Don’t Be Late

📅 Published on July 16, 2022

“Don’t Be Late”

Written by P.D. Williams
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 8 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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“I’m late.  I’m late for a very important date.  No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m …..” – The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland

“…laaate!” thought Bryan as he sped from his third-floor apartment.   He pressed the down button at least 20 times as if the 23rd try might be the charm.  Once on the elevator, he quickly pushed the button for the lobby.  He started jabbing the button with violent intent when the elevator doors wouldn’t close immediately—the way they do on those science-fiction shows.  The elevator became a trampoline as he jumped up and down on the floor.  Finally, after what seemed to him like an eternity, the doors opened so slowly that they seemed to be outright sadistic.

Bryan erupted onto the sidewalk that was filled with the daily parade of the white-collared undead. He then started power-walking at the pace of an outright jog.  He preferred to walk to the office; buses were too slow, and hailing cabs in New York City was a hit-or-miss proposition.  Shortly after moving to his posh Manhattan apartment, Bryan had planned out the quickest and most direct route to the Miser Building.  It was where the prestigious company of Tyler, Milford, and Drake made their executives rich and happy by making select clients even richer and happier.  There, Bryan was hailed as one of the most gifted efficiency experts on the east coast.

He was hired on April 11, 1991, by Walter Shimmel, the Director of Human Resources.  He had quickly ascended the corporate ladder to a staggering height, where he handled all of the essential and lucrative clients.  Bryan remembered every number, person, and place with impressive detail.

And so it was just another day when the prospective new client strode curtly into Bryan’s nicely appointed office.  Being very detailed-oriented himself, Bryan was impressed with the man’s outward appearance.  He wore a neatly pressed black suit with creases so sharp that you could use them to slice salami.  His simple but tasteful necktie was expertly nestled into the crisp collar of a brilliantly white shirt.  His matching black Italian shoes were polished to perfection.  His hair was expertly sculpted to a handsome face that exuded intelligence, sophistication, and confidence.  His posture was ramrod straight.  His gaze was intense but not threatening.

After cordially introducing himself, Bryan offered him a chair, but the man declined by saying, “Let’s see what happens next before I take a seat.”

The curious visitor introduced himself as Nealon Murphy.  He said only that he operated an expansive company that had dealt with countless clients from all walks of life for many years.  He added that his company had expanded to such a degree as to require a good bit of creative and efficient reorganization.  He went on to speak of Bryan’s well-known reputation for meticulous planning and dispassionate decision-making.  But he said Bryan’s penchant for achieving results with precise punctuality and well-reasoned forethought impressed him the most.  He then offered a challenge to Bryan.

“If you can demonstrate for me that you can deliver a project exactly on time, at an agreed-upon location, I can assure you we will be doing business together for a very, very long time.  You, Bryan, will be my guy.”

Although Bryan was a tad uneasy by the man’s reluctance to share any more details about his business—especially its name—he was excited at the prospect of putting his skills and reputation on the line to win a challenge successfully.  Why, it would become the stuff of corporate legend!

“Let’s hear the challenge,” Bryan said eagerly.

“The rules are quite easy to understand.  It’s the finish line that will be nearly impossible to cross.

“Oh, I think you might be surprised if not astonished by my unique skillset.” “Alright, then.  Are you familiar with the lower east side of Manhattan?” “Know it like the lines on my face,” bragged Bryan.

“Ooh,” cooed Murphy.  “I am impressed with you already.  Some people might think of your statement as arrogant at best or foolhardy at worst.  I think we’ll just call it moxie.  Okay then,” said the man as he walked around and surveyed the two chairs in front of Bryan’s dark mahogany desk.  Once he selected his favorite, he sat down.  Murphy casually crossed his legs, then pulled and straightened the left cuff of his trousers.  He allowed a short moment to pass before he spoke as if he was carefully choosing the most cogent and succinct way of explaining his directions.  He slowly reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and extracted a small cream-colored envelope about the size an invitation would come in.

“Is that invite for me?” joked Bryan.

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Murphy said with a slight laugh.  “If you can meet my expectations, that is.” “I’m listening,” Bryan responded.

“Very good,” Murphy said as he abruptly sprang from his chair and began purposefully pacing back and forth a few feet from Bryan’s desk.  “I want you to deliver this envelope to me at a building located at 104 Beaumont Street at precisely 11:09 am on Tuesday, May 11 of this year.  That’s three weeks from today.   If you are not standing directly in front of that building with this important missive at exactly, and I mean exactly that moment, you will have failed this assignment.  If that is the case, then I’ll have to move on to a more talented and ambitious individual.  And you will wonder, for who knows how many years, when or if you’ll ever have this opportunity again.”

Bryan tried not to let his face reveal the massive doubt that had broken off a small crumb of his bravado.

“As they say on the awards shows, ‘The envelope, please,’” Bryan said as he leaned forward over his desk to take possession of the envelope.

Despite demonstrating some theatrical flair, Murphy slowly and stiffly extended the hand where he held the small envelope between two beautifully manicured fingers.  Bryan, too, paused a few seconds, with an equal amount of dramatic panache, before gingerly pulling it from Murphy’s outstretched hand. Then Murphy smiled, turned, and began heading for the two large hand-carved wooden doors of Bryan’s spacious office.  Just before Murphy made his exit, Bryan asked loudly, “So.  To who do I give the envelope, or do I just leave it somewhere?”

“Neither,” said Murphy.  “You open it and read it when you arrive, and not before.  The final and most important directive will be printed on the card inside.  Follow it, don’t follow; that’s up to you.  The main thing is that you’re where you’ve been instructed to be when I’ve instructed you to be there with that item,” he said, pointing to the small envelope that Bryan held.  Do you remember the terms of our agreement?”

