Halloween 2016: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 5

                “Godpunch Lightning-Fucker sure does seem to have a lot of adventures centering around chesty women and drugs.” Sheryl is sitting in the chair next to you, reading the comic as you click from page to page. “Should I take that as an indicator of how you two spent your college years?”

                “I’m pretty sure mostly just the drug part was true. Jim would hook up sometimes, but I could never really pin down one feature he was drawn to, and definitely not something as obvious as that. I think this might be a place where art and life diverge.”

                The two of you are seated in a large bay of computers, which is empty save for you as everyone else in the library is taking part in the big event downstairs. There’s candy, party games, and prizes for literary themed costumes. Honestly, this library fucking rocks, and if not for your sudden mental crisis/potential breakdown it would be a really cool way to kill an evening, especially with Sheryl around for company.

                “Well, at least he’s consistent. Unlike his sidekick; I can’t figure out what the hell is going on with that guy.”

                “Sidekick?” You’ve been scrolling through the pages quickly, searching for anything that seemed familiar rather than studying them in depth. To be fair, there are only so many hours in a night and Jim managed to whip up a huge backlog to this web-comic before it was optioned. Apparently Sheryl is a faster reader than you though.

                “Yeah, the nameless guy who shows up early on. First he’s a wizard, and that’s fine given that we have a dude with a magic hammer and an enchanted bong as the main character, although don't get me started on that idiotic incantation catchphrase. Then the sidekick shows up again later on wearing a devil outfit, but in one scene he casts a spell like he’s still a wizard. And now he’s wearing some sort of gunslinger ensemble? Seriously, could your buddy not decide on what he wanted?” Sheryl reaches over and taps on the glass screen, pointing to a character you somehow missed.

                No… no you didn’t miss him. As you squint your eyes, trying to make out the form that refuses to come into focus, you realize that something kept you from seeing the sidekick. Maybe the screen, maybe your own mind, maybe something else entirely. But whatever it is, it’s still working. No matter how you shift your eyes, the figure on screen refuses to come into focus. Instead of continuing to fight that losing battle, you let your mind drift, mulling over the clues Sheryl provided. So the sidekick starts as a wizard, then dress like a devil, and finally end up a gunslinger? That… itches in your mind. It’s something, you know it is, you just need to keep pushing.

                Your hand is furiously clicking at the search bar when the sound of what seems like a book falling heavily to the floor reaches your ears. Thankfully, Sheryl turns toward the noise as well, meaning at least one part of this day isn’t in your head. Both of you flip around to look at the rows of books outside the computer bay, but there’s no movement. It is a big library after all, and it’s not like no one else has permission to be here. That’s what you try and tell yourself as you finish getting to the final pages of Jim’s comic.

                Sure enough, the whole thing is blurry. “Sheryl, can you read these?”

                “Sure, the art style isn’t any worse than when it started. Not really any better either though, which is odd given how many of these he obviously drew.”

                “I can’t read it,” you tell her. “I couldn’t see the sidekick either. I have no idea what that means, I just know it’s the first semi-lead I’ve had in a while. What’s happening on these pages?”

                Sheryl gives you another long stare, and then leans closer to the screen. “We skipped a big portion, but it looks like something happened to the sidekick. Godpunch is talking to the Lady of Autumn, trying to figure out what they should do. She says she has a plan, but her power will need to be at its zenith – wow I’m surprised the writer of this knew that word – before she can act.”

                Another loud thud, and then another, and another, all coming from different areas in the dark rows of books.

                “Who’s the Lady of Autumn?”

                “Could you not see her either? She’s been there since the beginning. A little overly vague and mysterious for my tastes, but she does move the plot along. Hang on, I bet if I go back a few pages we can see what happened to the sidekick.” Sheryl reaches over you, going for the mouse, just as a shadow momentarily blots out the light. It’s like a brief cloud passing overhead, except that you’re inside, and the ceiling on this floor is twenty feet high.

                Both of you glance up to see nothing there, which is far less comforting than it should be. More noises are coming from the rows behind you now. Only they don’t sound like dropping books anymore. They sound more like footsteps. Heavy, angry footsteps.

                “Do you hear that?”

                Sheryl pats you lightly on the arm. “It’s Halloween, people are just trying to scare us since we wandered off alone. Relax.”

                You want to believe her, but the noises are getting louder, and suddenly you’re keenly aware of just how vulnerable the two of you are up here. People, you need more people.

