Caroline’s New Office

A short story

Caroline liked her new office.

It was much nicer than her previous office. More spacious. More natural lighting. It had a big desk, bookshelves, couches, the whole shebang. Caroline felt like she had finally made it. She felt like opening the window and shouting “I’m on top of the world, ma!” for everyone to hear.

But the best thing, by far, about her new office was who wasn’t in it. Robert “Big Bob” Davis, her predecessor. Good God, that man nearly ruined all of them.

Caroline wasn’t going to waste any more time concerning herself with him. Big Bob represented the past, and Caroline was the future. She had fought tooth and nail for this and she was in charge now. She was going to set everything straight.

Where to start? Well, her assistant had placed her schedule on her desk and it was already packed with meetings. There was even some mail for her already. She flipped through the envelopes and one caught her eye. It just had her name “Caroline” written in the front. Maybe a personal letter of congratulation from the staff? She opened the envelope to reveal a handwritten letter.

It was from Big Bob.

Oh, Lord. Well, Big Bob always did like to get the last word. Caroline started reading. She might as well get this over with now.


I hope to God that you find this letter. I figure slipping it in my —your— secretary’s inbox right as I leave will ensure it gets to you before anyone intercepts it.

Well, no surprises there. On top of his erratic behaviour, Big Bob had become notoriously paranoid during the last couple of months. Or, then again, maybe he just couldn’t bring himself to look Caroline in the face after all the crap he put us through. Caroline kept reading.

Caroline, Lord knows we've had our differences and that you have no reason to believe anything I say but, for the sake of all of us, I need you to believe me now, no matter how crazy all of this sounds.

While I was in charge, all my actions were done under the influence of a group that calls itself “The Outsiders”. They have abilities that go beyond what any human can do, but I cannot say for sure that their origin is extraterrestrial. In fact, I have never seen an actual Outsider; they have the ability to inhabit a human body for a few months at a time, and they have only communicated with me by taking control of key people in my inner circle.

Oh, for goodness sake. Seriously? This took the cake. She thought Big Bob couldn’t stoop any lower, but to try to have one last hurrah by coming up with a fantastic tale like this, just to mess with her… simply unbelievable. Caroline almost crumpled up the letter right then and there, but figured she should keep on reading. At the very least, she’ll get an amusing story out of all this.

They have a number of other abilities, and there are subtle ways of telling when someone is controlled by an Outsider, but I will not list them here. If they find this letter, I do not want to reveal how much I’ve been able to figure out. Suffice it to say that their other abilities were more than enough to coerce me into doing their bidding.

An Outsider will probably introduce itself to you soon, just like they did with me. They will use someone very close to you. For me, it was Russ Whitman. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used A.J. Richardson with you.

Caroline looked at her schedule. “2:30pm — A.J. Richardson”. Surely just a coincidence.

If you value those around you, you will not offer any resistance. I learned that lesson the hard way. Don’t let them get to Nathan the same way they got to Janice.

Caroline felt her heart skip a beat. She put down the letter and leaned back in her chair. Janice. Janice Davis. Big Bob’s wife. She was diagnosed with one of those brain tumors that seemed to come out of nowhere. One day she was doing fine, and the next day she was undergoing aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments. She died after an agonizing six months of treatment, and it left Big Bob devastated. He couldn’t possibly kid around with that. Not with Janice. And to insinuate that the same could happen to her husband, Nathan. No, Big Bob wouldn’t go that far, not even as part of one of his sick, twisted schemes. Or would he? Caroline picked up the letter and kept reading with some trepidation.

All is not lost. There are four others who know about the Outsiders. You have to reach out to them as soon as possible. I cannot risk disclosing their identities if this letter is intercepted, but I hope these clues will help you figure out the identity of at least one of them.

  1. Male. 30s. Our man from corporate.
  2. Male. 50s. Inappropriate joke.
  3. Female. 70s. Dog dog dog.
  4. Male. 60s. Let’s take it to the country club.

Arrange to meet in private with one of them. Do not bring up The Outsiders. They will bring them up after they are sure you are not under their control.

Do not count on me. At this point, I cannot be sure when they are watching me.

That’s all I can say, and I know how crazy it sounds, specially given that I’ve been acting like a lunatic these past few months. Quite frankly, I’m not exactly fond of you either, but this is bigger than the two of us.

Do not disappoint me, Caroline.


Robert Alan Davis

Caroline folded the letter and placed it back on her desk, her hands shaking slightly. Well, these are definitely not the words of wisdom she was expecting to receive from her predecessor. This has to be a big fat joke. It has to be. Big Bob is probably laughing his ass off in one of his many mansions, thinking of how he got the last laugh and managed to ruin Caroline’s first day. Well played, Big Bob.

However, Caroline had to admit that, if she overlooked the implausibility of everything in the letter, she had never seen Big Bob speak or write to her with such clarity and, well, without a hint of condescension towards her. Big Bob was being sincere, although Caroline had to wonder if he was just being sincere about a paranoid fantasy that existed only in Big Bob’s head.

Still, Caroline had to reluctantly consider the possibility that this wasn’t just a prank. Caroline opened the letter and looked at the list of people who knew about these “Outsiders”:

  1. Male. 30s. Our man from corporate.
  2. Male. 50s. Inappropriate joke.
  3. Female. 70s. Dog dog dog.
  4. Male. 60s. Let’s take it to the country club.

Caroline had some thoughts on all of them, but #2 had to be John Mueller. He made a misogynistic joke at Caroline’s expense in front of Big Bob and her last year. Caroline remembered how Big Bob laughed at the joke, and how he laughed even harder at her protestations on how inappropriate the joke was. No one else was in the room. It had to be John Mueller.

Caroline picked up the phone.

“Uhm, Jonathan?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I need you to set up a private meeting with the Speaker of the House.”

“Yes, Madam President.”



I am a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Chicago. I write short pieces of fiction for fun. Sometimes I write about serious things too.

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Borja Sotomayor

I am a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Chicago. I write short pieces of fiction for fun. Sometimes I write about serious things too.