“Be directly in front of the building at 104 Beaumont Street on Tuesday, May 11 of this year at precisely 11:09 am with this delivery.  No earlier; no later.  Got it.  In the vault,” Bryan beamed as he pointed to his brain.

“Outstanding.  Oh, one more thing—and this is, of course, is entirely your decision: you might want to keep this little test of your acumen to yourself rather than bragging to your colleagues.  After all, what might they think of you and your inability to meet an important deadline on the off-chance you fail? Food for thought; food for thought.  I’ll see you soon.  Oh, and just for the record, I’m hoping you pull this off.  I so want to be impressed.  I can’t tell you how amazing it would be to have a man with your highly pronounced abilities onboard.  Good day, Bryan.  And good luck.”

After Murphy left, Bryan immediately began to map out his necessary departure time, the most efficient and barrier-free route, and his must-meet arrival time.  This task would represent the culmination of all he had learned from childhood through college and his years as a practiced and accomplished professional.  He felt more excited and exhilarated about the job than he had been in a long time.  For him, it was the challenge of it all.

He still remembered the mantra his father had taught him as a boy: “Early is on time, on time is late and late is ‘Why’d you even bother coming in in the first place?’”  Except for this time, that old advice wouldn’t be helpful.  He couldn’t be early, and he couldn’t be late.  He had to be there on time, down to the absolute nanosecond.  What was it, 11:09 am?  Not 11:08 or 11:10.  It was an exact time in a specific place.

Up until the morning of the delivery, he would get up around 5:00 am.  With a stopwatch in hand, he would stand in front of his office building and walk the route while timing it.  He repeated this ritual three times before heading to work each day.  It took him more than two dozen tries before he figured out the exact speed that he had to walk to arrive at the agreed-upon time.  He was more than a bit doubtful at first.  When the day of the delivery came, he took some time to try and relax, so his anxiety and adrenaline wouldn’t force him to lose focus or to move too quickly.

“Ready, set, go!” thought Bryan as he leaped off the lowest step of the building where Tyler, Milford, and Drake were housed.  He walked at the prescribed place he’d embedded in his brain to the point of muscle memory.  He followed his route down sidewalks and alleyways with commitment, determination, and focus.

Now there were only two blocks to go.  “Keep at this pace.  From this point, it should take you 47 steps before you reach the doorway of the flower shop,” Bryan’s mental coach reminded him.

It’s been said that men plan, and God laughs.  Such was Bryan’s misfortune when, just before reaching the flower shop, a couple walked out unexpectedly.  Bryan couldn’t avoid the collision.  The man was pushed back a little, but the woman with him lost her balance and fell down.  Bryan, himself, had nearly tripped over her.  The man started yelling at Bryan, but all that Bryan’s mind could register was, “Crap!  Why’d this happen now?”

“You idiot!” screamed the man.

“How long has it been since I hit them?”

“…sue you for everything…”

“Relax and check your stopwatch.”

“Where the heck do you think you’re going?”

Bryan had to do some quick calculations.  “I know I should step up onto the corner curb at 14th Street at 11:07.  I’ll jog over there and wait on the curb until my stopwatch shows that time,” he thought.

Once back on schedule, Bryan’s mind began to slow down and relax.  But the calm dissipated as soon as it occurred to him that he couldn’t remember if he’d put the envelope in his coat pocket before leaving for the office.  He was passing landmarks on his route at precisely the right times, so stopping to check for it would only complicate things.  He made the decision to keep walking while checking his pockets for the envelope.  His mind was racing and panicked as he hoped he was sticking to his well-timed pace while simultaneously clawing through his coat.  It turned out that Lady luck was one sweet mama because Bryan finally found the irksome envelope.  He clutched it tightly in a white-knuckled death grip.

Bryan could hear his heartbeat in his ears as he spotted the building about 50 yards ahead.  He hadn’t eaten any breakfast due to his nerves, and now he was feeling a tad queasy and light-headed.  His mind started becoming both friend and foe.

“…30 yards…What if I don’t make it?…10 yards…What if I do?…6 feet…look at the watch…3 steps…11:09…”

“I maaaade iiit!” Bryan yelled out loud.

“Whew,” Bryan exhaled.  He glanced down and realized he still had the envelope and promptly started ripping it open.  “So,” Bryan said through a cocky smile, “where’m I goin, you pompous jerk?”

Inside the envelope was a thick card that simply read, “Congratulations.  Now join me over here to discuss your future.”

As the half-ton girder dropped directly on top of him, Bryan’s smile became a wide-open mouth of stupid confusion.

Traffic screeched to a stop.  People screamed and gawked at the pulverized sidewalk in front of 104 Beaumont, where a man of impeccable timing and execution had just stood triumphantly.

Across the street, Bryan was confounded and afraid as he inexplicably appeared beside a handsome gentleman in a perfectly tailored black suit.  Murphy smiled as he continued to stare at the mad and grisly scene across the street.

“Wow.  I am impressed.  You were right on the mark.  You know, some people disparage the perpetually tardy by saying they’ll be late for their own funerals.  But not you, my friend.  You, sir, are truly the man!  I’m glad you accepted the invitation to join my company.  I told you we were growing. But with you there to help with our ongoing expansion, I’m confident we’ll be able to service the many for a very, very long time to come.”

Murphy grinned with satisfaction as he placed his arm around Bryan’s slumped and trembling shoulders.  And then, they were gone.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by P.D. Williams
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: P.D. Williams


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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