Ruth

Ruth approached the building complex that housed the bank corporate offices where she needed to drop off some paperwork from her job. She had been to the building complex many times. It was full of vendors, restaurants, civil services, and it even had a movie theatre in it.

Though familiar with the complex, at that moment she realized she had never been to the bank corporate offices before. She took out the paperwork that she previously tucked into her jacket to shield from the light rain. She quickly peeked at the address for confirmation. “Suite 300,” she read aloud. Naturally, she figured it was the third floor.

The building complex had about a hundred entrances. Not completely knowing which way to go, Ruth entered through an outdoor entrance and headed up the left portion of a double spiral staircase. It was designed in a mirror image and was quite a sight—almost an art piece. She saw an exit from the staircase, but continued upwards since she was headed to the third floor. The next exit was at the top of the staircase which led to a very well kept garden. There were people all over: coming back from grabbing lunch, getting a quick dentist appointment in, and running errands.

Ruth internally questioned, “Did anybody look like they were going to, or coming from, the bank corporate offices?” She passed by a dentist’s office with floor-to-ceiling windows. There were tens of people waiting. It was the busiest dentist’s office she had ever seen. As she walked by, looking lost, the waiting patients seemed to turn their heads in unison to witness her confusion.

To the left of the dentist’s office was a glass door to a hallway. Investigating the hallway revealed that it led only to an elevator. “Maybe there is a directory near the elevator,” she thought to herself. Walking to the end of the hall proved to be fruitless. The only visual offered was an emergency exit map that itself offered little help in the event of an actual emergency. It looked like a maze from the back of a cereal box. It seemed silly to continue wandering in ignorance, so Ruth decided to go into the dentist’s office to ask the receptionist if she knew where the bank corporate offices were.

She walked through the double glass doors of the dentist’s office entrance. The door shut quickly behind her with the sound of a vacuum seal. The hustle and bustle from outside was silenced and replaced with the faint sounds of desk phones ringing and computer keyboard keys tapping.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” the receptionist called out without looking away from the computer screen.

Not being a dental patient, and not being very patient in general, Ruth thought to quickly interrupt. “Actually, I’m just looking for the bank corporate offices. I thought they were on the third floor. Am I wrong?”

The receptionist stopped typing, sighed, and looked upward towards Ruth without moving his head. His eyes peered from above the frame of his computer glasses. Ruth immediately realized her mistake in interrupting him.

“That’s the third floor. You have to go down the escalator and then through the elevator in the lobby.”

“Isn’t this the third floor?” Ruth questioned.

The receptionist already went back to typing. Since Ruth thought she could probably figure it out from here, she internalized the instructions the receptionist gave her and left. As she exited the office, she felt the staring eyes of the waiting dental patients follow her until their view was obstructed by a pillar.

The light rain speckled her glasses and she noticed there weren’t as many people around as there were when she first arrived. She spotted an awning covering the aforementioned escalators and made her way down to the lobby. When she reached the bottom of the escalators, she stopped to get her bearings. Two businessmen whisked by her. It appeared they were also going to the lobby, so she followed closely behind.

They looked surprised that she was going their way. One of them opened the door and stepped to the side for her. With an arrogant grin he loudly proclaimed, “Oh please, you first.”

Ruth was slightly put off by his tone, but found solace in seeing two security guards chatting in the lobby. She felt that they could point her in the right direction.

Ruth walked up to the security desk to enquire, “I’m trying to drop something off at the bank corporate offices. Where…”

Both security guards answered before Ruth could finish her question. “Oh! Third floor. Third floor,” they exclaimed, almost shouting, as they pointed towards the elevators.

The timing of everything ended up landing Ruth in the same elevator as the two businessmen she previously encountered. The stood side by side and made it so Ruth had to push her way through them to enter the elevator. She turned to rest her back on the elevator handrail and sighed when she realized she couldn’t reach the buttons.

“What floor?” one of them asked.

“Three,” Ruth replied sharply.

The elevator doors closed. In the reflection of the mirror finish, Ruth could see the businessmen exchange glances. They both had large smiles on their faces and pointed at the already lit button next to “3”.

It was a relief for Ruth when the elevator bell finally dinged. She exited the elevator and turned to the right. The businessmen thankfully went in the opposite direction.

Finally, she made it! The reception area housed a small waiting room and a reception desk with a backlit sign of the bank’s logo behind it. Due to the lack of windows, the room felt dimly lit. The recessed lighting created a spotlight which highlighted a single phone on the desk, facing outward.

