He pulled the thin tomato slice off the sandwich and dropped it into his napkin. He resumed taking large bites and looked up across the wide office lunchroom. The other employees were microwaving various prepackaged meals, full of preservatives and inorganic compounds that somehow comprised food. He shook his head and wondered how anyone could put such filth into their bodies. He swallowed his bite and took a sip from his water bottle to wash it down. At least Julie was as health conscience as he was. She liked organic foods and all the best type of fresh produce. Even the bologna he was eating was supposed to be the healthiest that could be purchased.
He took another bite of the sandwich and felt something crack against his tooth. There was something hard in his sandwich. He groaned slightly and spit the mouthful out into his napkin. A pain started throbbing in his mouth near his back molars. It felt like something was digging into his gums. He moaned again and some of the other employees in the lunchroom looked in his direction.
“Albert? Are you alright,” asked the afternoon shift receptionist.“Yeah, yeah, just… bit something wrong in my sandwich,” replied Albert.
He turned his head and put his finger in his mouth to feel around on his molar. His finger felt around his right back molar but he couldn’t feel anything sticking out, yet the pain in his jaw started to get worse. He looked down at his sandwich and started picking it apart. He took the lettuce off, the cheese, the bologna, and searched through the bread but couldn’t find anything in there that he might have bit. He started to wonder if maybe he had just bit down wrong and cracked a tooth through the act of chewing.
“Albert, oh my god, your mouth is bleeding,” said the afternoon shift receptionist.
He looked at her and then wiped at his lips with the back of his hand. He looked at his hand and there was thick red blood drenching it. He looked down at the front of his shirt and saw the dark crimson drops trickling, as if he’d had a surprise nose bleed.
“Oh my god,” said Albert.
He stood up from the table and rushed toward the employee bathroom with his hand cupped over his mouth. He could taste the metal/copper flavor of blood. He saw drops of blood hitting the floor as he rushed to the bathroom. He got to the sinks and looked up at the mirror. His whole chin was covered in blood. It was pouring from the corners of his lips like some bleeding religious icon. He had gotten very pale and he started to feel dizzy. Albert turned the water on in the sink and bent down to wash his mouth out. Over the drone of the water gushing from the tap he heard a faint tinkling sound. He looked down into the basin and saw two of his teeth were swirling around the open drain.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” cried Albert.
He put his mouth under the running water and tried to swish and rinse the blood out, but more just kept coming. He felt his legs getting weaker and panic was settling into his brain. He put his finger in his mouth again and looked in the mirror, trying to see where he was bleeding, why he was bleeding, where his teeth had come loose. There was too much blood in his mouth still. Albert started to choke and he spit violently in to the sink, splashing bloody water up over the mirror. His eyes were stinging with tears and fear. He turned toward the paper towel dispenser and started jamming paper towels into his mouth hoping that would stave off the bleeding. The paper towels started to make him gag and he pulled them out. As he did so, two more teeth came flew out into the sink. Albert screamed.
Davis Maple from accounting came into the bathroom and Albert turned to face him. Albert’s eyes were wide with fear as he moaned a guttural plea for help. Davis turned pale and Albert saw that Davis was about to faint. Even in his panic Albert still couldn’t believe that the only guy to come and check on him in the whole office is the one that can’t stand even the slightest bit of blood. Davis fainted to the floor and Albert tried another muffled scream, spraying blood across the bathroom. He turned back toward the mirror and could see that blood was now streaming from his nose.
Albert started to believe he’d caught some terrible disease, maybe he was the first one, maybe it was from someone on the train, maybe someone in the office was trying to kill him, or maybe it was Julie. Albert stopped his panicked thoughts and focused on Julie. Julie,… that treacherous bitch. She’d done this. She did put something in his sandwich. She had to of. There was no other explanation.
Albert had tried to apologize to Julie about kissing Julie’s younger sister. He hadn’t meant it. It was just so late and Julie hadn’t touched him in so long and Heather was just being so flirty and attractive. Heather had intentionally flashed him from across the room and told him she wasn’t wearing any underwear in a hot breathy whisper. How could he resist such a come on. He’d only kissed her after all. It wasn’t even that long of a kiss, although he did fondle her breasts a little. Albert thought it was odd how clearly he remembered the soft smooth shape of Julie’s younger sister’s breast in this moment, while he appeared to be bleeding to death.
Albert sat back against the wall near the sinks and slid to the floor. He looked at useless Davis and cringed. Blood continued to pour from his mouth and now he felt something wet coming from his ears. He reached up shakily and felt his ear and sure enough, blood was flowing from them. Albert felt the world getting smaller; his vision was collapsing into a pin hole. His cell phone started vibrating. He reached into his pants pocket and got out the phone. The blood on his hands and fingers made it difficult to unlock his phone and get to his text message.
“I HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR LUNCH,” read the text from Julie.
The phone slipped from Albert’s bloody hand as the bathroom world turned a strange color of red and then faded into blackness. As he drifted into the abyss of nothingness he made a vow. He vowed if there was indeed an afterlife, he would haunt Julie till the end of her days. He’d torment her so much that she’d never know peace ever again. The words stopped and Albert slumped to the side.
Davis woke up to the sound of running water and shook his head. He looked up at Albert’s dead, bloody, body along the wall and felt that old familiar wave of nausea gurgle in his belly. The microwaved Mexican meal was starting to come up on him and it was burning. He got to his feet and rushed to a stall and started throwing up. He screamed and threw up, screamed and threw up until he was just screaming. The rest of the office males streamed into the bathroom at the sounds of Davis’s screams and made the gory discovery of Albert’s hideous blood soaked, bloating body. The police were called. An ambulance was called.
A day later, Julie was arrested at the home she had shared with Albert for nine years. In the basement they found jars of tomatoes soaking in a caustic acid substance. Julie never revealed the exact chemical make-up of the solution. She simply smiled and said they were just preserves, just preserves.