Timner sat still at his heavy oak desk and listened. The noises of blue jays and large trucks going by carried in through the open window. But there was another sound, almost like tiny, electronic bells. He tilted his head this way and that to determine the source. He glanced around at the other empty desks and over to the closet door. But the more he listened, the more he became sure it was coming from his own desk. He slid open the top middle drawer but found only pencils and a wooden ruler. The top right drawer was pink notepads and tins of snuff. But when he opened the next drawer down a strange blue mist was released. In the haze a small robot insect stood staring up at him and vibrating. Timner leaned in to get a better look and the robot insect launched itself at his neck and sliced away with razor-sharp pincers. With some effort Timner ripped the thing off, blood spraying from his neck all over the blotter on his desk and completely covering the picture of his fiancée. Just then Maerti, one of his sales team, returned from lunch. She stopped in the doorway and stared. Timn! Maerti cried. Timner looked up, the whirring robot still in his hand. Then he threw the robot out the open window. He collapsed forward onto his desk, spewing blood. Maerti came and stood over him. Don’t die, she said.
As the room darkened Timner made out a small crowd staring at him from the doorway. He could also hear people outside the window. Check those bushes and around that tree, he heard someone say. The blue jays screamed and cried. He felt a burning pain in his neck but was unable to move from his slumped position. Maerti leaned in. I found this, she said, holding up a silver, bloody gadget. In your neck.
Timner was unable to reply. He watched as she crossed to the group by the door, holding up the metal piece. She then rushed down the hall with them and he was alone. He could hear movement outside, below the window, but no more voices. The jays got louder. One was so loud it could have been perched on the windowsill.
Finally he willed his arm into motion and pressed his hand against his neck, where the bleeding had slowed. He pushed himself up and stumbled over to the window. On the lawn below bloody corpses were strewn about, some with heads severed from their bodies. He saw the blood-stained robot insect hovering in one place like a humming bird, about five feet above the ground. He pushed away from the window and lurched across the room to the closet door. He had just gotten himself inside and pulled the door closed when he heard the sound of electronic bells and mechanical buzzing inside the office. He waited, slumped inside the closet against the wall. The buzzing got close to the closet door and he imagined the robot insect hovering there, it’s spinning pincers opening and closing. But then the noise receded and he heard what he understood to be the robot flying back out the window. The buzzing got fainter and fainter. Timner leaned back, his head resting against some cardboard boxes and stacks of index cards. Then the blue jays started up again, louder than he ever heard them before. He closed his eyes. The blue jay screams rose to a crescendo and then went silent. Timner waited in the dark, listening to nothing for hours.
In a dream the insect robots descended from above and he shot them, one-by-one, from an anti-aircraft turret. Maerti came over to where he stood by the turret and put her hand on his shoulder. She was naked except for a strange leather mask with a zipper. Don’t distract me, Timner said. But as he continued destroying robots with rapid gun blasts he felt her cold hands encircle his neck from behind, squeezing.
He woke in darkness, not one-hundred-percent sure if he was actually still alive. He turned his head slightly and stabbing pain issued from his neck.
When he closed his eyes again he felt pulled by a strong current down an endless river of darkness. The blue jays called and called but this time he could no longer hear them. He floated away, his dreams dissipating.