We wish you a merry doomsday

Submitted into Contest #21 in response to: Write a short story about a work Christmas party that goes... awry. ... view prompt



There had been some discussion about the dress code for the Christmas party. Mike from Financial Exploitation had suggested ugly Christmas sweaters but he had been shouted down by the eco-conscious millennials from Propaganda. Jess from Inhuman Resources was all for science fiction, Dylan from Nuclear Acquisitions wanted horror, and Ana from Hacking said they might as well drop the dress code altogether because there was no way in hell she would change out of her ripped jeans and oversized hoodie anyway. In the end, word had come down from on high that the theme would be “festive” and they’d better dress accordingly.

So in the afternoon of the party, everyone hoofed it down to the toilets to get changed. A few of the more giggly women had gotten together an outfit for Ana. She grumbled while they pulled a sequined dress over her head and muttered threats as they applied eyeshadow and turned her messy bun into a fishtail braid. Over in the gents, Mike had to show the below-50s how to tie a double Windsor. At least one bottle of vodka was consumed in the process.

“These shoes are fucking ridiculous,” Ana said, as they emerged from the toilets nearly an hour later. She was tottering along on a pair of five-inch heels, courtesy of Jess.

“Then bring your own next time,” Jess said.

“I don’t see the point in - oh fuck.” Ana stopped to gawk. “What the hell?”

They had reached the open office. In a mere hour, this had been transformed from hip workspace with beanbags and potted plants to a cutesy Hallmark scene. Every surface was covered in fake snow. Tinsel and twinkling lights were slung across the room and twined around every pillar. Bunches of mistletoe hung from the ceiling at such a density Jess had to teach Ana how to slalom in stilettos. Mike leaned oh-so-casually against a pillar, waiting for them to misstep. Mrs Pierce, the secretary who’d been with the firm since its inception, was up on a rickety stepladder decorating the last of the thirteen Christmas trees that had been crammed into the workspace. She’d even decorated herself with tinsel.

“Oooh, you look lovely, girls!” she said when she spotted Jess and Ana. “Could you be dears and pass me that tinsel there? And the little nuclear warhead ornaments?”

Jess passed them to her and then crouched down to examine the box of decorations. “Do you want the skulls too, Mrs P?”

“No, they’re too gaudy. Don’t you think they’re too gaudy? I think it’ll look lovely with just the warheads. Or perhaps I should add the little smallpox virus baubles. They’re ever so festive.”

The boss was nowhere in sight but at five minutes past five everyone’s phone chimed with the arrival of a brief text message: Speech at 7 pm. Enjoy the party! At the same time, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer began to play from the speaker system. This was the cue for everyone to move to the drinks table. Most spiked their drinks with a little something from a hipflask, not realising that Dylan had already emptied two bottles of vodka into the punch bowl.

The food was an eclectic mix of nibbles in plastic bowls and fancy quiches, roasts and soups that were kept warm in chafing dishes on the table tennis table. Mike ate his way through almost an entire quiche but otherwise the food was mostly ignored because nobody had figured out how to hold a plate, cutlery and a drink in just two hands.

Seven songs into the party, Ana had figured out where the music was coming from and how to change it. She was allowed a full sixteen seconds of Finnish death metal before she was overpowered. Later accounts of the evening were inconsistent, so no one knew whether to blame Jess, Dylan, or someone else entirely, but the fact remained that someone found a Christmas karaoke playlist. Dylan certainly was the first one to start singing. His rendition of Merry Christmas everybody sent people scurrying back to the drinks table. Jess fared slightly better with All I want for Christmas. Even a distinctly tipsy Mrs Pierce joined in on the fun and knocked over a Christmas tree as she was rockin’ around it. The lights went out with a fizz and several of the nuclear warhead ornaments shattered. Dylan swept them aside with his shoe as he came past, limbs flailing in what only an optimist would call a dance.

It wasn’t long before Jess had to dig out the spare crates of booze. Mrs Pierce took a bottle of sherry out of her handbag and added it to the table with a giggle.

“Enjoying yourself?” Dylan shouted to Ana, over Mike’s version of Fairytale of New York. He hadn’t found anyone who wanted to do a duet with him so he was pretending to be both Shane and Kirsty and failing spectacularly at both.

“Not really!” Ana shouted back. She was perched on the corner of the drinks table, massaging her feet.

“Come and sing then!”

“No way!”

“It’s Christmas!”

“Fuck that!”

She lobbed a shoe at him and missed. Five inches of heel went soaring through the air and landed with a splash in the punch bowl. Jess, who was just helping herself to her fourth glass, shrieked and whacked the shoe away with the ladle. It hit Mike on the nose, just as he was about to inform the audience about the NYPD choir. The crowd on the dance floor, which consisted of most of Propaganda and Nuclear Acquisition, burst into cheers and started an impromptu conga line while loudly single Jingle Bells. For some reason it worked. Mrs Pierce shrieked at them to mind the decorations, but nobody heard her over the din and one tree after another came crashing down.

Then the speaker system crackled and a cool voice said, “Thirty minutes to nuclear launch.”

The conga line fell apart.

Jess dropped the ladle back into the punch bowl.

Dylan squawked.

