Today's post is going to be a bit different. We're going to experiment with interactive storytelling within a web page. To the right is the soundtrack for the adventure. If at all possible, listen to it with headphones while participating in the story. Even better, read this while alone in the dark to best amplify the experience.
The story takes place tomorrow morning. You spend your days working in the mailroom of a forgettable law office downtown. Your role is easy, but uninspiring. It's been three years since you were hired and still no promotion. It's getting late though and you have work first thing in the morning. Best get to sleep so you don't fall asleep on the job again. That would just be the last straw on the camel's back.
An Average Monday Morning
Your iPhone buzzes and jingle jangles right next to your head. It's 7:30am but your body feels like it's 4:00am. You open your eyes wide enough to tap the snooze text and immediately fall back into blackness. BOO DOO DEE BOOP BZZ BZZ BZZ. Damn! You barely blinked and the alarm is going off again. You're now 70% awake. One more snooze.
The third alarm alarms and you know you're going to have to rush this morning to get to work on time. You finally roll out of bed and shuffle over to the other bedroom.
"Hunter! Are you up? Bus comes in fifteen minutes. You're going to have to pack your own lunch. I slept in again."
You go back to your room and hop in the shower. As per your usual morning routine, you turn on the shower radio to get your daily dose of NPR. Today's hot topic is ISIS. A journalist that had just been over in Syria has come back to report that ISIS is allegedly working on a new form of chemical weapons. The journalist, even now, had trouble speaking calmly. Apparently what she saw was something she can't even disclose to the public. National security and all that.
You snap back to attention when you realize you've been standing stationary in the shower listening to NPR for the last five minutes. You finish up, make sure Hunter caught the bus, then grab your bike from the garage.
On the ride to work, cars are backed up in traffic way more than normal. Luckily this doesn't affect you and your maneuverable bike. Minutes later, you arrive at your building. You roll down into the parking garage and lock up your bike. You get in the elevator with a few other professionals and head up toward the lobby level. Several more people get on, then you continue upward into the sky.
You notice one man in the elevator is looking pale. Like he had some bad sushi late last night. Or one too many cups of saké. Then he begins coughing more aggressively than anyone would prefer. The atmosphere in the elevator quickly becomes tense as everyone shifts their weight uncomfortably. Your office is on the 32nd floor, but it looks like there are at least six buttons pressed between here and there. The elevator stops on floor five and the doors open. Several people get out hurriedly. You decide to stay in the elevator and casually cover your mouth for the rest of the ride or get out here and take the stairs.
The Long Climb
Out of fear for your own health, you get off on this floor. The doors have opened into what looks like a tech startup. A foosball table greets anyone who dares visit the probably overly-ambitious company. It piques your interest though - and the woman sitting at the receptionist desk looks especially inviting.
You walk forward, away from the elevator, and start chatting with the receptionist. Conversation flows and you learn more about the company. It turns out they're an industrial design startup that specializes in iPhone cases. Their current project is a survival case with an accompanying app. The case makes your iPhone twice as thick, but includes a knife, fire starter, and bottle opener. With purchase of the case, you get a free download of their survival app. In it, the app uses your GPS location to offer location-specific survival advice. If you're out in bear country, it will tell you what kind of bears to look out for and what to do if you come in contact. Or if you're near a river, it will tell you what kind of fish are in it and how best to catch them (and where to go to get a fishing license).
You start daydreaming about taking Hunter out on a camping trip. You two have been in the city for so long that he probably doesn't even remember going when he was younger. You then ask how much they're going to sell the cases for. She tells you the price, but then offers a prototype for free with the condition that you come back to the office in one month and six months to give feedback on the design and functionality. Of course you'll take one! The receptionist goes to the back somewhere and grabs it. You slip it right on your phone then the screen lights up.
DAMN! Nine minutes late and you still have twenty flights of stairs to climb! Wait. Why don't you just take the elevator? The coughing man will obviously not be in there anymore. You thank the receptionist and ride the elevator up to your office.
