On her way into work Wednesday morning, Sira felt an uncomfortable sensation begin in the pit of her cervix. At first she gripped the bone handled steering wheel harder, whitening her knuckles to pale translucent creases. The streetlight in the intersection ahead went from green to yellow to purple under the slanting rain. The new county mandate set up the random purple traffic lights as motivation for the general malaise infecting the populace.
In recent years this plague of popular apathy spread like a fuzzy mold over a field of fallen crabapples. It became more noticeable throughout the seasons during each city hall meeting. Every Saturday when the local townsfolk gathered in the dilapitated whitewalled church, there were more pathetic weary lined faces and fewer shiny bright eyed ones. Eventually there came the day when only two members of the community were left who cared about anything. They spotted each other across the room.
"Just think," offered Sira, as she eyed the remaining apaphiles silently drooling in the assembly hall, "what implementing a randomized purple streetlight might do for the community."
Her fascinated crony thought about it and replied, "Um...yeah, but what exactly will the purple light mean?" He was a nineteen year old skater bible boy named Bills.
"That's just it Bills - it could mean anything. I was thinking it could be a license meant to trigger a spontaneous reaction from the driver."
"You mean like spinning a chamber with one bullet in it then pulling the trigger."
"No Bills, that's not what I was thinking exactly. I meant...more like, if the light turns purple, then you could do anything you wanted."
"But the options are so limited. You mean, if you wanted to stop, then stop, and if you wanted to keep going, then keep going?" Bills index finger paused just shy of his left nostril, as if caught before the cookie jar.
"Well yeah. And if you wanted to get out of your car and walk away, the purple light would sanctify that." Sira glanced over at the remaining assembly, who weren't paying attention in the least.
"This could really be a motivating factor in the ordinary mill of our lives," speculated Bills.
"Just imagine it," ventured Sira. "You're approaching the traffic light, ready to turn right. You see the light go from yellow to purple. Immediately you decide screw it, I'm turning left!" Sira watched Bills expectantly.
The light of realization crept into Bills's orange eyes. "I see what you mean. Maybe they decide it's not such a fine day to go to work, after all. So instead they turn left and drive right out of the town limits. Maybe head up the canyon, go for a quick mountain hike..." Bills's mouth hung slightly open at the thought.
"Exactly," Sira sighed. "We could really use a purple streetlight. That's it, I'm putting it into effect immediately. Any objections?" she asked the disconsolate crowd seated around them in the auditorium. No one so much as acknowledged she had spoken.
Bills and Sira shook hands firmly. She faxed Engineering about the matter just before leaving. Unsurprisingly, no one else in the hall bothered to get up and leave. Bills and Sira just left them there.
Engineering was an efficiently run department. They had the new traffic light system set up within a week. Thank god for outsourcing, Sira thought as she headed into work on that Wednesday morning, when the dull ache began in her cervix. When she saw the light go from yellow to purple she actually squealed out loud. Her mind raced ahead to all the possible permutations of choices before her.
Suddenly she jerked the cracked bone handled steering wheel to the right, and jumped the curb onto the sidewalk. Three homeless persons scattered out of the way, paper bags dropped and potatoes rolled across the sidewalk into the gutter. She began maneuvering the vehicle down the sidewalk, focusing on avoiding random obstacles. A fire hydrant, a street sign, a bicycle rack; Sira evaded these with ease. She then reached the corner and turned right, where the sidewalk ahead of her was formed of cobblestones. She proceeded up that walkway across the rounded stones, her car jouncing as her silky straight black hair bobbed along to the cobbles. She concentrated as she worked the steering wheel to avoid the occasional rabbit or puppy wandering out of the passing alleyways.
Just before reaching the sidewalk's end, an apple stand blocked her way, so she set the car in park and turned off the engine. She opened her driver's door and stepped out of the car. A tongue of wind licked at her bobbed hair. She strode over to the apple cart but the vendor could not be seen anywhere. Every apple was a different color. Some were striped in the fashion of a barber pole. She suddenly realized she was out of pocket change. Quickly looking up and down the street for the vendor, and not spotting him anywhere, she decided to follow her impulse to steal one of the barber-striped apples. And that was okay, because she was still following the impulse from the purple traffic light. The light told her to do it.