One Sunday morning, Lauren was awoken by the sound of her father knocking on her bedroom door.
“Time to get up,” he said brightly. “It’s Red Button Day.”
She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes.
“Red Button Day?” she thought. “What the heck is Red Button Day?”
Confused, Lauren rolled out of bed and got dressed. She stumbled into the bathroom and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She had the strangest feeling that something wasn’t quite right. She brushed her teeth and washed her face.
When she went downstairs, her mother was in the kitchen, washing the dishes. She was dressed in her Sunday best. Her father was eating breakfast. He wore a suit. Her little brother was shining his shoes and brushing his hair.
Lauren sat down at the kitchen table.
“Dad, did I hear you right?” she asked hesitantly. “Did you just say it’s Red Button Day?”
“Of course,” replied her father. “Did you forget?”
Lauren frowned. Something was wrong.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“We have to leave soon,” said her father. “We don’t want to be late.”
“Is that what you’re wearing for Red Button Day?” asked her mother.
“Am I missing something here?” asked Lauren in frustration. “What’s Red Button Day?”
“Stop acting stupid!” growled her brother.
“You didn’t read the pamphlet?” asked her father. “It’s around here somewhere.”
He got up from his chair and went to look for it.
“I’ve never heard of Red Button Day!” whined Lauren, trying not to lose her temper.
Nobody answered her. They were all too busy getting ready.
With a sigh, Lauren picked up her cell phone and called her boyfriend, Michael.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he said, when he answered the phone.
“Uh… Nothing,” replied Lauren. “Why do you ask?”
“You told me this was your family’s Button Day,” he said.
“What the heck is Button Day?” she asked.
“You didn’t hear about it in school?” he said, surprised.
“No… Maybe I missed that day…”
“Well, it’s too complicated to explain now,” replied her boyfriend. “Good luck.”
Before she could say another word, he quickly hung up the phone.
Just then, her mother came downstairs carrying some clothes.
“This is a nice blouse,” she said. “Put it on. I want us looking our best for our Red Button Day.”
“Mom, listen to me for a minute,” said Lauren. “Something is very wrong here…”
“I know,” replied her mother. “We’re running late and you’re still not dressed.”
“No, that’s not what I mean, Mom!” said Lauren angrily. “I don’t know anything about Red Button Day. I’ve never heard of it. Am I the only one who hasn’t the faintest idea what’s going on?”
Her mother stared at her for a long time. When she finally spoke, her voice was calm.
“Look, Darling,” she said. “I know you’re upset. Just go get changed. Here’s your blouse. I’ll see you in the car in five minutes, OK?”
With that, her mother walked away, leaving Lauren clutching her best blouse.
The next thing she knew, she was in the car. Everything was happening so fast, it made her uneasy. She felt trapped.
“What the hell is going on?” she thought. “Has everyone suddenly gone nuts? Maybe this is all some kind of elaborate practical joke…”
The car pulled up outside a drab, grey government building.
“Here we are,” her father said cheerfully. They all stepped out of the car and walked through the main entrance. Lauren followed her family, still wondering where they were going.
A receptionist was sitting behind a huge desk. She looked up and smiled as they approached.
“Hi, we’re here for our Red Button Day,” said her father.
“Krandall, family of four.”
“Through that door, Sir,” said the receptionist. “Just follow the red arrows.”
They walked down a long, brightly-lit corridor that was lined with offices, until they came to a large, white room. There were four small, waist-high pillars in the middle of the room and each one had a red button on the top.
At the other end of the room, there was a polished desk. Three Government officials in grey suits were seated behind it. The Government insignia hung on a huge banner over it all. The room was silent and sterile.
Lauren watched her family each step up to a pillar, watching the officials expectantly, leaving a pillar for her. Her very own button. Trembling, she stepped up to the pillar, only to notice with a jolt that the floor around them all was on a slight incline, angled towards a drain behind that she hadn’t noticed when she had first arrived. One of the officials spoke, his voice echoing in the open space.
“Members of the Kendall family…” the government official began.
“Krandall family,” her father corrected.
“I’m sorry… Krandall family,” the official continued. “You have been chosen for the honor of Red Button Day. The dear leader thanks you for your sacrifice to your country, and to your people. Your names shall join those in the long Hall in your honor.”
“We are very proud,” her father said as he put his hand on his chest. “All hail the dear leader.”
“All hail the dear leader,” replied the government official.
Her mother nodded silently and her little brother looked as if he were about to weep with pride.
The official continued. “Now is the time to push your red buttons. May God be with you all…”
Lauren’s father turned to his wife and children and smiled.
“I’ll go first,” he said, “to show you how easy it is…”
He pushed the red button on the pillar. As Lauren watched, her father's face turned a bright shade of red. A crimson teardrop slid down his cheek, and plopped onto the hard, white floor. Lauren watched, in frozen horror, as blood began to pour from her father’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth. His face began to melt. The flesh slid off the bones and splattered onto the floor. Suddenly, his head exploded and his lifeless body crumpled to the floor.
Lauren was screaming. Her mother and brother pushed their red buttons at the same time. They began to melt as well, blood seeping from their eyes and ears, tricking from their noses and mouths. Their heads exploded and then everything was silent.
“Miss Krandall?” said one of the government officials. “It’s time to push the red button.”
Lauren couldn’t answer. She stood there, wide-eyed and trembling with fear, staring at the red button beneath her fingertips.
“Miss Krandall, Red Button Day is mandatory,” he said in a monotone voice. “You don’t have a choice in the matter. Overpopulation has gotten out of control. Some of the population needs to be culled. Your family was chosen, just like many other families… This is an honor… Your country needs you… The dear leader needs you… Now, push the red button…”