                “Come on, we need to get out of here.” As gently as you can, you take Sheryl’s hand from the computer and begin leading her back toward the stairs.

                “Wait a second, I was only a few clicks from-” Sheryl is cut off as the computer you were both sitting out lets out a series of pops, crackles, and suddenly spews forth a stream of sparks. “-nothing, I guess. Okay, yeah, maybe we should get around more people.”

                The two of you dart down the stairs, ears trained and ready for anything sneaking up on you, racing to the ground floor and the safety of a crowd. Except… there’s no crowd to be found. Just more emptiness. All the decorations and games are still set up, but there isn’t a soul to be found. Despite knowing what will happen, you still try the front door and find it unyielding.

                “This has just gotten officially creepy,” Sheryl says. “Maybe they all went to the basement to tell scary stories or something?”

                “And locked the doors?”

                “I’m grasping at straws here, the ideas aren’t supposed to make a lot of sense,” Sheryl shoots back. “Look, whatever is going on here sure seems to be centered on you, so how about you figure out what we do now.”


                She’s not wrong, and this place isn’t getting any less creepy. What now?

Halloween 2016: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 4

                No need to reinvent the wheel here. You’re scared, you need people around, and you could damn sure use a drink. The bar fulfills all of that criteria, so you start booking toward the downtown section where Sheryl and her friends are all meeting up. Grabbing a cab would be nice, but you aren’t eating nightly microwave meals and living in a shithole because you’re rolling in cash, now are you? Thankfully the walk isn’t too long, at least your apartment’s location is decent, and it takes even less time because you’re half-running in your adrenaline hopped-up state.

                Finally you arrive at the bar, getting some wary eyes from the bouncers who let you through despite the fact that you’re sweaty and still wearing office clothes. You make your way in the door and scan the room for Sheryl, a task instantly complicated by the fact that everyone here is in costume. After bumping past someone wearing a massive Staypuft Marshmallow Man outfit and a whole crew of Ninja Turtles, like, way more than there ever were on the show and that’s including Venus De Milo, you stumble through and see a friendly, familiar sight. No, not Sheryl. The bar. In a few strides you make it over and begin the dance of trying to get a bartender’s attention without seeming pushy.

                The exercise is particularly futile tonight, as you’re competing with people in elaborate costumes that more naturally catch the eye than your button-down and slacks. Add in that the bartender is male and some of these outfits are quite… entrancing, and it’s no wonder his eyes keep sliding right past as you desperately signal that you just want a beer. Just when all hope seems lost, you hear a familiar voice nearby.

                “Let me get two more.”

                By the time you’ve fully turned, you find Sheryl already standing there, two cold dark beers in hand. She’s grinning, clearly aware of the ordeal you were dealing with, and she hands you one of the drinks. “We figured out early on that it’s faster to let us gals make the drink runs. Nice costume, by the way. Did they just let you out of the office?”

                You’re about to explain… no, you’re about to fumble over your words horribly as the truth and lies mash in your mouth once you realize how crazy the story of your night so far has been, but mercifully you are saved from yourself by the realization of what Sheryl is wearing. The shirt is cut a little lower than one would expect, and some accessories have clearly been put together on a low-budget, however there’s no denying that she’s rocking a very respectable Han Solo costume. It’s such a stunning sight that it momentarily knocks the stupid out of you, and you say the first words that pop into your mind.

                “Have you ever forgotten something that you knew you needed to remember, but didn’t know how?”

                Sheryl blinks in surprise, taking a long sip of her own beer. The two of you are moved slightly away from the bar by the natural flow of traffic, and when she speaks again the general din of nearby noise is diminished. “Sorry, I was mentally bracing myself for a bad lightsaber innuendo, not something so existential.”

                “Been getting a lot of those?”

                “Enough that I’m happy to have a change of pace. So you forgot something? What, like at the office?”

                “No. At least, I don’t think so. Further back than that. Something from college, maybe a lot of things, honestly. I had… an electrical accident, and it felt like my memory was getting jogged. But then it all slipped away. I’d rather not roast myself in an attempt to remember, although I don’t have a lot of other great ideas.”

                Sheryl stares at you for several seconds, perhaps for the first time noticing how disheveled you look. “How important can this really be if it’s from college? You got a degree and got out, which means you handled the main job.”

