Zach tapped lightly on the open doorframe to his boss’s office. “Got a minute, Clarice?”
“Yeah, what’s up?” she said, not looking up from the paper on her desk.
Zack closed the door behind him and sat down on an old, worn couch against the wall. The office was small, leaving only enough room for two chairs or a small couch in front of the desk; Clarice chose the couch. “I think someone is getting into my computer and messing with my documents. I was wondering if you might have any ideas who it might be, because after a week of snooping I’ve come up empty handed.”
Clarice peered at Zach under a perfectly raised eyebrow. “Getting into your computer and messing with your documents?” She repeated his words with an air of disbelief. Zach feared she would roll her eyes next and say he was wasting her time.
“Yeah, well, not really. Look-“ he paused and leaned forward as if he feared someone was listening to their conversation, “someone is putting a file in my work stuff, and they are constantly changing the contents, most of which are targeted at my fiancé. She is beginning to believe the information, which is making my life difficult because it’s insane, so I need to find out who is doing this so I can punch him the face.”
Clarice blinked. “I see.”
“I won’t really punch him. I mean, I want to, but I want to keep my job more, so, yeah.” She watched him silently. “Have you at least heard a rumor about a prank or some elaborate joke or anything?” Clarice shook her head slowly. Zach sighed.
“Have you checked to see when the file was last modified and by who?”
He shook his head. “No, I’ve been trashing it every night. I was confident I would figure out who is doing this, but I was wrong.” Her eyes narrowed in confusion and he nodded. “Yeah, it magically ejects itself from the trash on a daily basis.” He raised his hands. “Don’t ask, because I haven’t figured it out.”
“Alright, I won’t. Check the date it was last modified, you might find a clue. I doubt someone is playing a trick on you, though. Everyone is pretty busy with their own projects. I can’t think of anyone who would have time to pull off something so elaborate.”
Zach nodded and stood to leave, but Clarice stopped him. “What’s in the file?”
“Ahh,” he ran his hand through his hair as he debated telling his boss everything or pretending it was nothing.
“You know what?” she interrupted his inner battle, “I don’t want to know. I’ll just keep myself out of this one. It’s all yours, Zach.”
“Thanks.” He nodded and left Clarice’s office, heading straight for his desk. Once there, he logged into his computer and went straight to the basic info on the file that he was sure was not in the trash even though he had dragged it there last night. Sure enough, “Love, Abby” was on the top of the list of files because it was the most recently modified. In fact, the information claimed it was created today at 12:00 a.m., and its creator was simply “A. D.”
Zach chewed his lip as he pondered. He put the file in the trash last night around 9:00 p.m., and the current file claims to have been created three hours later. Zach closed the information window and double clicked on the “Love, Abby” file icon. Immediately, Zach could see that there were new additions to the file, and he clicked on the first, tapping his fingers impatiently on his mouse as the document loaded. He scanned the article and quickly opened the next file, which turned out to be a picture. “What the-“ He closed it and moved to the third, then on to the fourth, each one giving him an added dose of anxiety. Finally, after scanning close to twenty new documents, he grabbed his phone. “Abby, can you get away for a minute? I have something you may want to see.”
Abby crunched on a bag of chips as she scanned the documents. She wasn’t able to leave the office when Zach called because of a meeting she was preparing for, but she hurried over just as soon as she could, which happened to be lunchtime. The only sounds in the room were the rustling and chewing of chips, and the clicking of the mouse. Finally, after viewing all of the new files, she sat back and took a few gulps of water. “I’m not sure I understand. I thought you didn’t think this was real? Besides, I’m not going, so we can stop worrying about this-“
“Abby, those files weren’t there yesterday when I trashed the file at 9:00 pm. You made the decision not to go last night, and the new files appeared at midnight. It’s as if your decision changed something, and now the research is telling a different story.”
She stared at him. “Yeah, it’s different from what I remember, but it still makes no sense. I decided I wasn’t going to go, and yet the new documents clearly state I was there.” She shook her head.
“They also say you, now the prime suspect, were killed instantly! None of the previous research has pointed the finger at you, neither has any of it ever stated your death. Up until now, your fate was unknown. Something changed, and I think it was your refusal to even attend the party.”
Abby blinked. “I’m still confused.”
Zach sighed. “I talked to Clarice earlier, and she said she doesn’t know of any pranks. She said that everyone is too busy to pull something like this off. After a week of digging, I have found absolutely nothing indicating this is an inside job.”
“Are you starting believe this file is real?”
He paused and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “I don’t know! But nothing adds up! I think maybe we should consider that this file is trying to tell us something.”
“Yeah, it’s telling me that I’m currently planning to blow up my boss a week from now.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m not sure I want to worry about this today. Perhaps it will tell a different story tomorrow?”
“It very well may, that’s the problem. Should we believe it and make decisions according to the documents it shows us every day? Or should we ignore it and do things unexpectedly and risk this story getting worse? I thought you believed this thing was real already. Why are you arguing the other side now?”
“I believe both sides of a discussion should be properly represented and opinions voiced, and seeing as you switched to the believer’s side and left the non-believer’s side unrepresented, I decided to take up that task and state my case.”
“You’re in denial.”
Abby scoffed. “What could I possibly be in denial over?”
“You don’t want to accept that this might actually be real.”
“Would you like to accept a claim that you are a week away from being a murderer? No? Neither would I!”
“It only claims you are the prime suspect because you decided yesterday not to go. If you change your mind again, I think tomorrow’s version of the file will be different.”
“But I honestly don’t want to go.”
“The file is telling us that you need to go to that party, Abby.”
“I hate that place! I hate my boss! Not enough to blow them all to smithereens, but more than enough to skip a Christmas party!”
“You have to go. Tell me that you’re going.”
“This is absurd, I’m going back to work.” She stood to leave, but Zach quickly blocked the door.
“Abby, this is our chance to find out if this file is real or a prank. If you change your mind and resolve to go to the party and the file contains the same information as it does today, then I’m going to call it a fake. If it changes back to how it was before you decided not to go, then I think we need to consider it as reality and plan accordingly.”
Abby glared at him in silence.
“Please? If it doesn’t change, then re-decide not to attend and we’ll move on. It’s that simple.”
“And if it changes back?” she spoke angrily through clenched teeth.
“I don’t know, we’ll have to figure something out.”
She thought for a moment. “I have one requirement.”
“And that is?”
“If the files does go back to avoiding any mention of my fate and no longer labels me as a suspect, that means there is a chance, albeit a slim one, that I survive this thing. I can’t imagine I’d be in one piece, though. What bride wants to hobble down the aisle crippled when she had a chance to glide down on her own two feet?” Zach narrowed his eyes as he listened. “If the file changes back tomorrow morning, I want to elope tomorrow evening, giving me a guaranteed week of normal newlywed happiness before you get stuck with whatever’s left of me.” She lifted her chin a notch. “Do we have a deal?”
“Elope.” He spoke slowly as her words sunk in. “My parents will want to kill us.”
“I think that would be ok, seeing as I might be dead in a week anyway.” Her face was a mask of calm as she spoke of dying prematurely. Zach frowned.
Abby nodded, releasing a breath Zach hadn’t noticed she had been holding. Zach wrapped his arms around her in a firm hug and kissed the top of her head. Finally, after a last nervous glance back at the laptop sitting open atop the desk, Abby took a calming breath and headed back to the office.