First up is Barbara Roden's contribution to the Canadian horror fiction collection, Chilling Tales – 404. Essentially, at its most basic level, the story is one concerning office workers under pressure within a corporate environment. So far, so familiar, in terms of its premise. The initial dialogue confirms a colleague’s office is empty, save for the remaining desk and chair, even though neither of the two workers conversing had been aware he was due to leave. Wilson, one of the two, appears to have been allocated a number of the files which had been being dealt with by the now absent Dwight; files which have simply appeared on his desk overnight without an explanation or accompanying note. The “404” of the title refers to the white screen confirming “file not found” which is pulled up by a search for Dwight’s profile on the company website after his somewhat mysterious disappearance.
From this set up, we gradually become aware that it is not only Dwight who has become absent from the office and paranoia sets in amongst the workforce, who are under the supervision of a seemingly increasingly sinister supervisor intent upon enforcing the stringent regulations put in place by the company. Ultimately, this causes them to question their sanity and sense of self.
A fun and slightly tongue in cheek tale about the office environment, as well as a brief commentary upon the malleability of words and documentation, subject to the interpretation placed upon them.
A Couple of Other Things:
Those wishing to sample Roden’s work can find an example of one her short stories, The Appointed Time, freely available on her website here.
Also – a couple of blog entries concerning the editing process for those interested in the structural aspects of writing:- here and here.