Writing Prompt of the Week: Someone has left small, brightly wrapped packages tied up with ribbon on everyone’s desk at the office. Everyone is afraid to open them though, or even touch one for fear that one of them will explode…or worse.
by Jamie DeBree
“What do you think it is?”
“Does everyone have one?”
“Someone shake it.”
“No! It might explode!”
Danny sat back in his chair and stared at the tiny package on his desk as the office buzzed around him. As far as he could tell, there was one on every desk — an April Fool’s joke, no doubt.
Unfortunately, what might have been funny thirty years ago had to be seen as a potential threat now, and he was certain the police had already been called.
No wider than a deck of cards and twice again the thickness, the box was wrapped in shiny bright yellow paper with an orange ribbon crossed on top and a bow nearly larger than the package on top.
Chocolate, he’d guess. Maybe a rice crispy treat. The urge to shake it was strong, and he reached out with every intention of doing just that. If it blew up, well, he’d probably never know.
“Danny — stop! Don’t touch that!” Jessica from HR ran to his side, practically gulping air as she pointed to the little gift.
“It could explode — or worse. Didn’t you hear the loudspeaker announcement ten minutes ago?”
Danny shook his head. “Sorry. I must not have been paying attention. But if you’re so worried, why aren’t we evacuating the building?”
She looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “We don’t want to start a panic, of course. I’m sure the police will be here soon. We all just need to stay calm, and not touch these little boxes. Okay?”
Danny held up both hands in surrender. “I won’t touch a thing. Promise.”
Jessica gave him a long stare, and then hurried off, one hand in the air and that shrill voice carrying over all the other busy buzzing.
“No! Don’t touch that!”
Danny shook his head and checked his watch. It was eight forty-five, and the police station was just down the street, what in the world could be taking so long? He stood, stretched, and walked two aisles over to look out the window with a clear view of city hall.
Why were so many people huddled in the parking lot kitty-corner from the building? He thought for a moment, and realized that the last time he saw that many people in a parking lot, city hall had done a firedrill.
Which means they’d been evacuated. He wondered if they’d come in to tiny boxes on their desks too, or if their April Fool’s Day gift was a fire alarm first thing. Same result either way, he supposed. No one was getting any work done this morning.
The loudspeaker crackled, and the verbal hum died down a bit.
“Everyone please return to your workstation and check your email for further instructions. Please be careful not to touch the wrapped box, if there is one on your desk. Thank you.”
Danny wandered back to his workstation, watching as one by one, his co-workers sat down and looked confused, searching their desks for something.
When he sat back down in front of his own computer, he realized why. And then he stood up, looked at the back of the wrapped gift sitting beside his keyboard, and chuckled quietly to himself.
Holding down the control, alt and delete keys, he logged into his computer. There was a button at the top of his keyboard with the symbol of a letter, and he pushed that to bring his email program up. Using the arrow keys, he highlighted the first email from Jessica in HR, and tapped the “Enter” key to open it.
“If you are reading this, please lock your computer and immediately report to HR. You are being tracked.”
Danny locked his screen and stood to find Jessica herself standing right outside his cubicle.
“How did you access that email without a mouse?”
Danny frowned. “How do you know I don’t have a mouse?”
She put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side like he was some sort of special.
“No one has a mouse. They’re all missing. Haven’t you talked to other people at all?”
“Didn’t need to. No one’s missing a mouse. They’re all just wrapped up in some stupid April Fool’s Day prank. Let me show you — ” he reached for the box on his desk again.
“No!” Jessica looked like she was about to pass out, but this time Danny ignored her. He picked up the box, mindful of the cord coming out of the back, and ripped the ribbon and paper off sideways to reveal his mouse, no worse for the wear.
“See? No harm, no foul.” He put it back on the desk and moved it around, watching the arrow move on the screen.
“We’ve been pranked.”
Jessica looked so disappointed that he felt bad for being the one to tell her. Others had been watching, and one by one they started unwrapping their own packages as Jessica trudged down the cubile row.
Danny logged in, put his hand on the mouse, and moved the curser to hover over the internet icon. He always read the news first, and it didn’t seem like today should be different. No need to disturb the normal flow any more than it already had been.
His finger moved on the mouse.
Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.