wooden chair in front of a white wall

“Oh, and that Chris Evans in that new superhero movie your brother dragged me to the cinema to see, gosh, would I love to iron his shirt, if you know what I mean.”

“Mom! That’s not the mental imagine I nee-”

“Cause then he would be shirtless while I-”

“MOM! We get it, and so do the million other women who share your sentiment. I know I require some distraction for my nerves, but vile imagery was not the desired prescription.”

“Honey, you’ll do fine, just listen to that big vocabulary you got, I’m googling some of the words as we speak that’s how smart they were! And if you ask me, you got that from my side, your father only knows two words: ‘More’ and ‘bitch’, both of which he uses exclusively with me.”

“How neither of you have filed for divorce is beyond me.”

“I love him very much and he loves me. No one else could love such an ugly buffoon, so he’s stuck with me whether he likes it or not. And we’re very proud of you, sweetheart, both of us. To think that two country bumpkins like us got a PhD graduate who’s gonna make the world a better place. If those big businessmen don’t treat you right, you tell me, and they will know the same wrath of the rolling pin as your father did that Christmas in 2014 when he made fun of my flab after dinner.”

“Don’t not remind me of the impending meeting, I can sense my gut rebelling at just the mere thought.”

“Speaking of rebelling, have you heard what that next-door cow, Dolores, has been up to these days? I thought that stick of a husband had fucked all the brains outta her, but no, suddenly she’s decided to protest on behalf of something. Forgot what it was, human trafficking or oppression or whatever, and she’s been going around with this black tape over her mouth and splotched make-up. At first, I thought her husband had finally come to his senses and done the world a favor by shutting her harpy trap up, but no, Magda told me she’s gone political. I guess anyone can make a statement these days, even neighborhood skan-”

“Mr. Willows? We’re ready for you now.”

From a grand door overwrought with eloquent and spiraling ornaments, a tall, thin man emerged. Under his eyelids were deep, dark engravements, like two black half-moons hanging underneath a sky of white and blue. In his left hand a can defiled by rowdy and loud colors was practically glued.

“M-mom, got to go, the presentation is due now!”

“Oh honey, knock ‘em dead!”

James Willows clapped his phone ceremonially together with a tiny thud, hoping the ritual would soothe him and provide the tranquility it usually exuded. The nervous twitch of his right index finger suggested failure, and his heartbeat supported the notion. Nevertheless, this was his moment. Days, weeks, months, even a year of hard work was about to be assessed, questioned, critiqued perhaps and hopefully, endorsed. But what he was about to face was not a whiteboard, or his own frightened reflection stuttering back a fragmented rehearsal of the imminent presentation. No, he would have to face reality, and like the rest of the human population, he wasn’t very fond of the idea.

He followed the man into the meeting room.


James used a couple of minutes to load the files from his hard drive to the computer. The projector was already on, presumably from the last presenter. This gave him ample time to quickly scan the room, get an overview of the situation he was about to throw himself headfirst into.

The man with half-moons, who’d escorted James in, placed himself behind a more robust man whose seat was surely a declaration of rank, because it did not seem comfortable or space efficient. The behemoth of a chair was dark, hard leather, and each time the robust man made a movement, an irritating squeak pierced the ears. The half-moon man took out a notepad, a pen drawn seemingly ready to conquer the notes that would battle him during the presentation. The robust man continued squeaking, a comfortable position yet to be achieved, perhaps never, to everyone’s annoyance. To his left, was a muscled lady, the sleeves of her tight suit almost crumbling beneath the density of her muscles. She was vigorously twirling a pen, hyper focused on it, never even giving James a glance. Opposite her sat a large man who had the most peculiar way of eating. He would mechanically open his mouth and close it, however, he would always open it the same amount, entirely, before shutting it, and all of it seamless. It faintly reminded James of Pac-man; however, the man consumed not Tic Tacs, but an entire chicken, probably worthy of a high score. Next to him was an old woman, deeply entranced by some puzzle box. James had seen them before; the goal is to get a key out of its wooden confinement by moving certain pieces in a specific order. Based on her progress thus far and his professional opinion, she stood no chance, the key would surely prevail. And finally, a middle-aged man with an abnormally large cane. The ornament at the top was a bat’s head and the cane man had to raise his shoulder to let it rest at the cane’s very top.

“What a cast of characters,” James thought to himself.

With the roaring like that of a plane engine, the fossilized computer had finally unpacked the files for the presentation. The computer was not too inclined to open the presentation, James was perplexed they had not retired it yet. Hopefully this was not an omen of their current financial status. The robust man looked impatiently at his clock, bumped the half-moon man, who subsequently cleared his throat, signaling that further prolonging would not bode well. They both took a gigantic sip of their soda cans, the half-moon man attempting to hold back a grimace, like watching someone who do not particularly enjoy shotting alcohol take a shot.

The projector whirred as the images began flashing on the white background. It was finally time. It felt like his heart would beat out of his chest, and he was sure that if he unbuttoned his shirt, he would see it trying to escape its meaty prison. But just like James currently, no escape was allowed. He began, with a trembling voice, and a faltering courage:

“H-hel-lo, my name is J-James Willows, and I-I’m here t-to p-p-resent invention WLD-165135.”

The audience exchanged looks, and at initial glance they seemed to lose interest, but as James progressed, he realized their interest wasn’t decreasing but rather their annoyance was increasing. As if they were tired of listening to fumbling fools who were capable of wielding a vast vocabulary but unfit to conduct a ten-minute slideshow. Nevertheless, James continued onwards.


