The Origami Man

The following is an excerpt from George Finney’s No More Magic Wands: Transformative Change for Everyone. The book follows the story of Harmony Evergreen, the President of a company that makes magic wands. Evergreen Wands has been the victim of a data breach and just like the rest of us, Harmony can’t use magic to fix her cybersecurity issues.

The paper man followed a crowd of elves and fairies onto the elevator. As he boarded, small pieces of paper in his knees and waist unfolded like an accordion, making him grow three inches taller. He adjusted the collar of his paper suit, allowing the newly folded pleats to fall nicely into place. He wiggled his shoulders, and a small paper flower popped joyfully out of his lapel. Nobody seemed to notice that he was made entirely of neatly folded pieces of paper. In fact, nobody noticed him at all—not the elves in uniforms or the ones in suits, not the fairies carrying their magic wands, and certainly not the turtle, who moved surprisingly quickly as he walked on his two back feet. The paper man slid to the back of the elevator, making room for several more straggling elves, before the elevator doors shut.

The elf closest to the doors swiped his badge on the card reader and pressed the button for his floor. Another elf standing next to him leaned over, swiped his own card, and pressed another button, which began glowing, thanks to a lightning bug resting peacefully beneath it. “Three please,” the group of fairies in the middle of the elevator said in unison. The elf at the front swiped his card again and pressed the third-floor button. The paper man asked for floor fifteen, and the elf once again obliged. The elf continued pushing buttons for each creature present as the elevator shuddered into motion.

The elves began chatting with one another, and the paper man listened intently. One of the elves wearing a suit was either upset or nervous; the paper man couldn’t tell which. He was speaking rapidly about a conference-room meeting at the top of the tree. A female elf on the other side of the elevator began asking about the printer problems the company had been having. The elf next to her explained that they had just converted to a new system and had found some bugs. June bugs, lady bugs, that kind of thing. Nothing to worry about.

The elves and fairies filed out of the elevator at their respective floors. The turtle seemed to be in a hurry and barreled out once the doors opened, not noticing that the paper man had stolen his ID, neatly stowing it in one of the folds inside his paper jacket.

After the last elf exited and the elevator doors closed, the paper man’s chest began to fold away. Bare paper arms appeared as the sleeves of the jacket retracted upward to his elbows. The elevator jerked upward. His tissue paper lapel began to retract, one fold at a time, until it had become the small collar of a polo shirt. The elevator stopped with a ding at the fifteenth floor. The paper man walked confidentially to the reception desk, which was prominently situated a few feet from the elevator doors. On top of the desk, two dozen miniature yellow buttercups were arranged around a large rose. The display was a work of art.

The paper man approached the secretary and saw the flower arrangement. Near the vase was a card that proudly announced, “Happy Anniversary, Sweetie.”

“Well, which anniversary is it?” the paper man asked sweetly.

“It’s our twelfth,” said the secretary, beaming.

“And he still takes care of you. You are one lucky woman. Anyway, would you mind helping me? I’m still new, and my boss is really upset about the printer problems we’ve been having,” he confided.

“I’m sorry. People are making it out to be a bigger deal than it is,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.

“Thanks. What printers do you have on the floor?” the paper man asked.

“Just the one. Take a right and follow the hallway around. You can’t miss the sound of the printer. It’s running nearly non-stop since Harmony made some improvements a little while back.” She stood up and pointed. While her head was turned, the paper man snatched several files from her desk and held them behind his back, where they merged into his paper shirt.

He thanked her with a bow of his head and walked past her desk. There was a small metal cart in the middle of the hallway, and the paper man had to squeeze by. As he maneuvered around the cart, he grabbed several pieces of mail from it. He examined a few of the addresses before tucking them into a slit that had formed at the top of his polo shirt.

At the end of the hallway, as promised, the printer was shunting out small stacks of paper in quick succession. There was a large stack of pages standing next to the printer. The paper man picked these up and held them against his chest, absorbing them into several folds in his shirt that hadn’t been there a second before.

He noticed a tall elf walking toward him, and he grinned at her. “Can you help me?” he asked. “I’m running an errand for Sharon at the front desk.” She nodded, and he continued, “She sent me to grab some files for her, and since it’s her anniversary, I agreed, but I’ve never been all the way back here before.”

The elf smiled brightly when she realized that she could help. “She keeps her files in the file room. It’s down this hallway; then it’s the first door on your left.”

The paper man thanked her as she turned away.

As he made his way down the hallway, he could hear employees gossiping from around the corner. He paused, his face becoming the embodiment of anger, and he shrunk several inches in height while simultaneously gaining several in width. A large paper phone appeared in his hand, and he held it to his cheek. He took several steps back and began muttering angrily in his best imitation of the native troll language. He rounded the corner, and a pair of gossipy elves nervously averted their eyes as he passed.

Letting the file room door close slowly behind him, he changed his appearance once more so that he was again wearing a suit and standing several inches taller. Orienting himself, he ran his paper index finger along the tabs of the files in the room until he found the one he was looking for. He turned and strode confidentially out of the room, the stolen file neatly tucked away inside his well-tailored jacket.

