“Harold, wake up! For the love of God, get up!”

The man that name belonged to, Harold Crickshaw, awoke with a start, eyes bloodshot as they darted around the clinical-looking white-walled room he now found himself in. Apart from the intercom on the wall, the uncomfortable-looking chair Harold himself sat in, and the rather suspicious-looking giant red button that sat on a table in the middle of the room, the place was fairly featureless and boring.

“Oh good, you’re up. Now, I’m sure you must be highly confused. But before things get weird, I just want you to know that everything’s going to be okay.”

Well, if some undisclosed phantom voice who mysteriously knows my name says everything’s going to be okay, I guess it will then, Harold told himself, quickly losing his temper. He looked around for a way out. There wasn’t one. No windows, no doors. The room’s ceiling had a peculiar, hinge-y quality to it, but it seemed to be quite solid. He’d have to talk it out.

“Who are you? Where the hell am I?”

“We thought you might react along those lines. And it’s perfectly normal for you to do so, not to worry. Well, Harold Crickshaw, this is the president speaking. On the table in front of you, you’ll find a big red button. We’d like very much for you to press it, please.”

Harold stared into the red glowing light of the intercom, incredulous. Was this some sort of prank? If it was, it was quite elaborate. Not to mention the fact that the phantom voice did have an uncanny similarity to the president’s own voice. But what the hell was the button for? And why did he have to press it?

“Thanks for the offer, but I think I’d rather not press the big red button if that’s alright with you. Now let me out, would you?”

There was a pause. The voice over the intercom seemed to be consulting with someone else in hushed tones. Harold had the distinct impression that whatever language the voices were conversing in, it wasn’t one he had ever had the remotest linguistic contact with. Was the president fluent in some tongue he’d never heard before? Probably. He knew there was a reason he didn’t vote for him.

“We insist, Harold.”

At that, a window suddenly slid out from one of the otherwise featureless walls of the room. A little compartment was visible within. Inside of it was stack upon stack of hundred dollar bills, just sitting there. Harold approached it immediately, tried the glass. It was inches thick, maybe even bulletproof. The prospect of helping out his foreign-speaking president suddenly seemed more appealing. He glanced back over to the table, that eerie red button atop it.

“What’s the button do, then?”

“Well, does it really matter, Harold? Look at the reward you’ll receive.”

He took another furtive glance at the money. It had to be well over several million dollars. He started to salivate.

“Yeah, it… I mean, it kind of does. It won’t kill anyone when I press it, will it?”

There was another prolonged pause. The phantom voices conversed with each other once more in their weird language. They seemed to be bickering. The whole situation was really rather awkward for Harold. Finally:

“It won’t kill you when you press it. How’s that sound, Mr. Crickshaw?”

Harold considered this. Might he be the trigger man for the next big bomb? A way of keeping the president’s hands clean while simultaneously wiping out his enemies? He couldn’t possibly kill someone, could he? But that money… there sure was a lot of it. More than Harold Crickshaw had ever before seen in person, in fact.

Come to think of it, the world did have a bit of an overpopulation problem. Might do some good to get rid of some people. Tidy up the place as it were. Those being decimated would surely understand if they were put in Harold’s position. They’d have to. Yes, there really wasn’t anything else that could be done about it. The button was rather primed and ready to go, after all. Someone had to do it.

Harold walked over and slammed down on the big red button. As he did, a trapdoor opened up directly beneath him. He fell down it, yelling the whole way down the bottomless pit. The ceiling creaked. Quite suddenly, it opened up. Sure enough, it did have hinges after all.

Resting beyond Harold’s small room was a much larger one, this one inhabited by two massive beetle-like creatures. One of them turned to the other, a megaphone in his hand.

“Do you think we-“

He stopped talking at the sound of his presidential human voice and pulled the megaphone away. He talked to his beetle friend in their own language.

“Do you think we’ll ever find a pure one among them?”

The other beetle moved in what was unmistakably a shoulder shrug. Another beetle-creature carried in a freshly unconscious human subject as the first two took a much-deserved break.



Dink. Dink.

On and on it went like that all night, incessant. The alarm clock on Mr. Canbury’s nightstand glowed just as annoyingly, it proclaimed “3:42.” Now, while Joseph Canbury of Eddington wasn’t exactly your model employee, he also wasn’t one to shirk a good night’s sleep if he could help it.

He rose from his bed quietly, or as quietly as a pudgy, uncoordinated accountant such as himself could manage, anyway. His foot tentatively made contact with the floor. As it did, it just so happened to hit the only floorboard in the entire room that was prone to squeaking, a fact that his wife was immediately made aware of as she stirred from her sleep.

Dink. Dink.

Mr. Canbury was frozen, a deer in headlights as his wife seemed to stare right at him. But just as quickly, she laughed at a joke some dream person made and muttered her retort before lapsing into the usual snore-punctuated breathing one might expect from your average sleeper.

The coast clear, Mr. Canbury made his way toward the source of the mysterious noise. Was it the bathroom? No, the noise was most definitely coming from somewhere deeper within the house. The den? No, this noise was tinny, a sort of ding against metal. And as far as Mr. Canbury knew, there was nothing in the den that could create that particular noise.

Dink. Dink.

Mr. Canbury perked up at this last one, hot on the trail. Satisfied with his exemplary detective skills, he crept over to the noise’s true source: the kitchen. His knees, ankles, and coccyx all cracked as he crouched down until he was at face-level with the cupboard under his sink. He paused, patient.

Dink. Dink.

Like a magician pulling free a drape from his bisected assistant, Mr. Canbury flung the cupboard wide open. What he saw wasn’t quite worthy of a “voila,” however. Pipe cleaner, trash bags, a large wrench. Nothing out of the ordinary. Mr. Canbury felt quite disappointed. Gipped even.

Dink. Dink.

But just like that, he was back in action. He tapped one of the sink’s pipes, the one the noise just came from. Seconds passed, practically minutes. Finally:

Dink. Dink.

Excited, Mr. Canbury rapped again on the pipe. Whatever was inside of it responded just as soon, mimicking each tap flawlessly.

“What are you, you little bugger?”

The thing inside the pipe either didn’t hear Mr. Canbury’s question or was protesting the indignity of being called a little bugger. Either way, it stopped responding to all forms of communication the pudgy man tried to muster.

“Play coy, will you?”

Mr. Canbury grabbed his wrench and set himself to removing the offending pipe. But just as he did, a deafening eruption ripped through the air. A massive hole cracked open in the floor of the cupboard. Mr. Canbury was sucked into it immediately, as if pulled by the world’s strongest vacuum. And just like that, the hole closed back up as if nothing had happened.

Wind rushed powerfully as dazzling colors and lights whizzed past Mr. Canbury’s face. He was falling at a speed that was altogether excessive. And then, when it seemed as if he couldn’t quite take it any longer, it stopped. He fell with a cracking thud. Where, he did not know. It was pitch black. He stood up and lumbered forward with his hands outstretched, Frankenstein-esque.

Before long, he stopped dead in his tracks. There was a wall of some sort, that was for sure. But what exactly was it made of? Brick? No, it was much too cold and smooth to be brick. Stone? No, the little sort of dinging noise it made when tapped said otherwise. For once, Mr. Canbury’s cleverness had reached its limit. Frustrated, he rapped loudly on the wall.

Dink. Dink.

Metal! That’s what it was, it had to be! Quite satisfied with his reclaimed cleverness, Mr. Canbury didn’t realize just how incredibly similar the sound of his knock had been to what he heard down in his very own kitchen. Nor did he expect the response that he was to receive just seconds later from what seemed like a giant on the other end of the wall: