The EnemyBy Sajitha Dharmasiri
(This is a fictional short story. The characters here do not refer to anyone living or to any other fictional work)
The Gecko on the wall near the last table at the M’ section of X’ department seems not sure about this new thing, though it decides to explore it from a distance. The files on the table and the pens and the old cup are familiar territory for it, but this new box shaped thing has not made it feel safer enough to go closer and examine. This gecko is considered as an integral part of the wall near this table by whoever in this section that noticed it, but only “Gunasiri”, the person who usually sits at this specific old table might have noticed the Gecko is not the same one when he started work here, it could have been third or fourth of its generation. Regarding this specific table, even though only Gunasiri used to work at this, it wasn’t called as Gunasiri’s table, people labeled it as the “writing table”.
As usual, just when clock on the wall marked seven thirty, Gunasiri entered the section. He always comes to office early and departs late. The Gecko decided to go further away from table as usually it does. It owns the table at night, Gunasiri owns it at the daytime. First thing Gunasiri done when he entered the office was looking at the table at the right corner of the section, where some pictures and a flower vase on display, one can tell it belongs to a woman. Then he went through the rows of tables where more “important” people work, and finally to the “writing table” at the furthest corner of the section. Then he noticed this new thing on the table.
One can’t say as a person Gunasiri has anything that particularly sperate him from the role he plays at office. He lived in an annex nearby, maybe two streets away from office. No one knew his real birthday or the year to be precise, other than the one he entered in his office details file, which even he accepted to be a wrong date. Last time department head officer had a birthday party, the remaining snacks sent to the N’ section and the remainder after that sent to M’ section. There at the tea session, where Gunasiri didn’t participate, someone set focus on Gunasiri’s birthday, and they agreed it might have been the year Portuguese landed on country or the year before that. And they also agreed that Gunasiri might have joined the office at the year world war one started or year before that. In summary, just like the Gecko, Gunasiri was considered as an integral part of the office, nothing more than that.
The first thing went through Gunasiri’s mind, when he saw it, was whether he made a mistake. He looked at the right side if it’s the same table, then checked if someone has moved it to another place, which is unlikely since nobody comes to the office before him or nobody leaves after him. That thought didn’t last very long since its very easy to identify the table, even after furniture on the section replaced seven years ago, Gunasiri requested this table to be kept there. Due to it being the only request he made in his long service period and also maybe it considered as an un-important task that carried out by him, the request was agreed upon. Now Gunasiri started to go around it and examine, it didn’t have any particular simple shape, which wasn’t to Gunasiri’s liking, mostly it was square shaped from different sides. It had lots of wires attached to it, which made Gunasiri understand it’s some electrical device. And it took half of the space on the table, which by Gunasiri’s understanding it does not deserve. When he saw the pens and the paper bundle, he uses to copy letters had been moved under the table, he breathed angrily. One can’t say Gunasiri hated this new thing right at that moment, but surely, he started to dislike it from the beginning.
The only task Gunasiri assigned with, in the office is to copy the letters. It was the first day he started his job as a clerk at the office that people identified he is capable of writing letters with clean, small, and curved letters. Since that day he is assigned with copying the letters who ever written. Be it from department head or the newest clerk of the office, it didn’t bother him. When someone taken a letter to him, they didn’t even ask him to copy it most of the time, they keep it on the table and leave. Gunasiri too doesn’t bother asking them anything, he will keep his head down, copy the content in letter to another paper with his curved handwriting and keep both papers in the same place, until the person who placed it previously comes and take it back. Gunasiri loved his job, to the extent he didn’t even ask or received a promotion. The best thing he heard in his career was when the department head reported to have said the best handwriting, he saw was Gunasiri’s. Need to take into account that, Gunasiri never heard that in person. It was once told by chief clerk to some other clerk then came to Gunasiri’s ears.
Usually when Gunasiri starts his day at the office he brushes the table to clear the dust, sort the pens and the papers, and prepare for whoever comes to him with a letter, asking him to copy it with his handwriting. Now he couldn’t do it due to this new thing on the table. He is afraid to touch it, and not even considering moving it out himself. He waited an hour until some one comes to the office.
The next person in is the L’, who was a clerk that lot younger than Gunasiri, and Gunasiri was not fond of him. But there was no other to ask about this thing, so he went to him slowly and asked.
“Mr. L’, what is the new item on writing table?”
L‘ looked at Gunasiri cheekily, and answered,
“It’s a Comuputer”
He remembered it, there’s one in the department heads room too, although he had been to there only once.
“Why it’s on this table?” Gunasiri asked again
“Maybe to take printouts from it” answered L’ and turned towards his own table. He might not know more than that, Gunasiri thought.
As usual chief clerk came to office hour late than the office start time. Gunasiri is afraid of chief clerk, even though he is not a bad person, or never did scold Gunasiri, he used to scold the other personals work under him. So, it took him one hour to watch chief clerk get settled, finish his morning cup of tea and breakfast, and sit comfortably at the chair. As soon as all those finished and when he started to look at a paper, Gunasiri came closer and spoken to him.
“Sir, can I ask you something”?
