Milo was struck by lightning.

He knew it was lightning because once, when he was a kid, he’d gone camping near the top of San Jacinto and a thunderstorm had come up right in the camp. He and the other kids had huddled in their sleeping bags under plastic ground-cloths folded over to keep out the rain while great bolts of lightning had flashed sideways through the camp, splintering a dozen trees, covering one of the adults with wood-chips blown out of a pine tree, filling the camp with the smell of ozone and making everyone’s hair stand on end. It had been a joyful, terrifying experience and he remembered it vividly. So when he was struck by lightning thirty years later he knew exactly what it was.

What he didn’t understand was how he’d been struck when, as far as he could remember, he’d been standing indoors. Was, in fact, still standing indoors, in the kitchen-like vestibule near his cubical where the coffee maker lived. Unharmed, as far as he could tell.

He’d definitely been lightning-stuck though. There wasn’t a mark on him but his hair, or what was left of it around the ever-expanding bald spot, was standing on end and his shoes were smoking. When he took a step forward he saw that the rubber soles had melted right off the leather uppers and onto the tile floor with the gel insoles he’d started wearing two years ago stuck in the goo, leaving the uppers flapping loosely over his bare, unscorched feet.

Where were his socks? Details were a little confused but Milo was sure he usually wore socks. There were no socks in evidence now. He lifted the cuffs of his slacks to check. Just bare, hairy legs; one for each cuff. Maybe he’d been rushed this morning, or unable to find a clean pair?

Socks weren’t the only things missing. There was no coffee-maker on the Formica counter near the sink. No fridge beside it either. There was a space for a fridge, an abrupt end to the counter despite a continuation of the overhead cabinets suitably raised to accommodate a full-sized refrigerator, but the flooring in that space was unmarked. No dust, no black footprint to mar the neutral pattern of the tile. No discoloration of the wall-paint to show an appliance had ever graced this space.

Nothing in the alcove showed any sign of habitation except the two blubs of rubber now cooling into the tile that marked where he’d been standing. Milo stepped out, off the tile of the break area and into the cheery blue of the office carpet. It felt soft and clean and new under his bare feet.

The office was silent. Not quiet like it was when Milo stayed late to finish some timely report due the next day and all his co-workers left before him, but silent. There was no hum of computer fans, no crinkle of Post-it notes and cut-out comics swaying in the breeze of the A.C. He looked into the first cubical, which belonged to Stan Williams, sales guru and office clown, but it was empty. Just slate-blue cloth cubical walls and an unused desk. No computer, no filing cabinets, no chair. Not even dust.

Milo wandered the cubical maze like a mouse in a lab and everywhere it was the same. No chairs, no computers, no office furnishings beyond simple desks, desks without drawers, mere faux-wood benches of desk-like potential, all the same. He looked for his cubical, his special place of belonging where he did his work but he wasn’t certain he found it. They were all the same and they were all empty.

Empty also were the offices that lined the perimeter of the cubical farm. No brass plates slid into the holders beside each door, no signs of occupation. Just clean, unused desks, though the offices had chairs as well; cheap, impersonal swivel chairs with plastic backs and cloth seats. The office blinds were all closed.

He crossed an office, splayed two vanes of a venetian blind with his fingers to peek out the window. Sunlight glinted off another office building. He could not see the ground from here, could not see past the glare on the glass of the other office building. He crossed the cubical farm again, shoe uppers flapping on his bare feet, to the corner office on the other side. There he pulled the cord to raise the blinds and stared out the window.

And saw another office building, blue-glass windows between panels of pebble-textured concrete wall, with closed blinds. He looked down. From here Milo could make out the ground around the buildings, with concrete walkways between fake stone planters filled with neatly trimmed low evergreen plants. Small trees dotted the evergreen hedges like mile-markers along a highway, and neatly tended lawn hid behind the planters. Nothing moved; no breeze stirred the leafless branches of the trees, no stray papers tumbled along the walk edge. It was like the office, pristine and still. Unoccupied.

Yanking the cord on the other blinds revealed another faceless building. Something stirred in a window partway down, but Milo couldn’t make it out. He dashed out of the corner office and partway down the floor to the middle office near the elevators. He raised the blinds and there, right across from him in the other building, was a girl.

Hair stood out in all directions from her head, frizzy not-quite-blonde hair. She was wearing a light-colored dress covered with little flowers. Milo waved his arms, frantically crossing them over his head, but she couldn’t see him. The same sun that’d blinded him when he looked the other way blinded her.

