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Fiction

This is the story of a woman named Penelope. 

Penelope works for an ordinary company, at an ordinary desk, where she works an ordinary nine to five. Penelope’s job is simple, she answers emails at her desk. Nothing more. Nothing less. Penelope has been doing this for her entire adult life with no complaints. Some might even say this job is monotonous, boring, or even soul-crushing. 

And yet, Penelope is happy. 

That is, until one Monday morning, when something bizarre happened.

Something that Penelope would never forget, and would change her for years to come. 

Penelope opens her email and sees zero new messages. Odd Penelope thinks. She sits waiting at her desk for a new message to come in. Nothing does. Realizing that she must get a break today, she gets up and heads to the lounge for some company-provided coffee. A treat she usually only reserves for special occasions. 

Once in the lounge, Penelope goes to the coffee maker and puts in her order for a medium sized mocha. As she waits for the machine to squirt out her bean juice, she notices that nobody is in the lounge. Penelope wonders if everyone but her is busy with work.  She is brought out of her thoughts by the ding of the coffee maker, signaling it’s glorious finish. Grabbing her coffee, she leaves the lounge.

As Penelope dawdles back to her office, she hears nothing. No sounds of keyboards being typed on, no printers printing stacks of paper, and no sighs of her depressed colleagues wanting to leave their jobs. Curious Penelope thinks. She decides to look around and check each work area, the individual offices, the group offices, the meeting room, even the company-provided yoga station that no one seems to use. Penelope finds nobody and begins to wonder if today was a holiday. But, before she can continue that line of thought, she hears the pinging sound of a new email from her phone. Excited, Penelope hurries to sit herself down at her desk with her mocha in hand ready to work.

“Today’s the Day” an interesting subject line Penelope thinks. She opens the message.

Today’s the Day you learn the truth. Walk to room #427.

How is she supposed to respond to such a message? Penelope takes a sip from her coffee and takes a moment to ponder that question. Then a thought occurs, who sent the message?

Penelope looks at the sender’s address “Your Boss” it says. Penelope takes a moment to think if she’s ever received any emails from her boss, and realizes that she hasn’t. Not wanting to disappoint her boss she replies, “I’ll be there soon.” Having done her job, Penelope gets up, leaving her mocha on the desk, and heads for room #427. 

Penelope heads for the elevators, as this is the quickest way to get to the upper levels. The problem is, she has never been on any of the upper floors and isn’t sure where the elevators are. Normally, this would be a simple fix, she would just ask a coworker, but seeing as none are here currently, she will have to make do on her own. The best course of action is to find a map Penelope thinks. So she heads towards the bulletin boards that have all the information she could possibly need. Once there, Penelope sorts through all of the random pieces of information “Lost cat” “Piano lessons” “What is the nature of our existence?” “Free spoons”. None of these helps Penelope. She does however tear off the number for “free spoons” as she has misplaced more than one recently. Another thought occurs, check the handbook.

Opening her phone, Penelope logs into her work account and opens the employee handbook. She skims the heading of each section “Mission Statement” “Responsibilities” “Our History” ”'Accidents” she keeps scrolling until she sees “Evacuation Maps”. She opens the document and sees the beautiful layout of her company. She finds her position and sees the elevators are only two hallways down. Excellent Penelope thinks.

When Penelope bends the hallway to the elevators, she is confronted with three different colors: red, yellow, and blue with one same colored elevator on each wall. Confused, Penelope hesitantly walks forward to inspect each elevator door. After a thorough investigation, she decides they are all the same type of elevator, but they are all missing buttons. How strange, Penelope thinks to herself. With no instructions in or around the elevators, Penelope decides to go into the Blue Elevator.

As Penelope stands waiting to decide which elevator to choose, she goes into the BLUE Elevator.

Understanding that standing around gets her nowhere, Penlopes goes into the BLUE ELEVATOR!!

PENELOPE, CHOOSE THE BLUE ELEVATOR!!

Fine then...

This is the story of a woman named Penelope. 

Penelope works for an average company, at an average desk, where she works an average nine to five. Penelope’s job is simple, she answers emails at her desk. Nothing more. Nothing less. Penelope has been doing this for her entire life with no complaints. Some might even say this job is monotonous, boring, or even soul-crushing. 

