Eternal Hope (Flash Fiction)

Flash Fiction – 692 Words – feel free to share, preferably as a link but retain the attribution if you must copy the text.

(c) 2017 Steve Catto #SteveCatto #SnowflakesTheBook

Eternal Hope

Two figures sat on the sofa in front of a flickering screen.  The smaller one looked down at the remote control in his hand, and moved his finger slowly away from one of the buttons he had been caressing.

‘What does this minus-one function do Dad?’ he asked. ‘I’ve never seen it before. Is it like a minus-one channel?’

‘There’s no minus-one channel,’ replied the father, irritably.  ‘There’s a plus-one channel which shows you the program that was on an hour ago, so you can watch something you’ve missed, or see it again if it was extra good.’

The small one shuffled in his seat and pulled a funny face.

‘If that shows you what was on a hour ago then why isn’t it called a minus-one channel?  That would make more sense.’

‘Oh… I don’t know, that’s just the way it is.’

‘But wouldn’t it be really good if there was a way you could forget the program that you had just watched and get back the hour of your life you’d wasted!’

The larger figure fell silent for a moment.

‘There isn’t a minus-one button,’ he replied again sternly, without taking his eyes off the screen.

‘Yes there is Dad!  It’s here on the remote control!’

‘Don’t be stupid,’ came the reply. ‘Now just watch the program!’

The boy turned his attention reluctantly towards the screen. The story seemed to be constructed around two old cops in grey coats who spoke a stunted dialogue, and involved a shallow plot to catch a thief who had left his glove at the scene of a crime.

It was procedural, boring, like life, he thought.  Just like life.  But you’ve got to sit and watch it.  If there was a chance to go back, and recover time you’d lost, would you take it?  He felt excited at the thought.  Even if it meant also losing the memories?  Perhaps that would be the best part of it, not remembering.  Then you wouldn’t have to dwell on all the bad things that had happened, you could move forward remembering only the good parts of life, and consigning the bad ones to the past forever.  That would have to be worth a shot.  What would it do to you?  A one-hour rewind.  You could spend your life experimenting and doing whatever you wanted, there wouldn’t be any consequences, just endless possibilities.  If it really did what he imagined, of course.  Why would life and the universe be so good to him?  It was very odd that he’d never noticed the button before, perhaps it was a test?  Yes!  That would be right, a test.  The world was giving him a chance.  After all these years he could hardly believe it.  He looked at the button again, and took a sharp little breath.  All he had to do was accept the challenge.

The program droned on, numbing his brain.  He would sit through it, bad though it was, and then take the minus-one, prove to the world that he recognised an opportunity when he was given one.  He set his face into a resigned expression, and watched as intently as he could.

‘Well?’ he asked, with an air of defiance after the ending titles had faded. ‘That was pretty bad wasn’t it!’

The larger figure grunted.

‘That’s definitely an hour of my life that I want back, so I’ll press minus-one shall I?’ he continued.

There was no reply.  Typical, he thought.  No sense of adventure.

Slowly and carefully his finger moved across the remote control keypad. His excitement grew when he touched the button. As he felt it move his mind was already planning what he would do with the time.  If it worked, a new life awaited…

The room went dark and silent for a moment.  Nothing seemed to happen.

Two figures sat on the sofa in front of a flickering screen.  The smaller one looked down at the remote control in his hand, and moved his finger slowly away from one of the buttons he had been caressing.

‘What does this minus-one function do Dad?’ he asked. ‘I’ve never seen it before.’

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