Mark stopped typing and sat back, raising his head above the chest height partitions separating his workstation from those of his colleagues. He pushed the mouse away and scanned the room. Several others were speaking into headphones, mouths moving but their expressions muted by the dulling effect of infinite repetition. Others kept their heads lowered, focused on their screens. He started to notice the blur of sound around him, quickly breaking it down into distinctive parts.
The habitual coughs and wheezes from Frank the reformed smoker. The heavy single digit typing of Edward. The whir of keyboards clicking, indistinct voices overlapping and from behind closed doors the occasional whoosh of an electric hand dryer or a photocopier. The light squeak of Susan’s swivel chair from two desks behind.
Mark’s unease couldn’t be explained by where he was: by comparison with other offices he’d worked in it was a pleasant environment. Pot plants scattered throughout. Plenty of natural light along one side. A clean and well stocked canteen. Nor could he direct the finger of blame at his colleagues or supervisors. Indeed he had many friends among the workstations. His unease, unfortunately was within.
Lately he felt increasingly conflicted. On the one hand he felt more and more like a cog in a machine. A small part in a relentless, resource destroying engine. Yet he knew that the machine had spares, waiting to replace him if he left.
Mark watched the time on the bottom right of his screen. He slid his phone-charger and his coffee mug into his rucksack. He had left nothing of personal value in any of the drawers for weeks. His greatest hope was that one morning he would wake up and simply resolve not to get on the train to work.