Aaron had his headphones on when the world began to end.

He sat in his cubicle working his way through email.

He tried to think of the best response to a request asking him to assist an item forwarded to him by a senior process analyst who had received a request for assistance on an issue brought up to him by a coworker who had received a request from a customer transferred to him by one of the several dozen customer service representatives that answered the one working number of the two toll-free numbers the company listed.

The customer apparently knew someone who had a friend who said her cousin was told by his wife that she had gotten a good deal once on something similar to what the customer wanted, and the deal was much better than what the customer currently was receiving. The customer wanted to know if they could do that.

Aaron found the email address for a staff process analyst and entered it in the To box.

Aaron typed:

Dear Joe,
Not sure about this.
What do you think?

Outlook automatically populated the space below his name, giving crucial details such as Aaron being a lead process analyst and the company’s slogan:

We Work So You Don’t Have To

Someone had sent an anonymous complaint to the employee suggestion mailbox complaining about the dangling preposition in their slogan, but by the time it got passed along to the branding department, there had been another major reorganization and the branding folks got let go.

The senior management team assumed marketing could take on that role; that there didn’t need to be a separate department for that function. Everyone who worked in marketing assumed it was someone else in marketing who had assumed those duties that branding did. After all, things were still branded, weren’t they?

Sometimes someone would comment that someone should go down to the former branding floor and see if there was anything important that had been left behind. But after some general talk and a meeting scheduled and rescheduled and finally canceled due to a change in job functions, it was more or less decided that someone was probably taking care of it already.

A funny noise came through his speaker that sounded a lot like an intercom. Aaron paused a moment. Some of the streamed electronic audio he listened to was experimental, so he decided the sound must just be part of the feed.

His next message was an updated meeting request to change next Wednesday’s afternoon meeting to Friday morning, unless the software design team needed to have the space for a review session regarding the project underway. In that case it would be rescheduled for next Monday, and a time would be given once the organizational training group had finally decided on a time for their Improving Productivity Seminar.

Aaron accepted.

It sounded like the grounds crew was mowing the yards again. At first he thought it was just more experimental electronics, but paying attention, he realized the noise was external.

Aaron grimaced and turned up the headphone volume.

He continued to answer his e-mail.

And he thought of the cheese and avocado sandwich waiting on him.
His phone rang. With a click of his mouse, he changed the audio from Music to Telephone.

“Constant, Inc. Aaron here… No, I haven’t gotten that report yet. You’ll need to talk to Bill… I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Bill about that. Or maybe Ed. Ed usually knows… Well, yeah, of course, I’ll call you when I find out… Okay, then… Have a great day.”

He clicked the audio back to Music. A meeting reminder popped up reminding him about cake being served in the Indigo conference room to celebrate Amy Gorgoth’s 30 years of service. Aaron took his headphones off and hung them on the side of his cubicle. He got up and took the elevator down to the thirteenth floor where the main conference rooms were. It took him a moment to find the right room, as now the conference rooms were all named after trees. The Spruce room looked like the correct one and had a cake on a table at any rate. There had been something written on it, but most of the slices had been cut and placed on individual plates, making it unclear what the message might have been.

It probably didn’t matter much, though, since Amy had been in Branding and was no longer around anyway. The cake must have been ordered by her assistant who was no longer around either.

Aaron took a plate holding a nicely frosted corner slice with a red plastic fork sticking out of it. He ate while watching all the other Constant Inc. employees do the same thing. He finished his cake and looked around for a trash can to put it in, but they had been removed as part of an effort to “go green”. He placed his now empty plate back onto the table, laying the fork on its side.

As he started to leave, Tom from real estate came over.

“Hey, Aaron.”

“Hey, Tom.”

“Do you have some time today to stop by my office and take a look at something?”

“Sure. How about this afternoon?”

“That would be great.”

“Okay, then.”

Aaron took the elevator back up to the forty-fourth floor and stopped by the break room on his way back to his cubicle. There were no cups on the counter, so Aaron opened up a new package he found in the storage cabinet. He pulled out the cups in bunches and ended up with three stacks in a nice row. He threw the left over plastic wrap away into a yellow waste can. Then he filled a cup with coffee, adding cream and sugar from cylindrical canisters. He thought of getting some chips from the vending machine, but decided it was too close to lunch.

He started to make his way back to his cubicle, but found he had finished his coffee before he had made it there. So he went back to the break room and filled another cup. This second time he made it all the way back to his desk and sat down. He set the cup next to a yellow legal pad that was at the moment blank.

He started to get back to work when he noticed there was an odd light coming in from a nearby window. He noticed it because it seemed to be flashing to the point of distraction. He frowned and got up, walking over to the window. He had to shade his eyes as some of the lights – it turned out not to be just one light – were too bright to look at directly.

There seemed to be some chaos on the streets below: wreckage and fire dominated the view along with people running about waving their arms. The glass that separated him kept most of the noise outside, but he thought he heard the occasional stray shout. Aaron sipped his coffee trying to think of what it might mean.

That is, whether or not there was something he should do.

Oh, yeah, he thought.

He walked back to his cubicle and sat down. He opened up Outlook and a blank e-mail. He looked in the directory and found Tom’s e-mail address.

He typed:

Hey, Tom,
Good to see you today.
Can I come by tomorrow instead?
I think I might take this afternoon off.

He then shut down his computer and closed the lid to his laptop. He normally took it home with him, but decided to leave it in the docking station.