My face went blank. Whatever brief moment of happiness I felt was gone in a single instant. “I don’t want to see it,” I said. “Whatever it is, I don’t want to see it.” But her hand tightened around my own and I felt her pull me along like a star dragging a planet into the furnace of its body. The pilgrims behind me paid me no mind, stepping forward quickly and eagerly, that much closer to their bloodied goddess.
“You’re going to love this,” she said. “I’ve been working on it all week, pretty much non-stop. I didn’t even go home last night. I think I fell asleep at my desk. Or something. I woke up kneeling, anyway. Or, not kneeling. Prostrate? It’s like that one yoga position. Corpse pose, I think. Or child pose. Eh. Basically the same thing. All living things must die, and all things dead are children of Bematis, the Skull that Wanders the Fields of Night, am I right?”
I was ready to dig in my heels and pull my hand free, but Lisa actually stopped first and I bumped into her. She was grinning, and I saw for the first time that her eyes were sunken and bloodshot, her hair wild, her clothes wrinkled. Lisa, who came into work every day “dressed for the job she wanted, not the one she had.” Lisa, who gave me shit every time I wore the same shirt twice in one wink, or came in wearing shorts because it was hot out. Lisa, my friend, who now smelled of sweat and shit.
She gave my hand a little squeeze, winked. “I’m right.”
Before I could say another word, she started walking again, started babbling about her dream board. I half-listened, my attention split by the conversations we were passing, the people humming tunelessly in their cubicles, the coworkers that looked and smelled as bad as Lisa. We turned a corner, walked down a long hallway, and she threw open the door at its end.
And then I realized she was leading me to the building’s staircase and not to her desk.