The break room was fairly empty when Emie started her lunch. But as noon became twelve thirty the men from acquisitions began to gather around the vending machines. She leaned over her humble sandwich, with eyes narrowed.
“Man, so you know how I’m going to Vegas next weekend? I saved up so many points. Took Denise out for a nice dinner, tipped the waiter really good too, and even gave all my leftovers to this bum that hangs out around the corner. So close to an even six thousand!” Kevin said.
“Oh, yeah?” Greg smiled, “not bad. This weekend I saved up too. I’m, like, over twenty now.”
“What, twenty thousand? How’d you get that many?” Kevin whined.
“You know me, I’m just all kinds of good,” Greg winked. Emie just smiled to herself. Twenty thousand was chump change, in her book.
“Come on, give me some pointers! That’s got to be at least a couple points right there for helping a friend in need,” Kevin smiled with easy confidence. Both of them were notorious scoundrels in the office. How either one managed to get above double digits was only due to constant stockpiling of minor good deeds which they counted up like pennies in a jar. Their phones were constantly in their hands as they input each compliment, each minute overtime, and every cent given to the homeless.
You’d think that with all the people like Kevin and Greg grasping to add points at every opportunity that the homeless would be rolling in cash. But they were still homeless. When Karma Bank first began it was just an app. You started with ten karmic points for supporting a startup. Now, Karma Bank was linked to bank accounts and rental agreements, even social media. Points were earned for good behavior and removed for poor choices. Traffic accidents had gone down. It took over five hundred points to cover damages of even a minor fender bender these days. No one wanted to risk the loss. Karma Bank reveled in the improvements their system imposed on even the big cities. Releasing the figures last year, around Christmas time, Karma Bank revealed that crime, specifically negligence was down overall by upwards of 60% and major crimes were down by 90%. The good news earned Karma Bank creator, Mike Todd a nice point bump for both helping to make the world better and sharing the news during the holidays. That was several years ago.
Emie bit into her sandwich again. The taste was not particularly good. It was bland. The hummus was low sodium. Healthy food earned a surprisingly high number of points when chosen repeatedly. Points accumulated exponentially unless interrupted. When she’d started eating these wheat bread sandwiches (just lettuce, tomato, cucumber and hummus) the meal only got her two points, but today’s sandwich would get her twenty points. The health care system devised the plan to try and decrease costs, but very few people realized the benefits.
Kevin and Greg were now joined by Markus and Dan. The four of them joked easily, punching each other in the shoulders and throwing down compliments. With each laugh of their friends they took care to update their humor to Karma Bank before rejoining the conversation. Emie tried not to get caught eavesdropping. If they noticed her listening that could take a ding out her Karma account.
As she finished her sandwich, she carefully folded and separated the trash from the recyclables. Five points. Then she stood up to go. The men kindly smiled. But Greg nudged Kevin.
“Have a good weekend, Emie?” Greg asked politely.
Emie turned, surprised. Perhaps Greg’s bragging earlier was well founded.
“It was great. Thanks for asking,” Emie calmly responded. A lousy one point. “I hope the rest of you had a good one too!” she said as she walked out the door. Six points for a kind response for each of them with added bonus points for doing it in a group setting. She smiled. Greg had nothing on her.
At the end of the day, gathering her things after staying thirty minutes past closing, Emie noticed the light at Greg’s desk was still on. No one else was in the office, but the cameras were still on. She sat back down and pulled out her phone to check her Karma accounts. The amount came up, a bright green 250,000,000 points.
Emie had been gathering Karma points tirelessly for over a year now. There wasn’t a day that went by when she didn’t wake up early and go to the nearby homeless shelter to shovel food onto their cafeteria trays. Compliments dripped from her lips. She helped the elderly, she stayed late at work. And she ate healthy meals every day without pause. The points accrued in ridiculously high numbers as she saved and saved. She hadn’t lost a point, except one time four months ago when she didn’t hear the barista call her name at the Starbucks. Minus ten points, five for public rudeness, and one point each for the other people waiting on a drink order. She made up for it by getting them each a five dollar gift card and ended up gaining thirty points. Today she would not be gaining any Karma points. Today, Emie was going to lose them.
She looked back up to the globe of light surrounding Greg’s desk. A shuffle of his feet beneath the desk broke the silence. When she reached his desk, he looked up at her in surprise.
“Oh, hi there, Emie,” Greg said. “Here late too. You haven’t been a bad girl have you?” he winked at her as he leaned back into his chair. Emie smiled back.
“Not yet,” she responded. Greg reached his arms behind his head and his upper arms flexed. He looked her up and down with approval.
“You know I think you’re really cute,” Greg said. He leaned in conspiratorially. “There are cameras set up across the office, even after closing. I can’t risk losing points,” his voice sank even lower, “but if you want to, maybe go back to my place or something,” he trailed off.
Greg sat up for a minute, digging for the phone in his back pocket to add the compliment to his Karma account. Leaning over his screen, he didn’t get a chance to see Emie’s smile slide sideways and her hand raise up. Balance is all that matters. She laughed, thinking of Karma Bank’s slogan. She’d earned this. Then she pulled the trigger of the gun.
With a bang, the phone dropped to the floor. The screen chattered against the linoleum flooring. She reached down to look at Greg’s account. He had already entered the compliment into the calculator. Emie grabbed her phone to look at her new Karma balance. Greg’s account, his latest transaction had already saved, read two thousand and ten points. She looked back down at her phone and waited for her Karma to update.
This weeks flash fiction piece is inspired by the song “Saving all my Sinning” by Lake Street Dive. Check out the story written by Dylan Hughes here.