What Is This Thing?

Do you know what this is?” asked Andy.

Becca looked up from her book at the object her husband held.

Where did it get that?” she asked.

Junk drawer.”

Throw it out.”

What if it’s important?”

Then put it back,” she replied, going back to her reading.

But what is it exactly?”

What does it look like?” she inquired with a noticeable lack of interest.

It’s like a knob with some skinny bits on the bottom,” Andy said as he gazed at it.

Knowing that ignoring what this item was would only enhance her husband’s interest, she closed her book and held out her hand.

Let me see.”

The object was heavy, it felt like it was made of metal. It was indeed a knob with some skinny bits on the bottom. The knob was made of a sturdy grey metal with three concentric rings set into the flat part of what she thought was the top. There were strange characters inscribed into rings that she didn’t recognize. They could be slid counterclockwise and a faint clicking could be heard when they moved. In the center were three, dark LED bulbs, arranged in a triangle. Flipping it over, the skinny bits made her think of a mid-century hat rack, all curved right angles with a dull plastic sheen. 

Becca turned it over and shook it, no rattle. If it had a purpose, it was not obvious. 

What do you think it is?” asked Andy.

Key to a spaceship?” she speculated wildly.


No, of course not. Do you think Han Solo left it in our junk drawer just in case he was in Williamsburg and lost his keys?”

Han Solo isn’t real.”

Neither are spaceship keys. Anyway, I don’t think that’s how that works.”

Then what is it?” Andy asked again.

Handing it back to her husband, Becca said, “Whatever it is, just put it back in the junk drawer.”

What if it’s… Dangerous?” he said in a whisper.

Listen, if it were dangerous, something would’ve already happened.”

We can’t know that.”

Becca, who really wanted to get back to her reading, said, “Try looking it up online.”

Andy nodded, then took some photos on his phone as he wandered to their shared office, which was in reality a very large closet.

The rest of that Saturday afternoon was uneventful. Becca enjoyed reading and Andy puttered around. Having gone to the farmer’s market earlier, they attempted a squash stir-fry recipe from last week’s New York Times Sunday Magazine. It didn’t look quite like the picture and while technically edible, brought them no joy. 

As a compromise, they ordered a veggie pizza with peppers, mushrooms, and black olives. This made them feel better about depositing their own failed culinary efforts in the compost bin outside their brownstone.

They spent the rest of the evening starting a Scandinavian crime show, Fjord-Bound, on NetFlix. After three episodes they were ready for sleep. It might sound like a dull Saturday and it was. But Andy and Becca found it comforting. 

At 2:37 A.M. Andy awoke with a pressing urge to pee. He got up, stumbled to the bathroom, and relived himself. Emptying his bladder might be the most satisfying thing in his life. Coincidentally, Becca felt the exact same way. The fact they knew that about each other with no shame attached, was part of why they were so compatible. 

As he made his way back to bed, he heard something in the kitchen. Looking into the bedroom he could see that Becca was still asleep. Shit. Andy grabbed the cricket bat that he bought after he saw Sean of the Dead but had never used it. Quietly, he crept into the kitchen. 

Standing in front of the junk drawer was a figure, rifling through the junk drawer. Andy was not a violent man. He spent his life avoiding physical conflict, though he enjoyed it in movies and TV. However, someone broke into his home and that made him mad.

Bringing up the cricket bat, he swung, and the figure crumpled to the floor.

What the hell is?”

He turned to see Becca staring at him with bewilderment.

Adrenaline still pumping through his veins, he pointed with the cricket bat, he said, “Break in.”


He broke in. I stopped him.”

Stopped who?”

They both looked down at the floor. There was no one there.

Oh good,” said Andy with relief, “this is just a dream.”

Becca walked up to him and flicked his nose.


This is not a dream,” she said.

Andy franticly turned and looked around the kitchen. There was no one there other than Becca and him. He began to breathe more regularly. 

Thought I saw someone rummaging through the junk drawer,” he said.

Becca, who could wake up and be coherent without the aid of coffee grasped her husband’s hand and said, “Sweetie, if someone was going to break in and steal something, our junk drawer would be the last place they would start unless they wanted old phone chargers, rubber bands, or twist ties.”

Yeah! Of course.”

I’ll just take that,” she said as she gently removed the cricket bat from is his hand, “and let’s get you back to bed.”

Just as they turned, the sound of something hitting the kitchen countertop was heard. Both of them turned quickly to see what looked like a bell made of glass rolling off the edge and landing with a muffled thud. Looking up, they saw a Man clinging to the ceiling by his hands and feet, in a clear violation of the laws of physics.

Becca and Andy screamed. Which in this situation, was a perfectly reasonable response. In contrast, the Man sighed, and in a refined British accent said, “Oh bugger.”

Becca tried swinging the cricket bat at the Man but couldn’t reach. Andy threw apples from a bowl on the counter but his aim was not great.