Chief clerk didn’t turn his head from the paper he was looking at, from the voice he knew it was Gunasiri, and answered.
“Sir this item, …. the… the… Computer on the table at the corner” he waited few seconds, “Is it something needed there?”
“Ah yes”, chief clerk answered like that’s something he had forgotten earlier. “Keep it there, today we will get a printer too from department”
“Sir, where should I work today?”
“Be in the room, we will let you know if anything needed”
Gunasiri went back to corner of the section, taken a chair that no one used often, brushed off the dust and sat there and started looking at the computer from a distance. It looked like a giant head staring at him. The white color it has looks like the color of the belly of Gecko he thought, even though he doesn’t hate Geckos, this color now felt disgusting for him.
To get some consolation he looked at the right cornered table and the flower vases on it. It belongs to Miss L’, the only women in the section. She is the youngest in the section though she might have been on her early thirties. She comes up late usually, and fill the vase with flowers, check her makeup, apply some perfume, and check the phone near her. She is the one answers all the calls coming to the section. Everybody liked her including Gunasiri. When she gives Gunasiri letters to Copy, usually thanks him which others do not. Her perfume and the voice she say “thank you” felt sweet for Gunasiri. Gunasiri too used to give priority to letters given by her than the ones given by others.
Suddenly Gunasiri saw a man entered the section with a box and speaking to chief clerk, and then came to the table with the computer. And placed the box in the table. While he was unwrapping it, Gunasiri remembered about the “Printer” chief clerk mentioned. The man carefully unwrapped it and placed in the other half of the table. Gunasiri was annoyed but he waited there with patience. When people need letters to be copied by him, they will clear the table, he thought.
The next few hours went very slowly for Gunasiri, the usual letters in the section that required to be copied by him haven’t come up to him yet. Everybody seems to keep those in their own tables. Gunasiri waited impatiently, he has sharpened his pencils, checked ink in the pens and checked the papers in the bottom drawer of the table for any dirt. That he done very carefully without touching the computer or printer on the table. Even though the anger started to grow within him, he was afraid of this new thing too.
Right at eleven thirty as usual the clerk who works on the department heads room, came up with few letters. Gunasiri felt good at that moment, “finally” he thought. But the clerk was stopped right at the start of the section by chief clerk and pointed towards Miss L’. Gunasiri watched the clerk going to miss L’ and given the letters to her, and she stood and started coming towards Gunasiri. If someone has looked at Gunasiri, might have seen slight smile on his face at that moment. Finally after waiting few hours he is going to get the first letter of the day from miss L’ and he was happy.
Suddenly she made her way to the writing table and sat on the chair attached to it and pressed some buttons on the computer and printer and waited few seconds. Gunasiri couldn’t understand, why she is not giving the letters to him first, what she has to do with this new thing, he thought. And then she started to press more keys and look at the computer and murmuring somethings to her. She continued to do that for half an hour, and Gunasiri curiously watched her throughout. Finally, she took her hands out of it and took a breath, then looked at the printer. Printer started to make some noises, which again wasn’t the liking of Gunasiri. When the noises stopped after few minutes she stood up and taken few papers out of the printer and took those to chief clerk. Chief clerk started to look at those and nodded his head with some satisfaction. And the others also gathered around Miss L’ and chief clerk and looked at those papers. Gunasiri also stood up and went closer, he didn’t hear everything they spoken about, but one line caught him.
“This is a really good copy, miss L’”
All the sudden Gunasiri understood the situation clearly, this computer is here to make the copies of the letters which usually done by him. The people admire it like they did on his handwritings. And the worst of it is that miss L’ now work with computer and will not come to him with letters or smile. It seems the computer has replaced him entirely, it’s like he does not visible to anyone in the office anymore.
Gunasiri went back to chair and tried to look somewhere else, but all he saw was the computer looking at him, maybe staring at him. More he been there he felt more anger towards it. By every hour passed, he is firmer on one thing, this is his “Enemy”, the first and only opponent he met on his entire life. He didn’t know how to face this new enmity he felt, he is confused and sad at the same time. He now felt useless after all the year he spent doing the work he loved, where he loved to work. It was same throughout the day, until an idea went through his mind how to face this new enemy, that too was helped by miss L’.
Miss L’ had copied few more letters from it, and once she tried to stand up from the chair, she lost her balance and slammed into table. The computer almost fallen backwards, however the person next to that table managed to balance it. He warned miss L’,
“Careful, this will break into pieces if it falls to floor”
That crossed Gunasiri’s mind like a lightening, this thing can be broken if it falls. Can he drop it from the table when nobody is around? the question went through mind. That wasn’t in his nature to harm anyone or anything. For next hour it was like a storm in Gunasiri’s mind, finally the innocent nature of his mind was defeated by the enmity he felt towards the computer. Its his life this thing has taken, he needs to take it back.
The day was very long for Gunasiri, he planned it all through his mind. When no one was looking he went to the window at the corner and opened it slightly, so he can open it from outside. He signed the arrival-departure book quarter an hour before usual office ending time and went out before everybody else. He needed to make sure everybody believe he left before others departed. Then he waited outside, behind the building, on a yard where old furniture used to be dumped. There he watched carefully till everybody leave the building.
