Melanie, an overworked accountant, had stayed up late in her office. The room was dimly lit, only by a small desk lamp. The stack of paperwork seemed endless, and she was determined to finish it before the weekend. Her only company was the soft hum of the computer and the rhythmic ticking of the wall clock.
As the minutes turned into hours, the weight of her eyelids grew heavy. The numbers in her spreadsheets started to blur, almost dancing across the screen. The only sound that kept her alert was the ticking of the clock and the occasional rustling of papers.
At the stroke of midnight, everything went pitch-black. Lost in her files and numbers, Melanie was jolted awake by the sudden blackout. Her initial thought was that it was just a power outage, but the chilling silence that followed seemed to suggest something more sinister.
Using the dim glow of her phone’s screen, Melanie carefully navigated through the labyrinthine office. As she passed by her colleagues’ desks, it became evident that she was utterly alone; everyone had vanished. Her heels clicked on the floor, their echoes filling the vast and dark room, amplifying her sense of isolation.
Suddenly, her phone buzzed, breaking the oppressive silence. A cryptic message popped up: “Welcome to the Game. Find the clues or stay trapped forever.”
Melanie’s heart raced. She quickly realized that this wasn’t an ordinary blackout — she had become an unwilling participant in a treacherous game. The stakes were clear: find the clues and escape or remain trapped in this eerie, silent world forever.
Determined not to become a victim, Melanie took a deep breath, steadied her nerves, and embarked on the most unexpected and terrifying adventure of her life.
Melanie knew she had to think fast. Panic was the enemy in situations like this, she reminded herself. She looked around for anything that might give her a clue as to where to start. Her office, usually so mundane and predictable, had taken on a menacing atmosphere in the pitch dark. Shapes loomed ominously in the corners of her vision, and she had to resist the urge to sprint out of the room in terror.
Instead, she methodically began to search her desk and surrounding areas, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Her fingers brushed over the cold surface of her desk, the papers, the computer mouse, until they landed on a small, irregular object. She picked it up and squinted at it in the light of her phone. It was a small key, one she had never seen before. Melanie couldn’t recall ever seeing it on her desk or anywhere in the office.
With a glimmer of hope, she pocketed the key and ventured out into the corridor. The walls seemed to close in on her as she walked down the narrow passageway. Her phone illuminated a small portion of her path, casting eerie shadows on the walls. The silence was so thick, she could hear the blood rushing in her ears.
She tried to remember if there was any door in the office that required a key. Then, she remembered the old storage room at the end of the hall. It was always locked, and she had never seen anyone go in or out. With a renewed sense of purpose, she quickened her pace towards the room.
Once there, she took the key from her pocket and inserted it into the lock. It turned smoothly, and the door creaked open. Inside, the room was filled with old files and office supplies. Melanie carefully stepped inside, her eyes scanning the room for any clues.
A sudden noise behind her made her jump. She spun around, but there was nothing there. Just her imagination playing tricks on her, she thought. But then, she noticed a piece of paper lying on the floor near the entrance. It must have fallen when she opened the door.
She picked it up and saw that it was a map of the office with a red X marked on it. The X was located in a corner of the storage room. Melanie quickly crossed the room to the marked spot. There, she found a loose floor tile. Lifting it, she found a small box.
With trembling hands, she opened the box. Inside, there was a note that read, “Congratulations, you have found the first clue. Now, you must figure out the password to escape the office. The clue to the password is in your work.”
Melanie’s mind raced. Her work? Did it mean her accounting work? Or was it something else? She knew she had no time to waste. She needed to get back to her desk and figure out the password before it was too late.
As Melanie hurried back to her desk, she went over her recent work in her mind. She had been working on several projects, but nothing stood out as particularly unusual or significant. When she reached her desk, she immediately powered up her computer, praying that the electricity outage hadn’t affected it. To her relief, the computer whirred to life, and she quickly opened up the spreadsheets she had been working on before the blackout.
She scanned through the numbers, looking for anything that might be a clue to the password. But everything looked normal. Frustration started to build as minutes ticked by. She knew she couldn’t afford to waste time, but she was at a loss. Then, it hit her – maybe the clue wasn’t in the numbers themselves, but in the way they were organized. She recalled a pattern she had noticed earlier in the day, a series of numbers that seemed out of place but hadn’t thought much of it at the time.
She quickly located the series of numbers and studied them. There were six numbers in total: 16, 1, 19, 19, 23, 15. Melanie racked her brain trying to figure out what they could mean. Then, she had a brainwave. What if the numbers represented letters of the alphabet? 16 would be P, 1 would be A, and so on. She quickly decoded the numbers to letters: P A S S W O.
“Password,” she muttered to herself. It was so simple, yet she almost missed it. Elated, she looked around her desk for anything that required a password. She remembered that she had a locked drawer that she hadn’t opened in years. Could that be it?
She tried the word “password” on the drawer, and to her amazement, it clicked open. Inside, there was a keycard marked ‘EXIT’. Heart pounding with excitement, she grabbed the card and headed towards the main exit. She knew that this was her ticket out of this nightmare.
As she neared the exit, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of trepidation. What if this was just another trick? What if the real game was just beginning? Pushing those thoughts aside, she swiped the keycard, and the door clicked open.
To her disbelief, behind that door was another one, and then another one, and another. It was a corridor with endless doors. Her card worked for all of them, but there was no end to these doors. A sinking feeling settled in her stomach as she realized that this was not the escape she had hoped for. The corridor seemed to stretch on infinitely, each door identical to the last. Desperation mounting, she tried opening several more doors, each time hoping that it would be the last, but each time only revealing another door.
Melanie felt a wave of despair wash over her. Was she going to be trapped here forever, stuck in this never-ending loop of doors? She slumped down against the wall, feeling utterly defeated. The game had tricked her, giving her a glimmer of hope only to snatch it away. She thought about giving up, just staying in the corridor and accepting her fate.
But then she remembered the note she found in the storage room. It had said that she needed to figure out the password to escape the office. She had assumed that the password was for the drawer, but what if it was for something else? Maybe there was another clue in the office that she had missed.
With renewed determination, Melanie stood up and made her way back to her desk. She knew that she couldn’t afford to waste any more time. She needed to find the real password and escape this nightmare once and for all.
Back at her desk, she examined every inch of her workspace, looking for anything that might be a clue. She opened drawers, flipped through files, and even checked under her desk. Finally, her eyes landed on her computer screen, which was still displaying the spreadsheet she had been working on.
She stared at the screen, willing the answer to come to her. And then, suddenly, it hit her. The password wasn’t just “password”; it was the actual password she used to log into her computer every day. It was so obvious, and yet she had completely overlooked it.
Emboldened by her revelation, Melanie made her way back to the corridor of doors. This time, when she swiped her keycard and opened the door, she recited her computer password out loud. To her amazement, the door revealed not another door, but the outside world. She had done it. She had escaped the Midnight Game.
As she stepped outside, a wave of relief washed over her. She had outsmarted the game and survived. But as she made her way home, she couldn’t help but feel a lingering sense of unease. Who had created the game? Why had she been chosen? And most importantly, was it really over? Melanie knew that she might never get the answers to these questions, but one thing was for sure – she would never stay late at the office again.
And then she woke up.
All images generated using Midjourney using the following prompt: “in a Minimalist style, haze, night, ektachrome”