6 comments

Science Fiction

Barney snapped back to the present at the sound of a booming voice that travelled across the bullpen. He raised slightly from his cubicle to see his boss barking unintelligibly in the distance. Barney groaned and slouched back into his seat, the meeting he dreaded was about to begin. He swept the mess of papers on his desk towards him and hugged them as he got up. It was a clumsy manoeuvre that toppled the already precariously positioned cup of coffee on his desk to the ground. The startled colleagues nearby responded with a scowl.


“Smooth move, killer.” A voice came from behind, one Barney recognised without needing to turn around. Chris followed up his comment with a slap on Barney’s back that violently jerked him forward. But Barney did not have time to respond, he could see his boss standing outside the meeting room furiously gesturing for people to get in.


Barney mentally checked out during the first 30 minutes of the meeting, he had a hazy notion of his boss droning on about the importance of the “hunger” and what it took to succeed in this career. Barney however was certain he was not the only one not paying attention, everyone was waiting for the moment the next promotion was announced. The boss organized each promotion like running a gauntlet, it was opened to any employee who presented the most compelling, usually the most audacious, idea for new business.


When the boss finally got tired from his own voice, Barney readied himself to take his shot. What happened next were a blur of events that Barney could barely recall. First, Chris stood up and interrupted Barney’s moment by presenting Barney’s idea as his own. Barney vaguely recalled the explosion of expletives he unleashed, obviously at Chris, but also apparently towards his boss. Regardless of how he remembered, Barney was unceremoniously fired.


As Barney packed his things, he saw Chris consoling the boss, who had a visibly wounded look on his face. As he escorted the boss back into his office, Barney caught Chris smirked in triumph before the duo disappeared into the room.


“I’m sorry that happened, Barney. I know how long you worked on that proposal.” Barney turned to see an attractive young lady, with her face furrowed sympathetically.


“Oh, hi Emma. Yeah, though I guess I could have handled that better.” Barney said, her presence clearly lifted his spirits.


Emma worked a few cubicles away from Barney and passing her desk to see her cute smile was one of the few things that got him through most days. He resolved to ask her out someday but never mustered the courage, getting fired it seemed was the catalyst he needed to do so. Strange that one trauma would lead him to seek out potentially another. But surprisingly, she agreed to the date. Barney returned to his desk beaming with joy and convinced himself the day was salvageable after all. He was about done with packing saved for shutting down his laptop, when he noticed a bizarre prompt appeared on his screen instead of the usual desktop.


Return to last saved position?

Y / N


Barney considered it might have been a new software update that failed but decided he could deal with that at home and entered Y on the keyboard.


The boss was barking unintelligibly about something again, but this time it no longer concerned Barney. As he stood up, he saw that his desk was full of papers again. He could have sworn he had packed everything but rationalized that it was probably the euphoria that distracted him. He proceeded to sweep the mess of things into the box of his belongings and knocked a cup of coffee to the ground. The startled colleagues nearby responded with a scowl. Barney tried to recall if he got a second cup of coffee on his way back, when a familiar voice came from behind.


“Smooth move, killer.” Barney violently jerked forward from the slap on his back that came next, when did Chris leave the boss’s office?


Barney trudged towards the lift with his things when his boss shouted at his direction and gestured for him to enter the meeting room. “Where the hell are you going, Barney! Come on hurry up, I don’t have all day!”


Barney protested the futility of joining since he was fired, but his boss strangely ignored them. Barney wondered despite the earlier incident if he was not actually fired? The antics at work could get over the top sometimes and Barney had moments when he could not tell if an instruction was serious or in jest. He sat in the meeting and watched as his boss delivered the same speech, word for word. Then came the moment when Chris took credit for his work, didn’t he already screwed me Barney wondered. Barney considered if this was some elaborate prank, but concluded it was highly unlikely given the usual quality of jokes. Besides, what would be the point of it? Then, Barney recalled the strange prompt on his laptop. He returned to his desk after the meeting to see the same prompt on the screen.


Return to last saved position?