Ruth scanned a laminated list of phone extensions. She checked the paperwork again for the name of the person she was supposed to drop the paperwork off with: Alice. She found Alice’s extension and dialed the number. Alarmingly, it went straight to a fax machine. She tried it again to make sure she hadn’t entered it incorrectly the first time—still, the fax machine.

Ruth looked around and felt that the setting was a little strange. A corporate office of a huge nationwide bank, and there was nobody at the reception desk. There was little to no instruction on how to reach anybody inside. She sighed aloud and decided to dial the extension of the person right above Alice: Lyra, extension 1000. She laughed and said to herself, “Poor person, they probably get called all the time with that extension.”

The phone actually rang this time. While the phone rang, Ruth realized that she was overly warm. After her journey there, while wearing a raincoat in humid weather, her fingers were swelling from the heat. She removed her wedding ring and placed it to the right of the phone. As she proceeded to massage the indent in the flesh of her finger, a kind voice answered the line. Ruth bent down towards the speaker and made sure to speak in a thankful and apologetic tone, “Hi, I’m really sorry to bother you… I’m up at the front desk and am supposed to drop off some paperwork for Alice. But I wasn’t able to reach her extension. Is there a mail drop or something I can put this into?”

“I can just come up and get it from you.” the kind voice offered.

“Oh thank you, I really appreciate it.”

She stood waiting in front of the phone and gazed at the television in the waiting area. It was playing a news segment. There was a man speaking passionately and aggressively about something. Ruth was confused because even though the volume was plenty loud, she couldn’t make out what he was saying. This perplexed her and she concentrated on trying to understand the irate man. In the midst of her deep concentration, a door swung open from a part of the wall that looked like there was no door. The sudden movement startled her and she jumped a little. She caught herself and laughed in a response to the social anxiety.

“So, this is for Alice?” Lyra asked.

“Yes, she’s expecting it. I already sent her a passworded scanned copy.”

“Okay, don’t worry. We handle all confidential paperwork, especially ones with signatures, with care. I’ll put it right on her desk.”

“Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. And sorry, again, for the trouble!”

As the seamless door closed, Ruth reached for her wedding ring where she left it. Not immediately feeling it, she looked down and saw that it was on the left side of the phone. Her eyebrows furrowed a little bit. She dismissed the contradiction to her memory and slipped on her ring. It seemed very easy to get on, almost too loose, despite the swelling of her fingers.

When she got into the elevator, she realized she didn’t know which floor she originally came from. At first, she felt a sense of panic that’s experienced in a flurry on indecision. Then she giggled a little bit when she realized there were only two choices: “2” or “L”. She clicked “L” because there was a star next to it, and “L” should naturally be the lobby.

Then the thought flashed in her mind that she only descended one floor on the escalators from the floor with the dentist’s office and the garden. That’s what she thought was the third floor. Logic would mean that she came from “2”. She hurriedly tried to press the button for “2” but it wouldn’t light up. The doors automatically closed and made the descent.

Ruth was relieved when the doors opened and she saw the familiar security desk. The security guards must’ve been on break since the desk was empty. She made her way to the escalators so she could return to work.

Ruth walked back to her office quickly. The whole trip felt like it took forever. She was planning to laugh about it with her coworkers, “How could a simple task have ended up being so convoluted?” But when she got back, everybody seemed to have left for the day.

She decided it was a good stopping point and shut down her computer to head home. Her keys jingled as she strung her purse over her shoulder and walked towards the front door. She looked down at her phone when she exited the building. As she stepped through the door, she instinctually expected to feel the hardness from concrete under her heeled shoes. Instead, she felt the plushiness of carpet. She looked up and was alarmed to see that she hadn’t stepped outside, she had stepped into another room. Her eyes had to adjust from the bright office lights of her work to the dimly lit room.

Her eyes finally focused and she realized it was the reception waiting room at the bank corporate offices that she had just visited earlier. Ruth was frightened and confused. She turned around to try and go back into her office, but instead of the door, it was a wall.

Ruth whipped back around and saw the back of a woman that was staring at a television. She questioned her own sanity as she realized the woman she saw in front of her was herself. She saw her other self entranced in the same news segment of the man yelling something that she could not decipher before. The feeling of dread and horror rushed over her body. This time she could understand what the man was saying.

He said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The television switched off and everything went black.