Meaning of Life - A Flash Fiction

George Carmichael Scott's neck itched. He set his black, felt tip pen on his desk and scratched his neck as any normal person would do. George, however, was no ordinary person. George knew the meaning of life.

When George scratched at his neck, the satisfaction gave way to pain. He looked at his nails. They were too long; he picked a pair of scissors out of his desk drawer. Snip. Fingernail clippings made little happy arcs around his chair as he cut them off. Snip, snip, snip.

George's job was easy: keep the meaning of life a secret.

"Monday," he said. He knew it was Monday, already, but taking scissors to his fingers seemed to be a Monday ritual. Somehow, he never seemed to notice his nails were too long during the weekend.

George spent his days at a desk in front of a vault. Inside the vault was only one item, an ancient box with a secret men were willing to start wars over to see.

There was nothing in the box. That is what George was told when he was briefed about his position. The artifact was symbolic, given power through superstition and lore.

His job, then, was to guard a box of nothing but superstition for eight hours a day. In twenty years of performing his duty, there had only been one bit of excitement--the security system was upgraded and, during a three hour transition period, George had to stand guard inside the vault.

During the upgrade, he was alone with the artifact for a installation crew’s union-required lunch hour.

Only the artifact and George.

George and the artifact.

George knew there was nothing inside the box, which made him feel foolish for being so protective of the item. With no one around, he tested the stone lid, it was heavier than expected, but was it heavy from the guilt of touching the relic, or was it designed to make sure he was willing to accept the consequences of what he might see inside?


That was seventeen years ago. The more pertinent thing on George's mind right now was the length of his fingernails.


The moral of George's story is that knowing the meaning of life does not change one's life; for, of course, he did look inside the artifact. It wasn't empty.