Happy – Short Story #16

The printer roared into motion, and Dax watched as the world burned. And it was all his fault.

“No one reads books anymore, Zranfk, don’t you get that? Who cares what’s right. Give me what’ll sell!”

His boss never understood. Zranfk was a purist. He didn’t have those implants, his kids weren’t generated in the lab, and he took walks, for God’s sake, like a psycho. But here he sat in the office of the very last publisher in the world, Brilliant Books, and him, its last author. He was probably right. His friends couldn’t even name one of his books. Maybe the world was better off. Everyone seemed happy enough. No one complains anymore. The implants had taken care of all that “pain” and “suffering.”

“Yes sir, I’ll get back to work.”

“You better. And don’t let me catch you with this pad ever again, or that’ll be the end of you. You got it?”

“Yes sir.”

Dax was happy. At least he assumed so. He was a short man, stocky and boring, with no real purpose. What bliss. He was the button man. He was good at it. When the machine said it was time, he pulled the lever and pushed that button. Someone upstairs, a designer, had once told him he was the best they’d ever had. What bliss.

Dax knew Zranfk from the lunch room. They were the only ones who ate there. They talked sometimes. Though mostly they didn’t. No point to it, really.

One day in the lunch room Dax thought Zranfk looked flustered. He wasn’t like himself; his face was red, he looked ghostly. His eyes wouldn’t keep still, they wildly jumped from side to side. Dax looked back to his lunch. He pulled the spoon to his face and slurped once, then with the turn of his wrist he gulped the rest of it down without much concentration. Setting the spoon on the edge of the bowl, in just the right spot as to not fall back in for later use, he looked up at Zranfk.

“Are you okay Zranfk?”

Startled, he looked at Dax. “Fine, just fine.”

And with that Zranfk moved methodically out the doors. Dax returned to his food. After a few more slurps and gulps he had finished it and methodically moved to clean it all up. Setting the bowl and utensil into the devise he said, “Wash and store.” The machine beeped and sprung into a slow and soft murmur.

When Dax walked by where Zranfk was sitting just before he noticed something he must have left behind in the seat. It was a small notebook. He’d never seen one before. I wonder where he got it, and what is was for. Should I open it? Or better not, he’ll come looking for it soon and I wouldn’t want to seem friendly. But a quick look wouldn’t hurt.

Opening the book he saw what looked like a printout, like the ones he has to check over sometimes, the ones the computer spits out. But these pages were much different. They were sloppy and smudged. He could make out some of the words enough to know that they were all wrong. Inaccurate. This was the term they taught him downstairs. If you check over the printouts and you see any inaccuracies stop the process and they’ll run the algorithm again. Sometimes it calculates errors they had told him, though it was rare. But here on these pages there were only errors it seemed. Inaccurate fallacies like this were banned years ago. Happiness was killed by inaccurate fallacies. What was Zranfk doing with them? Is he mad?

He sat down, drawn in by the oddity of this little book, and he brought his eyes closer to the pages. After some time he was able to finally make out a sentence. He read: “No, I regrt nothng, all I regrt is having ben born, di-ing is such a long tiresum busness I always found. SB.”

The world suddenly turned its head and looked at Dax; he sat the book down and wept. He felt the encompassing pressure of all things, all existence. What was this he felt in the pit of his chest? Why had such inaccurate fallacies effected him so deeply? And for the first time in his entire life Dax felt unhappy, insecure, lonely. Dax felt.

In a blur of sudden madness the awakened Dax ran to find Zranfk. He wasn’t allowed upstairs but he didn’t care, he knew he had to find this sad man. Stepping in the doorway to his office he saw the body of Zranfk hanging from the ceiling. Rich is dead. Dax knew why. This world–God this world! He felt something so horrible, so forbidden, it almost crushed him. Dax ran. He knew what to do.

He wasn’t sure what this would accomplish, what the world would become in the fallout, but he knew he couldn’t go on living here. He would destroy it, he was the only one who could. Somehow, Zranfk must have known it too.

The errors flashed on the screen but he could barely hear them.

The printer roared into motion, and Dax watched as the world burned. And it was all his fault.

It was the end of time. It was the beginning of time.

And they were unhappy.

At last.

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