“Going down?” she asked.
He nodded, wondering whether he had severely misread the dress code, and exited to make room for her to shuffle on.
Now where was 4326? The sign on the wall pointing left read “42184350”, while the arrow pointing right was for rooms 4271-4360.
Picking the direction with the less dense undergrowth, he went right. Before he could identify any office numbers at all in the dim light filtering through the canopy he found his path blocked by a man with a long neck, flat teeth, and a massive scaly hump that curved into a sizeable tail.
Steve moved to the right to let him pass. The man moved to his left. Steve moved left. The man moved right. Steve stood still. The man stood still.
“Excuse me,” said Steve.
“Hallway ballet, har har,” said the man. He lowered his head and stomped forward.
Steve pressed himself flat against the wall to avoid getting trampled. Once he could breathe again he called after the guy, “You don’t happen to know where 4326 is, do you?”
“Third floor. Take the second right, go left where Ted used to sit, and then it’s next to where we had Amanda’s baby shower.”
“Oh,” said Steve.
“You’re welcome,” said the man. The floor shook as he continued on his way to wash his coffee mug in the kitchen.
Steve wandered among the trees until the trouser cuff of his new suit got caught in the brambles. The fabric tore when he pulled it loose. Upon closer inspection it looked like the tear actually came from the inside, but it was too dark to tell.
Eventually the red glow of an exit sign directed Steve to a stairway. He descended to the third floor, where he found that the door could only be opened by swiping his badge. His appointment to receive his badge was scheduled for later that afternoon.
Just then there was a clunk of something heavy leaning into the door release bar. It opened, and three horns appeared around the edge. They were followed by a large, bony frill.
“Are you Steve?”
“We were wondering when you’d get out of orientation. Welcome to the Office of General Administration of Policy Initiatives! Do you know where you’re sitting yet? I’ll take you around.”
Steve smacked his forehead against the doorframe on his way through. The frame was easily eight feet up. When he’d awoken that morning he was five foot ten.
The horns and frill belonged to Val the budget analyst. Steve tried to be polite and not stare during their trip around the office to meet the staff, but trying not to think about the horns just made him think more about how he hadn’t eaten breakfast. First day stress must have really been getting to him, too: halfway through the tour Val started to look like a walking hamburger.
At one office a man with wings, a pointy beak, and a triangular crest of hair on his head was cursing out his computer. “Stupid machine! What do you mean ‘Acrobat needs your permission to install updates’? Go ahead, you have my permission!”
“Oh, that’s easy,” said Steve. He leaned over to make the simple two or three clicks that would take care of everything. Once his hand touched the mouse, though, he suddenly found himself unable to remember what it was he had meant to do, let alone how to operate the glowing box in front of him.
Suddenly, he found that he was in his office and an amphibious woman from IT was scolding him for asking if he was allowed to write down the Windows password he had just created. It didn’t matter: he’d already forgotten it. She continued with an overview of how to log on remotely from home, but he was too distracted by his itching scales to pay attention.
“Lunch?” said Val.
“I’m starving,” said Steve, checking the time on his Fossil watch. He went to get the frozen lasagna he’d brought from home out of the refrigerator, intending to warm it in the microwave before joining his new colleagues downstairs in the cafeteria. After four or five minutes of helplessly smashing his claws against the buttons he gave up and decided to just work through lunch.
By the end of the day Steve was asking for printed copies of every document emailed to him, and he wanted them single sided.
At 4:59 p.m. he trudged home oddly obsessed with the fear of getting hit by an asteroid. But in the end it was the sequester that got him.