“Don’t Embezzle, Kids,” by Natalie Ho

Apr 20th, 2018 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“I wanna be a billionaire, so freaking bad…” Yaritza hummed the catchy tune to herself while scrolling through the WikiHow page “How to Embezzle Money” on her middle-class 11.6″ MacBook Air while sitting in her middle-class 448 square-feet studio in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, across the Central Park and a few subway stops to the Wall Street in the Financial District. She hated the small laptop, her tiny apartment, and her middle-class life. She had always wanted to be rich. All things considered, she just knew in her heart that embezzling money was the only sure way for her to afford a lavish life. A sumptuous surrealism kind of life.

As Yaritza’s slender fingers flying across the pages of her half-filled notebook, Yaritza excitedly scrawled detailed notes on the most recommended ways to embezzle. Before long, each page was glutted with bullet points, big and small stars, circles and underlined notes on fictitious bad debt, fake loans, fake refunds, undercharging, and fraudulent vendor purchases. The moon had long hung high in the Manhattan sky, but Yaritza’s busy night was just getting started. Yaritza quickly got to work drawing up fraudulent receipts for office supplies that she never planned on buying: pencils, copy paper, printer ink, highlighters. Sometime, she stopped to jump on her bed like a kid and sing along to the Abba tune “money money money, must be funny, in the rich men’s world.” Only when the first rays of sun started to peek through her middle-class CB2 white curtains was Yaritza’s scheme finally completed. She turned off Bruno Mars’ Billionaire and Abba’s Money which had been playing alternately on repeat all night. She brushed her teeth, combed her hair, put on a skinny jean and a white shirt, then hurried out of the door like a person with a mission.

When she got to work, she showed her boss, Donovan, the fake receipts and asked to be reimbursed immediately for the purchases she had never made on the company credit card. Yaritza worked for a boutique firm located in a luxurious looking skyscraper on the Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, where she mostly answered phones and helped with the bookkeeping. Without any hesitation, Yaritza’s boss agreed because Yaritza frequently replenishes the office with new supplies. Also, Donovan wasn’t very intelligent.

“But wait!” said Yaritza nervously, “What if I get caught for embezzling money? I need to make sure that it will end up working out to give me a lavish and prosperous life!”

By the time she realized that she had said this out loud, it was too late. Donovan—a chubby and intimidating man—started walking up to her. She could feel his heavy breath blowing over her hair.

“There’s a time machine next to the ladies’ room if you want to see how the future plays out for you!” Donovan said innocently.

Relieved at the lack of her boss’s intelligence, she sprinted five steps towards the time machine before he could realize that she had just innocently confessed her plan to steal the company’s money to him; she was already on her way to the world of tomorrow.

“Wait. What did she just say?” The realization dawned on Donovan—slowly, but surely. But it was too late; by then, the time machine which moved faster than the speed of light had carried Yaritza twenty years into the future.

The time-machine came to a stop smoothly as though time had been never moved. Yaritza stepped out of the time machine and found herself facing a futuristic looking skyscraper. The offices inside resembled her office back in Manhattan, but looked jail-like. Instead of the transparent glass window, there were bars on all the office windows and there were police officers carrying weapon surrounding the perimeter of the building. With her 18/20 eyesight, Yaritza could see the acronym WMD etched on the side of their pistols. After pacing around a few steps, Yaritza stepped up to the front revolving doors and asked one of the officers if she could go in and see what the inside was like.

“Sure,” the officer replied, “I’ll even give you a tour… Finally, some life around this place!”

“What do you mean?” Yaritza asked, alarmed, “What is this place?”

“Some ten years ago, there used to be an office here, but we replaced it with a jail. This jail is one of the highest security jails in the country and it’s where we keep all of the worst criminals.” The police officer spoke with a monotonous voice as they walked by row of jail-like offices.  “We have found a way to ensure that none of them ever attempt to escape and that none of them will ever commit another crime. How, you may ask? We remove their brains and replace them with artificial brains that are limited in cognitive ability than the natural human brain. Seems harsh, but these are the worst criminals in the world and therefore they deserve the worst!”  Just when Yaritza was about to ask how the brains were limited, she stopped abruptly and gasped loudly. Sitting in the cell in front of her was her future self.

“Oh, her?” The officer snarled with disgust, “Arrested her myself—embezzlement. She’s the worst one yet.”

“Didn’t we just pass Hitler?”

“Yeah. So? Stealing is…”

Yaritza stopped listening to the officer. She tapped on the glass and yelled for her future self’s attention. Her future self looked up, her eyes looked pass Yaritza blankly.

“Don’t bother. Her new brain doesn’t allow her to have subjective experiences. To her, you’re just another stranger.”

In horror, Yaritza ran out of the jail and jumped back into the time machine to hurry back to stop her past self from ever considering embezzlement or any kind of stealing. Faster than the blink of an eye, Yaritza traveled thirty years back in time—ten years prior her original starting time, as the time machine overshot a few micro-seconds. This time, when she stepped out of the time machine, Yaritza saw her office the way she knew it, save for a few insignificant changes. She bolted her way out of the office, passing a slightly younger version of Donovan, who was trying to find his phone by calling his number—on his phone, when all of the sudden she bumped right into someone holding an armload of office supplies. Papers, pens, sticky notes, printer paper exploding everywhere, Yaritza hastily gathered the jumble of paper into her arm only to look up to see, lo and behold, her past self. She wasted no time, in fear of being seen by someone.

“Don’t ever embezzle money.” She whispered quickly.

“What?” Her past self was confused. “Embezzle money? Wh—”

But Yaritza was already traveling back into the present.

“Embezzling money, huh?” Her past self contemplated this new idea, malicious plans already brewing inside her brain. “Never thought of that before, but it sounds like a good idea! I wanna be a billionaire, so freaking bad…” She hummed her way back to her cubicle.

Yaritza felt a wave of relief rush through her body as she stepped out of the time machine for the last time. Surely, she reassured herself, since I only planned but never embezzled money in the first place I won’t end up in that horrid jail. Yaritza felt relaxed. But as she walked back to her office, a police officer, who looked oddly familiar carrying a mean looking pistol, violently handcuffed her.

“You’re under arrest for embezzlement. You got tipped off by a person who wanted to remain anonymous, but obviously didn’t know the definition of anonymous and told us his name was Donovan. You’re in for a treat—we’ve got a special jail with the new iris-scanning security just for you.”


When not dancing ballet, jazz, or contemporary styles, Natalie Ho enjoys writing poetry, short stories, or free writing while listening to music. She attended Kenyon Young Writers’ Studio and won a Scholastic Writing Award in fiction. The inspiration for many of her works has come from the fourteen different countries she has traveled to. Natalie lives in Palo Alto, California.

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