Contemporary Science Fiction

“So, what’s it going to be Mr Jones?”

His finger hovered over the innocuous green knob. Superconscious of all the eyes staring at him. Unblinking. Some wide with expectation, others narrowed as though suspicious. He didn’t look at them, no matter how hard they bored into the back of his neck. He only had eyes for the button in front of him. The size and shape of a Tunnock’s tea cake, but green – and inedible of course.

Plastic. Everything here was plastic. Even the potted ferns in the reception area he’d entered three hours ago, were plastic. Horrible. Milo Jones was old enough to remember when there’d been more greenery. The real stuff. Not this manufactured shite that never changed with the seasons. Never wilted, rotted, or carried the aroma of nature, of reality. Nothing was real anymore.

Milo Jones, aged 103 – though you might mistake him for a spritely seventy-something if you passed him in the street. Saw him collecting dropped debris and garbage. Watched how he shook his strong fist at the drivers and passengers in AirSlides when they lowered their windows to dump rubbish. Tramped around and between and over the enormous heaps of the country’s waste. For the number of people left on the planet, they created an astounding amount of crap, Milo cursed.

The reason it became fucked-up, Milo expounded loudly and belligerently, was because of the biggest fucked-up race of incompetent primates that ever walked the Earth. Don’t you go blaming God! He yelled at the placard-wearing-end-of-the-world-human-billboard-God-botherers. God had no part in this – as though Milo had ever believed in a supernatural, omniscient deity. God did not make you shit in your own backyard!

Throughout his lifetime, Milo Jones had been arrested, imprisoned, and hospitalised more times than he cared to remember. Milo had been accused of being a conspiracy theorist. A scrounger. A tramp. A crackpot. But when the Arks left – with the planet’s ‘top politicians, top economists, top entrepreneurs, top educators’ – Top! Top! Fucking top! shrieked Milo from his rooftop, there had followed an eerie kind of stillness in the media, on the streets; everywhere. I told you so, didn’t cut it anymore. Being proved correct in his predictions was no consolation to the demise of a whole planet. He’d scoured through decades of warnings, final warnings, imminent disaster, the disaster. He had written and talked to anyone within his radar, and beyond. Unfortunately, he concluded, humans were still apes with sticks. Sticks with which to beat each other senseless or into submission.

Meanwhile, the plastic had mounted. No one. Not a single person had resolved the issue and the chokehold on the environment had finally throttled the last wonderful life out of it. Earth’s arteries were clogged as surely as an ageing, obese, doughnut-obsessed, pie-infatuated oldster with atherosclerosis. The fucked-up, incompetent apes that remained here – including Milo Jones, were truly living on borrowed time.

After The Evacuation, when planet Earth’s best and brightest had fucked off to find pastures new, Milo had expected things to settle into some semblance of normality. Had imagined that the lack of super-industrialists would finally curb the ceaseless drive towards self-destruction. Hoped, with every centimetre of his grubby being, that the plants and animals would proliferate and expand beyond the countryside. He recalled an image he had discovered during his period of research, animals in towns and cities. There were no people. It had been a planetary-wide pandemic, and to Milo’s eyes, it had seemed glorious. He giggled at the idea of goats around the bar in a Welsh village, of deer in the stock exchange and swans at the checkout in Tesco. He pasted his cardboard walls with found magazine images of plants and animals until he lived in a green box dappled with every kind of creature.

But it had not come to pass. Milo’s rantings, pleadings, and physical assaults on businesses had done less than if he’d taken a piss in the Pacific Ocean. People being what they are, regardless of status, quickly set about grinding the wheels of productivity again, churning out tonnes of carbon dioxide, ammonia, methanol, sulphuric acid, styrene, hydrochloric acid and more into the atmosphere. Sewage, animal waste, human waste, nitrogen, phosphorous, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides into the rivers. And plastic! What is wrong with these people? Milo shrieked from street corners. Can’t you see you’re killing us! Then they started with their altered realities. Better than Life games, Sim-u-Love. VR headsets were old hat, they said. We can make it realer than real, they said. We’ll take care of your every physical need whilst you live the life you deserve. That’s what they actually said in the adverts – you can live the life you deserve! Ha! Who says they deserve it? Everyone who contemplates such crap needs shooting. Everyone who whines about what they deserve whilst driving the latest plastic bloody AirSlide and lobbing plastic wrappers out of the window and consuming everything plastic and eating off plastic plates with plastic cutlery wearing plastic clothing watching plastic programmes on their plastic monitors and, and, and…

Milo blinked. Finger still hovering there. He curled it into his palm and sat back and stared. There was an almost identical button next to this green one. The other was white. The room was cliché clinical white. Plastic walls. Plastic table. Plastic buttons.

“Mr Jones.”

“Eh.” He’d forgotten they were there.

“Mr Jones, you do understand why you are here, don’t you?”

Oh, he remembered alright. Milo had made quite a name for himself on the streets. Cracked Crusader, Chicken Little, The Doom Monger, Solo Jones, were just some of the sobriquets with which he had been labelled. Milo knew that if you courted controversy, one could find oneself in a difficult situation. And here he was. The remaining ‘top’ scientists, developers, visionaries – they were the crackpots, not him, had developed something so amazing, it would blow your socks off, they said. Milo said he didn’t wear socks. They had devised a way to alter reality, they said. They could literally flip a switch and have things return to a time the button pusher chooses, they said. Milo had been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Milo was the oldest man on the planet, he could remember stuff. He could remember what it was like before. Milo Jones had been chosen to change the world. These men and women had reached a similar conclusion about the planet as Milo but from a different and circumspect route.

One button would fold and recreate time, thus shoving the here and now back to there and then. The other button would annihilate the world’s population. Just the people, they said. You can live on a green planet where the plastic’s all gone, they said. Or you can remove all human life.

“So, what’s it going to be Mr Jones?”

Milo said,

“And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house

Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,

    In the sun born over and over,

         I ran my heedless ways,” *

Milo pressed the button.

The End

*Milo quotes from Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas.

February 07, 2023 15:53

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Rosmini Sumpe
11:10 Mar 26, 2023

Thanks for the story. I like read story and quite interesting.


Alexandra Peel
21:58 Mar 26, 2023

Thank you, Rosmini, I'm glad you enjoyed it.


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Wendy Kaminski
01:36 Feb 12, 2023

Interesting story, Alexandra! I might also even call it spec fic, given the direction we're going at this rate. Terrific first entry onto the site, and welcome to Reedsy!


Alexandra Peel
17:59 Feb 12, 2023

Thank you, Wendy. :)


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