There was a trail of people winding through the cubicles towards Meagan’s office, pilgrims making their way through a desolate waste to some promised land. Everyone seemed to be speaking in hushed tones, and I almost turned away, but something gnawed at me. Insatiable curiosity, perhaps. Or maybe some sick kind of revulsion, a need to see what I was certain would be a grotesquerie before moving on. I needed confirmation that this whole thing was mad, that I wasn’t missing something important and vital and wonderful. I needed to be certain that that stupid Dr. Shiny was every bit the fraud I thought he was. There was nothing wrong with me. There was everything wrong with everyone else.
I fell in at the end of the line, standing with my arms crossed and a frown on my face, as if I were above the entire affair (whatever that affair may be.) No one noticed, but the mere fact that I had a different expression on my face from the rest of the sheep was enough to lend me some kind of moral strength. The people who disappeared into Meagan’s office reemerging with looks of ecstasy on their faces, their voices locked in reverential tones. I frowned, stood up on my tiptoes, tried to see over and around the crowd, tried to get a glimpse of whatever secret lay beyond the office door in the brief instants it was open. The line moved quickly, and as we drew closer gasps of wonder and delight filled the air. I began to catch glimpses of something as the door opened and shut: a wounded animal stuck with arrows. A virgin goddess, her heart impaled. A great wooden column hammered full of red nails.
A hand clamped down on my shoulder, fingers digging into me like claws. “Stop,” Lisa whispered in my ear. “Don’t go in there.”
There was urgency in her voice. Any other day, I would have been anxious, worried about what was troubling my friend, but in that moment I felt my shoulders slump in relief. She’d come to her senses. She finally saw that things were strange, that something sinister was in the air. She was back.
I turned to face her, and her face was split by a grin like a fissure in the earth. “Don’t go in there,” she repeated. “I’ve got something much more creative to show you.”