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It seemed like a dream job.

He was a reclusive man, with few friends or family connections. He preferred to stay indoors. He liked to read and watch old movies. He liked to cook.

The job was simple. All he had to do was be there. The home they gave him was isolated, but comfortable. He had a soft bed, plenty of books and films, a large kitchen and good food delivered weekly. He had a telephone, and could call anyone he liked. He used it only to order the food and new books.

It was a comfortable and restful way to live.

Except for the button.

It sat beneath a plastic safety cover, to ensure that it could not be pressed accidentally. Beside it was a red telephone. It had never rung.

His responsibility was to stay in the building, answer the red telephone if it should ever ring, and press the button if ordered.

One day, he called to order his food as normal, but it didn’t arrive. When he picked up his telephone to find out why it was delayed, there was only silence.

He picked up the receiver of the red telephone for the first time that day. It was silent, too.

He climbed up the stairs to the door and looked outside.

What he saw scarred his soul.

He went back down into the bunker and flipped open the plastic safety cover for the first time.

He didn’t press the button.

He closed the cover, went to his library and took down a book. He had many books still to read, and enough food to last a while yet, if he was frugal.

Each time he finished a book, he stood in front of the button and flipped open the safety cover.

Each time, he closed it again. Just one more book. Then it will be time.

Today he stands in front of the button once more and opens the cover.

There are no more unread books. There is no more food in the kitchen.

He presses the button.

© Kari Fay