For the past week, while on my appointed rounds through the labrynthine corridors of Apparent Progress Central Headquarters, I’ve spent a lot of time searching high and low for any way to access – or even any evidence of – the elusive thirteenth floor. To this point, I’ve been unsuccessful.
While pushing my rusted mail cart down the southern-most hall of Floor 14 yesterday, I happened across a young woman watering the plants. I had not seen her before (which is unusual at that level of the building), so I decided to engage her in conversation. The squeaky cart wheels signaled my approach and the woman looked up to give me a wary eye.
“Hello,” I said casually. “I’m Jeremy. From the mailroom.”
Her response was unexpected. First, she put her index finger to her lips to shush me. Then her eyes darted left and right to make sure the coast was clear. Finally, she leaned in and whispered.
“I am the Botanist.”
It was a very profound declaration, judging from the intense stare and the rising hairs on the back of my neck. I was, however, at a total loss as to the meaning or significance of this title. I motioned toward the watering can in her hand.
“Like one of those corporate foliage and landscaping experts, right? I’ve seen some of your companions on the lower floors. I’ve never seen you up here before, though.” I said, looking around at the potted plants grouped together in the hallway. “Come to think of it, I’ve never noticed these plants here either. It seems like an awfully awkward spot for them.”
She scoffed. “I’m not a landscaper, fool. I am the Botanist and I’m trying to rescue my children.”
My heart sank. “Your children? The company has your children? Let’s call the police!”
The woman nodded and ran a hand along a large leaf on a potted tree. “Yes, let’s do that. You call while I continue gathering my children to me.”
After the time I’ve spent in this bottomless pit of insanity, I’ve learned to read crazy pretty quickly. Granted, given the cooing noises she was making at the plants in the hallway, it didn’t take a psychiatrist to figure out the lady was … eccentric.
“The plants are your children.” I said, trying to move the script forward. The woman nodded.
“I’m freeing them from captivity in these offices.” She said. “Would you help me to dump these in the mail chute?
“Why would we do that?” I asked, holding up a handful of envelopes. “There’s people down there in the mailroom who don’t appreciate having trees and rhododendrons dropped on their heads.”
“I also have assistants down there right now. I’m going up the building, floor by floor, rescuing my children and dropping them down to safety where my assistants are then loading them into moving trucks.”
I began to push the cart down the hall, away from the crazy lady. “Sorry, I have mail to deliver.”
See, that’s the kind of bizarre behavior you have to expect around here. Things escalate from Tuesday to Loonyville quickly… Wait. She said she was going up floor by floor? I left the cart in the middle of the hall and ran back in the direction of the woman, who was now standing in front of the chute trying to stuff it full of a ficus.
“Miss… The Botanist?” I called out. “The thirteenth floor? Did you look for any of your children on the thirteenth floor?”
The Botanist nodded, but continued to struggle with the plant and the chute. She pointed at a small cactus on the floor. “He was on that floor.”
“Really? What was it like? The floor, I mean. Were there other people there?”
The ficus popped through the opening and disappeared down into the darkness. The woman wiped her hands together and turned to face me with a shrug. “I didn’t pay any attention. I found my G775n and that’s all that matters.”
“G775n?” I repeated.
She pointed at the cactus again. “That’s what he calls himself.”
I looked at little G775n and nodded. He was the first proof of the existence of the thirteenth floor. I couldn’t help but smile. The Botanist grinned.
“I think you two will be very happy together.” She said.
“What? No, I couldn’t.”
“You already have, Mailman. He has chosen you.”
She lingered a moment longer, appreciating her new cross-kingdom couple and then she launched herself into the chute and disappeared like the ficus before her. I watched in stunned silence.
Moments later, security arrived on the scene and searched fruitlessly for The Botanist while I – and G775n – continued delivering that day’s mail.