                “I won’t know for sure until I can remember it.” You pause, realizing how crazy this must sound to someone who wasn’t in your head, who didn’t see that shadow monster shoving the machines. Here, in the bar, it’s hard to imagine any of it was real. Maybe the whole thing was just a post-electrocution delusion. Except that voice, the one that called you Merlin. It sounded so familiar. “But I feel like I really need to remember, even if I don’t know why.”

                “Okay,” Sheryl says. “If it’s that important, I’ll try and help. Beats listening to my friends talk about their great new post-college jobs anyway. So if you want to jog a memory, there are several schools of thought. You can recreate the mindset you were in, trigger it via sense memory, or search out external records. Given how quickly you’ve been downing that beer, I’m going to guess you were a drinker in college?”

                “I may have put a few beers away,” you admit.

                “Then there’s our path to the mindset. If this is something you lost via blackout, maybe we can get it back the same way. Plus, this bar has $2 well shots all night, so we can get there on the cheap. As for sense memory, is there anything you can pick out about the weird memories? A smell or scene that we can find something similar too and see if that brings things back?”

                That’s a tougher one. There wasn’t much clear during the electrical mind scramble. Just uncertainty, and the voice, and flickering images under the static. One of them seemed a little more distinct though, a big, dark looming shape like-

                “A haunted house.” The words spill out before you can think them through, which might be a good thing. Things you think about seem to have a way of slipping from your mind lately. “I can’t remember much, but there was this huge mansion, filled with people in costumes. Probably had to be a haunted house attraction, right?”

                “No shortage of those tonight,” Sheryl says. “Lastly, external records. Obviously that’s a long shot, since not many people are recording the actions of drunk college kids, but if you have a friend who took pictures or videos maybe they can help?”

                “My best friend, Jim. He was there for everything in college, although I don’t know that his memory is going to be much better than mine. Still, might be worth a call-” As your hand slaps at your left pocket, you feel the crunch of movement and recall just how hard you fell down when the breaker box shocked you. Sure enough, the debris you pull out certainly looks like a phone, or bits of one, but it’s not going to be making any calls.

                “Bummer. Do you know his number?”

                You shake your head, who actually memorizes phone numbers anymore? But… but maybe there is still something. “Jim used our lives as inspiration for his web-comic during the first year. There might be something in the backlog that touches on the thing I’m trying to remember.”

                “Okay, well I’m definitely going to want to hear more about this web-comic making roommate, but for now I know of a library with lots of computers down the street. They have Halloween events every year, so I’m sure they’ll be up and running. We can go read a web-comic there.”

                Sheryl has nearly finished her beer, and so have you. Time to toss these empties and decide on a new course of action.

Halloween 2016: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 3

                Screw this, you aren’t going to wait around for someone else to solve your problem. Damnit, you’re a junior-level intern, you know how to get things done. Pausing to lock your door (bold choices are all well and good but you don’t exactly live in the safest neighborhood) you take your flashlight down several flights of stairs, past the empty entry hall, and into the basement. It’s darker here, no surprise given that this area lacks windows, and even less shockingly you’re the only one who’s ventured down. Most people are probably either out having fun or too drunk to care that the power is down.

                As you make your way through the musty room, you feel a pang of envy in your heart for those people. Halloween used to be a fun holiday, before real life and responsibility soured it like so many other former joys. This is different though. At least, it feels different. Some part of you keeps insisting that Halloween is special. Or it used to be special. But no matter how you scour your brain for a reason this particular holiday would carry more weight than others, you come up empty. Just more drunken blurs like so many others from college. Wow, you may have had a drinking problem back then, now that you really think about it.

                The soft thunk from a nearby washer draws your attention and your flashlight as your heart starts hammering in your chest. Peering inside, you see a blob of wet clothes that have settled near the bottom. Right, people probably had laundry going when the power died, and it’s going to shift as the weight of the water seeps in. Steeling your nerves, shaking off the memory of fleeting movement outside your door, you turn from the washer to the breaker box. The sooner power is restored, the sooner you can head to bed and get a jump on work tomorrow. Maybe if you really push through, you’ll get off in time to go do something with your afternoon. Probably not though.

                Yanking open the breaker box cover, you shine the flashlight onto the worn-out circuitry and immediately spot the problem. Not a terribly hard task, the power around here blows often enough that almost everyone has a passing familiarity with how to fix it. Reaching out, you grab the thrown breaker and jerk it back into position.

