When The Scientist entered his office, two packages were sitting on the floor in front of the desk. Each was, he would think later, about the size of a Cocker Spaniel, although he couldn’t begin to say why that was the comparison his mind drew; he had never been a “dog person,” and wasn’t sure he even knew exactly how big a Cocker Spaniel was.
Strange how the brain worked.
He recognized the logo on each box as being that of the office supply chain his company used, although he couldn’t remember ordering anything. Setting down his laptop bag, he grabbed a box cutter from the desk drawer. As he did so, he recalled the time early the previous year when his company made a proclamation that everyone was to begin using these cutters to open boxes, as they were “far safer,” in some way or another. (Having been in grade school with more than one kid who had managed to badly hurt themselves with safety scissors, he admired the attempt at safety, but doubted a one-hundred-percent success rate was imminent.) When his “safety” box opener had finally arrived, packaged inside of a sealed cardboard box, he found it more than a little amusing that he had no company-approved box cutter with which to open the box containing the company-approved box cutter.
It was the little things.
Returning his attention back to the two mystery packages du jour, he began to open them, paying careful attention so as not to injure himself in any way; no one wanted to be the person who hurt themselves with a safety box cutter, thus resetting the “days-since-last-injury” clock to zero; that would stick with you.
Upon opening the boxes, he discovered that one contained a single pack of small paper clips surrounded by piles of Styrofoam packing material. The other contained a similarly small object, in this case, a small tube of super-strength glue, also encased in loose foam pieces. Had he been a man given to conspiracy or paranoia, he might have thought someone was trying to send him a message, or at least was attempting some kind of high-brow practical joke. As it was, he knew this was simply another case of gross inefficiency. Besides, he now recalled requesting these small office staples, although he imagined they would come in an envelope, or AT LEAST within the same, small package.
He stared at the relatively tiny items, sitting inside their ridiculously over-sized boxes, the packing material scattered across and around his desk, and he knew with certainty that someday, his children and grandchildren would ask him when, exactly, he knew that they were doomed, that the robots and the zombies were going to win, and he would point to this moment. To these packages.
Throwing the paper clips and glue into his desk drawer next to the cutter, he sighed and turned to grab his laptop from its bag. As the computer powered up, he began to imagine what types of structures he could build out of paper clips and super-strength glue. Towers, certainly. Bridges seemed a likely candidate. Not that he had an inclination toward any type of construction, even on a small and inconsequential scale. He wondered if anyone would even notice if he decided to forgo actual work to spend the day building paper clip towers on his desk.
The familiar startup jingle of the laptop’s OS brought him out of his reverie. With another, heavier sigh, he turned toward it and logged on. He knew he had at least a dozen emails which required a response, and while they individually were not a big deal, together they represented an entire morning of correspondence he had no interest in.
But first he had a customer service contact to make, and the thought brought the hint of a grin to his face.
Because this one was going to be fun.