The Brown Package

Sal was chosen to do a special job. Employment can happen to anyone, if they’re not careful, and Sal was no exception.

Post-scarcity society was pretty good. Sal never needed to work to put food on the table or a roof over their head. Those things had always just been there. An entire lifetime of ease and self-exploration came to an abrupt halt when, instead of food, a tablet appeared on Sal’s table.

“If you want to continue living off the largess of society, there is a task you must complete. If you do not, you will never eat again.”

Sal pondered those words as they walked down the street toward the Mag station. Death seemed like a high price to pay for not delivering a bunch of bundles wrapped in brown fiber. Sal was curious and more than a little frustrated that their attempt to open one of the packages had result in an alarm. A flashing warning that said disobeying the instructions would lead to instant death.

By the time Sal got to the station and dropped off the first package, they were dying of curiosity. Deciding death was preferable to not knowing what was inside the package, Sal ripped one open as they stood in the center of the daily chaos of the Mag station. Inside was a small bundle of red sticks, a tangle of wires, and a retro-styled digital clock.

Sal started to poke one of the sticks, but the clock start beeping. Something deep inside Sal started panicking, so they threw the bundle as far as they could. As it reached the peak of its flight, the bundle flashed, let out a huge boom, and burst into balloons, confetti, and some holo clapping hands while the words “Happy Retirement, Jerry!” flashed above it all.