                The lights flicker on as power flows back into the building. Unfortunately, the decrepit nature of the breaker box has finally caught up with it, and the power is flowing into you as well. Electricity lights up your nervous system, filling your eyes with sparks and crackles as you struggle to yank your hand away, an issue impeded by the fact that your muscles seem to have seized up. Finally, with one concentrated jerk of effort, you fling yourself back from the breaker box and land heavily on the floor.

                Everything around you seems to have dissolved into a sea of crackling lights and blurry images. Your eyes can’t focus, and your ears are ringing as you mentally grope about for anything approximating solid ground. All of it feels wrong, though. No… all of it is wrong. What’s going on? Why are you in this building? Why are you working this shitstain of a job? Where are your friends? But… what friends? Jim, of course, except you know where Jim is, he moved off to turn his comic into a movie. And Victoria… were you ever even that close? You can’t remember, you just know something is wrong, even as you fail to find any proof to point to.

                As you’ve been rolling about on the ground, your vision is starting to clear as your mind becomes more muddled. Now if only the ringing in your ears would vanish as well. The room is dark again, and judging by the sparks the breaker box is throwing off that’s not going to change anytime soon. More noises come from the washers, no doubt clothes resettling after you made the machines briefly function again. Except that as you glance over, you catch sight of something in the beam of your flashlight. The shoulder of a hulking, shadowy form slowly walking forward, shoving the heavy washing machines out of the way with its methodical pace.

                Your heart forgets to beat and your lungs freeze as you take in the shoulder of something that to see full on you instinctually know would break your mind. It’s a hallucination. It has to be. The breaker box shocked you, and now you’re seeing things. Very realistic, terrifying things that are moving real world objects. You just need to think straight, if only this damn ringing would stop…

                And then, it does, as the sharp noise crystalizes into words, words being screamed at you from somewhere unseen.

                “For the love of Samhain, get a move on Merlin! Run!”

                That’s all it takes. Not even you know why for sure, but at the sound of that familiar female voice urging you on, the danger of your situation finally snaps into reality. Without wasting another moment, you grab your flashlight and bolt up the stairs. The idea of heading back to your apartment never even crosses your mind, you need to get clear of this place now. Somewhere safe, ideally with other people around. Oddly, the office is the first place that springs to mind. There’s a night shift there, and it’s hard to imagine anything supernatural happening in a place that dull. There’s also the Halloween parade in downtown, a spot that has to be jam packed with bodies. Or you can always fall back on the tried and true destination of your past: a bar. Specifically, the one that Sheryl invited you too. A familiar face might be nice, and at least you know there won’t be a shortage of crowd to blend in with in a bar on Halloween.

                Racing down the entrance hall, you burst through the apartment building’s front doors and into the street. A scream nearly tears from your lips as you see all the monsters about, before you remember that this is a holiday where everyone wears scary costumes. You need to get your shit under control, so pick a destination and try not to cause a scene on your way there.

Halloween 2016: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 2

                “Evening, Wilbur.” You greet the cheap plastic skull that sits on your dining room table, one of the few pieces of decoration in this sparse studio apartment. There’s also a signed drawing from Jim of his comic’s main character, Godpunch Lightning Fucker, as well as a framed photograph of you, he, and your friend Victoria. You haven’t actually seen Jim in months, not since his web-comic was optioned and turned into a real strip, which was then grabbed by a hungry movie studio. From what you’ve seen online, the shoots are going well, even if Jim has gotten in trouble for passing out in a few public places.

                Although your one window mostly looks out on a nearby brick building, there is a small sliver that shows you the city beyond. Right now, it’s a sea of twinkling lights, since you were at the office all the way to sundown. The last shards of sunlight were fading when you entered your building, and it seems they vanished entirely during your fourteen story walk up the narrow stairs. You pause to appreciate the view before heading to the freezer and yanking out a microwaveable meal.

                Mr. Parden had been pissed that you put him on the backburner. It was only by promising to come in tomorrow, off the clock of course, and work that you managed to somewhat ameliorate the situation. Too bad, you might have liked to go out tonight. Sheryl had even dropped off a Post-it with the name of the bar they’d be hitting. But there was no way you could show up hungover tomorrow, even if you were technically unpaid while in the office. If the work you turned in wasn’t perfect, you’d be out on your ass, and finding this job had been hard enough to begin with.

