A Productivity Hacks Gothic Short Story

When carving space for yourself takes a dark turn.

By Monica Torres

1. “They hijack your mind,” the man in the talk said. “We are in a crisis of attention.”

2. Before bedtime, you put your phone on your nightstand. You put your phone in the living room. You bury your phone in the backyard underneath dirt, and rock, and bone. You wake up and it is in your hand again.

3. You nap before work, in between work, and after work. You are always napping. You never sleep.

4. They gift you unlimited vacation days that you never take. You know better now. The last time you returned from one, they had looked at you blankly: “Who are you?” Someone who looked just like you had sat at your desk. She had waved hello.

5. Don’t let email take over your day, they warn. The last person it consumed never came back the same. You schedule time at the beginning and end of your day to beat it back. No matter how well you prepare, each day, it grows back and you start over.

6. Standup meetings replace regular meetings. They are so successful chairs and cushions begin to disappear from the office. No more time wasted getting settled. The board wants to make the doors glass next.

7. To maximize your day, you go outside of your office at prescribed times. Morning light keeps you awake longer. Thirty minutes of afternoon light can undo hours of sitting. When the dusk hits your retinas, you swear you can hear the breeze, and faintly, screams that sounds like your own. Then you go back inside, full of ideas.

8. You automate your errands to an app, which is run by a group of humans who arrange your laundry pickup and book your hotels, and monitors your sleep. It’s 24/7. When friends ask, you say it’s easy to use and free to download: “People don’t even know that it’s not me.”

9. You start evaluating each relationship for improvement. “Are you a time-plus or a time-sink?” you coo at your baby who breathes as if each one is guaranteed.

10. They say that they do not track your time, but you are sure that eyes follow you down the hallway. Your manager always knows when you have taken a lunch break even when he is not in the office. You wave at the ceiling before you leave, and make sure to not use the full hour.

11. The office is on fire. Numbers are in the red and layoffs loom. To appease them, the younger and older employees get sacrificed. You can still remember their cries as the flames licked their feet.

The pivot frees up space for a meditation room. The health and wellness coach they hire preaches more breathing and letting it go: ‘All feeling is temporary.’

Let’s Have a Realistic Sex Talk

A fictional “birds and bees” talk from an extremely honest parent.

By Gabrielle Sierra

Hello daughter,

Yep, it is me, your parent. Here I am, perched on the side of your bed. You look angry and mildly uncomfortable and I totally understand. It is because you know what is coming.

Don’t be disappointed in yourself, you put up a valiant effort to avoid me all week, knowing this conversation was bound to happen. But I got you good. Because I when I knocked I said I had your laundry and you still refuse to do your own laundry so you had no choice. A lesson learned for the future, perhaps?

Anyway, here we are, me holding your laundry hostage, and you staring out of your window wondering how easily you could toss yourself through it. (Not easily, your sister tried the whole defenestration thing years ago and I am lightning quick, so don’t bother.)

It is time we had THE TALK. You know the one, the talk about sex. S-E-X.

“Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex.”

I know you like to whine and complain that you already know all about this stuff, that your friends talk about it or you read it in a magazine or had a class at school. But I just wanted to make sure you had the truth down pat from an expert. A sexpert if you will. Get it?! Why are you covering your face with your hands?

Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex. With each other and with other people. Sometimes in groups or in a public bathroom or in a car while waiting for their kid’s indoor soccer game to end. This also goes for most people getting married, unless it is against their beliefs or religion. Personally, I had a ton of sex before I met the love of my life, Mitch. Yes, I know your father’s name is Bill. I meant to say Bill.

Anyway, you can wait until you are in college to have sex if you want to, but I would get it over with on the earlier side. Mid-way through high school is a good time, but, of course, you do what makes you comfortable.

Pick someone you trust or like or even love for your first time just so you can be open and honest about how awkward it is. Avoid cars or couches or waterbeds; the first time is hard enough without worrying about space issues or making waves or deflating cushions. Spoiler alert: men will orgasm, women won’t.

“Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty.”

There is really no way to know if there will be any blood, but it won’t be a river, so don’t really worry about that. Why do you look grossed out? Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty, my child.

Once you get through your first time you will feel better. The pressure will be off, and hopefully you will have a funny story to tell. Don’t worry, you will most likely have a lot more sex with a lot of people and have a lot more stories. And anyway, funny sex stories are the best ones to tell at parties.

College is a good time to experiment, and, as a woman, you will learn how to use sex as a weapon. This will be fun.

Sometimes someone may seem like a great person before sex and then be a jerk after. This does not reflect poorly on you, in fact it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Anyone who ever calls you a slut or a tease isn’t a human you should care about. Also if you give me their name and address I can go egg their house.

No always means no. And never, ever, even for one second, be afraid to be honest about this.

“Foreplay is important.”

Casual sex is great and you should have it as often as you want. Be honest about your level of interest and commitment. Use protection and don’t be shy about discussing your sexual past. This isn’t something to be ashamed of, so if anyone ever gives you a hard time about it just tell them to fuck off. Or just give me their address and… well you know.

Foreplay is important. Why are you rolling your eyes? Also you should get some sort of vibrator, you can order one on Amazon. You could also just go to a sex shop in the city but why pay up when we have Prime?

If someone tells you you are “really good” at something sexual, it means they just want you to do it again. Avoid sex when you are really full or have to pee. Sometimes quickies are not that quick and someone will be late for work. Oral stimulation doesn’t always work for everyone, but sometimes it is the only thing that works for someone. Learn what works for you and be honest about it. Pets will watch you have sex, they just do. Don’t worry about it.

Well, I guess that is it. I hope you learned from this and that you will someday crawl out from under your desk and thank me for sharing my wisdom. Don’t forget we love you no matter who you choose to love, and anyone who doesn’t isn’t worth a moment of your anger or sadness.

And remember that the most important thing in the whole world is to love yourself for who you are.

Here are your clean clothes. Alright, I’m going I’m going.

Oh! I forgot to mention it, but most people you meet already have HPV.

See you at dinner.