Milo backed out of the empty office and looked out across the silent cubical farm. What was it that he did here? He wasn’t sure. Whatever it was, he wasn’t doing it now. He crossed over to the elevators and pushed the down button.

No light came on. The elevators were as quiet as the office. Across from them, behind a brass-handled door he’d never opened, the stairs. The stairwell was like the office, clean, new, unused, and empty. The stairs were grey-painted metal planks with raised cross-hatched markings and matching grey railings, never meant for workers filing in and out, just emergency evacuations. This seemed an emergency to Milo. His feet had grown accustomed to the clean soft newness of the carpet. The metal stairs were cold, the hatch-marks sharp-edged against their soft, uncalloused flesh. Four flights of stairs took him to the lobby. He wasn’t even temped to test the other floors for occupancy.

Outside the air was crisp, a pleasant coolness. The smooth concrete pathways burned cold under his feet. He threaded the meaningless greenery to the next building, checking for signs of motion. The building lobby was as still as the one he’d left. Milo stepped off the path and worked his way around the building on the soft green lawn. He had to step over a planter to get back to the path as he came opposite the doors. The glass-paneled doors swung open silently when he pushed. That was good; Milo had been half afraid they’d be locked.

The lobby was the opposite layout of his building’s, mirrored sameness. Elevators where stairs ran in his, just as dead as in his building. He pushed open the stairwell and started up the grey metal stairs. A sound came from above; door opening, soft foot falls.

Her feet came into view on the stairs above and Milo stopped. They were clean, pretty feet with nails painted light pink, the strap of a shoe still dangling from one ankle. Their owner worked her way slowly down the hatched stairs, and as she turned and looked down at Milo he stepped back, stunned. The snub nose, the light freckles marking her warm skin, the flowering dress over her slight frame, her poor, poor hair all askew. She was perfect.

“Uhh, hi!” Milo knew it was the dumbest thing he could possibly start off with, banal and content free. He never could talk to girls. She stared at him for a moment like a deer caught in the headlights of a semi-truck and he was sure he’d emerge from this with his record of success unaltered. Then she responded.

“Hi.” For a long minute Milo thought that would be the whole of it, like a hundred thousand encounters with the opposite sex had gone for him. Then she continued. “I’m Laura.”

Laura, that was promising. She stared at him uncertain, and Milo realized she was expecting some sort of reply. “Uhh, I’m Milo.” Was he going to start every sentence off with that annoying uhh? “From the next building over.”

“I didn’t see anybody there,” Laura said, talking breathlessly, “I couldn’t see past the glare.”

“I saw you.” Milo assured her. Well, he hoped he was assuring her. He sounded stupid to his own ears. “You want to get lunch?”

Laura smoothed down her hair, sending a static charge crackling along her fingers. “Maybe something quick?”

“A dog?” Milo ventured. “There’s usually a cart-guy around the corner.”


He held the door, to the lobby, to the walk outside. Birds chirped in the distance. A pigeon cooed, ambling past their path. Their hands clasped as they waited for the elegant-feathered vermin to pass by.

Around the corner, the vendor stood at his cart.

“Two dogs,” Milo said, glancing at Laura. “Everything?” She nodded and smiled. “Two dogs with everything.”

“Here you guys are,” the vendor held out two steaming dogs already covered with various vegetables. He handed her a dog and she took a bite. Juice, steaming hot, spurted out of the dog as she bit it, and she smiled. Together Milo and Laura walked back between their respective office buildings.

“Can I call you after work?” Milo asked.

“You can call me what you want, but I answer to Laura,” she said, and then she gave him her number. He walked her back to her door, busy people walked around them. There was a crowd in the elevator he put her on. He had to hustle back to work.

His building was crowded now as well. He couldn’t quite understand the looks he got while waiting for the elevator. He got off on his floor and headed back to his cubical. Steve from the next cube met him along the way. “Dude,” Steve said in a whisper, “where are your shoes?”

# # #

Struck by Lightning by Michael D. Turner
originally published in the Fall 2011 print edition


Michael D. Turner is a writer from Colorado Springs, Colorado. His writing has appeared multiple times in Big Pulp, and in Aberrant Dreams, AlienSkin, Between Kisses, Flashing Swords, Every Day Fiction, and Tales of the Talisman.

For more of Michael's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page


This feature and more great
fiction & poetry are available in
Big Pulp Fall 2011:
On the Road from Galilee

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