The Man removed a pocket watch from inside his coat and twisted the crown. Then everything just… slowed… down… 

Pushing off from the ceiling, the Man floated to the floor in a manner that suggested he was underwater, without the actual water. He landed gently, smoothed his dark grey jacket (which now appeared to have a moving moire pattern woven into it), and said, “Now then, I’m looking for an object that looks like this.”

He produced what looked to Becca and Andy a duplicate of the spaceship key.

Have you seen it?”

Both began to speak but very, very slowly.

Pardon me!” exclaimed the Man, who adjusted the crown on his pocket watch.

What the fuck is going on!” shouted Becca.

As I mentioned before, I’m looking for something that looks very much like this!” he said cheerfully holding up an identical thingamabob.

Who are you?” demanded Andy.

What is that thing?” insisted Becca.

The Man sighed and answered, “It’s a key, actually.”

For a spaceship?” asked Andy who desperately wish it to be one.

No, no, no! That’s a bit silly, isn’t it?” 

Andy’s shoulders sank.

It allows one to travel through folded space,” added the Man.

That’s even cooler!” shouted Andy.

And who are you, exactly?” asked Becca.

Apologies for my atrocious manners. I am Talbot Kegsworth of the E.M.G, Agent Provocateur, 1st Class.”

What does that mean?” asked Andy in an excited tone.

What is that doohicky? How did you get in? What’s with sticking to the ceiling?” rapidly asked Becca.

First, could you retrieve the item?” Kegsworth enquired politely.


Becca ran into the other room and returned with the whatchamacallit. Taking it from her, Kegsworth smiled and looked as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

Splendid! Let me give you the short version of what’s what. I am a member of the Entropy Management Guild. We help maintain a level of randomness to existence.”

You’re a professional… Mess maker?” inquired Andy.

Technically, I suppose. But there’s much, much more than just making a dog breakfast of things,” pointed out Kegsworth, “The universe is a delicate balance betwixt order and chaos. We sort out the chaos.“

Do you blow up stuff?” asked Becca with faux casualness. 

Only in extraordinary circumstances,” assured Kegsworth

Right. That makes sense,” said Becca with a slight sadness.

Have you ever found something about the house? Something you had no idea of where it came from?” asked the E.M.G. Agent.

Yeah, I think we have,” said Andy with a smirk.

Yes, of course. I meant an ordinary object. Such as an allen wrench, some cables to a device that you don’t own, maybe a scarf or a book, neither of which you can recall purchasing?”

The couple nodded.

Yes well, that’s our doing. Small acts of randomness help keep everything ticking. We only blow things up in extraordinary circumstances,” he said giving Becca a wink.

Are you saying that there’s a whole organization dedicated to placing useless objects in people’s homes?” asked Andy.

It is one of our departments. However, we are a vast organization with many, many responsibilities. And this,” Kegsworth held up the key, “can’t just be left lying about. We do promote entropy but in an organized manner.”

That makes sense, I guess,” admitted Andy even though it didn’t really.

Why was the key in our junk drawer?” asked Becca.

It’s a bit embarrassing. My predecessor, who recently retired, left his spare key here by accident. It resulted in quite the kerfuffle I can tell you. I had rather hoped to slip in unnoticed but there’s entropy for you.”

Becca and Andy looked at each other. The same question had occurred to them both.

Why are you telling us this stuff?” they asked in unison.

I know, it all seems so top secret, hush-hush, and all that.”

It really does,” observed Andy.

Here’s the rub. No one will believe you. It’s absurd. Utterly preposterous. Absolute nonsense.”

But it’s real!” insisted Becca.

Just because something is ridiculous does not mean it’s false,” observed Kegsworth.

Becca and Andy thought for a moment and shrugged in agreement.

Now you both have been such sports about all this, so let me show you one thing before I have to totter off,” said the Agent Provocateur 1st class.

He stepped to the refrigerator and inserted the key into the door. It sank in without a sound. Kegsworth spun the dials and pulled the door open. Inside was what looked like a futurist city under a glowing nebula. Flying cars, people zooming about in clear tubes, metallic spires, and seemed so very clean. It was the sort of future that Popular Mechanics promised but never delivered on.

Becca and Andy stared. It was impossible and completely real.

It always takes my breath away,” admitted Kegsworth, “So sorry for disturbing your slumber. Now, I’m afraid I must fly off.”

With that, he jumped through the door, sprouted a jetpack, and sped off. The door swung shut and the key was absorbed completely.

They rushed to the fridge and threw open the door, revealing… Leftover veggie pizza, a large variety of condiments, and a single bottle of IPA.

They turned to each other.

Did that really happen?” asked Andy.

I’m pretty sure it did,” answered Becca.

What do we do now?”

Becca exhaled and said, “Just live our lives, I guess.”

Knowing that all that is out there?” Andy said pointing to the fridge.

Becca cocked an eyebrow.

You know what I mean!”

Becca took him by the hand and pulled him back to their bedroom.

We have to do something!” he insisted. 

She stopped, ran a hand through her messy hair, and said, “I mean, he was right. Who would believe us?”

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