Stanley Figgins sat hunched over a faux-wood desk, fiddling with a pen. His apartment was dull, mustard-coloured and tiny, but it was all he needed. A humble abode meant less could go wrong. Organization was easy and streamlined. Stanley himself was hardly more conspicuous than his room. He was thin and mouse-like, and his fingers were constantly pinching.
In the center of Stanley’s desk lay a large folder of papers. Pencils and pens were lined up on either side. As he repeatedly straightened each writing utensil, he muttered to himself in a sing-song voice.
“Three pens, three pencils. Ink topped up, one of each colour and sharp sharp sharp…”
This process lasted for two minutes, and then finally, he took a deep breath and opened the folder. Numbers and figures looked up at him. For the next few minutes, the only sounds that could be heard were the gentle scratch of a pencil and Stanley’s occasional murmurings.
“So with twenty-five, no, thirty percent in additional revenue… We’ll have… Yes, of course… Splendid”
Almost immediately behind Stanley was his bed. It had a simple wooden frame and a sturdy mattress covered in plain blue sheets and a duvet. In the otherwise drab bedroom, the duvet stood out. It was adorned with a curious swirling pattern. Hues of blue and white gave it the illusion of great depth.
Not one to stand for mistakes, Stanley always checked his work thoroughly. He had a routine: initial work in pencil, revisions in red pen, and final drafts in ballpoint blue. It was all completely unnecessary, but Stanley loved predictability. He had been on an error-free streak for years. If today’s work was as faultless as usual (and Stanley had a hunch) this would be his 499th straight perfect report. Stanley smiled to himself as he reached for the pen. He liked prime numbers.
Suddenly, there was a quick tap of plastic on hardwood. The pen cap had fallen and rolled beneath the bed.
Stanley immediately hopped off his chair and crouched down, sweeping his hand through the darkness. The cap was out of reach. Sighing, Stanley got down on all fours and peered beneath the bedframe. The cap was nowhere to be seen.
“Huh?” Stanley grunted. He swept out a searching arm to no avail. Equally frustrated and curious, Stanley began to wedge himself beneath the bed, all the while waving an arm across the floor. The pen cap seemed to have disappeared, but there was something else under the center of the bed. Stanley felt his fingers sliding into a gap between the flooring. He shifted himself further under the bed, creeping his hand down the hole. The bottom was out of reach. Intrigued, he shifted his entire body beneath the frame of the bed and moved his face up to the gap.
For a moment, all he could see was bright light, and then as his eyes adjusted he took in the scene.
Stanley realized he was looking down at a familiar bedroom. A desk was up against the wall, a stove in the corner, and a bed covered in blue sheets and an illusory duvet.
Stanley scrunched up his face, confused. He’d thought his duvet was one-of-a-kind.
“Oh well” he whispered. At least the pen cap problem was solved.
He began to extricate himself from under the bed. He could’ve sworn it had sunk down a few inches.
When he had squeezed himself out and picked himself up, Stanley sat back down at the desk.
“Ok now, where were we?”
He picked up the red pen and resumed the examination of his work. The equations were as correct as ever.
When he had approached the end of his proofreading, Stanley put the red pen back down beside the folder. It looks so… out of place, he thought. He needed that cap back.
Stanley fidgeted for a moment, and then stood up. He grabbed his coat and began to put his shoes on.
“It’ll be an excuse to say hi” He muttered to himself. “I’ll just go down there, introduce myself, and ask about their duvet. Perfect.”
As he finished tying his laces, he snuck a final glance beneath the bed. Other than the tiny light emanating from the hole, it was as empty as ever. He glanced guiltily back at the incomplete work lying on his desk, scanned the room to make sure everything was in order, and then opened the door. But before the musty smell of the hallway had even crossed the threshold, he shut it again. Something had caught his eye. There was something small and red in the centre of his duvet.