The Minotaur in the Cube Maze

I cut a paragraph or so from Ghost Bully that added a little to Jonah's office dynamics, but not much to anything else. Deleting it was one of those "Kill Your Darlings" moments for me, but I figured I could always repurpose the material for a short, and here it is. Hope you enjoy The Minotaur and The Cube Maze...

“Remember, beware the Minotaur,” Anne from HR said as I left her office.

It was my first day at Ovid Labs, and I’d just signed all my new-hire paperwork. My next step was to report to my manager and let her know I was cleared to work. I had a few minutes before I had to be there and noticed a coffee station set up in a breakroom just off the hallway.

I dipped in for a quick cup of piping hot caffeine before my official start. The room was dimly lit, the walls painted a dark, neutral tone. The room was dimly lit, the walls painted a dark, neutral tone. A well worn swath of carpet indicated it was a favorite stop in the building. It was decorated by a whiteboard stained by previous grids and meeting notes but wiped clean and ready to be of use to whoever needed it next. Directly across from that on the other wall hung a cork board full of OSHA regulations, company announcements, and a poster for a band called Minos’ Shame.

“Beware the Minotaur,” said a voice behind me.

“OK OK, I’m wary, I’m wary,” I said with a smile. “Anne from HR told me the same thing.”

I turned to find a smartly dressed young woman behind me holding an empty ceramic mug with two hands. Her brown hair was pulled back tightly into a long pony tail, and she wore stylish wire rimmed glasses.

“Anne gave you good advice,” she said as she slid past me and loaded a packet of coffee into the machine. She set her mug down into the receptacle and leaned against the cabinets facing me. “Haven’t seen you around here before, you new?”

“Yeah, today is my first day, just stopping in here for some coffee before reporting for duty.”

“Oh wow, and I just cut in front of you—sorry! Lesson number one—you snooze, you lose. Just kidding, I’m Bonnie,” she said and extended her hand.

“Hi Bonnie, I’m Eric,” I replied.

“So do you know where you’re going?”

“Not really.”

I pulled out a piece of paper that Anne printed out for me in her office and showed it to Bonnie. I was to meet my new manager at cube DDE-2415 at 9:00, and I had about five more minutes before I needed to be there. The smell of passable complimentary coffee wafted through the space.

“Oh, you’re working for Danzler, she’s cool. I’ll show you where she sits on my way back to the Daedalus conference room,” she said as she removed her full cup of coffee from the station, and loaded one for me with along with a disposable plastic foam cup.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Don’t mention it, it’s the least I can do for cutting in front of you.”

A broad shadow darkened the door, and we were joined by a square jawed man with longer than usual curly hair. The buttons on his shirt strained to contain him professionally.

“This one’s new, working for Danzler,” Bonnie said as the machine clicked, indicating my coffee was ready.

“Ah, congratulations, she’s great,” he said, “I’m Thes.”

“Hi Thes, I’m Eric.”

“We need to move if I’m going to get you where you’re going and still have time to prep for my presentation,” Bonnie said.

“Nice to meet you, new guy,” Thes said, “beware the Minotaur.”

“I’ll do my best,” I said as I grabbed my cup of coffee and followed Bonnie out of the breakroom. “What’s with the Minotaur references?”

Bonnie sighed. “See that band poster?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“It’s the Minotaur’s band. He’s the son of the guy who runs the company. He hid him away from the rest of the family in this office. The Minotaur can be found within the cube maze. Be careful in the wee morning hours, or at dusk, he can be found roaming DDE 24, 25, and 27. If you see him, turn around—flee. Do not engage him, whatever you do.”

I laughed. “Or what?”

“Or else you may never be seen again,” she said. “He will not stop talking about his band. Even if you agree to go out and see them … and they are … terrible.”

“I shoud really do something about him,” Thes said.

I laughed. “I’ll be OK, but I’ll make sure to keep an eye out.”

“Once he makes the sign of the horns, you’re doomed. Beware the Minotaur,” she said and held her hand out to shake. I took it. “Just right through there,” she said. That’s DDE 26, take a left at the pylon and follow the red signs to DDE 24. Don’t stop until you get there. Once you see it, hang a second left, and you’ll find Danzler on that row.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Remember, look for the red signs. Good luck and—“

“I know, I know—beware the Minotaur.”

She gave me a smile and disappeared around the corner while I turned to a vast open space filled with the beige dividing walls of office cubicles. I’d always derogatorially called the set-up a cube farm, but a maze certainly fit the description.

The mismatched carpet squares were meant to be a fun touch but seemed to make every aisle look the same. The office was once a warehouse without any windows, and the artificial light bathed the space in a warm amber glow that somehow managed to create unnatural looking shadows.

I could hear the buzz of several hundred people going about their work, with one single voice rising above the others. A masculine drawl, ragged, like someone that spent a few years gargling pebbles and sand. And although I couldn’t quite make out what it was saying, I could tell that the voice was affected. The idea of a cadence that one may consider on trend, but delivered in such a way that it was, in fact, not.

The hot coffee splashed over the rim of the cup as I walked and burned my hand. I stopped to take a sip and lower the level. The clock on the wall read 8:57—I was cutting it close.

My hands began to sweat as I searched for the next sign to DDE-24. Will I make it in time?

I picked up the pace down the corridor, searching for the red rectangle of destiny. My eyes raced from cube wall to pylon, looking for an indication. The walls all looked the same from the outside, and no cubes opened to the corridor. Each open space led to a new row of uniform squares populated by people I didn’t know.

After a few moments of despair, I was able to locate a red sign with an arrow pointing toward my destination. I turned deeper into the maze and walked on. The buzz of the office remained constant, but I heard one voice above the others. Still a ways off, but distinguishable in that every sentence seemed to answer in an upward lilt … like it was constantly asking questions.

I checked my watch. 8:58. Damn, I can’t be late on my first day, they’ll think I’m a flake.

I hastened my gait and searched wildly for more signs. My eyes scanned from cube wall to the ceiling, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rectangular red sign. There on a far wall, I could see it—DDE-24. I was close!

A man peaked out of his cube, coffee in hand. Sitting in a rolling chair, eyes desperate.

“Beware the Minotaur,” he said and rolled back into the protective space of his cube.

My heart beat faster, my hands dripping with sweat. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it in time. I marched toward my destination with purpose and vigor. The sounds of the office fell to a hush as the voice rang out over the workspace. I started hearing words come to form. I recognized “free,” as I moved forward. Free what? I thought as I moved forward toward the sign. I hit a dead end and had to turn around and choose another direction: left or right. My watch read 8:59.

I darted off to my right and made a left, and then another right to put me back on track to DDE-24. I was almost there, but something was amiss. All sounds of the office ceased—all but the one, singular voice. I felt like prey on the savannah after a lion entered the scene.

“You should come,” the disembodied voice said.

I hit another dead end, backed up, and made a quick decision to turn right. I saw a sign that read “Danzler”  with a directional arrow. I turned the corner, following its course, only to find my way blocked by a goatee’d man dressed all in black.

“Hey, you look new,” he said as his hands shot up in the form of rock horns, “you like live music? You should come see my band tonight …”

9:00.

All was lost, I was in the clutches of The Minotaur.