(originally published in Unlikely Stories)
Alan worked on invoices in a small gray cubicle in Building #3 at Acme MegaCorp, Inc. On his desk was a stapler, tape dispenser, computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, papers, paperclips, inbox, outbox, and Kleenex box. Alan found the environment and the items on his desk exciting and stimulating, burrowing down to the core of his essence, igniting his soul into a flaming inferno. As the other employees trudged into work and slumped down at their desks, Alan would arrive, get his cup of coffee, sit upright in his cubicle, and be nearly brought to orgasm by the vision of the stapler at the corner of his desk.
Alan walked into the office break area. Just looking at his shoes easing into the gray fiber carpeting caused so much joyful electricity to shoot through his spine and brain that Alan had to return to his desk, sweating from overstimulation. He looked at the new Kleenex box on the left corner of his desk. This new box had gray swirly designs on it, instead of the previous box’s blue swirly designs. Upon viewing this, Alan could not contain the hard pressure valve on the vivid roses, tape, glue, irises, effluvium, medicated leaves, staples, and replica paper ponies flowing out of his head, and he ran through the office area, screaming exuberantly.
Alan’s employers at Acme MegaCorp, Inc. decided that he needed a vacation, arranging a mandatory trip for him to a beautiful tropical island. When Alan got off the plane, he looked at the brilliant green trees, blue sky, and white sand. He felt a grey tiredness taking over, and it increased with each bright color viewed, causing his eyelids to slowly close, until an accidental entrance into the resort’s utility room, with its gray machinery, pipes, and walls revived him, and he ended up enjoying his vacation, though most of it was spent in the gray utility room.
It wasn’t always this way. Alan used to love color, in fact more so than most people. He remembered when he would commute to the office and look at the billboards, thinking, “What if all of these billboards were brilliantly hued designs, if there were bright, colorful murals everywhere, instead of grayness?” Back then, Alan had vivid posters in his cubicle, and colorful work tools on his desk. That was when Acme MegaCorp, in order to create a more professional, regulated office environment, issued a requisite office desk template to the employees, dominated by gray. Manager #3 had approached Alan’s desk. “Alan, get rid of that purple tape dispenser! Aren’t you a team player?” At first Alan objected, but he learned to adjust. That was years ago.
When the Kleenex box with gray swirly designs on it ran out of tissues, Alan purchased a Kleenex box with purple swirly designs on it. Sitting in his ergonomic office chair, he contemplated the box, words filling his mind:
Manager #3 passed by Alan’s cubicle, and looked in. “Alan, is that a purple Kleenex box? You know the rules.” Alan reached into his bag and got out an AK-47. It was painted bright yellow.