Don’t Push The Button

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Rumors of the small wooden box with the single red button inside it had circulated for years. Every time someone came into money, people wondered. The only real safeguard anyone had was to know everyone else in town and pray it never came for you.

Molly and Glenn grew up in Fox Hollow, attended school together, and became the family everyone expected when they turned eighteen. Life was rough without real training or college, even in a small town, but they made do and were happily raising three children in a home of their own. Neither complained about their situation until the package arrived.

“Who’s it from,” Glenn asked, pouring himself a glass of water.

“Doesn’t say.” Molly looked over the package wrapped in plain parcel paper again.

Glenn walked over beside her, pecked her cheek, and took the package. “Well, let’s have a look then.”

As soon as he opened it, they both sank into the dining room chairs and stared at the small, hand-carved wooden box.

“It’s not, is it?”

Glenn looked at Molly and shrugged. He took a deep breath and held it as he lifted the lid revealing a single red button.

Molly whimpered and covered her mouth. “We can’t, Glenn. We can’t!”

Glenn looked at the button and wiped his face. “We know everyone in town. It… it’s not like it would be someone we knew.”

“Glenn!” Molly was shocked. How could he even think that killing someone for money was okay. “Think of the kids!”

“I am,” he said, reaching for Molly’s hand. “Imagine what we could do for the kids. Frank could go to college and be the doctor he wants to be. Sarah wants to be a dancer, and Johnny could finally get that computer he’s always wanted.”

Molly wiped the tears that streamed down her face. He was right. They could do so much with the money. It’s not like others in town had not used it to help their situation. How nice would it be to see the kids’ faces when they returned from their trip with Grandma.

“For the kids,” she whispered.

Glenn looked at her and nodded. “For the kids.” He pushed the button and held his breath. Nothing happened.

Molly looked around the kitchen halfway expecting to see money appear out of nowhere. She chuckled and soon Glenn was too. They both sighed and went about their evening activities forgetting all about the box.

The phone started ringing off the hook a few hours later. Panicked and crying voices was all Molly heard on the party line. “What’s wrong with everyone!”

Molly yelled at Glenn to turn on the television and flip it to Channel Four. They were able to catch the last few moments of the breaking news. “Flight 2713, bound for Orlando, Florida crashed into the White House just moments ago.”

Molly’s fingers ran over the flight information taped next to the phone. Flight 2713. Arriving 8:00pm.

“Early reports,” the reporter continued, “suggest a medical emergency in the cockpit is to blame. They do not expect to find any survivors. There were 416 passengers and nine crew members on the airplane and an estimated… “

Glenn turned off the television and sat in silence on the couch. He shook his head and walked into the kitchen where Molly was crouched on floor sobbing. He looked at the empty table and cursed himself for pushing the button.


Just Choose Already!

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Charles stood at the board and examined all his options again. He was certain of the location. Wasn’t he? Yes, the location was fine, and it didn’t really matter where he started, it was where he ended up that concerned him the most.

There were options for science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics, social services…everything under the sun was open to him. Hell, he even had things outside of the Earth available. Too many choices and too many decisions to make.

The line behind Charles had extended exponentially. He had created quite a traffic jam.

“Please make your mind up,” someone said. “We’re in quite a hurry to meet our deadline.”

“These decisions should not be made lightly,” Charles said. It had been his response for the last three months and everyone had grown tired of hearing it.

“OUT OF MY WAY,” a woman screamed from somewhere in the line. The line parted and an middle-aged woman stormed to the front. “I’ve grown gray waiting for you!”

Charles stood, mouth agape, and watched as she glanced at his board.

“This one, and this, and this, and this.” She plucked things off the board and shoved them into Charles’ hand. “There! You’ve made your decision. Now move!”

Everyone in line clapped as she walked back to her spot.

The deliverer quickly grabbed Charles’ order out of his hand before he could second guess, or comprehend, what the woman had done. He looked at the order and winced. “Better you than me.”

Before Charles had time to ask what he was going to become, the deliverer shoved him into the portal and his new life.


The Future

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge

The factory had been billowing out toxic fumes for decades. So much pollution had entered the atmosphere, survivors sought refuge in underground bunkers and caves. Life was hard, but not as hard as it was for those who choose, or were forced, to stay above.

Each bunker and cave had its own admission criteria. I remember when we tried to be admitted to the first one closest to our home. The smirk on the man’s face as he said our kind wasn’t welcome still haunts me. Grandma died on the way to the second bunker. Walking through the ash and acid rain was just too much for her. Grandpa chose to stay behind with her. All I can hope is that his death was quick and painless.

Mom broke down after the second one denied us entry. Dad did the best he could to keep her spirits up but it didn’t work. We lost her crossing the bridge over the river before he got here. Had she just waited another four days, she would have been here with us.

Life here is rough. There’s not enough to go around and fights break out all the time. Dad was a nice guy and tried to break one up our first night here. They burn the dead. All Sarah did for a week was look into the sky and cry for Dad. I won’t cry here. Not for them.

It’s been six months and I am tired of being hungry, thirsty, and always looking over my shoulder. Some of the men are giving me that look I used to see in Mom’s mushy movies. They won’t get that from me.

I told Sarah she could come with me, but she said no. Whatever. It’s her choice. Live or die, it’s our choice to make. Anyway, I’d rather be out there on my own. I have six layers of clothes, stole a microparticle mask and a gas mask from the miners, and crafted a knife in the workshop.

If you find this letter, know this–there are survivors out there and we’re going to stop the factory. We’re going to take back what is ours. We’re going to survive forever.

It’s All In How You Look At It

Image by Diggeo from Pixabay

The summer sun shone through the open window, heating my face as I watch the men in the neighborhood mow their lawns to the prescribed height. New regulations went into effect last week, and everyone is scrambling to meet them before inspections tomorrow.

I don’t like the new rules. They changed everything at school too. Instead of the light blue and white uniform, I have to wear thick, scratchy brown uniforms. Mr. Harris interrupted lessons yesterday to give Miss Wilson the new approved lesson. We had to turn in our reading books because the new leader didn’t approve the one we were reading. I liked it though. We all did.

I wish things didn’t have to change. Mom says everything changes eventually. Maybe I will change things when I grow up and put everything back to normal.

Joseph Field sat in his office and listened to the sounds of the city around him — a city conforming to order. He smiled and leaned back in his chair. Everything around him was finally in order. The books he enjoyed alphabetized on their proper shelves, the pencils lined up by their length and sharpened to the best point. Not a single thing out of place.

“Everything has a place, and everything in its place.”

The portrait painter he requested arrived and was taken aback by the state of the office. He had never seen anything so clean since he had been in the hospital. Nor had he seen anything so tidy and pristine since his last trip to the museum. Even the hushed silence reminded him of being in a library. It was unnatural.

Mr. Field looked in the mirror and plucked a stray hair that was longer than the others. “Must look our best, mustn’t we?”

The painter smiled and nodded. “Yes, sir.”

When the painting was finished, Mr. Field issued a new regulation requiring his portrait to hang in every home in the city.

That evening, Mr. Field sat in his office, looking out over the city, and smiled. Finally, a world of order and conformity. A world shaped by his mind and command. A perfect world where he fits in.

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