Fantasy Funny Science Fiction

Amidst a bustling crowd of commuters on their way to work, Yuki Nakajima catches a glimpse of her own reflection in Yotsuya Station's large glass doors. Wearing a tailored black blazer she aims to exude an air of professionalism with a hint of style. Her hair, meticulously arranged in a low bun, is complemented by whimsical Jiji earrings - black lacquer cats, each suspended within a silver birdcage, swaying in unison like twin metronomes marking the beats of her day.

Yuki boards the Metro Marunouchi Line, a shining example of Tokyo's exemplary public transportation system. As she finds a seat for the brief journey to Shinjuku Station, her mind reflects on her recent luck. Just three months ago she was a college student, and now she gets to work on the 43rd floor of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building every day!

As the train speeds through the tunnels, Yuki takes a moment to mentally prepare for the day ahead. She pulls out her phone and focuses on getting a head start on her work schedule, reviews the comments made to her latest company post, and sends a few messages.

When she steps out of the subway and into the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building the faint aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the grand lobby, reminding Yuki of the caffeine already coursing through her veins and contributing to her jittery nerves. The marble floors gleam under the natural light pouring in from the atrium above, casting a warm glow on the bustling employees making their way to their respective offices.

As she weaves through the hectic lobby towards the office elevator, she notices the doors are about to close. She picks up her pace, hoping to catch the ride. To her relief, a young man inside notices her and holds the doors open. 

Yuki steps inside, only to find the elevator completely vacant, save for that young man. The unusual emptiness at this hour makes her feel a bit uneasy. Her okaa-san's voice echoes in mind, warning about the impropriety of being alone with a man. She looks up at him, and they make eye contact. She blushes, offers a nervous grin, and shakes her head, as if to say she's changed her mind.

She quickly hops back out, her nerves getting the better of her. In her haste, the cellphone slips from her hand. Yuki stares down at it, mortified, as it clatters to the floor.


Then the very air seems to thicken without warning, the molecules themselves reluctant to part ways. The cellphone, in the midst of its upward trajectory, slows to a crawl, its motion almost imperceptible against the backdrop of the viscous atmosphere.

As the phone inches ever closer to its destination, the world around it falls eerily silent. The bustling employees, the distant cars, the very heartbeat of the city – all are swallowed by a profound stillness. As if the universe itself has hit the pause button.

The once-teeming lobby of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building is now a tableau of suspended animation. Suits in mid-stride, voices mid-sentence, the world holds its breath. Even the scent of coffee dissipates. A mile away, the Metro Marunouchi Line's cars, full of motionless passengers, continue their journey along the tracks, their momentum frozen in time.

Of course Yuki Nakajima is not conscious of any of this surrounding stillness. Instead, she stands frozen, her mouth held agape, a statue staring down at her phone as it rests suspended above the floor.

Nearby, the elevator doors remain open. Waiting.


After an immeasurable amount of time that can only be described as cosmically peculiar, a figure materializes amongst the frozen populace of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building lobby. It's as if he emerges from the very fabric of reality itself, a digital entity materializing in a world of analog beings.

The figure stands of average height and build, his age an enigma that only the most advanced of facial recognition algorithms could decipher. The skin is smooth, unblemished, and as pale as the moon on a clear night. He's clad in a tailored white uniform made of a material that seems to defy the laws of physics, its synthetic fibers shimmering with a faint, otherworldly glow. On his chest, a name badge proudly proclaims his identity: "ÅNG3L 24", or "Two Four" as he's most commonly called.

Holographic control panels hover above each of his hands, appearing and disappearing with the ebb and flow of his attention. The right, larger panel is adorned with a myriad of colored graphs that flicker and dance in a ballet of data. The left hand hosts a smaller panel, waiting for its turn to be of service. Circling above his head, a barely visible hoop/ring floats, its ethereal blue-white light occasionally pulsing in sync with his motions.

Two Four has paused the simulation to complete his rounds, which includes world-altering visits to a Chinese biotech scientist, a remote technical support specialist in India, an actor on his Hollywood film set, a Manhattan housewife/entrepreneur, and a two-star general at the US Pentagon. Now, he's wrapping up his final task with Japanese marketing assistant Yuki Nakajima.

As his gaze alights upon his target, Two Four moves with steps as light and ethereal as a dream, navigating the very fabric of reality itself. He lifts the right hand panel for a better view, the graphs flashing by in a dizzying display of data. With a deft touch, he manipulates the controls, making adjustments to the intricate calculations. The graphs shift and colors change, reflecting a finely detailed image of a neural network akin to a tree, its branches and limbs growing and wilting as various scenarios are explored. The changes echo through the complex web of Yuki's neural pathways, a dance of data and decision-making in the digital ether.

