You never know, when journeying to some strange,
far-off destination, what dangers await you.
Join us, then, for this harrowing tale of survival in the wilds of The Office ...
It was a dark night in The Office. The air lay still and heavy, choking the ancient air conditioner with late summer heat. The lights had long ago been turned off, and black shapes lurked in the deepest shadows. Unblinking red eyes watched the few souls brave or foolish enough to wander through the deserted halls.
Our story begins in a rat's nest ...
... No, you fool, not that kind of rat's nest. This has nothing to do with tangles of cables. I'm talking about a real rat's nest. Where actual rats go, in pairs, to create little tiny rats.
In one such nest, deep inside the wilds of The Office, was born a rat. As was the custom of his people, he was merely called Rat. Well, actually, he was called "Squeak," because "squeak" is the word in rat language for everything, including "rat."
Rat -- or, as we will call him, Squeak -- was an unexceptional shade of grey, of an average size, and had a healthy appetite and broad curiosity, as all rats do. He was fresh into rat adulthood, having recently completed the rite of passage of Gnawing Through The Wires Of The Office Refrigerator. And he decided to set off on a Journey that would take him across The Office and onto the biggest adventure of his life.
But enough about Squeak. Our protagonist, Office Worker, was intrepidly stumbling around The Office in a late-night quest for sugar, a quest that was, I can assure you, far more heroic than any stupid rodent's. Office Worker -- and his non-cheapskate friend James, who bribed the narrator $5 to get his name in the story -- slunk through the darkened hallways, finely tuned senses alert for danger.
And it was a good thing that they were alert, too, because danger lurked in the area of The Office now forever to be known as ... Rat Corner.
"Look, do you see that?" the heroic, intrepid, and not-a-cheapskate James said, pointing heroically and intrepidly at Rat Corner while slipping the narrator another dollar.
"See what?" Office Worker said alertly.
"That!" James thundered, lunging for the light switch in an attempt to catch the lurking horror off guard.
It worked! The beast froze, uncertain how to handle this pair of interlopers without the darkness and fear that was its strongest weapon.
It froze, scared and uncertain. As well it should have, because in reality it was not a fierce Office predator, like the wily Secretary, armored Boss or majestic Techie. It was, instead, the previously mentioned Squeak.
Squeak had already dodged the automated death traps of the Press Room machines, crept into the Break Room to steal leftover scraps of employee-party cupcake, and scampered through the decaying stacks of dead trees in the area spoken of in hushed whispers only as "The Morgue." He was on his way back to the nest after a harrowing quest, and had thought he was home free. But it seemed he had one more challenge left to face.
Meanwhile, back in the part of the story you should care about, Office Worker stood, confronting the savage, untamed monster. He knew that they had gained precious seconds by robbing it of its cloak of shadows, but also that this newfound advantage could not be maintained forever. Some action had to be taken before it twisted the battle to its advantage and devoured their very souls.
"What shall we do?" asked James in a hushed whisper, because Office Worker needed a setup line.
"We must find some way to lure the beast Outside," Office Worker replied quietly. "There it will lose its diabolical powers and we can defeat it through heroic strength of arms. Fear not. I'll parley with the beast and try to bluff it into leaving."
Office Worker leaned close. "Young rat! This corner of the Office is no place for a tiny and insignificant creature like yourself --"
"Squeak?" Squeak replied, not understanding English.
"Ah, er, yes," Office Worker hemmed, switching to the Rat tongue, which he happened to know in a curious plot contrivance that we'll gloss over for the moment and forever after ignore. "Wouldn't you be far more comfortable outside, where all creatures tremble under the iron paw of the Rat Kingdom and cheese grows on low-hanging bushes, than here in the Office, where predators far more ominous than yourself lurk around every corner?"
But Office Worker's fearsome opponent wasn't buying it. "Squeak!" it replied threateningly.
"No good, huh?" Office Worker replied. "Well, perhaps you had better rethink that stance, my young foe, before my friend here rethinks it for you."
"What?!?" James said.
"Sssh," Office Worker told him. "Play along."
The rat quavered its whiskers at them furiously. "Squeak! Squeak, squeak, squeak!"
Office Worker gasped, and in a blind fury snatched for the closest weapon at hand. "What did you say about my hat?" he challenged.
"Squeak, squeak squeak squeak!" the rat snapped back, flattening its ears back in a cutely threatening posture.
It was then that Office Worker knew the battle would have to be joined. The evil demon-beast could not be persuaded to leave Rat Corner ... except by force. Office Worker was going to have to test himself against the mighty Squeak in single-handed, mortal combat.
Fortunately, Office Worker was an expertly trained boxer.
He picked up a box, showing off his expert training. Then he put on a pair of heavy gloves. Then he charged heroically into Rat Corner, with no thought to personal safety, because after all he was a protagonist -- and, further, because he was covered not only by a generous health coverage package, but also by Worker's Comp.
The battle was joined!
Even James, the epic encounter's closest witness, is hard-pressed to say exactly what occurred at Rat Corner. What is known for certain is that Office Worker and Squeak clashed in a mighty battle of titans. Office Worker lunged to entrap Squeak in the box. Squeak expertly dodged, throwing himself through the air. Office Worker, thinking quickly, reached out to snatch Squeak, and perhaps also victory.
This blurry photo is all that remains from the furious battle, a moment frozen in time at the conflict's turning point -- where Squeak made a tactical maneuver destined to be talked about through generations of rats.
Office Worker quickly shifted Squeak toward the box. Squeak, sensing imminent defeat, did the only thing he could think of: He jumped inside it. Office Worker, caught completely off guard by his opponent's early arrival in the box, fumbled without success to close the lid. But Squeak had other ideas. Taking advantage of Office Worker's crucial delay, he gathered his legs underneath him for a mighty leap!
Squeak, with every ounce of bravado he could muster, leapt straight for his opponent's face, a piercing battle cry emitting from his furry lips.
It is recorded in the annals of the Battle of Rat Corner that there ensued much screaming like a little girl, a claim which Office Worker vigorously denies. However, he didn't deny it vigorously enough to bribe the narrator $20, and so we are forced to assume that he was, in fact, a spineless coward, and furthermore that he wet his pants, the cheapskate.
One way or another, Squeak's gutsy action was followed by a brief hand-to-hand scuffle. Office Worker was saved from a quick demise only by the quick thinking of the ever-talented James, whose substantial donation to this narrator's PayPal account will be forever remembered with the gratitude it deserves.
Somewhere in the confusion, Squeak leapt down to the desk, from which he vanished into the depths of Rat Corner. It can only be assumed that he continued his journey home from there, making it back to the nest with a really incredible story for the grandchildren.
As for Office Worker: After much diligent searching and another brief but fierce struggle, a mouse was captured and thoroughly restrained.
"Rat, mouse, what's the difference?" he was heard to say, shortly before patting himself on the back and congratulating himself on a job well done.
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