“I had an epiphany one soporific mid-morning when I stood up in my cubicle to stretch myself awake. Turning slowly in place, I scanned a complete 360 of the cube horizon. The scene was slightly underlit, and while I could hear all sorts of human activity—talking, phones ringing, keyboards clattering—I couldn’t see another living person. I felt as if I was working in a room full of ghosts. The alienation of cube life was suddenly revealed to me as something gothic, a variation on the creeping dread of a Poe character. I could be walled up alive inside my cubicle and no one would even notice—the Cube of Amontillado. Immediately I dropped to my seat and jotted down a paragraph that appears almost without revision in my new book, Kings of Infinite Space.”

James Hynes wants Cubicle Gothic? Come to Delhi, my man. In one of the last offices I worked in, we were pulling the late night shift watching with ill-concealed jealousy as luckier souls exited. This office was fully equipped with a lift, which no one in their right minds ever took because the thing was a) prone to getting stuck for hours in between floors and b) soundproof. So we listened resentfully as these people clattered down the stairs to freedom.

And then we heard them running back up, not a wise move in a building where the stairs were permanently carpeted with a sludge of stale food and regurgitated paan juices. They were noticeably greener, though that could just have been the general seediness of the place rubbing off on them. “There is,” said the first one in, “a dead baby on the landing of the first and second floor.”

This is a difficult observation to respond to, but our editor rose to the occasion. “Surely,” he said, “you mean on the landing of EITHER the first OR the second floor.” (N.B. The police showed up some hours later and exhibited absolutely no surprise that someone would choose this particular office as a dumping ground for the corpses of small infants.)





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