This is the 114th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
The Red Button, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 24th March 2013
Word count: 791
“Under no circumstances do you push this button,” George Fabia said sternly, “Never.” This was the most serious Christian had seen George all day. It was Christian’s first day in a new job, he’d previously worked carrying the boxes with all manner of things to feed the great machine that produced a series of toys for sale to shops the world over. It was a minor role in the great machine, but he’d been doing it dilligently for two years, and as a reward they moved him into an apprenticeship with George, as understudy to the machine’s engineer. George didn’t appear to be very happy about it, and he’d been doing his best to fob off his curious audience all day.
“What does it do?” Christian asked.
“Nothing, it does nothing,” George said flustered, “Here if you want to make yourself useful, go get yourself a drink. Come back in a couple of hours.”
“Oh, okay,” Christian said, nonplussed. He headed off to the staff canteen quite happily.
When George was satisfied his new annoyance was gone, he smiled and looked at the button.
An hour later Christian returned again, “Sorry George, Margaret sent me back,” he said as he climbed into the control room. As he entered he noticed George wasn’t around. He looked through the grimy windows down to the factory floor, but he couldn’t see his unwilling mentor.
Christian took the only seat in the room, and sat fidgeting for ten minutes before combing over the boards filled with lights and gauges. Then he found himself in front of the big red button, and he studied it. It was set in a board surrounded by gauges that showed pressure levels, and oil temperatures, and the like.
“George,” Christian called out experimentally, but there was no sign of the man. With childlike eagerness and curiosity, Christian pressed the button.
He was suddenly enveloped in a cloud of warm water vapour, it was everywhere, and it tasted vaguely of hot oil. Christian coughed, and tried to step back out of the cloud, but he suddenly found himself pressed in on all sides. He couldn’t see by what, the cloud was so thick, he couldn’t see beyond his own nose.
“Help!” he shouted, but his own voice just echoed back at him, as if he were in some kind of cavern.
As suddenly as the smoke had appeared, it dissipated. Christian blinked and looked around, from a cramped dirty control room, he suddenly found himself in a wide open field, filled with purple grasses, and orange flowers.
“Err,” he said, but he had no other words. His mind couldn’t quite wrap itself around the dark purple grass, and as his gaze wandered up the yellow sky seemed to taunt him. Then he saw the two moons, and he felt he just about ready to give up on reality.
“Oi!” a voice shouted. Christian turned, in the distance he could see purple trees, and a figure running from them. Christian didn’t know whether to run or not, but since this was the only spot in this strange dream he knew, he held his ground.
He recognised the figure coming closer after a few seconds, it was George Fabia.
“I told you not to press the damned button, you blundering oaf,” he said as ambled closer.
“Where am I?” Christian asked.
George sighed, “You’re no where. This doesn’t exist, you never saw it, okay?”
“But it does exist, I can see it, I can feel it. I can taste it, the air tastes funny,” Christian noted.
“Yeah, I’m working on that, atmosphere is a tricky thing to get just right. Now, shoo, go back,” George said shoving Christian backwards.
“I don’t know how?” Christian said.
“You just wake up, and forget this place,” George said as he stamped down on something. Suddenly Christian found himself enveloped in the oil tasting water vapour again. Moments later he was back in the control room, and he staggered backwards into the chair, dazed and bewildered.
“What did you do?” George said standing over him? “I told you not to press the red button. Now the whole machine has shut down. One instruction, one simple instruction and you go and stop production for the rest of the day!”
“I-I-I,” Christian was at a loss for words, “Where was I?” he demanded finally.
“I don’t fucking know,” George said, “Clearly not in your right mind. Come on, now. Margaret wants to see me to find out why we’re losing money. And by me, I mean you, since you caused this,” George said dragging Christian up and out of the door.
Christian felt very confused, had he just dreamed a purple and yellow planet, or had he been there?