Do Nothing

“$100,000 for doing nothing. Sign me up!” I thought to myself as I hit submit on the form after giving them my name, email address and phone number. That seemed like the perfect thing for an out-of-work person like me (or as some people say ‘in between jobs’. I then returned to my routine of browsing funny pictures of dogs and cats on Reddit.

It was less than a minute when I received an email address from the company, aptly named Company X, about this curious job. You will be receiving a phone call from us within the next few days confirming your application. “Sweet!”

A few days had passed since I signed up for the ‘do-nothing’ job, and I was doing my usual internet browsing at a cafe near home. I had already written off the dream job I signed up for (they must have had a shitload of applicants) and was just going through some job sites looking for work that tickled my fancy.

Most of them were boring, uninteresting jobs that paid terrible. There were a few high paying jobs that caught my eye (alien hunter and stray cat rescuer) but I had second thoughts about applying for them. Mom didn’t like me risking my life for money, and the reason I needed work was to take care of her anyway. No point risking my life for high-paying jobs if I couldn’t finish them to give her any money.

I was about to pack up my laptop and head for dinner when I received a call from an unknown number.

“Hello! Is this George?”
“Yes, this is.”
“This is Linda from Company X,” came the friendly voice on the line. “We received your details from the job application you sent in the other day. When will you be free to come in for a face to face interview?”
“How does tomorrow morning sound?”
“That works for us,” said Linda. She then provided me with an address I had to go to.

***

“Wow, this place looks like a shithole,” I thought to myself, stepping into the lobby of an old, crumbling office building. “How the hell can they afford to pay anyone what they were promising?”
I was greeted by a plain-looking woman in her 30s, she was the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hello George! Thank you for coming in today,” she said.
“It’s my pleasure,” I replied. “So what next?”
“Well, there’s not much to it. If you agree to working for us, all you have to do is follow me and I’ll show you into the room where you’ll be working.”
“That’s it? Why hasn’t anyone else gotten the job before me?” I asked, puzzled.
“Most of the applicants we’ve had so far applied as a joke and declined to come in when we tried following up. The others failed to complete the task.”
“Oh. But is it that difficult?”
“Well, I can’t tell you much more about what you’re going to be doing – it’s part of the job,” Linda smiled.
“I guess I’ve got nothing to lose, right?”

I was given another form to fill up, consenting to what I was about to do. There was no clause absolving the company if any accidents happened, so I assumed that it was going to be relatively safe. After all, if anything did happen to me, I could make a case in court.

***

I was told to strip and put on a white robe, which I did without any hesitation. I had been in more embarrassing situations before, so it didn’t bother me.

“Behind those doors will be the room you’ll be working in. Walk to the middle of it, and do nothing. Have you got any questions?”
“That’s it? Just stand there and do nothing?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Okay, seems simple enough.”

Linda left me alone and I made my way through the doors she mentioned. I found myself standing in an empty room, lit up by a couple of fluorescent lights and nothing else. I shut the doors behind me and walked into the middle of the room and stood there.

Nothing happened.

I turned around looking for something to focus my attention on, but all that was around me were four blank walls. I stared at the ceiling, letting the light burn spots in my eyes. Deciding it was a stupid thing to do, I blinked at looked away. The ground was clean and empty, devoid of anything. There was literally nothing in the room.

After a few minutes, I tried thinking about entertaining thoughts in my head to pass the time. My mind went blank, I’m not sure if it was the lack of stimuli in the room or my brain deciding to give up on me but I couldn’t come up with anything. I was stuck starting at the blank walls and floors again. I decided to sit down on the floor and count my fingers and toes. Then, I tried counting the number of hairs on my legs and arms.

I don’t know how much time had passed but the lights turned off, leaving me in complete darkness. “Hey, this wasn’t part of the plan!” I said to myself. Or was it? I couldn’t tell. Gradually I began to notice I was breathing in more quickly than before. It was like the room’s oxygen was slowly being drained out and my body was trying to compensate.

Suddenly, out of the darkness I saw a pair of glowing red eyes blinking at me. “Oh fuck – what did I get myself into?” I quickly got up to my feet and backed away in the opposite direction of the eyes. They started moving towards me. I couldn’t tell if my eyes were playing tricks on me, but I definitely heard the snarl that came from whatever those eyes belonged to.

“Hey! I didn’t sign up for this!” I yelled as I felt my back pressed against one of the walls in the room. The eyes were steadily advancing towards me in the darkness. I had nowhere to go. I braced myself for whatever it was that was coming for me.

“This is some dangerous shit! I don’t think I was supposed to fight a beast!” I wailed hysterically to whoever was listening.

The eyes came closer, the snarl increased in volume. “Oh fuck, I’m gonna die. Why didn’t I just sign up to be a cat rescuer?”

At that moment, the lights in the room turned on. Instead of finding myself with my back pressed against the wall, I found myself on the floor staring up at the ceiling. I quickly jumped to my feet and looked around for the red-eyed creature that was in the room. There was nothing around me. I was alone in the room again.

Behind me, I heard the sound of the doors I came through opening. Linda walked in with a clipboard in her hand, a disappointed look on her face.

“I’m sorry, you didn’t manage to finish the job.”
“What? There was a beast in the room that was trying to kill me! I didn’t see anything about having my life threatened in the form I signed!” I said.
“There was no ‘beast’ in the room,” she replied calmly.
“Then what was that I saw?”
“I don’t know what you saw, but you fell asleep a minute ago. You just woke up from what seemed to be a nightmare.”
“What are you talking about? The lights went out and there was this beast trying to get me!”
“No, the lights have stayed on all this time. You fell asleep and had a nightmare.”

I was speechless. Was it true? It seemed so real.

As though she read my mind, Linda responded, “Nothing happened. At all. I was observing you from another room via our hidden cameras and I can show you the recording. You fell asleep for about a minute and you woke up screaming.”

I had nothing else to say. I was given my clothes back and got dressed before I headed out of the building. According to my watch, I had been in the room for less than 10 minutes. As compensation for my time, they ordered me a cab for me to get home.

I sat in the car, miserable, thinking about what happened earlier. I had basically given up on $100,000 (and potentially more) because I fell asleep. It was a long ride home.


Writing Prompt from Reddit: The more dangerous a job is, the more it pays. You just took a job offer to stand in an empty room and do nothing for $100k an hour.

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