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THE GIFT • by Dustin Adams

They came for our water.

They asked for two centimeters off the top of our oceans. In exchange, everyone would receive a gift.

The world united in its disagreement. If they’d pointed a weapon at us, we’d have complied. But they asked, so we debated.

We nearly fought — but voted instead. The yeses won out. Above all else, I surmised, we wanted the gift.

They took only what they said they’d take and not a drop more. On their way out, a peaceful voice spoke into everyone’s mind. “In sixty seconds, you will sleep for three. Stop your machines.”

I fluffed the pillows on my couch, stared at the TV broadcasting the giant ship in the sky, and waited.

Then I slept — for exactly three seconds.

Ten thousand four hundred fifteen people died in the moments following the sleep. I knew the number because I knew each of their names. Why hadn’t people just pulled over?

Anger surged within me. What kind of gift…

I heard my neighbor Phil crying. Over the years he’d suffered the losses of his parents, two brothers, and a newborn daughter. I’d known about his daughter but the others I’d discovered during the sleep.

I stepped out into a sunny day, walked down my porch steps, and approached. He’d pierced the ground with his gardening shears, laid his arm across the handles, and buried his face. Tears fell onto the grass.

“I’m so sorry, Phil.” I said what I thought I should.

He looked up at me, his face a mask of anguish. “Oh, Jessica. What’s happened?” He extended a gloved hand. I held it in mine and patted it. Poor Phil. He’d had a rough life, and thanks to the gift, I remembered every minute of it.

But why was he crying? His own memories were nothing new.

Ms. Atkinson approached us. She was a kindly old neighbor who wasn’t very social on an individual level but was always on time for our yearly block party. She’d sit on her ancient, scraggly lawn chair and watch the kids play, the men barbeque, and the women gossip.

She’d lived through the Holocaust. She was very young at the time and no longer remembered much, but I did — now. Every horrifying moment was in my memory as if I’d been the one screaming for my parents.

Phil wiped his nose with his arm. “Ms. Atkinson. Jean. I had no idea.”

Oh. That’s why he was crying. Her memories.

She tucked in her dress and sat on Phil’s perfectly manicured lawn. “I don’t speak of it. Happened several lifetimes ago.”

“Not for me it didn’t,” said Phil.

I nodded in agreement.

“I’m so sorry for your losses, Phil.”

Phil’s face screwed up, but he seemed to push his rising emotions down. “You remember little Rebecca?”

Jean placed a wrinkled hand on Phil’s shoulder. “We do, because you do. She was a good girl.”

Phil sniffed. “Remember how paranoid Marcie and I were after Sandy was born that she too would pass in the night?”

I laughed. “You each pulled twelve hour shifts, watching her every minute.”

“Now she’s in college.” Phil cracked a proud smile.

“She loves you very much,” I said, because I knew.

Phil stared at me and frowned. There was nothing hidden between us. He and Jean Atkinson knew me as I knew them, as I knew all seven billion people on the planet.

Jean glared at me.

The gift, as it was given, were the shared memories and experiences of all humanity for all of humanity. The gift didn’t bestow others’ abilities or talents; it shared where we’d been, who we’d loved, who we’d lost.

And what we’d done.

To their credit, Jean and Phil remained in my presence. They were good neighbors.

Perhaps that was a part of the gift, being able to see others’ pasts without going mad. Or perhaps humanity had a greater level of acceptance than I gave us credit for. Hopefully.

Phil retracted his hand from mine.

Damn.

Humankind had been permanently and irrevocably changed. We should’ve said no.

What was missing from the gift was motivation — the why we’d acted upon the choices we’d made.

That’s why Phil and Jean were staring at me like I was a monster. They didn’t know how long and how valiantly I’d struggled with my decision.

I couldn’t stop the cold sweat. I couldn’t slow my heartbeat. They knew, which meant everyone knew.

One of them still had to ask.

I waited. I debated if I would tell them. Probably. I mean, I still had to live next to them.

“Honey.” Jean braved the question. “Why’d you do it?”


Dustin Adams is a U.S. Customs broker and currently owns his own brokerage business. He writes in the wee hours of the morning, in the dark, when no one else can see.


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THE GIFT • by Dustin Adams, 4.1 out of 5 based on 78 ratings
Posted on November 2, 2012 in Science Fiction, Stories
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34 Responses to “THE GIFT • by Dustin Adams”


  1. Sarah Crysl Akhtar Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Wonderful. Just enough information for a memorable story and not a drop more. Five stars.

  2. Leah Saylor-Abney Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 3:07 am

    Yikes! That’s one of the scariest stories I’ve read in a long time. There’s no way I’d want everyone in the world to have all MY memories, but to have the memories of others too… *shivers* Great story, Dustin! Off to share it with others.

  3. Rose Gardener Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 5:01 am

    I suspect none of us would be exempt from a few ‘why did you do it?’ questions. It’s a little unsettling. Well done for provoking some deep thought, Dustin.
    Now, imagine the sequel; how quickly we’d all reach emotional burn out and stop caring. The fall-out from that would be scarier still…

  4. Johanna Miklos Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Great idea very well written. This story will stay with me for a long time.

