The Floor Above

By: Douglas Coulter

A myriad of rushing footsteps erupt in the floor above; an orchestra of screeching and tapping performed by the disordered unison of business shoes and office furniture ...

The current floor is in a state of concentrated ease with a grand hive of office cubicles each housing the same, familiarly stoic employees, staring dead-eyed into their identical monitors as countless fingers type away, effortlessly finding their targets upon indistinguishable sets of dark beige colored keyboards worn to a yellowish white by a history of diluted UV rays coming from the evenly-spaced squares of ceiling lights. The mechanical clicking of keys on keyboards flow together to create an ocean of sound, existing as a singular note dismissed of all individuality; matched only by the conjoined buzzing of electric ceiling lights softly flickering in incessancy. Working in conjunction with each other, the artificial hums combine to form the baseline of noise for the office, drowning out all outliers failing to match their intensity. The floor has no windows and only a sole double door; the subjects inside its monotonously pale walls are cut off from the world outside of them. They are granted no indication of the outside scenery, time of day, temperature, weather, light, or sound. Complete isolation manufactured to eliminate all potential for distraction or independent thought — dull to an extremity, the floor conditions its subjects to find only the contents of their computers to bare any trace of dopamine. Thus, they are helplessly glued; induced to conformity, reduced to mere drones, accompanied only by the cool synthetic air blown through hidden slits of ventilation and the clicking, buzzing hum of the office floor.

It takes a moment for the unannounced breakout of ruckus coming from beyond the ceiling to pierce through that dizzying hum acclimatized to by the current floor employees. Some break their focus, blinking for the first time in hours as they tilt their heads and scan the ceiling with confused, probing eyes looking for a source. However, most stay senselessly locked to their screens, mindlessly tapping their keyboards as their conditioned minds subconsciously block out any external elements. But as the unexplained disturbance from the floor above continues, more and more employees begin to divert their concentration upward, until, a sudden crash of colliding objects booms through the grid ceiling tiles, giving the entire floor a brief but assertive vibration. The typing sounds of fingers on keyboards cease in an instant, and yet, impossibly faster, sounds from the above floor die down to an utter silence in an unintended response. None of the employees are working anymore, some even stand up, twisting and turning their heads in anticipation of spotting the office manager arriving to calm things down. But no managers are seen. Some employees lean forward in their chairs with squinting eyes, attentively inspecting for any incongruities to the bland ceiling design. But everything stays unchanged; the office has returned back to its previous state of stillness. Only this time, the buzzing ceiling lights hum without company, and as everyone retains their attention for the preparation of any new noises, that once tolerable buzzing rings into an almost deafening roar, as if mocking the employees for being distracted by something that has only occurred in their imaginations. But just as the employees begin questioning the reality of what they heard, the soft, drumming footsteps of a crowd-like movement sound once again, traveling through the ceiling now in full declaration for all to realize: something strange is occurring in the floor above.

Ceiling tiles jolt slightly upward as the crashing of metals sound out in quick succession. Loud banging noises interrupt the indefatigable rhythm of aggressive stomping, reverberating around all areas of the now shaking ceiling frame. Sounds of glass shattering cut through the chaos, clinging and clanging at an elevated pitch compared to the others, standing out as the most identifiable piece to the puzzle of disarray that is the floor above. Something shrieks with pain, something inhuman, yet still capable of possessing the ability to express terror and dread. At another corner, a long, desperate moan is heard, dropping in volume as it passes through stretches of tubing, ventilation, concrete, and plastic separating the two floors, ultimately being distorted to an unrecognizable tone as it finds its way through the gaps of the ceiling. More crashing, progressively increasing in their degree of violence and aggression, at times occurring in many areas of the ceiling at once, all while the tapping and screeching of shoes on unknown surfaces play out in the background. In synchrony, the employees watched; silent is the current floor as chaotic is the floor above.

Without ever sharing a word, a few of the employees seem to remember something as their gazes drop from the ceiling down to a level natural to their eyes. Blankly staring at no particular direction, they struggle to focus on their thoughts, or on their attempts to have thoughts. When unsuccessful, they resort to following instincts, coincidently sharing the same intuition to sit back down and return their attention to the monitors on their identical desks. As yet another crash shakes the floor walls, a gush of warm air blows throw the vents, but is quickly purged by the dominate majority of cool, chemical air that occupied the office before it. More employees follow suit and return to their office chairs. Some, with expressions that calm and relax as their eyes fall back to the screen; others, retaining a slight but discernable look of confusion. Within short time, all employees of the office floor have returned back in front of their keyboards. And as more muffled sounds of chaos and disarray transfer through the shaking ceiling, there are still those who occasionally tilt their heads up with quick, uninterested glances, but soon, those occasions end entirely. All attention, all concentration, and all focus has been directed back to the computers, and that ocean of keyboard clicks has formed once more, only now operating as the distant outlier to a new baseline of noise — the combined chaos of the floor above.