The Box Adjacent

Author : DL Shirey

I pound shots of espresso until my vision tinges brown as a sepia tint. The tip of my fat finger barely touches the skin of my thumb through the hole in the handle of the tiny cup, small and fragile like half an eggshell, yet it nests another stiff dose of caffeine. I need more. I won’t be ready to work until my teeth are coated with gritty film, that welcome friction between enamel and lips to help me force a smile.

The cup clatters a return to the pygmy saucer, and finally, muscle control yields to caffeine tremors. In wide-eyed meditation I wait until seismic activity in my brainpan achieves the same Richter rate as my shaky hands. Now I’m ready. I must not fall asleep on the job.

There used to be other people to help me, to tie my light-blue gown from behind. They made sure the soap container was filled and small, aseptic brushes available to scrub my fingernails. Now it’s a one-man job with a light-blue jumpsuit that zips up the front. I pull a sanitary hair cap from the dispenser and matching latex gloves from the box adjacent.

I press controls with my elbow and the door to the sterile room puffs inward. A cool, filtered atmosphere mixes momentarily with the warmth around me. The fine mist is not unlike what happens when two weather fronts meet, however, this result is not rain, but a liquid chlorine compound used for final decontamination. One last breath of good, old American air and I pull the mask up over my face.

Behind me the door closes and its seal engages with resolute pressure I feel in my ears. My small but comfortable chair awaits, the clock on the factory floor visible through the viewing window. Three. Two. One. The only tool available to me is pressed; an indicator turns green from red.

Hands drop to my lap. I see parts compound, components build and modules become machinery. Mostly I watch the clock: one hand sweeps, the other two creep for twelve hours.

Ironic, the only job our robot overlords allow is someone to press the on/off button.


  1. SimonJM

    A nasty future that is very likely already amongst us in many places and ways.

  2. Jae

    I am reminded of a quote by Warren Bennis: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Submit a Comment

Random Story :

The Past

365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.

The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.

Flash Fiction

"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."

Kathy Kachelries
Founding Member


We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.

Voices of Tomorrow

Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.

If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact