Write a 2000 word story in any genre in the 1st POV of a depressed woman. Your story should include a candle. Also use the sentence 'You have my permission.' Bonus Prompt: The woman is in her early 20s-30s.

I wanted to write a story about the pandemic. I’m pretty sure that everyone who’s been writing the last few years has written something in a similar genre. I didn't want to make something that was about the effects of the pandemic or pandemic related loss though. I wanted to write something about what it’s like to work from home in a depersonalizing boring job. Also I had been studying the concept of “Bare Life” and “Homo Sacer” by Giorgio Agamben, and I noticed a good pun.

Bear Life

Monday: I woke up feeling unusually refreshed. I stretched grasping at the edges of my bed feeling awesome as the sun hit my face. A second later my stomach sank, and bile started to rise in my throat. It was 10:32, I’d slept through my alarm and I was definitely late to my 10:30 AM standup. I was dedicated to doing the bare minimum to keep this shitty job, but I hadn’t slept through a standup yet.

I struggled out of bed, got tangled in my sheets, I picked up a t-shirt from the pile of clean enough clothes on the end of my bed, ran my fingers through my hair and put on my glasses. Running out into the hall I tripped on my dog's food bowl, scraping my knee and scattering the remaining pellets of food all over the hallway. I crushed a few underfoot as I walked the rest of the way to my computer. Still wearing my underwear, I flipped open my macbook, opened zoom to my vacant looking coworkers and tried to tune out most of the scrum.



I didn’t have the call open, I was busy with more important things like my small following on twitter. So I had to swipe frantically back into the zoom meeting. My fat bitch of a manager looked exasperated and confused.

“You’ve had this as your only ticket in progress for 3 weeks - how’s it going? Is anyone blocking you?”

“Uhmm it’s coming, just had some uh problems with, like the ugh spec” In theory this was true. I hadn’t looked at the spec.

“Why didn’t you say anything sooner”

“I thought I could work through it.”

“For three weeks?”



Whew - that went well. Now that my work for the day was done I settled down to work on my town in Animal Crossing. I had Klaus the bear as a resident in my town. He was known for being smug, but I liked his weird roman outfit and I wanted to be his friend. I don’t think I have done more than 45 minutes of focused work since I got this job. What were they going to do, fire me?

Wednesday: I got fired. My manager mumbled a few things into his keyboard, and the HR lady with too many teeth took over and did the rest of the dirty work. My manager was wearing the company shirt about “gender equity in the workplace” or whatever. It was a size too small and his mantits were protruding in a very disrespectful way. I prayed that one of the dumb aromatherapy candles he had in his apartment would set his unit on fire and he’d be trapped on the top floor. After the call ended I shut my work laptop and threw it against the wall. I did some more work in my animal crossing town. Klaus was in a sour mood today.

I felt that I owed it to myself to take a rest from my economic anxiety - and the inevitable job hunt, for at least a week. I watched Paddington Bear 2. I thought it would be awesome if Klaus had the same sunny disposition as Paddington. But you can’t pick your friends! After gorging myself on McDonalds ordered from UberEats I slept at 4 AM.

Friday: My best friend Miranda was bothering me about going out on a hike with her. The trail was called ‘twin eagles’ or something like that and it promised to be difficult and my time with her would no doubt prove to be emotionally draining. I reluctantly agreed to go.

Saturday: I woke up at around 9 annoyed that there wasn’t enough light coming into my window from the grey late summer sky. I decided to go back to bed. Waking up a second time I stretched and saw that my friend had called me something like 30 times. Her last text message sounded very unhinged. Apparently she showed up to my house, waited for 20 minutes, called a bunch of times and eventually went off by herself. Daft bitch, who was going to hold her phone and take pictures of her if I wasn’t there. I sent her a quick message on WhatsApp that I was going to meet her at the trail. I tried to sound contrite. I ordered an uber, shoved a water bottle and a protein bar into my backpack and waited sitting on the steps of my walkup for the uber to arrive.

I saw the driver - a very spry looking older guy with a ponytail - his uber profile said his name was Joe and he had an almost perfect 5 star rating. He was driving a silver Hyundai. I masked up and got into the back seat of the car and we started driving out of the city.

“Hey, do you mind if I take this off?” He pointed up to his mask. He spoke good English, with a slight, difficult to place accent. “We’re going to be driving for 30 minutes. I think if either of us have Corona there’s not much point”

“You have my permission” I replied, I thought about dying, getting hooked up to a ventilator with the “delta variant” my parents and relatives crying over me in a stupid zoom call. I thought it would be kinda funny in a sad sorta way. I took my mask down too.

15 minutes or so later the driver started to talk. “I don’t want to offend you Nancy but you look kinda sad” I caught a look at my smudged makeup and red watery eyes in his rear view mirror and concluded that he was absolutely right.

“I couldn’t really sleep last night, got kinda caught up”

“What did you get caught up in?”

