Glancing around I spotted the old and the dejected and also in the air was a faint aroma of burned coffee beans. A low, dull murmur escaped a few souls as they tried vainly to get seek help, before returning from whence they came.
Doing my best to avoid eye contact with any of them, I silently paced the wide expanse between the closing doorway and the thin zigzagged line of stooped figures next to a row of windowed booths. As I made my way to the end of the line, I nervously began to fondle the paper in my pocket unobtrusively whilst I tried my best to look nonchalant and relaxed.
One by one the lines number dwindled until there were only a few more ahead of me. My apprehension grew steadily as the clock on the far wall crept ever closer to closing time. Despite the distance I believed that I could still hear its faint tick tick ticking, as if both a grim reminder of both my time hear and of life in general.
Just then I felt the presence of someone else come up behind me. Exactly what he was doing here I had no idea, but he was not like the other around me. I failed to spot any sign of a suitcase of holdall from the corner of my eye and of course I dared not turn around or look squarely at him.
That was one of the many unwritten rules, to look at someone directly without necessity was asking for trouble, and all too often said trouble was only too happy to reply with dire consequences.
Thankfully the line in front of me had dwindled to only two, but the minutes had not passed slowly and the time was almost up. I could only hope that these next two would be hurriedly processed and free to continue on their way before it was too late for me to conclude my own business.
Up ahead of me there spilled out some commotion behind the windows and I could spot a number of uniformed men and women milling about nervously, all talking in hushed tones and glancing out now and again over our diminutive number. A tiny bead of sweat manifested on my brow and I began to wish I was anywhere but here.
After no more than a minute, but what seemed to me like an eternity, most the uniforms all went back to what they were doing, except a handful who decided to leave via a obscured door in the rear of their room. There were now as many of them as there was of us and I was in considerably doubt if I would be able to achieve my goal this visit or if I would be forced to return again another time.
Then from out of nowhere a sound began to enter my thoughts. Faintly at first as if just to tease but as the seconds went by it grew and shifted form. My heart started to race as the noise turned into steadily rising music and all at once I recognised dreaded it instantly.
It was a music that haunts my worst nightmares and in my youth would often wake me screaming amid sweat drenched sheets. More chilling and frantic than Dance Macabre and also instantly more imminently threatening. This was not the sort of noise I could imagine anyone ever wanting to hear, and especially not when standing as open and exposed as I was now.
While the psychotic notes seeped deeper into my psyche and chilled my very bones what frightened me most was that it appeared no one else could hear it, yet to me it was becoming the loudest and most terrifying melody imaginable.
Louder and louder it became, until I felt almost unable to breathe as anticipation of a most horrific and gory conclusion to my very being overwhelmed me, when ... all at once ... it stopped.
"Er ullo Pete, whassup?".
It was not the sound of my own fate fast approaching or of a insane knife wielding psychopath about to slice me up a thousand times.
No, it was just the "innocent" new polyphonic ring tone that the guy behind me had set on his mobiles phones.
Getting my breathing back under control, I reminded myself that this isn't a Hollywood slasher movie but instead real life, and what was real was that I was standing here in a queue to cash a cheque, just about returning to work and replenish the petty cash tin.