by Frank Roger
It was only nine o' clock in the morning and I had already survived a bomb attack and a suicide squad action. This was one of those days. Here at the office at least you somehow felt in relative safety. As usual Hilda was already present, busy pushing stacks of paperwork about, a frown of intense concentration on her forehead. No doubt she had been here for an hour or so, totally absorbed in her tasks of really tremendous importance.
"An old spinster like Hilda has to devote her life to something," Mr. Berger, the Department Head, tended to say in this respect. Berger himself hadn't turned up yet, but the others were now arriving one by one. As always it was a relief to see that all staff members had made it one more time. Quickly we discussed today's situation.
"So you managed to get out of the subway station before the bomb went off too, Derek?" Paul said.
"Oh, yes I did. I was on my way out when it happened."
"Lucky you. The subway station's a smouldering ruin now, the whole area is littered with corpses. It's a goddamn battlefield. I wonder who will claim responsibility for this one."
"No wonder the morning rush hour was such a complete chaos."
Xavier came tumbling in, completely besides himself with rage, and yelled, "This time they nearly had me. That suicide squad was a near miss."
"Terrible," I replied, compassionately. "Tell us all about it, pal."
"This gang of evil‑eyed blokes came running up the station square and sprayed some instantly acting poison all around. They were the first ones to die, but not exactly the only ones. It was simply horrible. I could barely get out of there in time." I nodded. I had only gotten out in the nick of time myself. Pure luck. Gosh, what a world! These days survival meant being in the right place at the right moment. Life was quickly turning into an endless series of terrorist actions.
"I could use a cup of coffee," Mr. Berger said as he too finally entered the office. He was panting, his face lined with deep concern and feelings of torment. No doubt he too had barely managed to escape his doom. Hilda rushed towards the percolator, the sense of duty personified as ever. A wish of Mr. Berger's, however subtly put into words, was regarded by her as an order, to be carried out right away.
Mr. Berger slumped into his chair, waiting for his coffee. A few blocks away, a bomb went off. We exchanged glances, shook our heads. "There are no safe places anymore," Mr. Berger mumbled. "Even here, at the office... Do you guys remember last Thursday?"
As if we would ever forget that day! One terrorist organisation or other had added vast amounts of laxatives to the meals at Murphy's Snacks, the cozy restaurant down the street where we always went to have lunch. During the afternoon, our office was transformed into a gigantic inferno of faeces, with all of us wallowing around in it, groaning and moaning in utter misery, and meanwhile steadily adding fresh supplies to the mess. It took us a few days to get the office back in shape, not to mention ourselves. Mr. Berger kept waxing philosophically:
"Society's going to the dogs, guys. It's a miracle we can keep the economy running. All we can do is navigate between the terrorist actions. There are no standards or traditional values left, we're surviving in the middle of pure chaos, which is changing constantly in completely random patterns. Terrorists determine the face of the earth now. All we can expect with absolute certainty is the unexpected."
"Your coffee's ready, Mr. Berger," Hilda happily announced. She handed him his steaming cup, then served the others. The coffee lived up to our expectations and presently we were all working.
About half an hour later it began. Mr. Berger was the first one to notice the effect and immediately understood what was happening. "The tap water," he said, dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief, "they've added something to the tap water." Then we all felt it; we had all drunk coffee made with the same tap water. "My God," Hilda said, alarmed, realising she was indirectly responsible for what was to follow, whatever that might be.
"Hilda," Mr. Berger said, "Hilda." He was sweating profusely now, tore away his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, and fixed his gaze on Hilda, who started sweating herself. The first beads of sweat were appearing on my brow as well. Mr. Berger kicked off his shoes, and said, "I'm terribly sorry, Hilda, but I can't resist this urge." Then he also took off his socks, his pants and his underwear, and it finally started to dawn on us.
"An aphrodisiac," Xavier exclaimed, panting. He too started taking off his clothes. "That's what they've added to the water. No doubt this will propel our lust to unprecedented heights. I wonder who's behind this."
"Not that it matters much," Paul remarked. "Oooooooh." Lecherous groaning filled the office. Soon the floor was littered with clothes, quickly taken off and partly torn to shreds. The effects of the diabolical chemical hadn't spared Hilda, who was now trembling like a leaf. Shapes no man's eye had ever rested on were now exposed for all to see. Judging from her expression of sheer horror she realised this was only the beginning, and what was in store for her would add a new dimension to her notion of a "terrorist action".
Then a tidal wave of lust washed all over us, pushing all our inhibitions and our capacity for rational thought to the furthest corners of our minds. As Paul threw himself on Hilda, Mr. Berger dove smack on top of both of them, and the three of them got furiously down to business. Like starving wolves, Xavier and the others and me joined the quivering mass of heaving bodies and thrashing limbs, that quickly grew into a wildly spinning merry‑go‑round of flesh. As the first bout of sexual fever wore off, we ran outside, still stark naked, and cast hungry glances in all directions, hunting for new partners.
We clearly weren't the only ones who had consumed tap water: there were people all over the street and the sidewalks, passionately giving way to their sexual urges gone berserk. Some street corners and traffic‑saturated intersections were now the scene of orgies of unprecedented proportions, counting a steadily rising number of participants. Then the fire in our loins flared up once more and we rushed towards our newly detected targets, across the street that was by now dangerously slippery.
This titanic Battle of Testosterone lasted until its participants collapsed onto the battlefield, totally exhausted after a final rapid‑fire of orgasms. Nobody emerged victorious from the arena of hormones, now littered with burned‑out, drained losers. Only when the thousands of victims of the aphrodisiac attack rose from their stupor did they notice they were scattered naked and helpless all over the neighbourhood, extras in a surrealistic still‑life conceived by a megalomaniacal artist. Then we all scraped together our last bits of energy, struggled to our feet, and groggily and uncomprehendingly trudged back, in the middle of the traffic that was now resuming its usual hectic quality, to our offices where the call to battle had been given.
But we realised life had to go on. We stumbled into the office and put on the tattered rags we had torn from our bodies. We ate and drank a little (carefully avoiding tap water) to restore our energy, and prepared to get down to work. And then gas was pumped into all the offices in this entire block through the air‑co system, stripping us of our inhibitions and stimulating our aggression and our thirst for blood out of all proportion...
Frank Roger was born in 1957 in Ghent, Belgium. His first story appeared in 1975. Since then his stories appear in an increasing number of languages in all sorts of magazines, anthologies and other venues, and since 2000, story collections are published, also in various languages. Apart from fiction, he also produces collages and graphic work in a surrealist and satirical tradition. These have appeared in various magazines and books. By now he has more than 800 short story publications (including a few short novels) to his credit in more than 35 languages. Find out more at www.frankroger.be.
This story originally appeared in issue 1.