  5. Pete Wood Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Five stars. You packed quite a bit into a thousand words. The opening words grabbed me and then I kept wanting more.
    And you pulled off the rare twist ending that doesn’t seem tacked on and flows naturally from the premise.
    Good work.

  6. Erin Ryan Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 7:07 am

    I love this story. Five stars.

  7. Renn Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 7:36 am

    What a great piece. November is such a pensive month, and your story was both poignant and thought-provoking. Bravo!

  8. JenM Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Great ethical story, not too preachy and with just enough drama.

  9. Jennifer Campbell-Hicks Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Great story, Dustin! Five stars.

  10. helena mallett Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Great story.

  11. Rob Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Ooooo. Thought-provoking and creepy. A good idea. Well executed.

  12. The Gift by Dustin Adams « How many short stories can you read in one year? Can you read a story a day for one year? Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 10:58 am

    […] a gift from aliens isn’t always a good idea.  http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-gift-by-dustin-adams/ Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Published: November 2, 2012 Filed Under: […]

  13. Douglas Campbell Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Great concept, well-written, and a nice twist ending that doesn’t depend on withholding crucial information from readers. Well done!

  14. Paul A. Freeman Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I found myself wanting a further hint of what the narrator had done.

    That aside, a solid tale.

  15. Carol Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Really great story. chills ran up my spine as I read it!

  16. George Nikolopoulos Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Great story, Dustin!

  17. Tee Ways Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    This is one of my favourite stories on this site. So well written, so intriguing. The star-rating system here confuses me no end, as 5 stars seem to be handed out like water at restaurants, but this is the first time I’m compelled to use those stars to show my enthusiasm.

    This is the kind of writing I save up to read on long trips–stuff you get lost in. Tons of kudos.

  18. Mariev Finnegan Says:
    November 2nd, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Dustin, you make me pull my hair out by the roots. Why? The eternal question. A great story. Thank you, sore scalp and all.

  19. Yer Mom Says:
    November 3rd, 2012 at 8:08 am

    I read this so fast, wanted to learn more and more from each character, to see where the words took me…the end was perfect…..then, I went back to the beginning to read it again. Outstanding Dust!

  20. Jeanette Sanders Says:
    November 3rd, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Loved it, Dustin! Five stars!

  21. SarahT Says:
    November 3rd, 2012 at 11:25 am

    The real gift here is that no one would ever have to write a resume again!

    Uncovering the only question that really matters… “WHY?”

    Loved this, reading it felt like an early birthday gift.

  22. Gretchen Bassier Says:
    November 4th, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Such a cool concept. I wonder if the world will be better after receiving “the gift,” or if the knowledge will be too much to handle, as Rose Gardener (#3) predicted. Great, thought-provoking stuff.

  23. Suzanne Conboy-Hill Says:
    November 4th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Phew! That’s all, just PHEW!

  24. Jim Joseph Says:
    November 5th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    That was something pretty awesome..

  25. Bridget Davis Says:
    November 6th, 2012 at 9:44 am

    This was terrific. I didn’t want it to end. But I think I’d definitely say no to receiving “The Gift!” Absolutely 5 Stars.

  26. Martin Hooijmans Says:
    November 7th, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Beautiful, but scary tale. Imagine everyone knowing your deepest secrets. Guess they really would’ve been better off saying no…

  27. Sonia Says:
    November 15th, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I find myself wondering what the motive was for the aliens in offering the gift.

    Sonia

  28. Simone Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I wonder if the ayes would have outnumbered the nays had the people known what the gift was.

    I loved this story!

  29. Interview with Dustin Adams: Author of EDF’s Top Story for November « Flash Fiction Chronicles Says:
    December 20th, 2012 at 1:02 am

    […] Chronicles interviewed Dustin Adams about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for November, “The Gift“  a thought provoking tale about the dangers of knowing and not […]

  30. News and Updates | The Domain of A. T. Greenblatt Says:
    December 20th, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    […] can be found here. My first victim (not really – I hope) is Dustin Adams, author of the story The Gift. This was lots of fun and I hope you enjoy it too. Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookGoogle […]

  31. Camille Gooderham Campbell Says:
    December 28th, 2012 at 2:59 am

    This story has been nominated in the Short Stories: Science Fiction & Fantasy category of the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll.

    http://www.critters.org/predpoll/shortstorysf.shtml

  32. January’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 12:37 am

    […] miss Laura, but it’s exciting to have Dustin on our team (you may have read his story “The Gift” back in November and his interview at FFC in December). We’re also delighted to […]

  33. Podcast EDF102: The Gift • by Dustin Adams • read by Izzy David | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    January 28th, 2013 at 12:01 am

    […] “The Gift” by Dustin Adams was originally published on November 2, 2012. […]

  34. S Conroy Says:
    July 16th, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Oh wow… What a scary idea. Fabulously told too.

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