applications, and any number of things that would come up.
Hours passed, his coffee gone, and Jones was shivering as he worked. He stuffed his hands inside of his blazer, rubbing his sides, relishing the body heat there. Susan walked by again, a fresh stack of papers in her hands. She stopped and frowned at Jones. "Are you all right? You look a little… under the weather."
"It's just so cold in here… are you cold?" He pulled his hands out of his blazer, which were pale and shaking from the cold, up for Susan to see.
"I feel fine… I could have Larry look at the thermostat for you, though."
"Thanks," he muttered, putting his hands back in his blazer. "I think I'll go get some more coffee."
"Okay… well, back to the grind," she called, suddenly cheery, sashaying away.
Jones stood up, aware that his legs felt a little weak as he walked the way Susan had come from, toward the front of the office, near the elevator. Remembering his mug, he stepped back and reached for it. As he held the mug and walked toward the coffee maker, he frowned. He couldn't feel the mug in his hands. Looking down at the mug, he watched his fingers wiggle a little, his hands shaking more visibly. They were responding fine, but he just couldn't feel the familiar smooth plastic on his fingers or palms.
At the coffee maker now, he put his cup down and reached for the pot. Jones cursed under his breath at the sight of the empty pot. "Every damn time!" he said a little louder than intended. Two guys and a girl he didn't recognized stood on the other side of the room by the water jug. At first they looked at Jones with surprise, and then they started whispering to each other, looking over at him, their faces concerned. He furrowed his brow and turned his back on the trio. His head was pounding now and his forehead was beginning to perspire. How am I sweating? It's freezing, he thought. Maybe he was ill… that would cause fever and chills, and an immense desire to punch someone when the coffee is found to be gone.
Jones closed his eyes tightly, taking deep breaths to calm down. Deep breaths, he thought, inhaling slowly. He rolled his head from side to side, feeling better already. He even felt less cold. Jones smiled to himself. It was ridiculous; it was only an empty coffee pitcher and he could easily make more. He was shaking less now and he could even feel his hands again. In fact, his left hand was warm.
Jones opened his eyes. He was sitting at his desk, the familiar coffee mug in his left hand, warm and aromatic, and a small stack of mail in the other. Jones had just sat down at his desk, but he felt like something was off. He considered this a moment, sipping the sweetened beverage, and decided that it was much colder in the room than usual. That's it, he thought, shrugging off the eerie feeling. Looking around, he was the only one that seemed to notice the chill so he shrugged that off too. He'd ask someone to see to the thermostat in a bit. He set his coffee down, listening to the sound of sirens off in the distance. Glad I came in early. He turned the computer on and flipped through the mail quickly, tossing the junk into the empty bin beside his desk. He opened what was left, discarding another piece of junk "reminding" him that the warranty of his non-existent car was in need of renewal. Why they send this crap to an office is beyond me, he thought, placing the other mail on the top of his "inbox" pile sitting on the upper right corner of his desk. Pulling his keyboard and mouse close to him, Jones typed his username and password and started the programs he'd use for the day, picking up his coffee and taking another sip while the computer loaded everything. He noted how warm the mug was and he began to shake a bit, his whole body feeling desperately cold. Susan Mire walked by and Jones called, "Hey, isn't it a bit cold in here?"
She frowned at him. "No, I feel fine… You feeling all right? You look a little pale."
Jones smiled. "No, just chilly," he answered. He waved off the conversation. "Best get to work."
She hesitated, but Susan walked away and Jones busied himself in his work. A couple hours later, his coffee was gone and he was having trouble ignoring the cold. In the back of his mind, he thought, This just doesn't seem right… I don't feel sick… just cold… Finally, unable to stand the chill, and finding his fingertips unable to feel the keyboard beneath them, Jones rose from his chair, his legs barely able to hold his weight, and stumbled toward the coffee pot. When he got to the front of the office, he realized his hands were empty, having left his mug, but looking at the empty pot, he didn't need it. "Damn it," he muttered. Behind him, he heard some talking at the water cooler and Jones furrowed his brow, attempting to ignore them.
He reached for the filter tray and changed the filter, poured fresh grounds in the fresh filter, and replaced the tray. His hands shaking, Jones opened the tab on the top where the water was meant to be poured, and reached for the empty coffee pot. He walked to the water cooler, ignoring the trio there who grew strangely hushed as he approached, and filled the glass pot. Jones retraced his steps, aware that his hands were shaking so much he was spilling water, and walked back to the coffee maker. Raising the pot proved to be more of an effort than expected and the glass container slipped from his hands, shattering glass and splashing water all over the linoleum floor. Jones cursed again, glaring vehemently at the broken shards.