As he rounded the last syllable, he felt a weight lift from him. Perhaps it was the anchor of anxiety, keeping him submerged in an ocean of doubt, never allowing him to catch a breath, that finally released him. However, just as he caught a sip of delicious, freeing oxygen, he was pulled back down when his eyes met the audiences’. The anchor had brought him deeper into the ocean, as the silence that filled the room was like the crippling pressure found beneath the water’s surface, the deeper you went, the more it threatened to crush you. After some silent seconds, Pac-man broke the silence.

“So, uh, let me get this right, you know what, no, explain it to me again. It does what exactly?”

James adjusted his collar, hoping that by releasing its grip, he might feel more at ease with the oncoming cross-examination.

“Well, by modifying the molecular structure of-”

“No, no, see, this is not what we’re going to do. All you lot use fancy words for no good reason, explain it to me so a normal person can understand. What does it do?”

James held back a groan that threatened to unwillingly manifest in his throat.

“Well, simply put, it will decontaminate polluted water, leaving only the purest of aqua remaining. The bi product of the process will also evaporate under intense heat, leaving no toxic gasses or other forms of pollution. It’s a marvelous breakthrough within the field of marine biology-”

“Okay, so we get good stuff from it, sure. But can we get the good stuff from it?”

“N-no, the i-intention of the invention is not to produce capital, but rather-”

“Then why are we wasting our time with this then!?”

James felt his flight instincts urge him to make a snappy retreat, if needed, even through the window. The flight instinct did not take the five floors above ground into consideration, nor did it care.

“Now, now Hammond, just because it doesn’t vomit bills doesn’t mean it can’t be used,” the old woman waved her hand dismissively.

“Nora is right, we could sell it, someone would probably pay good money for a concept like this,” the muscled woman concurred.

“Yes, but we need to clarify, you told us that this machine would require extensive maintenance, how many workers are we talking, for how many hours?” the robust man asked James.

“According to my estimation, for the machine to operate within its full capabilities, it will require worker maintenance for approximately 20 hours. The last remaining four would be self-sufficient. Of those 20 hours, I would suggest no less than twenty workers, preferably ten divided into two shifts.”

“Jesus Christ, I smell overtime pay already,” cane man grumbled.

“To make a profit, we would either sell it at a very disadvantageous price or offer its services at a steep rate. None are advisable,” the muscled lady commented in a surprisingly light and soft tone.

“Why are you even standing here kid!? Do you know who we are, what we represent?” cane man barked at James, thumping his cane in rhythm with his plosives.

“Y-yes, you have described this project as “inventions of the future” in your numerous advertisements. That y-you will fund whoever brings humanity one step closer to the future. I believe invention WLD-16-”

“Yes, do you know what the future is, boy? The future is stability, stable work hours, stable work environment, stable expenses, and stable income. Your little toy gives us none, unlike last year’s winner,” he argued while raising the hideous can. James could barely read the inscription hidden among the monstrous color combination, but it said, “20 Hour Energy”. It didn’t look invigorating.

“We already have clean water here kiddo, and those who don’t, well, they don’t have the money needed for either the machine itself or its workers,” the robust man supported.

“S-sir, with all due respect, I still believe my machine has its place here. For workers, with the incredible benefit they would receive from the machine, would they not be compelled to work…for free…?”

Like watching fog slowly come forth on an otherwise sunny day, the silence snuck into the room once more. But it remained shorter than last time before everyone, except the assistance bursting into laughter, or in the old woman and cane man’s case, a cackle.

“Oh, you know what, it’s been a looong day, and we needed a good laugh kiddo, thanks for that,” the robust man said wiping tears from his eyes.

“No one works for free, not in this world, I wouldn’t be sitting here if I wasn’t getting paid, the same way you wouldn’t have this presentation if you didn’t receive funding,” the old woman snarled.

“The world is like this puzzle box. The secret of it hidden deep within. Only those of us who possess the intelligence and means may unlock its secrets. We have the intelligence and means, investing in you would be a step back in our progress of the world’s puzzle box. We don’t need empty platitudes, we need a drive, that’s how we progress.”

The old woman finished her lecture, still, ironically, struggling with the puzzle box. James’ anxiety had been replaced by disappointment and distraught. These people were not going to fund him. He could see it in their eyes, their tired and stern eyes. What they wanted, wasn’t the future. They wanted another commercial success, like that stupid soda.

“I’m sorry then, for have wasted your time,” he conceded.

“Well, at least you gave us a good laugh kiddo.”

And the board laughed once more. James collected his things and prepared to walk out. But just as he opened the door, he caught glimpse of the puzzle box once more, the old woman’s hands skittering all over it trying to solve its riddle. Something about it made James’ gut boil. He went over and placed his fingers on it.

“Hey, what are you do-”

“We need a drive and intelligence sure, but the key to solving the puzzle is not greed and selfishness,” he said.

The woman was holding two pieces apart using both her hands, she’d figured out as much, but couldn’t foresee the next move. James could. With his index finger, he slid out the piece that was revealed once the old woman had pulled hers apart, and with a CLICK, the mechanics opened.

“It is kindness and cooperation.”


James found an empty park bench and reconciled there. The birds chirped in the brisk spring air, joggers trotted past him, and children were playing…on their phones. He hadn’t mustered the courage to call his mom yet, he had ten unanswered calls from her though.

He couldn’t believe they’d rejected him. Something that would benefit everyone, and all they could think of was: How can it benefit me?

Perhaps the world was not ready yet. He knew he had to face reality today, but reality was more grim than previously anticipated. To cheer himself up, he looked at his invention’s name. As his fingers started to move in beat with the alphabet song, he chuckled to himself. Despite his knowledge, he still had to use a silly children song for something so simple.


World Peace.


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