The paper man walked into a large conference room, where a meeting was already in progress. He quietly made his way to a seat in the back of the room. The tables were arranged in a half-circle, and Harmony Evergreen sat near the center, her back to the paper man. Harmony was flanked by Mr. Groundhog on her left and the head fairy on her right. In the center of the wooden ceiling, several mirrors and glass lenses were affixed to small circular twigs. The mirrors and lenses projected what looked to be a treasure map onto a large white screen at the front of the room. A diminutive porcupine stood near the screen, occasionally pointing at it with a small twig. Rather than focusing on the porcupine, who made several excellent points about improving security, Harmony was eyeing an oversized garden gnome seated nearby. The gnome had already cleared his throat several times during the porcupine’s presentation.

“Can we get you some water?” Harmony asked the gnome, genuinely concerned. Mr. Groundhog began pouring a glass of water for the gnome.

“I don’t need any water,” the gnome said flatly. “I don’t need any of this nonsense. Don’t you see we’re wasting valuable time? My team needs to be out there selling wands.”

“Wouldn’t it be harder for you to sell wands if our customers didn’t trust us with their information?” Harmony said.

“Of course it would be,” the gnome admitted, “but that’s not my department. And after all, it could never happen here.”

“Never?” Harmony asked. She nodded, and the porcupine sat down.

Just then, the paper man stood up, walked swiftly to the front of the room, and slapped a file down in front of the gnome.

“Can you tell everyone what I’ve just put in front of you?” the paper man asked.

“It’s my HR file… How did you get this?” the gnome demanded.

“I’ve only been in the building for about fifteen minutes,” the paper man said apologetically. “So what you said about a security breach not happening here just isn’t true. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way; I’m not saying that your security is bad. Many of the things the porcupine said are actually very good. I just don’t want you to have a false sense of security.”

“Did you know about this, Harmony?” the gnome demanded.

“Of course. I hired Mr. Origami to help—”

“You need to fire that fairy,” the gnome interrupted. “She’s the head of HR. I demand an apology.” The gnome folded his arms and slouched back into his seat.

“Do you think that the HR file is the only thing Mr. Origami found?” Harmony asked, attempting to conceal a smirk.

“Of course,” the gnome grunted. “HR clearly doesn’t take security as seriously as the rest of us.”

At that, Mr. Origami let out something between a sneeze and a guffaw. When he attempted to contain the sneeze, a staple-bound set of papers containing the sales projections and prospective customer leads exploded from his paper chest. He giggled as though it tickled, which caused a yellow envelope containing paycheck deliveries for the sales staff to flutter out of the back of his jacket. He held his nose, sending all of his paper folds into a wild flutter. Like a bird taking a bath, the creases and folds all puffed outward and, with a poof, hundreds of papers and documents dropped to the floor all at once, scattering across the conference room floor.

The gnome’s cheeks began to grow hot and red.

“Is there anything we could have done to stop you?” Mr. Groundhog asked Mr. Origami once he had recovered from the paper explosion.

“You could have made it slightly more difficult,” the paper man responded, again somewhat apologetically.

“Why don’t you show us how you were able to get in,” the porcupine offered.

The paper man nodded, walked to the center of the room, and put his hands between two of the glass lenses projecting their silhouette onto the screen. He deftly moved his hands, and an image of several figures outside the entrance of the tree appeared on the screen. He moved his hands as though reading a pop-up book and narrated exactly how he had gotten into the tree. He manipulated the glass lenses so that different silhouettes were cast onto the white screen at the front of the room. He never mentioned the names of the people he talked to. He was careful not to assign blame to any one group, instead focusing on explaining the technique he used to infiltrate the building and how the employees could have done things differently to make it difficult for outsiders to access private information.

“I have to ask a question,” Mr. Groundhog said finally. “I know this is a really important issue, but if we can’t stop people like Mr. Origami from getting in, then what’s the point?”

“I get this question all the time,” Mr. Origami said, bowing low to Mr. Groundhog in acknowledgement. “I’ve been invited to do this at hundreds of companies, and no one has ever been able to stop me. But I don’t have unlimited time on my hands,” he said, holding out his wrist and gesturing to his paper watch. “With unlimited resources and enough motivation, anyone could get in. That part is true. But if you make it difficult enough, the bad guys will eventually move on to an easier target. They have to make a living, too. They can’t afford to spend months or years trying to get in. Bad guys are looking for a sure thing.”

“So it’s like a bear in the woods,” the gnome chimed in. “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”

Mr. Origami bowed to the gnome, his folds opening and closing like an accordion. Then, the man folded himself into a large paper swan and, with wings outstretched, he flew out the window.


The Origami Man

The following is an excerpt from George Finney’s No More Magic Wands: Transformative Change for Everyone. The book follows the story of Harmony Evergreen, the

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Mister Groundhog

The following is an excerpt from George Finney’s No More Magic Wands: Transformative Change for Everyone. The book follows the story of Harmony Evergreen, the

Read More »
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