By Alex Pickens
I put my pants on first today. In so doing I broke an ancient shirt-first habit I did not even know I had and emerged from a hypnotic haze of monotony. Like waking from a dream, I stood in front of my mirror, amazed and disturbed by my pants and how they had bamboozled me, wondering what other mysteries might be hiding in my pants. Questioning my reality, I went pants-first into this world and told the guys at the office about my pants and how civilization was an illusion distracting me from reality. They did not see the connection because they were blinded by their complacency, an apathy that humanity perpetuated through mindless rituals like checking emails and sipping coffee. They were minions of some mischievous deity who controlled their minds with a pants-second ritual, cogs in a machine not meant to become self-aware. They had no idea what life was, but I did, because I put my pants on first today.
To fully break the monotony and test the limits of my theory I visited my boss and told him that I was quitting for no reason at all. He was confused, with the same expression as my coworkers, not realizing that he was secretly being controlled by his pants, too. Enlightened and free, a member of the Initiated Few, I proclaimed my illogic and broke all of my habits as I sped through town. Past police watching criminals without wondering who told them to, past gossips sharing scuttlebutt without wondering where it came from, past store owners selling products to a demographic without wondering where the money went—no one ever broke their routine to question where it all came from, because no one put their pants on first today.
At a stoplight on my way home an unmarked van pulled up and a bag went over my head. Burly arms hurled me into a vehicle that screeched away in a frenzy, down into the bowels of the city. When the bag came off, I was deep in a subterranean vault with the name “Board of Public Oblivion” carved in the ancient stone, sitting before a panel of scowling judges who called themselves Regulators. They demanded to know how I had cracked their cryptography, a code so complex it was invisible to my peers. How had I seen through the ciphers of a language that no one even spoke and discovered that they secretly controlled humanity?
I told them I had put my pants on first today.
They conferred and debated terminating my participation in the experiment we know as society, but the more they discussed me and how my pants had exposed them, the more they thought I was mocking them or demented. Was I harmless? If so, they would have to execute me, said the lead Regulator, because harmlessness highlights the imperfections in their experiment called society. No, said another wise Regulator, I was not harmless but a menace to their experiment, and for that I should be reincarnated as a bumblebee in order to readjust my attitude. Eventually the Regulators concluded that I simply had no respect for them, and to restore their prestige they rebuked me for my insolence and then sent me back into society, keeping my pants as a trophy.
Alex Pickens grew up in the mountains of Virginia and recently graduated Magna Cum Laude at the age of 33. This year his work appears in outlets such as Pretty Owl Poetry, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Jersey Devil Press, Crack the Spine, and Allegory Ridge, while his flash fiction has been nominated for a Best Microfiction, 2018 anthology. Author of award-winning screenplays, in his spare time he runs in the mountains, reads the Classics, and occasionally stares down an angry bear.