And yet, Penelope loves her job. So much in fact, that she would do anything for it. 

Looking at her empty inbox, Penelope takes a sip of her black coffee. Reeling from the taste, she wants to put the cup down, but knows that she cannot, otherwise she will start getting headaches. Penelope is disappointed that the company-provided coffee was all out of all the flavors, so she had to settle on this bitter cup of Joe. Delicious, she thinks.

All of a sudden, Penelope hears the chime of her email notification and sits to attention. She has been waiting for hours for this to happen today.

“Choose Blue” an interesting subject line Penelope thinks. She opens the message.

Take the Blue Elevator to Room #427.

How is Penelope supposed to respond to such a message? She puts her coffee down and places her hands on the keyboard. Then a thought occurs, who sent the message?

Penelope looks at the sender’s address “Your Boss” it says. Penelope takes a moment to think if she’s ever received any emails from her boss and realizes that she hasn’t. Not wanting to disappoint her boss she replies, “I’ll be there soon.” Having done her job, Penelope gets up, leaving her delectable drink, and heads for the elevators. 

Penelope realizes there is a problem. She has never been to any of the upper floors so does not know where the elevators are and decides to check the bulletin board for a map. As she turns the corner Penlope utters an exclamation, as if remembering something and changes directions. Fascinating, Penelope thinks as she walks the path toward the elevators.

When Penelope bends the hallway to the elevators, she is confronted with three different colors: red, yellow, and blue. Following the instructions from her boss, she gets into the blue elevator. Once inside, the doors close, and her ascension begins. As she looks around the elevator, she notices that it has no buttons. Not even an emergency stop button, let alone floor buttons. Before Penelope can determine how the elevator moves without any inputs, she arrives at the fourth floor.

The elevator doors open, and Penelope is greeted by a blue room. Entering the room, Penelope looks around and sees nothing but doors labeled with a number starting with 400. Penelope sets out to find door number 427. With each step, Penelope’s breathing gets more intense, as she has never met her boss, so she doesn’t want to make a bad impression. She should’ve worn a different outfit, she thinks. But, it’s too late now.

Penelope opens door 427 and is greeted with darkness.

No. That’s not right.

Penelope opens the door to room 427 and is greeted by a lone figure standing under a red light. The figure waves for her to come closer, she obeys. The closer Penelope gets, the more she can see machines and contraptions, the likes of which she has never seen before. Penelope notices that the figure is standing next to a large yellow button.  

Penelope covers her eyes as the lights turn on in the room, letting her see an old man in a lab coat.

“Hello Penelope,” I say to her.

Stunned, I watched her fumble for her words. This is understandable, as these are the first real words she’s ever heard in her life. 

“Wh-what is this place?” She asks me in disbelief while soaking in the environment.

I gesture around like the King that I am, “This is your home. It’s where I’ve been running simulations to better understand the human brain. You’ve made for an extraordinary subject and many breakthroughs Penelope. Well done.”

“Simulations? Subject? What do you mean?” She asks me this as if I didn’t just tell her.

“Oh. My wonderful daughter, I would love--”

“Daughter?! I’ve never met you before! My dad is… is…” she trails off realizing that she can’t recall a single image of her father. This is by design. 

“That was not the result I was looking for Penelope.” I say disappointedly. 

“Result? What do you… Why’d you press that button? Who are you?” Her words shake with fear as she asks me these questions.

“You have nothing to worry about my daughter, I’m sure you’ll get it right next time.”

“Get what ri--”

This is the story of a woman named Penelope. 

September 03, 2021 22:53

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2 comments

Angela Kaufman
05:57 Sep 09, 2021

This was an interesting read Tyler. I'm guessing the mundane details about Penelope and her choices, or her inability to choose was your intention and I liked how you built it up during the story. It was intriguing... I have to admit though that I didn't really get the ending! She was some sort of experiment? I didn't get the daughter connection. Anyway, thanks for this read. It was fun!

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Tyler Hanson
13:28 Sep 14, 2021

Thank you Angela for taking time to read my story and to share your thoughts! This was definitely something different I was trying, but so is all of this. I rushed to the ending when I needed to spend more time showing the 'reset' that occurs with her. You're right, the daughter connection doesn't make a lot of sense in this version, that would also need to be elaborated on. Thanks for the feedback!

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