His head was throbbing now as he squatted down to gather the large shards into a pile. He was mumbling obscenities, his forehead sweating and body shaking, when he cut his right palm on one of the shards. His hands were so numb; if it weren't for the blood dripping to the floor, he wouldn't have noticed. "Damn it!" he said loudly, holding up his bloodied palm to examine. He grabbed a paper towel off the table and closed his eyes tightly, taking deep breaths, trying to calm down. Deep breaths, he thought, inhaling slowly. Placing the paper towel over the cut firmly, he rolled his head from side to side, feeling no better. The cold was past numbing and becoming painful. Sharp needles were piercing his chest now. Jones muttered under his breath, "Why was it so damn cold?"
Jones opened his eyes and took a sip from the warm coffee mug in his left hand. He tossed the mail in his right aside for the moment; the sound of sirens passed outside as he pushed the power button on his computer and pulled his keyboard to himself. A chill went down his spine as he stared at the edge of his keyboard. Blood was smeared along the edge, and it looked fresh. He looked at his right hand and saw blood dripping from a long gash along his palm. "What the hell…?" he muttered. It had to be a paper cut, right? From the mail? But he didn't feel a thing. What is going on, he thought.
Susan Mire walked up and gasped. "What happened?"
"I-I don't know…" Jones replied, watching his bloody hand shake uncontrollably.
"I'll go get the first aid kit."
His whole body shook but he wasn't sure if it was because of the cut, or because of the cold. It was so damn cold and there were needle sharp pains all over his chest. Jones jumped up from his desk. Or he tried to, rather. As he stood, his legs gave out beneath him and he crumpled to the floor. Looking around, Jones wondered why no one was coming to help him. He was dripping blood all over the floor and was certain he'd just made enough noise for his boss to hear him from the far back corner office. Jones looked down at his leg and was horrified by what he saw – mangled misshapen legs, torn slacks, and blood everywhere. But he didn't feel a thing from them.
"What is going on?!" he yelled.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Deep breaths, that's what they always tell you to do right? But he didn't feel any better. The pain was spreading from his chest to his arms and legs. It wasn't needles any more. It was excruciating. Jones cried out in agony. How could this have possibly happened?
He opened his eyes again and looked down at his body. His right hand was covered in blood and his left was on fire. On fire?! How on earth could his hand be on fire?! His blazer was torn and his nice, new shirt was shredded. There were spots of blood forming all over his chest. "Oh god! What's happening?" Jones yelled. He laid out flat on the ground and coughed. And on top of everything, he was freezing. His hand was on fire, and he was freezing.
He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was behind the wheel of a car, leather seats, stick shift, two doors… Nice… except that the windshield was shattered, the rearview mirror on the floor, the engine on fire, and the front crunched up against his legs. "Oh god!" Jones screamed, or tried to. The only sounds that came out were garbled, followed by a painful cough, as the flames licked his hand. His door was missing. There were hands on him and someone was telling him to take deep breaths. They were dragging him from the car, two guys and a girl.
He was in the back of an ambulance and he was being prodded all over. They were asking him questions but Jones couldn't respond; there was too much pain. Pain everywhere. And he was so cold. And the sirens drowned out everything. Loud, blaring sirens. Zoom zoom… they're sure in a hurry, he thought distantly. So loud. So cold. So much pain. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The siren wailed. Or was that him? It was so hard to tell.
When he opened his eyes again, he was in a hospital. It was a hospital, right? It was so bright. No sirens here, but it was still so loud. So very loud. And so cold. Why are hospitals so cold? he thought. He could hear the doctors talking but had no idea what they were saying. Medical jargon – not important. What was important was the pain was gone… faded at least. Or was he just numb now? Numb, but still so cold.
"…doesn't look good," he heard someone say.
No, I'll bet it doesn't. He felt them move his leg and cried out in pain. Guess I'm not totally numb, he thought, closing his eyes, taking a deep breath. Too bright. He tried to roll his head but it was held in place… or was he paralyzed? Deep breaths. Breath in. Out. In. Out… in… out…
He opened his eyes. His warm mug was in his left hand, and the mail in his right. After a moment's consideration, while he sipped the sweetened beverage. Jones smiled to himself, enjoying the quiet. Susan Mire glided by his desk and Jones turned in his chair a bit to enjoy the view before occupying himself with work. Just another day.