The elevator doors open and your boss is standing there, waiting for you. His eyes are full of fiery rage. He was never really a great boss, but let's just say you were never employee of the month. He twitches his head to the side and turns to walk away. His body language suggests that you follow him. You follow him into his office and take a seat.
"I don't know how else to say this. Unless a meteor came down and obliterated the N Franklin Bridge while you were biking across it, I don't think there's anything you can even say to save yourself. You've been late more often than not. You've used up all your sick days and vacation days this year and it's only March. Not to mention your performance has been drifting all year."
Your blood is boiling as you enter the elevator for the last time. You're better than that anyway. You don't need that job. You've been there for years and only received the bare minimum of raises. Maybe this is a sign. Maybe it's time to start fresh. Hunter hasn't been doing the best in school either. A change of scenery would be good for both of you.
Yeah! This will be great actually! You've been needing this push to do something different with your life. A new town. New friends. A new job. Especially getting out of that apartment. Too many bad memories there. You've been meaning to get out of there sooner, but finances are tight and you just haven't had the energy. But now's the time.
You grab your bike from the parking garage and ride back home. Traffic is heavy again, which is weird since it's now well after 10:00am. Thank goodness for the bike lane.
After you get home, you immediately start cleaning and organizing for the imminent move out of the city. You plan on packing all of today and tomorrow morning to get out as soon as possible. Aside from your furniture, you and Hunter don't have a ton to bring with you. You lost almost everything in the separation. But you got Hunter. You fought with tooth and nail, but you got him.
- End of Part 1 -
Despite the haggard cougher, you decide to stay in the elevator in order to reach your office at 9:00am sharp. Smart idea since you've been late a lot recently. Raising Hunter on your own is harder than you could have ever imagined. Sure it's rewarding, but between work, the meetings, the legal battle, and Hunter, there just aren't enough hours in a day. And of course your boss is less than sympathetic. After your emotional breakdown when clients were in two months ago, his patience has worn paper thin. Just another piece of straw on your back...
Passing by floor twenty, the man finally stops coughing. Thank goodness. You were really starting to feel anxious. But before your relief has time to set in though, you notice that he's now breathing slightly more heavily than normal. As if he just ran a half marathon. Or woke up from a nightmare. A few more floors go by and everyone but you has exited the lift. Great. Really should have taken the stairs. Whatever, you'll just load up on the zinc and vitamin C when you get to the office. You'll be fine.
The elevator reaches the 31st floor and the doors open. Of course this guy is going to the floor right below you. Figures. He walks off as you finally get to take in a full breath of air. Mmm. You were starting to feel lightheaded there. At long last, you reach the 32nd floor and exit the forsaken elevator. Upon entering your office, you immediately recount the story of the cougher with your receptionist. She sympathizes with your story as she had just experienced something similar. She always rides the bus to work and today there was someone sitting next to her coughing wildly. Hearing of each other's stories, you both feel reassured that it's just a bug going around again. It is cold season after all.
You walk into the mailroom and sit at your Dell computer from 2009. Your iPhone is actually 50% more powerful than this desktop, but your floor doesn't have any sort of wifi and cell service can't penetrate these walls. Since it's Monday morning, there aren't many parcels to worry about yet. Because of this, you boot up the computer and go to The New York Times or Reddit.
You click the Reddit bookmark in your bookmarks bar to load up the page. You've spent more than your fair share of time on this website during work hours. Thankfully your boss isn't savvy enough to install any sort of website tracking software. As far as you know.
An hour goes by as you dive into the comments section of a net neutrality article. The citizens of the internet are rejoicing over the triumph that will keep the internet as it should be - open and equal. You upvote some comments and offer a couple replies as well. Another hour goes by. Your head starts to ache a little. It's probably from staring into this darned monitor. It must be the first LCD computer monitor ever built. There is so much ghosting and the blacks are a medium grey. Whatever. You keep browsing.
