The following is another short story that I’ve written as part of the ongoing ‘Write with Chris and Millie’ writing prompt exercise. The purpose of the exercise is to give us both a chance to practise writing prompts and stories. The original prompt phrase or sentence is highlighted in bold.
This week we’re heading to the hills for a “fun” weekend away…
Henry looked out of the window. The sky was the colour of his bruised ego. The blizzard was drawing nearer; a decision had to be made, and soon.
“I say we wait it out,” he said, turning back to the other three people in the cabin, “as a team. That’s literally why we’re here!”
“No, we’re here for team building, not a suicide pact,” said Linda grumpily. She was already stood up with her coat on.
“If choosing a career in accountancy isn’t implicit agreement to a suicide pact, I don’t know what is,” muttered Mark. Everyone ignored him. No one liked Mark.
“Please, this is all part of the fun!” pleaded Henry, trying to sound jovial. Underneath he was fuming. He was team leader of the accounts department and he’d assumed that the modicum of respect the others paid him in the workplace would carry over to this team building weekend. Unfortunately for Henry, any deference they might have paid him back in the civilised world seemed to have been left at the snowline as they’d climbed the mountain. But he was going to be damned if his team was the only one that had any team members quit mid-way through. He could already see Steve-from-Marketing’s smug face on Monday morning, gloating about how well his own team had performed.
“Spending our weekend freezing in a wooden cabin halfway up the mountain is supposed to be fun?!” asked Linda as she made for the door. Henry moved to block her path and stop her from leaving, but in a respectful way that wouldn’t mean the HR team had to leave their cabin and come and investigate.
“Please…,” begged Henry, “Steve from Marketing-” He was cut off by a chorus of groans and a thrown book.
“You and Steve need to get a room!” yelled Mark, “Or better yet, a snowbound cabin.”
“You do talk about Steve a lot mate,” added Jeremy, who had been silent up to now.
“THAT’S BECAUSE I’M FED-UP WITH HIM WINNING ALL THESE STUPID INTERDEPARTMENTAL COMPETITIONS!” yelled Henry in frustration.
“So you admit they’re stupid?” grinned Mark.
“Look,” said Henry, ignoring Mark and pointing at the window, “the snow has arrived. It’s just not safe to try and head down the mountain now, we might as well wait it out in here with the log fire and make the best of it.”
Outside, the sky was darker still and a regular flurry of flakes were settling on the windowsill.
“Alright alright,” conceded Linda grumpily, taking her coat off and sitting down again at the table with Mark and Jeremy.
“Thank you,” said Henry, “look, I know you’re not all keen on these activity weekends, but they’re only twice a year, and I do truly believe they bring us closer. I’m sorry, but standing up for team building exercises is the moral hill that I’m willing to die on.”
“Spectacularly poor choice of words, given our current situation,” sighed Jeremy. They all exchanged glances. Outside the snow covered more and more of the window like sand filling an hourglass.
“Shall we play a game?” asked Henry breezily. The others shrugged. Mark checked for phone reception for the hundredth time since they’d arrived, but there was still no service. Henry took the lack of thrown objects as a ‘yes’ and moved to the small cupboard in the corner where he had been told there would be some entertainment. Inside he found Monopoly, Ker-plunk (minus the marbles) and a 1000-piece puzzle of a snowy mountain scene.
“Monopoly it is!” Henry exclaimed. The others groaned again.
“Isn’t there something that won’t remind me I’m an accountant?” asked Mark, his head slumped in his hands.
“You can either be reminded you’re an accountant or reminded you’re stuck up a mountain,” said Henry irritably, waving the snow puzzle at the others.
“Yeah alright, good call,” admitted Mark.
They set the game up on the table. Miraculously all the pieces were there, as far as they could tell. Linda and Jeremy set about a quick audit of the cash totals, while Mark made sure he found and immediately took the racing car playing piece. It briefly crossed Henry’s mind to tell Mark that it was company policy that middle managers should always have the race car, but decided against it. Henry took the top hat instead, lying to himself that it was just as good.
“Any chance of some food before we start?” asked Jeremy, his stomach audibly growling.
“They do say that human civilisation is only ever four missed meals away from barbarism,” added Linda with a laugh.
“Good idea,” agreed Henry. He was hungry too.
“So, how many meals do we have to fend off barbarism with?” asked Linda as Henry opened and then stared into the food cupboard.
“One…” replied Henry, “assuming you count a packet of Monster Munch as a meal….”
“Ooo, I do!” exclaimed Mark, rushing over to grab the pickled onion flavour.
With nothing else to do, and the prospect of quitting the game not actually offering any respite from it in the tiny cabin room, Monopoly lasted long into the night. They rolled the dice and moved their respective pieces, illuminated by only candles and the flickering light from the wood burning stove. Mark was winning, and winning rather thoroughly. Henry stared down in disbelief at his re-mortgaged Old Kent Road and Whitechapel, wondering where it had all gone wrong.
“I thought you hated being an accountant,” said Linda, either unable to keep the bitter edge from her voice, or simply not bothering to try.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I’m not way more awesome at it than all you losers,” smirked Mark, counting his money. The others exchanged shadowed glances in the low light.
“The fire’s getting low,” said Jeremy, changing the subject, “and I think we’re out of logs.”
“Let’s burn the Monopoly money!” said Linda.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Mark responded angrily, “you’re just saying that because I have it all!”
“To be fair, it is probably the most flammable thing in the cabin that will give off the least toxic fumes when burned,” said Henry, trying his best to meditate between them while ignoring his own rage-twitching eye, “why don’t you just hand it over, Mark?”
“Here,” answered Mark, throwing a £5 Monopoly note at Henry, “I’ll give you this. Use it to buy Steve-from-Marketing something pretty…”
The next morning was a bright sunny day. The cabin occupants had their breakfast interrupted by Neil Burton, Director of HR, striding through the entirely unblocked cabin door, accompanied by a pair of lackeys.
“Excellent work, accountancy team,” said Neil with a broad smile, “you’ve made it through this weekend’s team building exercise of simulated snowbound conditions. We’ve turned the artificial snow machines off now, so you’re all free to go home!”
“Ah…” said Henry, exchanging looks with Linda and Jeremy and slowly moving Mark’s chewed femur behind his back.