The Button, Fiction Short Exclusively Written for the Legion Readers

The following short fiction piece was written exclusively for a Legion Reading at Post 134 in Portland. The night’s theme was “sprung.”

Half-a-million impulsive pushers. 645,986 to be exact. The sixty second timer ticks away—59, 58, 57—click—60, 59, 58—click—60, 59—click. None know of the consequences for letting it drop to zero. The one known consequence is you have one opportunity. One click. There are millions of us. Half-a-million have wasted their one vote, their finite resource. It only took three days. If we had thought this through it could have lasted a year. Or more. There is a limited supply of us, and the Button never stops—59, 58, 57, 56, 55, 54, 53, 52, 51—click. I’ve sat for six days awaiting my turn. I will be the last.

Where does madness spring from? My grandfather had a glimpse.

There is a button on a website being watched by millions. They do not know what this button does. They have split into different clans based on what purpose they wish to serve. The 59s support pressing The Button when the timer is exactly fifty-nine seconds. The Emerald Council supports pressing The Button between thirty-one and forty seconds.

Anyone who has not pressed The Button owns a gray flair. Those who press it between the fifty-one-second mark and the sixty-second mark receive a purple flair. Pressing between the forty-two-second mark and the fifty-one-second mark receives you a blue flair. The next is green. Then yellow. No one has achieved a yellow flair. The common person will press

The Button immediately. Roughly ninety percent are Purples. Eight percent belong to The Bluetherhood.  One percent belongs to The Emerald Council. After yellow is orange then red.

The Church of The Button supports the continuation of the timer. The Destructionists support the timer reaching zero. The Followers of the Shade wish to never press it.

I will not be a Purple. Or an unforgiveable, spineless 59. I will not settle for the Emerald Council. The Days of Yellow and Orange will be ushered in by the sheer lack of people able to press The Button. There is a limited supply of us, and the Button never stops—59, 58, 57, 56, 55, 54, 53, 52, 51—click. I’ve sat for six days awaiting my turn. I will be the last. I am the Pressiah who will be here to lead the Red Revolution.

Where does madness spring from?

One internet user waited until the early morning when internet traffic slowed. The timer approached the Yellow Mark. His finger hovered over his mouse. The number reset. His finger reacted against him, forever belonging to the 59s. The stranger received a green flair.

One internet user insults the “filthy pushers,” those who “have wasted a precious gift,” something they wished for their children to see. This is the way of the New World. We push without much thought. Meanwhile, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is collapsing. Global sea level will rise more than eleven feet in the coming centuries. Oceanside cities will drown. The poorer countries will suffer first, for the richer countries exhausted all the world had to offer for a greedy species. Purple is spoiled royalty. Blue is easy, just fine enough. Green and yellow for the Emerald City and the Brick road of unattainable fantasies—Agent Orange for what my grandfather fought through in Vietnam, for what killed him after three tours. His body was never the same. Red for the blood of the American Natives we stole from and naively labeled as Indians. We are mad. And we are sprung for anything of the taking—their habitat, your house, your children, your body—you are sitting there all night waiting out your chance to press a button because that is the one thing you can do. You can press it whenever you want. You have complete and total control here. So press it. What changes? Or don’t press it. Run out the clock. Let everyone make a decision. You sit there, do nothing. Is madness desperation? My grandfather and I never shared a word. The government got around to paying him for his suffering twenty years after he passed. A consolation for his wife’s loss. That same government is recording your calls, your emails, everything you do on a digital device—your information has been shared overseas a-hundred-thousand times. Dad used to tell me to hide all my money from the banks. He was schizophrenic. So press your button. Form factions. Play pretend. This is every bit the world my grandfather feared and my dad ran away from. Half-a-million impulsive pushers. Madness springs from within.