The universe was expanding, and quite noticeably so. Not to the average galaxy inhabitant, but definitely to Stephen Steptoe, owner of Steptoe and Sons.
Expansion didn’t mean that there were more planets or asteroids or stars or galaxies; just that the empty, boring space in-between them grew, making it harder and harder to travel between those nice planets and asteroids and stars and galaxies.
Steptoe’s sons, once clerks in his shop, had long left the planet, just like everybody else, deeply in need of living closer to other worlds.
Steptoe did not share this need. He didn’t even really mind when he found out that his sons didn’t continue the family business elsewhere.
He was content to live on the edge of the universe, even if it meant he wouldn’t see another living soul unless some poor adventurer got stranded on his way from galaxy to galaxy.
Steptoe and Sons was never the intended destination of its sporadic customers.
Still, the shop expanded in much the same way that the universe grew: as Steptoe found himself bored, he would start building another wing to the side of his shop, though he had barely enough things to store in the original premises.
It didn’t bother him in the slightest.
In fact, he felt oddly satisfied with his ability to build and expand and grow without having to ask permission from the municipality, the government, the world.
There was simply no-one left to care.
Right when Steptoe was contemplating rearranging the days of the week, the rusty bell above the door rung. A young woman stepped in.
Although her hair was uncombed, her coat a horrid collection of patches, her face dark with filth, Steptoe still recognised her in an instant and when the initial shock of having a customer had passed, he felt an annoyance toward her, even before they had made eye contact.
Her name was Clementine Honeysett and she was a fugitive from some Earth government, which had sent out countless of alerts and pop-up ads in order to let the expanding universe know that she shouldn’t be travelling it.
Steptoe hated those alerts. He was forced to sit through them when he wanted to see the good tv-shows, which was practically always.
So he said: “You’re Clementine Honeysett.”
She didn’t answer, seemed not to have heard him over the sound of the bell.
“The sons are not in today,” Steptoe said matter-of-factly. “Listen here, young lady: I would turn you in, if only so those ads would stop. But the internet’s been dead for years here. All I got is just cable-tv now. And I got rid of my phone. So what can I do for you?”
Honeysett narrowed her eyes but didn’t react to that news either. “I need seven more of these.”
She placed a button on the counter, in the shape of a fish – or maybe a rocket ship. It was painted in a mat, midnight blue that had seen a better time.
Steptoe studied it for a while, hesitant to pick it up. Symbols were dangerous, even on the edge of the universe.
As Honeysett nervously hopped from one foot to the other, Steptoe decided that the shape must represent something.
He hadn’t watched any news senders in decades, but he assumed it had something to do with communism, or capitalism. Or both. Steptoe picked up the button.
The surface of the fishrocket was cold to the touch and the paint flaked a little when he touched it.
Perhaps it wasn’t a button at all, he thought. But what else could it be?
“Made of bone?” he asked.
“Wouldn’t know it,” said Honeysett. “My mum bought it here. You should know.”
“Not bone, then,” said Steptoe.
“Suppose not,” said Honeysett. “Seven more, please.”
Steptoe nodded nervously. Symbol of intergalactic rebellion or not, he was going to have to give her what she wanted. No-one would find his corpse all the way out here if he would refuse her.
So he scurried away to search through his collection of oddly shaped blue buttons.
“So, what will you do with them?” he asked by way of conversation.
He didn’t ask: Are you going to hand them out to your gangster friends? Are you soaking them in poison and giving them to your enemies to wear?
Was I not informed when I bought them, of a secret way in which they can be used as a weapon? Will you kill me for asking even this simple question of intention?
Honeysett looked up from the carrousel of novelty key chains.
“Mum’s making me a coat.”
(a/n) Had to write this for a creative writing assignment. The only requirement was to include 'a significant' object. So my friends challenged me to write a space story about this button! :)