The mouse fitted into his hand poorly, the size of it subtly wrong, the arc leaving too much room for his palm, so he had to tense muscles he shouldn’t to manipulate it. It was just one more droplet into the pool of rage growing within him. He clicked on the tiny x to close the final document, after pulling the citation out of it and into his bibliography. His eyes flicked to the corner of the monitor. No time to proofread again. It was as done as it was going to be.
He did re-read the email he’d drafted, checking to be sure he’d addressed it to all the proper people. Including the blind carbon copied ones the recipients would, in theory, be oblivious of. He attached the document, then opened it from the internal link to be sure it was there. Nothing more he could do. Still, his hand hovered over the mouse for a long moment, staring at the screen, but not really seeing it any longer.
It seemed oddly anti-climactic, this. It had all started much more physically. Visceral, even, in the most literal sense of the word. He could see his own reflection in the monitor, and the way his lips twisted in disgust as he remembered the smell. Humans smell better on the outside than the in, generally speaking. He wasn’t sure they didn’t all stink, even then, after a week of jungle rot. It had started as soon as they’d left the road. It had all been wrong. All of it. He’d had to go. It wasn’t just his job, it was his damn sense of honor, to not let a mission this dangerous go without him. Maybe he should have stayed back. Been one of the recipients of this nice, cold, clinical email. Black and white. None of the shades of curdled blood that haunted him, painted over the brilliant vegetal greens in sprays higher than his head. You can’t smell an email.
He lowered his hand back onto the mouse, clicked once, and then pushed back from the desk. A single motion, almost a backward lunge, up and out of the chair as it flew away from him and crashed over onto its side. He was standing, and walking towards the door, and he’d not be back. He’d promised himself that, in the long night where the only senses remaining were smell and touch and hearing. This would be the last thing he’d do. Then…
He stepped out into the sunshine and took a deep breath. Dry, lightly touched with sage and dust. As far as he could come from the jungle. He threw his shoulders back in a conscious effort. His inner pool of rage bubbled, but it wasn’t time to let it geyser into whatever it wanted to be. Not yet. Not around people. He took a step, then another, striding away from the email. From the past. From the final report that glossed over so much of what had been all too real and would never leave him, now.
He just wanted to be alone. The ghosts, like balloons on strings, tugged at him. He drove away, and they kept up effortlessly.
Somewhere, an inbox made of electronic impulses updated its GUI by a single digit. He’d sent the email only minutes before the deadline, and it had arrived when scheduled, to the second, when it was due.
I was prompted by AC Young this week with “He pressed send on the e-mail only minutes before the deadline.”
I prompted ‘Nother Mike with “The sagebrush lent a blue tinge to the horizon”
You can read all of the prompt responses, and take part in the challenge yourself, over at More Odds Than Ends.