The Forest Guardian

3:00 AM -- Wake up, work out

4:00 AM -- Shower & breakfast

5:00 AM -- Work

4:00 PM -- Eat

4:15 PM -- Continue working

8:00 PM -- Sleep

This has been my schedule for decades, providing roughly 15 working hours every day or 105 working hours every week with 7 hours of sleep per night. I used to be able to live off of 5 hours of sleep, but those days were long gone. I found that remote programming work would allow me to juggle 2 jobs and maintain a prestigious open-source side-project.

I was living the life!

To be honest, the only reason I had to work 2 jobs was because I used to receive pesky e-mails from corporate about maintaining appropriate work-life balance. I found if I clocked out on time and started working on my next project, I could keep working without anyone batting an eye. Life is what you make of it, and I was making great progress on all fronts!

One day, I received a peculiar e-mail... not too unlike the ones I would receive before I worked the 2 positions.

Title: Maintaining appropriate work-life balance while juggling 2 positions

Hello Qedem,

This is XXX and YYY. We have recently found that you are a lead developer for both of our companies and have come to the conclusion that you are violating both companies work-life balance policy by clocking in 100 hours of work per week.

Though we understand that what you do in your free time is none of our concern, it is concerning that you have chosen to spend your time working a completely separate position without disclosing that information with us.

We will not ask for you to choose between our companies, but we will ask you take time to reflect on what is important to you and refrain from working long hours.

Thanks, XXX and YYY

They found out. I replied quickly and in a panic:

Hello XXX and YYY,

It was my understanding that I was not required to disclose activities outside of working hours with my employer and apologize for any inconvenience.

I feel I am maintaining appropriate work-life balance. In fact, I was planning on taking a vacation this weekend by camping in a local park!

No need to worry! I can look after myself.

Thanks, Qedem

I figured that would get them off my back. I didn't actually need to go camping, they just needed to think I was taking a break. In a few hours, I received a reply:

Hello Qedem,

That's great to hear! Be sure to send us pictures!

Thanks, XXX and YYY

Pictures? They wanted pictures?

I sighed to myself. I sucked at photoshop. I started thinking of ways I could still weasel my way out of it, but ultimately decided that a weekend working off of a mobile hotspot on my laptop wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Besides, I was training for a swimming competition and there was a good open water location to in the park.

So I packed my bags, including my goggles and cap and quickly found myself in a tent nestled between two trees, gazing onto a huge lake. Autumn leaves fell to the forest floor, and I could hear woodland creatures scurrying about. My car was only a few feet away and I had a cord connected to my laptop for charging. I spent all night coding away. Honestly, I found the juxtaposition between technology and nature to be somewhat pleasing.

At roughly 6:00 AM, I donned a cap and goggles and went out for a swim. When I returned, I found my car would no longer start. Somehow, it was completely out of battery. To make matters worse, my phone was also almost dead!

Rather than worry about the situation, I decided to go for a longer swim. After all, there were only so many hours in the day. No need to waste time worrying!

This time, I decided to swim to the other side of the lake, and as I waded out of the water, I found a rustic concrete bench stationed between a few trees, covered in moss and foliage. It was completely square, with a square lip in the middle for sitting. I decided to incorporate the structure into my workout and brushed off some leaves before placing my feet on the seat and doing a few push-ups.


I felt my muscles begin to twitch a bit. It honestly felt like the earth was shaking from under me. I managed a few more push-ups before stopping and sitting cross-legged on the concrete. For some reason, the rumbling continued. In my mind, I began wondering if I had over-exerted myself.

Suddenly, the concrete seat split, creating 4 quarter squares and emitting steam into the air. At the same time, red light began to glow beneath. The shaking became even more intense, and I found myself leaping from the bench and running straight into the water to watch whatever was happening from a safe distance. As I turned around, I saw a giant stone structure lift itself from the earth, causing nearby trees to sway and birds to flock away.

The creature was roughly twice my height and had a square top with 4 red lines reaching below onto a spherical base. The lines each connected a smooth, oblong stone that acted as legs. The creature also seemed to emit a constant electrical hum. Though it had no defined face, it began moving slowly towards me and soon began wading in the lake.

At this point, I was properly freaking out and decided to swim back to my campsite and begin packing up. I threw everything I could in the back of my car and tried to turn it on, but after turning the key, I remembered the battery was still dead.

As I was failing to turn the engine, I saw steam rupturing the water's surface, followed by the creature's red glow and electrical hum. Somewhere deep in the pit of my stomach, I knew I was doomed. I ran my hands through my hair and sat in my car, awaiting my demise.

I had worked so hard for so long. I had built so many things. Yet here I was, about to be squashed by some sci-fi forest guardian...


How was this thing moving? Probably via some form of electricity, right? Also, it was pretty slow. As long as I kept moving, it had no way of actually hurting me.

I quickly popped the hood of my car and grabbed some cables from the backseat, connecting them to my battery. As the creature drew nearer, I attached the positive cable to one of it's red lines and tried to turn the key. This time, the engine revved up, and I quickly put the car in reverse and sped away as quickly as I could, just before one of the guardians legs stomped on top of me.

I still don't know what happened to the creature. For all I know, it could be following me to this day. Maybe it walked back to its meadow for more rest. To be honest, I do not really care.

All I know is that I am never taking a vacation again!

Prompt: You're an workaholic. Your friends & family plead with you to rest, and even your own boss wants you to take a break. The solution: a camping trip. Unfortunately for you, you decided to set up camp in the middle of a Forest Guardian's territory, and humans are not welcome.

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