Finally, an automated voice, seemingly emanating from the ring above the bald head of Two Four, announces, "Alternate Pathway Clear. One million eight hundred thousand electron levels disrupted. Four hundred thirty two thousand neurotransmitters transposed. Eighty four thousand alternate dendrites and fifteen thousand axons reconstructed."

Two Four then lifts the smaller panel, presses a few controls, and vanishes as abruptly as he had appeared.


In the heart of the vast, cavernous expanse of the "ÅNG3L Simulation Industries" office warehouse, Two Four, known by his full designation 39,427,167,924, reclines in his chair with his Neural Ring now suspended securely out of the way.

He is surrounded by a symphony of blinking lights and the soft hum of machinery. His terminal, one among thousands, is the sole governor of that vast simulation that contains Yuki, the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building, the Earth, and all of its surrounding stars and galaxies. A universe in a box, a cosmos on a circuit board, all of one creation within the confines of a single desk.

The monitors before him dance with a myriad of data, a kaleidoscope of information that only a trained ÅNG3L Tech could decipher. At the center of it all, his simulation’s Cosmic Pause Lever stands, a simple switch encased in a clear poly box, a relic of a simpler time when such controls were not yet automated. A fingerprint panel acts as a final safeguard against any unintended manipulations.

To his right, Three Eight, designation 35,687,327,738, sits at her own terminal, her simulation humming along smoothly, the monitors awash with activity. At another terminal to his left, Two Nine, designation 32,824,174,729, is immersed in his own tasks.

With a sigh, Two Four reaches forward and places his thumb on the fingerprint panel. The box pops open, exposing the Cosmic Pause Lever, a switch that can freeze the very fabric of reality within his simulation. He is about to flip it back to "On" when Three Eight's voice cuts through the hum of the machinery.

"Wait, what are you doing?" Three Eight calls out, pointing to one of Two Four's screens. "Your electron levels are out of balance. That's very sloppy, no wonder your simulation is always a mess!"

Two Four drops his arm and turns to face Three Eight. "Look, my Sim is... simple... literally. They are not even at 12% mechanical intelligence yet! There is no way they're going to detect manipulation at this stage. Even the humans won’t find out.”

"Well, you should at least optimize your radionuclide spread," Three Eight retorts. "Surely, even your sim is far enough along for homo sapiens to be monitoring that basic data?"

"Yeah, fine. I'll go back in." Two Four begins to manipulate some switches and, with a practiced motion, he carefully places the clear cover back over the Cosmic Pause Lever as a precautionary measure. One of the screens starts to calculate, flipping through various scenarios, before finally settling on an image of an orange tabby cat leisurely reclining on a sofa.

He turns towards Three Eight and asks, "Is that good enough for you?" while pointing at the central screen displaying balanced graphs and the message "Predicted Integrity = 98.3%" Three Eight nods in response and then redirects her attention back to her own simulation.

Two Four looks around, temporarily sneaks a metal flask out from his desk, and takes a swig. He drops the Neural Ring back down over his head, and dives back into the intricate web of his simulation.


The white-uniformed avatar materializes in the most peculiar of places—in the middle of someone's living room. The silence is palpable, a testament to the simulation's paused state.

With a face as smooth as the surface of a newly minted coin, Two Four surveys his surroundings. His eyes, pools of liquid intelligence, alight upon the resting form of the orange tabby cat, blissfully unaware of the cosmic shenanigans unfolding around it.

With the grace of a digital ballet dancer, Two Four glides over to the feline, his right hand hovering above its head. The holographic control panel once again twinkles with colored graphs as its controls are manipulated, the automated voice from the glowing ring begins its report, "Alternate Pathway Clear. One million three hundred thousand electron levels disrupted..."

"Shut up!" Two Four bellows, silencing the voice in mid-sentence. The sudden outburst seems to startle even the digital ether around him.

Then a mischievous glint flickers in Two Four's eyes as he contemplates, for the first time in his career, doing something that isn’t so… calculated.

He ventures into the nearby laundry room and peers through the door of the dryer, spotting a collection of clothes, frozen in time like a modern-day Pompeii. A metallic glove appears on one hand and Two Four uses it to open the dryer door, rummaging through the clothes with the curiosity of a child in a toy store. Eventually, he retrieves a single sock, pink with a red heart pattern—a true mystery of the universe is about to be unveiled.

Then Two Four heads outside, where the sun hangs motionless in the sky. He finds and lifts the garbage can lid, a gateway to a realm of forgotten things. With a sense of rebellion, he buries the sock deep within, a tiny act of defiance against the orderly nature of the simulation. Finally he engages the small panel above his hand and vanishes, leaving the dryer to spin unmoving in the paused simulation.

In the wake of the stillness, time itself remains hesitant, unsure of its next move. The very fabric of reality quivers, as if trying to remember how to resume its dance. The frozen tabby cat stares into the void, its eyes filled with the unasked questions of the universe. Today its mind and temperament have been irrevocably transformed, an inevitable sacrifice in the grand scheme of maintaining the universe's equilibrium.

