The Futurologist

Kristen Steenbeeke

Flash Fridays

The futurologist sits alone in his gaping office. It’s the future. It’s been the future for a while. Meanwhile, he falls asleep and asleep and asleep in his chair. He dreams palely of his wife slicing tomatoes in the kitchen.

One day, he’d like his children and his pale wife to see the moon. But vacations are expensive. His job as a mid-level futurologist just doesn’t cut it.

Because he’s already seen them once, most things materialize for the futurologist sans magic. Like how he knew, on the chilly morning of November 26th, a small packed snowball would come sailing through the window from between his daughter’s fingers. This is what keeps him from a promotion. He can only anticipate banalities, those moments in days that are never dwelled upon. He hoards the humdrum. The other futurologists are hard at work on wars, the day the last truck of fossil fuel will gurgle into the distance, the plans for how a cancer-killing drug will be distributed once it’s discovered. He can’t see those things. They loom just outside his cranial cavity like moons in orbit.

Tomorrow morning his children will form balls of dough in the kitchen and make cookies that will flatten in the oven. He won’t tell them this will happen. He will instead, before work, gaze at the roundness of the silence left by his wife on her pillow. There will be a note about a notice she got regarding discounted rockets to the moon, discounted space suits as well. He will throw it away. At work he will organize and reorganize and reorganize the files of lives: the cereal breakfasts, the long black skirts yet to be purchased, the wrong turns that won’t make anyone late for anything.

After a while, one of his colleagues will walk in and tell him what she has seen: tomorrow the futurologist will be laid off. He wasn’t aware this would happen but did, about a week ago, see what will happen just after: how he will procure the white stress ball from his drawer and squeeze it until it pops, tinier spheres scattering across the grey tile.

As he sleeps at his desk, something pulses in his temples. The day before his wife leaves with the children, here’s the future he’ll see: a cloud-choked sky. A note, in his mind slightly blurred, saying something about “seeing the bigger picture.” Tiny half-moon indents in the palms of his hands.


Kristen Steenbeeke is a writer living in Seattle, Washington. Her poetry has appeared in Pacifica; her quasi-fiction on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She is the marketing manager at Hugo House, a nonprofit place for writers.