A few minutes later you click through an article about a local grade school in Chicago. Apparently a bunch of the kids were feeling feverish and started fighting. Not like any old grade school fight. A real, fist-flying brawl. The article has a couple photos of little kids with black eyes and bloody noses. Weird. The parents of the kids had to come and take them home for the day.
This makes you uneasy, but grateful that Hunter doesn't go to that private school. He's instead at a public school closer to your apartment. You think about checking in with the school to make sure everyone there is alright, but your headache is getting worse. You close your web browser and try to think of a plan. It's not even noon, so you would rather not ask for the rest of the day off. Do you open Google Chrome back up and check out The New York Times or go to the kitchen to get some pain meds?
The Times is Right
You open The New York Times and skim the home page. The breaking story is some scientific breakdown of a black and blue dress. Strange what these kids are into these days. You keep skimming and notice a few articles about ISIS. After hearing about that chemical weapon on NPR this morning, you're curious what exactly is going down. You click through and start reading the article.
CHICAGO, IL. - Late Sunday night, a Toyota Prius pulled into a parking lot within Lincoln Park Zoo and began emitting smoke. Witnesses approached the vehicle when the smoke subsided, but no one was in the car. Police spent the night investigating the car and smoke. A small amount of odorless residue stained the asphalt around the trunk area. As of now, no humans or zoo animals have shown any ill effects. There is a slight concern, however, that this may be tied to ISIS. In June of last year, an undercover journalist in Syria witnessed a testing site for a gas-like toxin. She wasn't able to see what this gas did to those who breathed it in however. There are suspicions that the ebola virus may be involved, but no reports have confirmed this. We will update this article after the toxicologists have had time to examine samples from the site.
Well shit! That zoo is just a couple miles north of you. Why would ISIS target a zoo, though? That doesn't make any sense. Yeah, it must have just been a prank or something. Smoke bombs are easy to come by. Hell, you did more mischievous things than that when you were in high school. Yes, that settles it; nothing to worry about. You hope.
A few hours pass by as lunch time rolls around. At this point, your head is aching. Nothing more than a usual stress headache, but still annoying. You've talked to a few people about the smoking zoo Prius, but everyone shrugs it off as a prank or car malfunction.
You make the safe choice for your career and decide to buck up and take the pain meds. You grab three Excedrin and a glass of water. This better do the trick. The pain is only getting worse at this point. You can feel your pulse bumping through your temples. Only a couple more hours of work then you can go home and sleep it off. Shoot, what about Hunter?
You pull out your phone and send Hunter's best friend's mom a text.
Hey Sharon, would you mind letting Hunter stay over with Jeremy tonight? My head is throbbing and I just need to sleep when I get home this afternoon.
You send the text and sit back down in the mail room. 3:48pm. 3:49pm. Okay, okay. Distract yourself somehow. Umm. Umm. Kitten videos. you...tu.....be..........com.
The pain is draining your energy so much that you can't even click the first video link. You put your head down on your desk to try and take a little nap or something. Anything would help.
"Are you SLEEPING?!"
Shit! Your head shoots up and you turn to your boss. Your eyes grimace in pain as they meet your boss's.
"I'm sorry. My head, it's really bad."
Your boss looks at you and turns from angry to concerned, "You're not looking good at all. Don't worry about the rest of the day. Get out of here. Get home. Sleep it off. You look like a zombie. Seriously. Do you want me to call the clinic or anything?"
"No no, I just need rest. I need to kill this thing before it gets any worse."
You grab your backpack and take the elevator down to the street level. There's no way you can bike home, uphill, right now. You pull out your phone and request an UberX. Ten minutes later you're back at home. The Excedrin is helping a little, but you're still exhausted. You go sit down on your tattered couch to take off your shoes and immediately fall asleep.
Your phone vibrates in your pocket, but you are out cold for the rest of the night. The texts and calls go unanswered.
- End of Part 1 -