AND SO HE FOUND HIMSELF IN A ROOM FULL OF BUTTONS and levers. A small windowless room with no door. Or had he really found himself here? He could not remember a time before this, nor a place beyond. And there were labels on all the buttons. Labels for everything. And it was his job, or his option, to push buttons. But what life is it to live in a room full of buttons and never push them? Should one just passively sit in a corner, never daring, caring to test, to try, to attempt action or self-expression or even curiosity? Lifeless? Yet there were buttons in every square inch so that even if one were to try to exorcise themselves from all choice this would be an impossibility.
And so he pushed the buttons, though nothing ever seemed to happen. At first he merely assumed that the actions described on the labels were happening elsewhere, but he was effective and, in fact, his button pushing intuition was somehow required beyond the walls of this room. He felt, perhaps, he was put in the box for a special purpose, for he and he alone knew instinctively which buttons to push and when, and he was providing a much needed service afar and, in the end, for himself. In these times he would sit to himself, wondering how it came to be that he was so lucky to have been chosen for such power. Chosen to do nothing but make decisions all day. And was it not a pleasure, almost like a gift, to push buttons of all different shapes and sizes and colours and actions in the order or disorder of your choosing? Perhaps he alone was God controlling the world from his room of buttons.
And years passed and passed in this room and the man began to grow weary of pushing buttons, although he could not entirely avoid it, since buttons trampled underfoot, and other buttons were set off merely by breathing or sneezing and others, designed specifically for this purpose, through urinating and defecating. All these involuntary buttons too had some result...of which he didn't rightly know since he had never seen any evidence of it. And so the man became despondent. And he wondered, perhaps, if the buttons didn't do anything at all. Perhaps they were merely a distraction, a ruse to keep him entertained in this small windowless, soundless, personless box. Or perhaps this was a prison, his memory erased, his body incarcerated for eternity, the buttons a conundrum dreamed up by scientists to test his will, to pass on a message of what he could be doing if he had not been such a filthy criminal and found himself incarcerated. Years passed with this feeling over his head too, and often he wished to push the 'Self Destruct' button, which he had uncovered in a corner. It was the one button he had never pushed, and couldn't, out of fear.
But, in the interest of playing it safe, he continued to push buttons diligently, or, at least, half-heartedly. To be sure. Just in case. However, in these years a new thought began to formulate in his head, one that made the possibility of him being merely incarcerated more acceptable, in fact, a positive scenario. It was a thought that terrified him so coldly that he used the idea of merely being punished, incarcerated, as a carefree distraction - a pleasant fancy to avoid the path of logic his mind was forcing him down. And the thought was this: Perhaps he was not a prisoner at all, at least not in the technical sense, being punished for some wrong, but, instead, a man in a box full of buttons and something had gone wrong and none of the buttons actually worked. There was a disconnect...a malfunction...or perhaps they had never been connected at all...and none of them, including the communication button, was working, so he could not contact anyone for help. Perhaps wires were crossed and his box was non-functional and nobody knew. Perhaps the world was now destroyed due to the lack of his buttons operating.
And so this thought, down a dark tunnel, came to a dead-end: He was confronted with the red button, the self-destruct button which glared at him from the corner, throbbing light. In this button lay the answer. If he were to push that button and everything ended, he should know that he had no reason to worry, that, indeed, the buttons were working and that, indeed, all his work and desires had not been for naught. But with that satisfaction would come death...not only of himself, but possibly of the world...and of any knowledge of joyful, meaningful work, or purpose, or efficacy. But if he pushed the button and nothing happened, then he would know that his buttons were not working. In fact, never had been working and all this time in this cell, all the button pushing he had done in earnest, and then just in case, had meant nothing, a meaningless distraction, and that there would be no escape from here. And he would have to pass the rest of his days in this malfunctioning box wishing that the self-destruct button worked so that he could end this empty life.
And so he sits in the windowless box full of buttons and levers, staring at this button and the button glaring back from the corner threatening him with the option, presenting the only liveable solution: to not push the one button that really matters.
Roz and Rick:
by Mark James Andrews
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