Written by Sparky
I remember how it all ended. The story is almost legendary amongst what remains of my people. The noise, the smoke, the endless crush. But it all came later; this is how it begins.
In the centre of our planet was a machine and it ran the day-to-day business of the whole planet, ensuring the globe kept spinning, the sea had its tides and the volcanoes acted as they should. The machine even regulated night and day for those deep in the heart of the planet. Those at the heart of the machine acted as gods, controlling the fate of all who lived on the surface world. One youth of this tribe of stewards was responsible for our fall, unintentionally of course. His name is inscribed into our minds yet never spoken, lest we bring his fate on us once more.
He had a small teddy bear, handed down from father to son over generations. The ticking that emanated from its heart was a reminder of how even simple things could be enriched with technology. This bear had kept the boy company over the years when his father had to watch over the machine, in order to ensure its constant upkeep. They shared conversations of the past, of the hopes and dreams the two shared. But the bear longed to return to the surface world he originated from, before the time of control.
They went everywhere together, the boy and his bear, walking alongside the other. Their footsteps silent, the clockwork inside the bear’s chest the only sign of actual life between them. They had explored the machine’s various rooms and corridors over the lonely years; they knew every inch of their home. As a new day broke inside the machine, the bear seemed sadder than usual; he looked out on the complex with his dull, vacant stare. Between him and the boy there was an unspoken bond, they could almost read the other’s thoughts. That particular morning, the boy knew the bear wanted to explore again, to get closer to the machine than they ever been allowed before.
They got to the door outside the heart of the machine. The door that would allow those who entered the power to control an entire planet. The bear looked at it with a sigh as the control was set above the reach of either him or the boy.
The boy waved the bear toward him – he didn’t want to be caught here, he wasn’t allowed. The bear plodded along after him, silently calculating the best way to get into that room. He would get that opportunity sooner than he realised. The door slid open on its brass hinges to the slightest hiss of steam, and the bear hesitated then turned. It was open, the steward’s shadow retreating down the hallway. So the furry dog-eared bear hurried.
He only just made it inside, his little legs barely making it over the threshold before the door shut behind him. He walked to the large brass console in front of him and scrambled up between the chair and the panels. Looking out over the endless buttons and levers, his eyes fell on the wall of screens fizzing to life in front of him. And, in that moment, he remembered what it was like to breathe pure air, feel the warmth on his wool as the sunlight bathed him in its glow. If he could cry, a tear would have formed in the corner of his eye. He took a few small steps and reached down to flip open the protective cover on the centre button. The big red button. The big red button that read “Do Not Press”. The bear raised one paw and gathered as much force as he could and brought it to bear on that button. Alarms rang out across the complex and scenes of destruction began to fill every screen in front of him. The end had come, all because of a bear’s resentment at losing the freedom he once enjoyed.
The machine exploded in a giant fireball, consuming the bear within its inescapable heat, yet before it did, he smiled and whispered one last word.
Sparky’s short fiction was inspired by an earlier Half Hour Challenge and written for our Inkwell forum. It’s an interesting piece that covers the idea of freedom and how one small change can become a catalyst for much bigger consequences. Sure it’s cliché and it screams to the “Lost” TV series fans, but buttons do come with consequences, they are just smaller in reality. If you enjoyed Sparky’s piece, make sure you check out his beautiful poem, “I Wish“.