PROS AND CONS OF PUSHING THE BUTTON
By the One Who Pushes
PRO: The world has never (not even once!) ended. Neither as a direct result of your having pushed the Button, nor in any other way. This is optimal.
CON: The world (your world, that is) has indeed never, not once, ended (nor even changed in the slightest) as a direct result of your having pushed the Button. And not to be too down on yourself and your sad life and everything, but let’s be honest: This is suboptimal. (You need friends.)
PRO: The people you pass on the street, on those rare occasions you dare to go out, may well have you, and no one else but you, to thank for their entire worldly, spatiotemporal existences. Good on you.
CON: Those same people may in fact have you, and no one else but you, to thank for their every waking misery and toil. And the non-waking ones, too. Maybe the Button isn’t what you think it is. He never told you for sure.
PRO: Pizza. There’s pizza. And there’s also a direct correlation. You’ve never pushed the Button and not had pizza afterward. Causal effect? This, more than anything else, feels like magic. Except for Him. He was pretty magical. (You think.)
CON: But what if there’s something better than pizza out there? Impossible to think (obviously), but still, it bears asking: What if, much like the unintended causing of all sorts of misery, the pushing of the Button is also the very one-and-only thing that tethers your taste buds to this reality where pizza is the ultimate bliss? What if there exist higher peaks—truer peaks—among the universe of possibilities? Peaks that are simply unimaginable in this Button-fixed world of pizza? Holy crap. What if there’s one where kale actually tastes good?
PRO: The doubt. Or, more specifically, the total lack of it. Because when you push the button—and you’ve never not pushed the button—there’s none of it. And as long as you keep pushing the button, there’s no reason to start. The world is here, the world is the world, and there’s no reason to doubt any of it.
CON: Except you’ve never not pushed the button, and yet here you are. And what to call this entire exercise, really, but one big snowball of doubt? You should probably stop now. Get it together. Go back to your life. Because, like…
PRO: How about this little thing called existential security? Because seriously, how could you be so selfish as to even think about forgoing the one and only action that may or may not be the only thing holding the entirety of space and time together? You know what He told you. You can’t even begin to disprove it. And even if you could… Is it really that important, to know more than this? Are you really that important?
CON: Squanderance. You’re not sure it’s a word (in fact, you’re pretty sure it isn’t), but you can’t rightly think of any better one for the entire world of alternative possibilities you’re leaving on the table, each and every time you push that Button. Even if the one and only alternative is the immediate and irrevocable annihilation of everything… Is that truly so bad? I mean, of course it is. But yet you wonder. Yet you toil. He never should’ve placed this burden on you.
PRO: He told you to do it. And seeing as He is the closest thing you can fathom to Truth and Wisdom incarnate—and possibly even to Justice—it seems like folly to disobey. To even question. And still.
CON: It’s killing you. And if He is Truth, if He is Wisdom, then He could not have possibly hung the balance of time, space, and reality itself on your shoulders for any reason other than for you to do with it exactly as you will do. This has to end.
CONCLUSION & PARTING NOTES
And so, I’m building a box. A box unlike any other.
The details of this box are perhaps irrelevant, but I feel you should know them anyway—for posterity, let’s say, even though it seems a near mathematical certainty that you will never see these words. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Perhaps none of this does. Regardless, I have decided to do this thing, and so here follow the details and reasons why.
The costs to me in undertaking this project have been considerable—both financially and spiritually. To the former point, I’ve sold my home and crappy car, and cashed out on every bit of retirement savings I had. To the latter, I don’t even know what to say, except that I’ve prayed each and every day for Him to appear to me once again—to tell me if I am acting in error. To tell me anything at all. But there’s been no word, save for those of my skeptical construction crew.
The box itself…
The box is a miracle. A space age capsule of filters and shielding. Or the equivalent of one, at least. Mostly, in reality, it’s one dense chunk of a subterranean bunker. Cinder blocked and double Faraday caged. Lead paneled on the exterior. That didn’t come cheap. Suffice it to say, though: not even the Man of Steel himself (if he were real) would be able to see what’s happening in the box, once it’s closed.
At times, I wonder if maybe even He—the He that is real, and way more omnipotent than Supes—will be unable to see what happens in there. I don’t know. And I’m pretty sure I never will.
The water and air filtration systems have been an interesting challenge. All of it rather interesting, the construction foreman points out one day, in lieu of what he’s really thinking—which is namely, no doubt, that if any single part of this weirdo bunker fails in any unforeseen way, this stupendously expensive box of mine will almost certainly be rendered a stupendously expensive coffin, posthaste. But I see no other way. I just hope to the Gods of Pizza-flavored MREs that I’ve stocked enough supplies to last… well, however long it lasts.
You see, the only certainty left in my mind is that I must push the Button.
And the only certainty left in my mind is that I also mustn’t.
And so, I’m taking the Button with me.
Into the box, we go.
In there, with my Button and without my world, I pray I might finally do as I may.
In there, I pray it will not matter—though to whom I pray all of this, I can no longer say.
Regardless, from here on out, you may consider the Button to be both pushed and also not pushed, for that will be the truth as far as anyone but me should ever know. And if it should come to pass that this truth should also happen to coincide with your untimely annihilation—and indeed the untimely annihilation of everything—then know (though I suppose it’s impossible for anyone to know anything, in that case) that I am sorry. Or that I would be, at least, were there any existence left within which to be sorry. But at the end of the day… at the end of it all…
Well, what business is it of yours, really, what I do with my own Button?
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This was very interesting read. I like the nod to Schrodinger's Cat. Nice subtle reference. Psychologically, this had me feeling like a man chasing his tail, endlessly. I love this kind of story. I look forward to seeing more of your stories.
I love the way you structured this, Luke. It was such a refreshing read, and I thought you had a very clear voice and point of view. Well done.
Schrodinger’s button! Nice one. The story is really intriguing, good work.
Ha! A terrible test by some awful god with a twist of Schrödinger's Cat. Perfectly executed for the prompt. Well done!
Way to go, Luke - congrats on shortlisting!
Intriguing story. The very best part about it, in my opinion, is the tone and voice. I'm not sure who this guy is, or was, but I absolutely know with certainly what he's LIKE, from the way he puts things.