This is an office where everybody leaves early but in this day few people were late to depart, and Gunasiri’s heart rate had grown every minute he had been there. There are few times he almost decided to let go of his plan but driven by the hatred he felt towards the computer, he kept his focus.
Even after last person at the office left, and the security guard locked it from outside, he waited there for an hour and then slowly went around the building to the window he kept open. He had to try few times before successfully entering through the window, even its only three feats high above the ground. In his age it felt like he climbed a mountain. His heart started to pond at this moment. He looked around, and started to shake, even though he is sure everybody left, its just the fear of the task he is going to do. Still he was not backing up, with small and slow steps he came closer to the writing table, and touched the computer.
Suddenly a sound came from above, which is a very small noise but still enough to give Gunasiri a scare. He took his hand to his chest like a someone having a heart attack and turned, but soon understood its not a noise came from a person. It was the Gecko on the wall, it was shaking its head looking straight at Gunasiri. Maybe it tried to encourage Gunasiri, having this common enemy on the table, or maybe it’s just looking at a fly over Gunasiri’s head.
Anyway, now it’s all seemed fine, Gunasiri turned again to get the computer with newfound courage. But this time he was too quick to turn, just like Miss L’ slammed to table earlier in the day, Gunasiri also pushed towards table and couldn’t control his body this time. With a big thumping sound Gunasiri and the computer both felt down from the side of the table, maybe Gunasiri tried to hold on to the computer to stop falling, but in this age, he didn’t stand a chance. Gunasiri felt like whole building had fallen with him, he guessed the sound might felt like an earthquake to people around the building. As soon as he could get up, he saw the computer in the floor and screen has shattered all over the place. Even though he prepared to do this intentionally earlier, he was shocked to see it and he felt like he killed a person. When he heard someone entering the section and switching a light on, he turned as quickly as possible, jumped out of the window, and ran to the road, with an impressive speed at his age. He got to home, even though he couldn’t remember how he made it there. He strait went to bed without even touching his dinner.
That night he got fever. He saw lots of dreams all referring to the computer, and in one dream it flown through the air and dropped on his head, which made him wake up screaming. He noticed that only thing different in that dream is the computer, it wasn’t the color of the computer at the office, it was entirely black.
Next day Gunasiri was late to office, he was shaking. If someone looked at him carefully, might have noticed his eyes looked tired and turned to red. He first went to the canteen and took a glass of water and slowly started to drink it. He hasn’t got courage to go to M’ section yet. Suddenly he heard canteen cashier speaking to one of the clerks from some other section.
“Have you heard the incident at M’ Section? Some thief entered tried to steal a computer there”
“Computer at M’ Section?” laughed the clerk, “Might be a drug addict or crazy person. That computer as old as history of computers. There’s no value in it. Is there any police complaint?”
“No, security guard got scolded from department head, and asked to stay closer to there from now on. There’s nothing valuable there anyway”
That was enough for Gunasiri to gather the courage and go to the office, his heart was pounding when he entered the M’ section but soon calmed down seeing no one paying attention to him. And then he saw the writing table, and it was empty. In that moment Gunasiri felt victorious, he walked through the rows of tables to the writing table. And sat on the chair attached to the table. There in that moment Gunasiri was the king in the entire office, or he felt like he is.
And on top of his victorious feelings, there was quite few letters to copy and some of them taken to him by Miss L’ herself. Although she looked saddened a little, Gunasiri imagined she would be all fine within a day. When she smiled at him with the third letter, she given him to copy, Gunasiri was on top of his newfound joyfulness. He even smiled at the Gecko on the wall, without knowing Gecko also felt good after he got rid of computer. It ran through the table whole night. With all the joyous feelings he went on to lunch and had a fine meal there.
After the lunch. Gunasiri came back to M’ Section with hurried steps, he has lots of letters to copy and people might depend on him, especially Miss L’. When he entered the M’ section Miss L’ and chief clerk was discussing something, and he heard the word “new computer”. With a worried feeling, he looked at the writing table, and saw the computer there. And this is not the old one, it’s a shining new computer, it’s the computer that he saw on his dreams, the black one.
Gunasiri wanted to scream and cry at the same time, he felt lost it all over again. It doesn’t matter how many times he defeats the computer; it will come back to haunt him. It will come to take all the joy out of him. Instead of a scream, only a growling noise came out of his mouth. He turned and walked slowly towards the door, with robotic steps, out of the building and then to the road. Only Miss L’ saw him going out of the office, she was curious at that moment but soon forgot it. That was the last time anyone saw Gunasiri ever in the office.
It took a week for people in the office to notice Gunasiri is not coming to office anymore. It was only when Miss L’ was asked to prepare a letter and she needed more papers. Someone told her to ask from Gunasiri. But when she found those papers in the bottom drawer of the table, Gunasiri was no longer needed, thus not searched for.
However, it took more time than usual to finish printing the letters that day, since Miss L’ found a dead Gecko under the new computer. The technicians initially placed the new computer on the table might not have seen the Gecko on the table and seemed to have placed computer on top of it.
Soon the dead Gecko was removed from there, and the letter was printed.