                As your meal turns in the microwave, slowly approaching the point of being edible but never actually reaching it, you look at the framed photograph once more. It’s from Halloween, actually. How did you forget that? Plain as day, there you all are. Jim dressed as Bowser, Victoria as a witch, and you wearing that cheap wizard costume you cobbled together at the last minute. Except… where’s the hat? There was a hat, you know there was, that’s what kicked off all of the… the what? Did something happen that night?

                Loud buzzing from the microwave breaks your concentration and chases away whatever odd thoughts you were entertaining. Grabbing your “food” you head over to the couch and turn on the television, trying to distract your senses as much as possible while you shovel food into your gullet. There’s a handsome announcer dressed in a cheap Dracula outfit, talking about a Halloween parade that’s going on later that night. It sounds like fun, yet another thing you might like to participate in but ultimately know you can’t. Those crazy, drunken wild times that you never seem to quite remember were part of college. With that piece of life behind you, it’s time to grow up.

                You’re just finishing up the microwaved food when the entire room goes dark. No, not just the room, there’s also no light coming from anywhere else in your apartment either. However, you can see light from other nearby buildings through your sliver of a view, so it looks like only your building is affected. Probably everyone plugging in lights and spooky decorations for their Halloween parties flipped a breaker. Geez, don’t they know some people have to work in the morning?

                After half an hour of waiting, you begin to suspect that perhaps the maintenance man is also taking the night off. Wouldn’t be the first time he got deep into revelry and left all of you tenants to fend for yourselves. You know what apartment the guy lives in, and it’s not too far away. Maybe he just needs someone to wake him up. Then again, you also know where the breaker box is, the damn thing hangs above one of the washing machines in the basement, impossible to miss. It might just be easier to go fix the problem yourself so you can have a little time to relax tonight.

                Going to your closet, you yank open the door and grope around. For an instant, in the pitch black darkness, you forget what you’re looking for. You almost expect to find some cobbled together rack of trophies and keepsakes from a myriad of impossible adventures. But you don’t find any of that, because that would be crazy. Instead, your hand closes around the cold metal of a flashlight, and when you turn it on there’s nothing to be seen but your few sets of work clothes, freshly pressed and waiting to be worn.

                You head over to the front door, flashlight making the trip much easier, and pull it open. More darkness there. Except for the flash of movement you see out of the corner of one eye. It’s fleeting, so quick you’re not sure it was even there in the first place, and if not for the weird skittering sound that echoes from the walls you would probably be able to dismiss it as a trick of the light. When you sweep your flashlight around though, there’s nothing to see. Just more empty hallway leading to those damn narrow stairs.

                Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is there, watching you. You take deep breaths and assure yourself that it’s all in your head, a strategy which makes you feel more sane but does nothing to lessen the sense of being watched. You know what? None of this is really your problem in the first place. You pay your rent; it’s the building staff’s job to deal with these sorts of issues. You could go back in and leave it to them. Or wake the handyman up so you know he’s on task. Or just go deal with the breaker box so that the building will have light and these creepy sensations will go away. Really, any of them are good options, but standing in your doorway like a dumbass isn’t, so time to choose a path.

Halloween 2016: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 1

Welcome to the 4th Annual Choose Your Spooky Outcome Novel, done over the 13 nights leading up to Halloween. Let's get this out of the way real quick, since some people have missed it years previous:

This is a sequel, so if you want the story to make sense you should go read the first one here, second one here, and the third one here.

Now, If you're reading this as it's happening, then be sure to vote for the choices you want made. If not, enjoy the story! Here's how it works:

It will run from October 19th – October 31st (13 days of Halloween). Every night I put up the newest chapter, along with a poll for you to make your decisions. Polls close at Noon CST on the following day, so I can write the next installment. Post goes up at night, rinse, lather, repeat.

There will be Dead Ends, choices you make that get your character killed. If people pick one then I’ll give you the Dead End, then redirect you to the other choice that didn’t kill you, because I think we all cheated at those books as kids and I see no reason to change that. However, if you all can get to the Halloween without a single Dead End, I’ll post a special bonus story or chapter as a prize.

Happy Haunting!

                Someone drank all the coffee. Again. How hard is it, really, to uphold this basic element of human decency? If you finished off the pot, then you make a fresh one. Not the biggest fucking hurdle in the world to clear, and yet here you are again, staring at an empty pot with nothing more than a thin brown film in the bottom.

