The Red Button | In This Future Or The Next

The Red Button

The sun is shining through your window. You watched the sunrise after getting into the office, and now you watch the sunset. It’s spectacular, but you’ve been seeing it every evening for the past few months and now you’re bored of it. The day has been long and messy, and it seems it’ll go on for another few hours. You’ve been instructed to stay late. You need to fix a few bugs your teammates couldn’t fix. Voices have died down. Every keystroke from your keyboard echoes in the almost empty floor. At the other end, a man is sitting at his desk. He’s wearing headphones. He’s not working. He doesn’t have a life to get back to. He’s making time. He’s waiting out the traffic, unlike you, who’d gladly dive into the chaos of peak hours, content with the knowledge of being closer to home. Your cat is waiting, as well as your fridge and a beer and leftover pizza from two days ago.

Your stomach grumbles. It was bound to happen. It’s been hours since you last ate and now darkness is creeping over the sky, slowly pushing the remaining sunlight over the horizon. It’s time to eat. That bastard Dean ate your other sandwich. You offered it to him, but he’s still a bastard, and you’re still hungry, so you search your drawers for any remaining snacks you might have stashed. No luck. There is however a protuberance on the ceiling on the top drawer of your desk. Your esophagus prepares to gag as your mind is ready to commit to the idea that you’re touching an old piece of bubble gum, stuck in its place for who knows how many years. But you don’t gag. You need visual confirmation. Once you’ve learned that you did indeed touch old gum, then you’ll gag, but not before. You peer inside the drawer feeling streams of saliva building up inside your mouth, but there is no gum, there is a small red button, and you press it.

Ten seconds later your phone rings. A girl is on the phone confirming your order for a pepperoni pizza. You say you haven’t ordered. She insists. You say alright. Ten minutes later your phone rings again. A man is on the phone telling you he has your pizza outside,and you should pick it up. Is it possible? Can this small red button be a pepperoni pizza ordering robot? Who is paying for it? Where is the pizza from? You turn to see if the guy with the headphones is still there. He is. You walk to him and tell him about the red button, he nods and says ‘Good for you, man.’ He’s not excited, and now you feel dumb for sharing the information. Are you right to be bewildered? Is this the way the world works?

You walk outside and there’s a young guy with a pizza box in his hands. He says your name. You say “Yeah”. He gives you the box and turns around and leaves on a motorcycle. The box is generic. There is no brand on it. There is no phone. There is nothing to indicate its origin. There is, however, a beautiful hot pizza inside. The most perfect pepperoni circles you have ever seen populate the half-caramelized cheese surface. You eat it all. It is delicious. You also wonder if it’s poisoned, but after remaining alive and well two hours after ingesting it, you decide it’s not.

What the hell?

You don’t have to stay late the next day, but you do. You want to try it again. Once everyone’s gone you press the red button. The girl calls. The pizza arrives. You eat it all. It’s freaking delicious. You press the button again and another guy shows up with pizza. You’re full, of course, so you take it home with you. You go to your computer and check your credit cards and accounts. Someone must have rigged the button to charge you. The pizzas can’t be free. Nothing’s weird in your accounts. No pizza orders. Nothing.

Days go by. Weeks fly by. One month, two months. You’ve been using the pizza button freely. You eat pizza almost every day. You’ve gained weight, but you don’t have to spend money on groceries anymore and you think it’s a fair trade-off. At first you checked your credit cards every day, then only every other day, and now it’s been six days since you last checked. Whoever is getting charged with the pizzas doesn’t mind, so you don’t mind. Gobble, gobble, yummy dear, come to bed and feed me deer. Your boss wanted to give you an office with a better view two days ago and you vehemently refused citing religious reasons. He was confused. You didn’t care. The pizza keeps coming. You keep eating.

“Here you go, sir.” A young guy says as he hands over a pizza to your fattening self. “Thanks.” You say. He winks at you. You smile. You take a bite of the first slice of the perfect pizza and a stabbing electric pain explodes within your mouth. You’ve bitten into something hard and a tooth of yours is now chipped. “What the hell, man?” You say to no one. After examining the mushy saliva-filled remnants in your mouth, a white pebble reveals itself. It is only at this point that you worry again. Where does the pizza come from? You throw up instantly and you throw up hard right there on the street. A man is walking by and sees you with disgust. Fuck that guy.

You don’t press the button for a week, but curiosity gets the better of you. You make a plan to figure out the mystery. You press the red button. You confirm the order. And you leave the building and cross the street. You wait inside your car for the delivery guy. He shows up and leaves after waiting five minutes. You follow him. He is carrying four other pizzas which he delivers to four other buildings near yours. There must be other red buttons.

“This is it.” You say to yourself driving behind the bike. This is when your TV detective knowledge comes into play. Stay behind. Not too close. He’ll spot you. Pretend you’re talking on the phone. Follow him. The guy drives for ten minutes and stops outside a warehouse. You can hear machinery screeching intermittently inside.

Only after it’s too late do you realize you’re a lousy detective. Two large men have spotted you. You open your mouth to greet them but they sucker punch you in the mouth and now they’re carrying your flailing body into the warehouse. “Let me go!” You plead again and again. They don’t care. Once inside the warehouse the winking delivery guy walks up to you from the other side with a determined look. You are about to say ask “What’s going on?” when he stabs you in the gut and swirls a knife around in your intestines. You scream like you’ve never screamed before and in a moment of enlightenment you notice there is no screeching machinery inside.  There is only the distant screaming of a hundred people or more, whom you’ve now joined in unison.

With your intestines hanging out below your belly button you are placed in a conveyor belt. Ahead there is a grinder, and it grinds you into little pieces, starting from your feet. Seconds before your death, at the vibration of the crunching bones inside, you have another epiphany: That white pebble that chipped your tooth… yeah, it was a piece of bone. You’ve been eating people pepperoni for months, and now you’re gonna die.

“Stop.” You try to scream, but can’t. Your legs have disappeared on the other side of the grinder. They’re on their way to the processing plant. Soon they’ll be pizza, and so will you.

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