“I can’t really remember, I think I might have been playing animal crossing.” This was a lie, but it was slightly less pathetic than eating a whole microwave pizza and watching 2 Harry Potter movies.

“What’s animal crossing”

“It’s a video game on the nintendo switch, you play as this human who lives in a town with all these animals. You do these little tasks around town, decorate your house, befriend the animals. You can fish and catch bugs, and stuff like that.”

I paused for a second.

“And you’ve got a mortgage to pay off too but it’s not really the point of the game you know?”

“That sounds like a very relaxing game.” He paused for a second “Have you thought about getting a dog or something in real life?”

“Well I had a dog for a while - Teddy” I felt my heart rising in my chest. And I tried to resist the urge to cry in front of my uber driver. “I got him at the start of the pandemic, but he died a little while ago. He got off his leash in the park and got hit by a car”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Have you been working from home?”

“I was working for a company until 3 days ago. Now I’m ‘freelancing’.” I say. He chuckled. I pressed my head against the window. The verdant greens and blues of the sea to sky highway passing in a blur. “Sometimes it really feels like I’m barely keeping my head above water, you know, scrambling. It really wasn’t much better before the pandemic.”

“You’re burnt out I think. That’s the way things work here you know.” Joe took his hand off the wheel tracing a small circle in the air with his fingers.

“Yeah I think I’ve felt that way for a long time. I had to struggle through school, I had to fight with other jerks for internships that I didn’t really want to work so I could add totally inane jobs to my resume. And I hate how eager I was to climb the ladder, I had to tell myself I enjoyed it. ‘Working those 14 hour days and canceling plans with your friends, that’s just the grind!’. I just figured it would take me at least until my 30’s to get this jaded. But here I am!”

Despite myself I kept talking.

“My job absolutely didn’t matter, I didn’t even really know what my company did. But I still let it turn me into a self important asshole. I’m sad because when we were in school they told us we’d be changing the world! I’m totally trapped here. And even when I get a new job and make more money I feel like I’m still stuck in the same place. It’s like ... when do the perks actually start? Is that all there is, ‘the grind’?”

“That’s not really living, that's bare life.”

Bear life?”

“Yeah, life stripped down to the essentials, like you’re some kind of yeast or algae. This isn’t growth for the sake of “becoming a better person” or “building a better world” - this is just “growing” and “existing” in the most basic biological sense.”

“I’ve gotta say Joe, it’s going to be hard to give you five stars after you called me ‘yeast-like’”

Joe laughed again, I caught his eyes looking back at me in the rearview mirror. “Well I’ve already docked your customer rating for your depressive selfish attitude so I guess this sorta evens out. But what I’m saying I think goes for everyone on almost every rung of the ladder by the way. “Promotions”, “Equity”, long self indulgent posts on LinkedIn, it’s the carrot, and it’s really very useless and brings no real joy, and that fear of getting fired, or the worry that you’re not as successful as your friends, that's the stick that has everyone wincing in fear. That’s bare life!”

“I don’t know how Klaus would feel about that.”

“Who’s Klaus?”

“He’s a bear, in animal crossing”

Joe laughed “Well Klaus, he’s living a good life I think. What do you think he worries about?”

“I’m not sure - but I can’t just live like Klaus! I’ve got bills to pay! If I don’t work, it’s both of us out on the streets Joe. Aren’t you driving with Uber for the same reason?”

“Well I imagine that for some people it’s probably like that. But I used to have an important job you know? Even though it didn’t really accomplish anything. You know the work culture in my home country, you work all the time, and after you have to go and get drunk with your boss. There’s no real separation between your personal life and your professional life. It’s awful really.”

Joe smiled back at me. “And here I’ve got the beautiful pacific air, and I get to drive whenever I want, I get to meet interesting people sometimes. Even if they are sad sacks like you” I laughed a little at Joe’s joke. “Sometimes it hardly feels like work to me. I think the good life is something like that. It sounds like you’re well on your way, you're going up into the mountains to experience nature, maybe you’ll come back with some kind of insight!”

“Well thanks Joe, I’ll let you know if I figure anything out.”

It had turned into a really beautiful day while I was busy complaining in the uber. The sun was out directly overhead. And the mountain was completely alive in dark greens, deep reds and bright yellows, the smell of damp earth and pine filled my nose. I messaged Miranda to apologize again and I told her to take a rest and wait up, I’d be up to meet her soon.

Huffing and puffing up the mountain, my thighs were really starting to kill. I resolved to use my time as a CERB parasite to get in great shape. Looking down at my feet I heard a branch crack a couple hundred meters away in front of me. Meandering out of the woods a big brown bear crossed the gravel path and a second later she was followed by two chubby healthy looking cubs.

I stopped in my tracks, my breath caught in my throat. The two bears paused in the middle of the trail pawing at each other and their mother, sniffing the air, looking around. One of them sat on his haunches right in the center of the path and his sibling barreled into him, bowling him over. I felt myself starting to cry. The cubs wrestled playfully right there in front of me while their mother watched.