                Biting back a few choice curse words, you rinse the pot in the sink, grab a new filter and the can of grounds, and start the water heating. Maybe by the time you come back, there will be some precious caffeine in there to get through another shitshow afternoon.

                Heading back to your cubicle, you pass the rest of the office drones. Most of them are bent over their desks, trying to look busy as they idly piss away the hours until quitting time. It’s a sentiment you understand well, on any other day you’d be doing much the same. Unfortunately, you’re not like them. Nope, you’re a recent college graduate, an intern, and that means all the work they don’t want to do slides downhill until it reaches your desk. Day after boring day, hour after boring hour, just slugging away in the hopes that this will land a real job. Looking back, maybe you should have turned down the diploma. Things never felt this stagnant in college.

                Resting on your desk, dropped there in the three minutes it took you to deal with the empty coffee pot, are a stack of W-HJ7 forms. A gift from Mr. Parden, no doubt, one of your managers who never actually seems to be around physically, only existing in e-mails and mysteriously dropped off sets of documents. Shifting the stack to the side, you log back into your computer and prepare to start dealing with this fresh bundle of pain in the ass.

                There’s a sound of a throat softly clearing from just over your cube. Lifting your head, you find Sheryl standing there, looking down at you. She’s as pretty as anyone can be under the florescent lighting, no great shocker given Mr. Durn’s reputation for hiring pretty assistants. From the office scuttlebutt, he’s had to settle three harassment lawsuits over the past five years, and from the constantly annoyed expression in Sheryl’s eyes you have a feeling lawsuit number 4 isn’t that far off.

                “How can I help you, Sheryl?” You don’t quite manage to sound sincere, but she wouldn’t have believed you anyway so it’s fine. No one actually wants to help one another, or be here in the first place.

                “Mr. Durn needs you to update the expense projections for next quarter by this afternoon. You’ve got an hour or so, tops, before he’ll want them on his desk for approval.”

                “I’m not sure I can do that. I just got a stack of work from Mr. Parden, and you know he always expects a tight turnaround on his forms.” That’s putting it lightly, last time you took more than three hours you had several strongly worded e-mails in your inbox, with the last few CCing HR so they knew you were “screwing up” too.

                “Not my problem. Work some magic and make it happen, Mr. Durn hates being kept waiting almost as much as he abhors hearing that some other manager’s tasks were given higher priority. You know what a pissing contest this place is.”

                You do know, quite well at that. Since starting here, you’re pretty sure the managers have spent more time trying to prove their importance than actually getting any work done. Much as you like to think things would be different if you ran the place, everything just sucks so hard, you know you’d probably get drawn in as well.

                “I guess let him know I’ll do my best,” you tell Sheryl, caving in like you always do. These days, anyway.

                “Maybe I’ll find a better way to phrase it than that. They hate things like ‘doing your best’. They all call it an excuse for failure.” Sheryl starts to turn, and you notice a brief flash of orange on her brown suit jacket.

                “Hey! What’s that?” You tap your own chest, pointing to the spot where the orange is on her.

                For a moment, Sheryl’s eyes start to narrow and you realize too late that out of context this probably looks like idiotic harassment. Then she glances down at her outfit and smiles. It might be the first time you’ve seen genuine joy on her face. Hell, it might be the first time you’ve seen anyone in this office happy at all.

                “It’s a pumpkin, duh.” She turns back all the way so that you can see the bright orange broach properly. “Didn’t you realize that today is Halloween? I love this holiday. The fun of costumes, candy, and booze; the sense of magic in the air; the history and power that comes from everything around this time of year.”

                You start to think back to your own Halloweens, but nothing really stands out. Just a few drunken blurry memories with your roommate, Jim. But Sheryl still looks cheerful, so you nod along anyway. “Yeah, it’s a great holiday.”

                “The best,” she corrects. “Some college friends and I are doing a bar-hop downtown tonight. You can come out and join us, just no talking about the office. Assuming they don’t keep you here all night.”

                Sheryl’s smile fades as she heads back to Mr. Durn’s office. Having a nice conversation was an unexpected pleasant surprise, but with her leaving it’s time to face the reality of your shitty situation. You need to pick a project to work n, because even giving your all you may not be able to manage even one of these on time. Mr. Durn or Mr. Parden, one of them is going to give you an earful before the day is over, at least try and keep it from being both. Time to pick a project and get to work.