ISSN 1989-4163


Fear Burlesque

Coos Palmboom

The subterranean traveller was gifted a tablet sized briefcase. It came by mail, nicely tucked away in a shoebox, leather on metal, resembling a reduced size snakish brown office standard, cute to walk around with, almost too cute, he thought. As he opened the juicy sounding plastic gold locks and lifted the lid it showed the integrated tiny notebook, all functions available on screen and in the middle of the narrow keyboard a bright red button, pushing aside G and H, they themselves leaning slightly into F and J. It surely was a handsome piece of work and though it didn't seem terribly handy for typing long copy, it surely bettered most screen keys. Who sent him this? The delivery guy had not been quite sure about the contents, as the freight letter contained little more than the words: handle with care. Yet he had simply accepted the parcel because he was used to accepting parcels for Trandi, hardly noticing this time it was his own name he had signed to. Only when he read the fat lettering there was no mistaking. Now he was wondering whoever would send him such an expensive present, as he had never been part of anything, work, bank, shop, club or all of them, having in no discernible way accumulated consumer's rights. It certainly offended him to be considered to secretly have.

The traveller turned back to the notebook's functionality. There was no manual of sorts included, no brand or other name to refer to, impossible to find information on bright red buttons other than the ones we use on our clothes. There could be only one sender, the subterranean realised. This was too well made to be a prank, as he knew nobody who would spend that much money on him. So this was serious. It could always be a mistake, that he was addressed erroneously, likely so perhaps, yet it was for real. Someone wanted him, or the original addressee, to use this device. So why put a bright red button in the middle of the keyboard? The subterranean couldn't help wondering how clever pushing bright red buttons might actually be.

Now he was afraid to use the machine and equally afraid to close the briefcase, as the red bright button seemed to have popped out somewhat further than the surrounding keys and would inevitably get to be pushed back by the screen on closure. He closed down the carrying programs and made sure the notebook would never be charged or turned on, keeping it away from most free waving airwaves and equally from clumsy hands. The red button really didn't exist in his life, it lived between other shoe boxes under his bed, where only disaster could cause it to get touched. He nevertheless was thinking of discarding it, somewhere it could be left for eternity. On the bottom of the sea, perhaps? Next to the leaking radioactive waste drums. He also realised he could hardly expect to be the only receiver of such lavish a gift. How many were out there? Were all of them aware of the immediate need to not do anything stupid or unnecessary? If indeed it took only one lonely fool to mess up and send this place to hell, then how were they supposed to survive widespread distribution of brand free notebooks with red bright buttons under the public at large? Could the fact they were still here imply not too many had received a similar shoebox? But that would leave the question why him, one he wasn't used to give answers to. The traveller went on youtube, with a video on the subject of red button carrying notebooks in crocodile briefcases, asking possible viewers if they knew how to safely shut them. He got one serious answer and three varying in degrees of stupidity. The serious answer said he should take a Sunday newspaper and cut out the shape of the bright red button. Then fold the paper between keyboard and screen, cut off the overgrowth and seal the now malfunctioning lock with tape or stretch band. There you are, all you need next is a long-lasting storage place. The traveller followed this script to the letter.

The subterranean didn't want to bother Trandi with his nonsense, so he saw to it the notebook, now placed in a small hardcase bought for the occasion, was kept out of everybody's sight. The fact no other bombs had so far set off, or whatever it was they actually triggered, could be anything, gave rise to the suspicious hope hat however few recipients there were, at least they were all doing their most to protect the button. In fact, it seemed nobody was really stupid enough to push a red button if ever they saw one. That was, in itself, an amazing success. Most psyops take pride in much lower scores. Could perhaps a hidden hand be steering proceedings? Make sure everybody got it right?

The traveller isn't much used to such outcomes, as his readers may know, so he'll seek forgiveness for his boyish awkwardness, but now that he saw how he'd been fooled and had a good laugh at it, he expected more of the same. Any story could be hijacked to tell a brazen lie, nobody had been there to confirm. Many people honestly try to accept what is thrown at them, willing themselves into believing everything is fine, singing and humming their way through life, without paying much attention. The traveller and Trandi knew a couple who were doing just that, they never seemed to have bad hair days. But if you only slightly wondered if life is exactly how it is presented to you with precisely that claim, why then not be honest and clever about it, you'll get scammed just the same. Might as well go out in style, the subterranean reasoned. And then he basically stopped thinking, as it wasn’t leading him anywhere.

Have you perhaps received a little notebook, darling? Trandi asked a few days down the road. I've been expecting a parcel for over a week, now. I didn't want to say anything, as it's a bit of a silent shipment, so naturally I had it sent to you for you to receive under your own name, no need to prove you're acquainted with me in case the lack of a sender had the mailperson all edgy.
Mailman. Mailwomen don't get edgy, they go straight to bitchy.
So you have indeed accepted it? When?
A couple days ago.
A full week, you mean.
I thought it was mine. The fact it wasn't carrying a sender made me a bit suspicious, actually. I didn't know what to do with it, so I put it away. For the time being.
But you were going to tell me about it?
Of course, you just beat me to it.
Well dear, I guess that will have to do. Have you at least opened it? Don't you love it? That's why I bought it, straight from the maker. I told him, can you send it to me, as my arms were full of shopping bags and I didn't want to carry it, and he said, it has to be anonymous, something to do with a patent for the screen protector, whether it was still valid or not. I adore the screen protector, because it really works. It actually helps keep your screen free from developing key shaped dirt patches. You know, the funny red button in the middle. It was a nineties invention, early on smartness, and the designer of this model thought it fun to rehash the idea.
That's why it's higher, you mean.
Yeah, you can't really read the Y, but since it's the only one, there's no problem. What did you have in mind for an explanation?
Something quite different, actually, just a passing thought.
A passing thought? About notebooks? You? Let's have it.
It isn't useful anymore, as it has little to do with reality.
You weren't believing it to be dangerous, were you? laughed Trandi. That's the joke, of course, that people may take it for a mythical red button, directly connected with some form of doom, anything between an explosion and armageddon, I guess.
Presumably so, the subterranean traveller added hollowly, forcing his lips in a painful smile.

Fear Burlesque




@ 2017