Ana had already logged into the nearest computer terminal and was tapping away at the keyboard.

“Can you find out what’s going on, dear?” Mrs Pierce said, as Ana let out a particularly colourful string of swearwords.

“It’s the emergency launch,” Ana said. “The we’re-under-attack-it’s-now-or-never-if-we-die-you’re-going-with-us.”

Dylan peered around the room. “Are we under attack?”

“The fucking system seems to fucking think so!”

The karaoke version of Fairytale of New York ended, and the speaker system began to belt out the karaoke version of Last Christmas.

Ana’s colleagues from Hacking had put aside their drinks, extracted themselves from underneath the mistletoe and logged into their own computer terminals.

“I’m locked out,” said the one who everyone thought was fifteen despite the fact that he had a beard that made most barristas jealous.

“So am I,” said the fifty-something woman with blue hair. “Looks like all the command functions have been routed to the boss’s computer.”

“Well, someone should go and tell him,” said Mrs Pierce. She straightened her tinsel headband which had slipped down over one eye. “So that he can turn it off.”

The hackers glanced at each other.

“Twenty-five minutes to nuclear launch,” said the cool voice, butting in on the refrain.

“Or we could try to fix this on our own first, for, say, twenty-two minutes,” said Mrs Pierce.

Jess checked her watch. “The boss is due in twenty minutes for his speech.”

Dylan grabbed the nearest bottle of vodka and put it to his lips.

“Okay, okay,” said Jess. “Let’s all take a deep breath here. Why does the system think we’re under attack?”

“Because this Christmas party is like the battle of the fucking Somme.” Ana pointed at the dance floor, where several Nuclear Acquisition workers were still stuck under the shattered remains of the Christmas trees or pulling shrapnel of broken ornaments from out of the soles of their shoes.

“What if we say we’re all right?”


“Just shout it, like this,” Jess said, spreading her arms wide and throwing her head back. “Oi! System! It’s fine, we’re all fine, no one is attacking us!”

“Yeah, no, that didn’t work,” said the blue-haired hacker. “It’s still counting down.”

“Perhaps you should turn it off and on again,” Dylan suggested.

“Somebody hit him,” Ana said, without looking up from her keyboard. Mrs Pierce dutifully whacked him with her handbag.

Several tense minutes followed, during which the hackers tried to bypass security systems that they themselves had built. The problem, as Ana explained it, was that any attempt to hack into the boss’s account resulted in a number of unpleasant surprises.

“What sort of surprises?” Jess asked.

“Depends,” said the blue-haired hacker. “If it’s an outside attempt, then it’ll send you a package containing a pipe bomb or anthrax or something equally fun.”

“And if it’s an inside attempt?”

“The trapdoor opens and the piranhas get dinner.”

Everyone took a few steps back.

“Fifteen minutes to nuclear launch,” said the cool voice. Then the speaker system went back to the karaoke version of Thank God it’s Christmas.

“Is it really going to launch?” Mike said after a while. “Maybe it’s just, dunno, a Christmas joke.”

Mrs Pierce whacked him with her handbag.

“Thanks, Mrs P,” said the hackers in unison. Mike rubbed his chin and went off to get another drink.

“If I might make a suggestion,” Mrs Pierce said.


“Can you shut down the backup generator?”

Ana typed a few commands. “It’ll take a few minutes, but I can do it.”

“Great.” Mrs Pierce took a massive bunch of keys out of her handbag. “I’ll just go to the fuse box, then, and shut down main power.”

The first notes of Happy Xmas (war is over) came over the speaker system.

In his office on the thirteen floor, the boss was humming to himself. He didn’t mix with the workers much, because it was easier to project an aura of fear and power if he remained aloof. But once a year he liked to go down and mingle and say a few words about the company’s progress and their role in it. What a year it had been! They had developed seventeen new flu viruses, acquired two thousand kilotons worth of nuclear warheads, and successfully hacked into the computer systems of four major banks and two governments. And his lead scientists said the preparations for the moon base were going well. They could move out into the open in the next decade. World domination was feasible in sixteen years, he estimated, provided nothing untoward happened.

He put on his extra festive bow tie and left his office. The lights turned off for a few seconds he walked down the corridor, and then flickered back on again. How odd. Perhaps there was something wrong with the electrical circuitry up here on the thirteenth floor. He flicked a switch. It worked perfectly. Oh well. He’d tell Mrs Pierce to get it sorted in the morning. Extraordinary woman, that. Very efficient.

She’d gone overboard again with the Christmas decorations. The workspace looked like a Christmas card, although the trees were perhaps a bit battered. He waved as he entered, and his workers clapped and cheered. Some looked tipsy, others outright drunk. The few who could still stand and sing at the same time burst into a festive Christmas carol: We wish you a merry doomsday!

December 25, 2019 14:01

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Gary Phillips
21:35 Jan 01, 2020

I love it! Done with all the cheesiness and cheekiness of a Weird Al Yankovic music video. Where do I sign up to work for this company?. They really know how to have a good time.


11:07 Jan 04, 2020

Thank you! I don't think you can apply, you just have to hope the boss finds you - try being evil but not mean! :)


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Sarah Paris
22:32 Dec 31, 2019

Very original! Nice work!


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