Then, somewhere in another dimension, a Cosmic Pause Lever is flipped.

Like a rubber band snapping back into shape, the world lurches forward once more. The air, recently thick and unyielding, rushes to fill the void left by the long pause. The dryer suddenly springs to life, its drum spinning with a renewed vigor. A single pink sock dances within, searching for its partner with its numerous tiny hearts.


The phone bounces a few times before coming to rest. Yuki stares at it. An eternity seems to have passed as she grapples with a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts, none of which find a voice.

Suddenly, a surge of disappointment in herself and her childish reactions propels her forward. She bends down, snatching the phone from the marble floor with a tight grip. Yuki marches back into the elevator, spins around to face the button panel and presses the number 43.

The elevator doors glide shut, sealing her and the young man inside as the car begins its ascent.

Unsure of what to do next, she continues to stare at the button panel, sensing the young man moving slightly behind her. Suddenly, a voice nearby says, "Excuse me, miss. I think you dropped this."

She turns to see an open hand displaying one of her earrings - Jiji trapped within his birdcage, iconic round cat eyes seemingly searching for an escape.

Yuki reflexively reaches out to take the earring, their hands lightly touching. His skin feels warm against her cool touch. The man's sleeves are rolled up, revealing strong forearms and a sleek wristwatch. She looks up, taking in his clean-shaven face with high cheekbones and a strong jawline. Black-rimmed glasses frame his deep brown eyes, adding an air of sophistication.

She realizes she's seen him before, on some of these elevator trips to the offices, no less.

"Nice earrings. I think my 10-year-old cousin has a pair just like them." He says with a sarcastic tone and a slight, mischievous smirk. “I think they are from a cartoon, yes?”

Yuki turns away, her face heating up from embarrassment and a touch of anger at being made fun of. "An anime. Kiki's Delivery Service.”

He leans back against the far elevator wall, eyes fixed on his phone as fingers fly over the screen in search of something. "I'm Hiroki Sato. A software engineer at InnovaTech Solutions, on the 47th floor. Working here for a couple of years now."

Yuki carefully reinserts her earring.

"Yuki Nakajima," she introduces herself. "I've been here for only a couple of months. Marketing assistant at PacificWave Solutions." Despite her professional demeanor, she's a bit flustered by Hiroki's earlier remark about her attire and isn't quite sure how to navigate their interaction.

As the elevator ascends, Hiroki continues to scroll through his phone. "Yeah, I've noticed you a few times," he says. "In the lobby, for sure. Maybe in the cafeteria too?"

"Yeah, maybe," Yuki replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

Then, Hiroki takes a few cautious steps away from the wall as the elevator approaches Yuki’s floor. "Hey, before you get out, can I show you something?" he asks.

"Okay, I guess," Yuki turns to face him with a mix of curiosity and apprehension in her eyes.

Hiroki holds up his phone, showing her an image from his Facebook page: a photo of a DVD collection featuring various Studio Ghibli films. "My Neighbor Totoro," "Spirited Away," "Ponyo," "Howl's Moving Castle," and "Kiki's Delivery Service" are among the titles displayed.

"This is my collection. I like Jiji, but my favorite is Spirited Away. I have that one on a gold Blu-ray collector's edition." Hiroki says.

Yuki looks up at him and smiles. "Oh?" she says.

"Yeah. I have some of the figures too. Some are collectables. Got them when... I was a kid... but I still have them." They stare into each other's eyes.

The doors open with a quiet ding of elevator bell chimes. 

Yuki says, "This is my floor."

With a hint of reluctance, she turns and steps out of the elevator.

"Hey, Yuki." Hiroki calls out, causing her to pause and look back.

"I really do like your earrings," he says with a smile. The doors close between them, leaving his words hanging in the air.

After a moment of staring at the shut doors, Yuki turns and gently touches her right earlobe. She makes her way down the hallway towards her workday, her pace now slightly livelier. The twin Jiji metronomes seem to swing with a slightly faster tempo than they had before the elevator ride.


"The soul is touched by an invisible hand and guided towards its purpose." - Rumi

June 06, 2024 14:49

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C. J. Payling
05:41 Jun 13, 2024

Hi Dennis This was a good read. I enjoyed some of your descriptions, like - "His eyes, pools of liquid intelligence .." Be vigilant with your editing, i.e. you use the phrase "very fabric of reality itself" 3 times, and there is an abundance of adverbs. It was an entertaining read. I enjoyed the animé references, that kind of cultural referencing grounds the story. Keep writing C.J.


Dennis Colby
21:24 Jun 16, 2024

Thanks for your encouragement. It's funny how the author himself doesn't catch some repetitive use of even odd phrases sometimes! (I was surprised that I used "very fabric of reality itself" so much...)


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