‘Revision’ By Alistair Ogden   

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.

The Untold Struggles of Living Away from Home

This is a short, comedic piece that I wrote recently for an imagery assignment at the University of Victoria

A few beams of morning sunlight shine through my dewy kitchen window. One attempt at dinner has turned the room into a warzone. The counter is littered with the shrapnel of dirty plates. Red splatters stain the stovetop. The sink is obscured by a sea of pots and pans. I sigh. My ragged Shamwow seems to be no match for this army of muck. Even my socked feet are enduring a barrage of crumbs from the laminate floor. I take a deep breath, readying myself for the imminent battle. Then, before the burnt air can fully penetrate my nostrils, I start spraying Lysol left and right. My hands whir through the air, fighting the filthy surroundings. Slowly, the dishes retreat to their cupboards and the countertop peeks out at me.  I stand back and observe what now resembles a respectable room. The shadow of a grin sweeps over my face. I move to place my weapons of mass cleanliness back under the sink, but suddenly I hear a rumble. Something is wrong. I panic for a moment, and then the realization hits me. It’s not over. I’m hungry again.

The Elevator (A Short Story)

AXE MURDERER STILL ON THE LOOSE” read the massive headlines on a rack of newspapers. I grabbed a complimentary copy from the hotel lobby, then shuffled towards a bench in front of the elevator doors. I sat down and read:

Another murder was reported late last night and it seems the police are still no closer to finding the madman who has been terrorizing what was once a tranquil community. Three bodies were found in gruesome shape in a local motel after a maid noticed a putrid smell coming from one of the rooms. According to police reports the identities of the three victims have yet to be confirmed due to the horrific state of their corpses…

‘Bing’. The familiar chime of an arriving elevator prompted me to look up from my newspaper. A young couple, arm in arm, got on ahead of me. As expected, they held open the door, as people do for an elderly gentleman, I hobbled onto the lift, using my cane for support. There were four of us inside. I sized them up. The couple who got on with me were grinning excitedly at one another – probably newlyweds, Next to them stood an odd looking man. His cold eyes and pronounced jaw took me aback. He looked out the window of the elevator at the busy street below, his expression glassy. He glanced at the headline of the paper, then to me.
“Dreadful business these murders… Looks as though the police haven’t a clue who is responsible.”
“Yes, I read that too, in yesterday’s paper.” I responded, noting the man’s slightly foreign accent, “But it seems that now they have a description.” I flipped the page to show a sketch of the suspect. It looked familiar. The couple glanced up at the two of us, looking apprehensive.
“Well, that’s… That’s interesting” exclaimed the man. He smirked eerily. “What else does it say about his description?”
“Tall, brown hair, brown eyes, and approximately 180 lbs.”
“Well I hope you’re not getting any of the wrong ideas.” the man stated, his amber eyes and hair considerably more noticeable than before. “After all, I’m only 160 lbs.” His smirk became more pronounced.
I could see that the couple in the elevator were becoming more and more agitated by the second. Although we had been on the hotel elevator for less than a minute, it seemed time was at a standstill. As the four of us watched the ticking of floor numbers on the dial, the man give an ominous chuckle.
Finally we reached the 20th floor, where the man and the couple both got off. I gave the nervous looking pair a small nod of encouragement as they headed off after the man. The woman managed the smallest of smiles, then took the arm of her partner and hurried off. The doors closed behind them.

As the elevator once again began its ascent, I stood up straight and rubbed the wrinkly mask covering my entire face and head. I tried to blink away the irritation caused by my colored contacts. The two thin strips of plastic concealed what my mother, before her “accident”, had called “balmy brown eyes”.