Y / N


He paused for a moment before he entered Y in the keyboard and pressed the enter key. Barney checked and saw his incredible hypothesis was correct! His boss’s unintelligible barking, the mess of papers on his desk and the unspilled cup of coffee that sat precariously on the corner of his desk were all present. Somehow, he travelled back to that moment each time he responded to the prompt! Barney carefully moved the cup of coffee to a safer location on his desk before packing the papers into a neat stack.


Barney violently jerked forth when Chris slapped his back, “You ready to get your ass kicked?” Barney made a mental note about that annoying slap in the back should he need to reset again. But Barney was certain he would not need to, failing to get the promotion this time would be a terrible embarrassment. It was like having the answers to a test and still failing.


Moments later, Barney left the meeting thoroughly satisfied. He got the promotion and for good measure made sure Chris would not be considered for some time. He spied Emma walking towards the lift and approached her, “So, I’ll pick you up at 8pm later?” He chirped.


Emma’s face gave a puzzled look before it turned into disgust, “Pick me up? By the way, what you did and said about Chris in that meeting was just downright cruel. And here I thought you were one of the nicest guys around.”


Barney watched as Emma stormed off and realized that this time, he had not asked her out. He kept his eyes on Emma as she went on to talk to Chris before leaving together in the lift. Barney rushed back to his laptop and prayed the prompt remained.


Return to last saved position?

Y / N


A relieved Barney took a moment to catch his breath and mentally created a simple checklist of his next steps. He entered Y in the keyboard and pressed the enter key, hopefully for the final time. Barney spun around his chair immediately after typing and managed to startle Chris this time for a change, “Woah Barney, might want to go easy on the caffeine!”


Barney gave a smirk and he fantasized for a moment all the things he could say or do to Chris and get away with. But he decided not to push his luck, there might be a limit to the number of prompts on his laptop. Besides, he already had the opportunity to vent, all that mattered now was a favorable outcome with his job and with Emma.


Barney began to truly appreciate the surreality of the situation while the boss droned on for the first 30 minutes. Everything happened exactly as it did, from his boss’s speech down to the coughs and shrugs of his colleagues. Barney then thought about the prompts on his laptop, would they disappear if he entered N instead? Should he therefore leave them unanswered after he got the outcome he wanted, it could prove useful in the future. But then he never chose what the “last saved position” was, would it be back to the same moment?


Barney almost missed his opportunity as he explored the possibilities, but thankfully managed to regain his attention to the meeting in time. He interrupted Chris before he could do so and impressed the boss enough to be awarded the promotion. Pleased with the plan so far, Barney then approached Emma to ask her out, feeling oddly at ease given the number of practices he had.


“Oh, wow that’s nice. But I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m free tonight.”


Barney noticed her shoulders converged as she leaned back slightly. They were enough of a signal even if he had not known what she said was a lie. Barney mentally protested at the outcome; this was not how it was supposed to happen! He gave an awkward smile before retreating like a wounded pup back to his desk.


Barney slumped into his chair and wrestled with what went wrong. He turned to see the prompt was still on his laptop screen. A gnawing feeling in his gut made him realized the only scenario of a successful date with Emma was the first. Barney leaned forward towards his laptop, pondering his options as he stared at the blinking text cursor on the screen.


Return to last saved position?

Y / N

October 07, 2022 08:13

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6 comments

Marty B
04:13 Oct 14, 2022

Oh good story, I like the options to re-visit a situation (I really want this myself) and the choices that go into each new iteration. The ending was great too-the cursor, blinking, blinking, blinking-

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T. S. Memory
11:59 Oct 15, 2022

Glad you liked it! haha after a while each iteration can become a major dilemma (the good and bad gets reset!) though! Anyway thanks for reading! :)

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Ava Woodrum
13:01 Oct 11, 2022

That is such an interesting concept! The title fits perfectly with the writing. It is amazing!

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T. S. Memory
04:26 Oct 12, 2022

Thanks so much for the kind comments! glad you liked the story and thanks for reading! :)

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Kelly Sibley
23:57 Oct 09, 2022

Take the job! There are a lot more Emmas in the sea! I like your story, it really captured my imagination.

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T. S. Memory
04:25 Oct 12, 2022

haha I'm glad you liked the story! thanks for reading and the comments! :)

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