The Kiosk by Russ Bickerstaff

(published 18th March 2019)

I was actually kind of under the impression that I wasn’t living a game. And I knew that I’d been living a life. It was very serious. Very serious repercussions for everything. There is no questioning that. What I was questioning with my own sanity. Which is perfectly understandable under the circumstances. I first spot at the kiosk on my way into work. It was nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve seen that type of thing pop up here in there every now and then. There would be some sort of an art installation and some public square. Occasionally signs were posted for various events various public works projects. Art projects things of that nature. Things that certain people who are somehow attached to the city decided to put up various places in an effort to make it more friendly to the residence and to harness the power of creativity or whatever. That’s all I assumed it was. I wasn’t even really looking at it very closely when I passed by on my way to work. Maybe I might’ve detected something strange about it and some cents. But I don’t know.

It wasn’t until I was on my way to lunch that I’d actually seen it for the first time. Really looked at the things that were posted there. And every little handbill every little poster every little item on that kiosk was addressed to me. I know it sounds weird. But every little item on that kiosk was addressed to me directly. By name. Many of them were friendly enough to call me by my first name. But some of them use both my first and my last name. I ended up getting back from lunch a little late that day scanning over note after note after note…all addressed to me by name.

I had no idea what to make of it. I do use my phone to take pictures of every last handbill. Naturally I couldn’t focus on work for the rest of the day. I was just staring at these things. And they were telling me very specific things about my life and what I needed to do. These weren’t big generalisations. They were very, very specific directions about what I needed to do under certain circumstances for certain things. Some of them applied directly to work. Some of them applied directly to people that I was going to be interacting with. One of them was even referring to a woman I was very attracted to. Every last item on the kiosk had messages for me very specifically and gave me tips on how to handle very specific situations that were coming up over the course of that week. These didn’t bother me quite so much. But I’ve studied them in and read about them in great detail. And how could I not commit them to memory?

It was in some of those handles were talking about me being in a very specific spot at a very specific time on a very specific day that was only just a couple of days into the future. Naturally I made a point of being there. And someone dropped some money. That I was able to pick up. And somebody was in need of some sort of help that I could provide them. In exchange for that I got a rather useful friend Who just happened to be into the same sort of obscure philosophies that I was. Read some of the same authors.

I got a raise. I got a promotion. I got a girlfriend. I manage to upgrade my living situation. And through it all there was this kiosk that was there on my way to work in my way out to lunch on my way back home. It was just sitting there and a normal street corner. Just filled with handbills that constantly change telling me exactly what I needed to do it very specific time so that I could improve my life.

I don’t know why I didn’t ask anyone else about it at first. I guess I felt as though it was kind of being insane. I mean…everyone else seemed to be passing this thing by. They’d see my totally unremarkable name on all of these little flyers and casually disregard them like so much advertising. I assume this was the case as I don’t think that I ever saw anyone else acknowledging that the kiosk was even there. And yet there it was: this comprehensive walk-through of my immediate future and how I needed to navigate certain problems. So my life felt like a game. That I could pass by that kiosk and read the things that I needed to read so that I would know what I needed to do. But it was all too strange.

I was afraid of telling anyone else about it. Because I didn’t know how anyone else would react to it. (Let alone my new girlfriend.) Or any of the new friends I had. Or any of the new people who are working for me. I just didn’t feel comfortable about telling them about it. Like they would know I was cheating or something. It would turn out to be illegal what I was doing. And I would get put away in prison nerve given the electric chair or whatever. Granted, none of this had even the remotest possibility of being logical. But then it wasn’t at all logical that I could possibly have even existed. So there was that.

Time had passed and the successes kept coming. I didn’t know how to react to it. But over time I just got to be so worried about something eventually going wrong with it that I finally decided to tell my fiancée about it. (It told me the best moment to propose marriage as well. No big surprise there.) I didn’t want to give too much introduction. I just wanted to show her the kiosk. I told her the basics on the walk out. She seemed to be humouring me. She understood sense of humour. Naturally she did. Of course she did. She was perfect for me. And it was because of the kiosk that I was able to connect up with her in a way that I did. As quickly as I did. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to know what to say to her without a handbill that have been posted and very sensible lettering on that kiosk. So naturally I felt obligated to share it with her.

Naturally when we got there the kiosk was nowhere to be found. It never showed up again. As a suspected the moment I told anyone about it it disappeared. I don’t really regard this as being a bad thing. It’s kind of nice not knowing if the future. And I feel a little bit more honest with the universe now that it’s no longer there. I can take each day at a time. And it’s not like I didn’t get ridiculously far ahead in life having had that kiosk. I’ve got plenty of pictures of it. I’ve shown them to my fiancée. She believes me. (Of course she does. We’re perfect for each other.) And it’s all thanks to this thing that will never happen again. It’s all thanks to this kiosk which never had any kind of an explanation. And maybe it doesn’t need one.

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russ bickerstaff

Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. His short fictions have appeared in over 30 different publications including Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Theme of Absence.