"I need it tomorrow. Noon."
The door slammed shut leaving Gilbert alone with a mountain of paperwork. He gazed at the expansive mass of reports, tasks, files, forms, and so on, that absolutely needed to be done by sometime near tomorrow noon.
"Tomorrow. . ." The word trailed off in a pathetic whimper. "I can't do it," he sighed. Gilbert held his head between his hands. His head was pounding. His heart raced, each beat translated into a throb at his temples.
A sharp stab of pain tore at Gilbert's chest and a sudden panic lodged itself to his soul. Letting go of his head, Gilbert clutched at his chest. "Is this my death?" he asked the office walls. Closing his eyes, Gilbert submitted serenely to death's embrace.
The pain subsided and Gilbert continued to breathe. "Damn," he muttered. "It's only stress." Thoughts of blessed release collapsed under the weight of impossible deadlines.
"Oh, well," he thought. He looked at his watch. It was already past six o'clock. "If I work like mad, I can wrap up the month end in the next five or six hours. That'll put me home just after midnight. Two or three hours of sleep, and, and. . ."
Gilbert swallowed hard. He was on the verge of tears, but a good cry was a luxury he could not afford. He steeled his resolve and looked at his watch once more.
Turning to the mass of unfinished work, Gilbert noticed a small movement from within the mammoth structure. A twisted, perverse dance performed its first fateful steps. Papers from without swirled slowly toward the hidden centre of the mass as though called by some unseen power within.
Fascinated, he contemplated the strangeness that wheeled yesterday's report toward tomorrow's, unyieldingly compressing his planning calendar into his to-do lists. Gilbert leaned forward to get a better look. He moved closer, then was drawn closer still. The sensation was interesting at first, but as he tried vainly to pull back, Gilbert realized that he was now a prisoner.
"Dear God!" Gilbert suddenly understood that the pile of unfinished work had reached a critical mass. Within the centre lay a singularity of chores untouched, a point of intense gravity hungrily devouring time. His time. All time.
"No!" Tiny rivers of sweat ran down his face, their paths altered before they could fall from his cheeks, drawn toward the pull of the gnawing monster that was growing mercilessly.
Space and time twisted and turned slower and slower as he drew near the dement horizon, the borderline of insanity, barely discernible with the passage of forever. Somewhere beyond, stretched to paper thin Doppler, the gnashing of teeth ground painfully long.
Fighting against the irresistible force, Gilbert strained to pry himself from his chair when suddenly, he saw them.
The others. Some human. Some not. They were beings from everywhere and everywhen drawn into their own universe of work and impossible deadlines. Individual realities folded here at the common point of singularity, bringing all the others like him together like a conference call on steroids. Partners in hopelessness.
Trapped like him.
Dancing on the edge of the maelstrom.
Tortured souls wailed hopelessly, eternity stretching out before them, victims of an unfeeling workload. Screams erupted from the dement horizon. Those pitiful sounds were the only form of energy capable of escaping the black hole's dreadful gravity, echoes bearing witness to the horror that lay within. Anguish and torment stretched out into an eternity of drawn faces of despair, Munch's Scream played out forever in countless visages of living death.
Tomorrow noon would never come and when it did, it would last forever.