First, I'd like to disclaim that desperate people do desperate things. The anonymity of the internet allows me to freely type this story in all its truth, but all I ask is those of you reading this...Do not judge me prematurely. I am but a simple man with simple desires and events change people.
I have changed from the events I am about to recount to you. Whether I have changed for better or for worse is debatable, but not really up to any of you to decide. Read with caution and learn from this for this is the only way I can warn you without exposing myself entirely. I am writing to absolve the sins I have committed, but also as a form of apology for those who were harmed. Thank you.
It appeared initially on my counter top.
I live in a small apartment, no larger than 600 sqft. When things are moved or even just slightly out of place, it is easy to tell due to the smallness of my home. My counter tops are white, leading into a small bar where I have three stools set. To conserve space in the apartment, that is where I eat, do work, and bullshit.
I spend a lot of my time at this counter and it hasn't changed a day since I moved in. Pristine, comfortable, expansive...I'm a clean guy myself and aim to keep my workspace orderly. So, you can imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and walked into my kitchen to see a button resting on the counter.
I did a literal double take. I saw it, opened the fridge for some juice, then closed the fridge in an effort to see the button a second time before it ultimately escaped me. However, just the opposite happened. It stayed right there, shiny in the morning light coming from my kitchen window. It sent a shock of unease down my spine, a little shiver that some may call a 'gut instinct'. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why such a prop would give me the crude feeling.
At first I was cautious, looking at it from all angles without actually touching the button. My initial thought was this: That it had to be a friend playing a prank and that I was just as gullible as ever. My buddies are rowdy, obnoxious, and funny as hell. I met them back in college and most of them are still bachelors like myself. It wouldn't surprise me if this were from them, just a way to stay entertained in the boring throws of everyday life.
With that thought, I very stupidly picked up the button. It felt no heavier than a plastic toy, flimsy and poorly made. It was comically designed to be complete with a wide red, bubble surface. The bottom was a metallic color that led into black with a single slit in the bottom. After studying it, turning it over several times, and tossing it in the air I returned to an easy state of nonchalance.
There was nothing to fear. It was plastic, harmless, and light.
I texted my friends on a group chat asking them about the button. Within an hour, all of them had declared they had no clue what I was talking about. So, I sent them a picture, I've linked it so you all can see it too.
Still, none of them claimed to know what it was or where it came from. Still thinking they were fucking with me, I set the contraption down and hurried through my morning routine. I had work within the half hour and for a long shift I had forgotten about the button.
My day progressed as normal, the button escaping my thoughts. I worked, took my lunch, worked some more and eventually left with an air of exhaustion. I snagged take out on my way home and didn't even go into the kitchen to be faced with the gadget. Rather, I plopped right on the couch and ate myself into a much deserved food coma with the Twilight Zone accompanying me. I passed out promptly two episodes into the evening, empty cartons of Chinese food surrounding me.
When I woke, it was because Netflix had stopped playing the show. It was a dull, humming silence that buzzed me into the waking world. I fumbled for a moment, sitting up and rubbing my head. I reached in the dark for the remote off my coffee table and my fingers grazed the smooth surface of the button. I recoiled instantly, far more awake than I had been. I flipped on the lamp next to me and sure enough, the button was there in all it's angry red glory.
Once my heart calmed some, I was officially spooked. There was no way in hell my buddies had come in and moved the device. None of them had a key to my place and I lived on the third floor, so no outdoor access either. I swallowed thickly and reached for it again, with purpose, picking the button up. Out the bottom was a little white paper, coming right from the slit of the otherwise smooth, metallic bottom. The slip of paper was no larger than that of a fortune cookie's. I tugged gently and it came free. A whirring sound came from the button and then it settled into a quiet calmness again.
With shaking fingers, I turned the paper over to read a set of numbers and a street name. It was an address with one simple line underneath:
“Go, collect your reward.” I read it aloud.
Eying between the paper and the button, the button began to whir again and out the slit came a partial paper. No matter how much I tugged I couldn't release it without almost tearing it in half. I eventually pushed the button in an air of desperation and the rest of the paper slipped out and I was able to jimmy it free. This fortune (I have no idea what else to call it) read that I had thirty minutes and to be quick.
Without much rational thought (adrenaline and curiosity will do that to you, people) I slipped the button into a bag, grabbed a knife from my kitchen (never can be too prepared), and clumsily went out the front door. I made sure to lock it behind me.
My car told me it was nearing two in the morning. Thankfully, the streets were empty save for the newly browned leaves Fall was bringing about. I did my best to remain calm but my unease kept rising and my eyes kept darting to my bag where the button lay safe. I realized in that moment I was a fucking crazy idiot: I was out in the early morning going to an address I didn't know because a button told me to.
Look, I don't have much going on. And the word reward? Oh, that was enticing, especially for someone thousands of dollars into debt from our college system. Don't mind me, I'm not bitter about it. At all. Perhaps I was on some sort of game show? I knew it was untrue, but it was a nice thought.
I arrived at the address with the bag over my shoulder and the knife concealed in my hand, up my sleeve. It was the address to a home, a nice home in an even *nicer* area. The porch light was out and a single room was lit on the second floor. From the decorative curtains, I'd say it was a teenage girl's room. I sat for what seemed forever, wondering if her parent's knew she was up, wondering what would happen if someone accused me of being a stalker...when I finally took out the button. Why I hadn't before was beyond me. With a deep breath, I pressed it again and the same whirring noise occurred.
The paper I procured this time held a simple sentence:
“Take the bag and do not get caught.”
I squinted in the dark to see where the mysterious bag may lay. I could see the outline of a sack on the front porch, fat and lumpy. I wondered how I'd missed it, but it was so dark out I really couldn't blame myself. I looked at the button again before slinging it back in my own bag and headed out of the car. It was chilly and I threw my hood over my head. The warning to not get caught was hot on my mind and I nimbly crept up the stairs of the porch and snagged the bag. Immediately, a harsh barking came from within the house, literally the moment my fingers grazed the mesh of the bag. It sounded close...Too close, as if the dog were right beside me, not at all muffled by the front door like it should have been. Regardless, panic overtook me and I grasped the bag.
I was going to get caught if I did not hurry up.
I ran faster than I ever have in my whole life with the strange sack in my arms. It was dense, but not too heavy, and I slung it into my backseat before squealing off into the night. I raced back to my apartment, hauled my things upstairs, and breathed a sigh of relief as I locked my door.
After taking a moment to breathe, I snagged the sack and with little remorse I sliced into it with the knife. I have no idea what I was expecting (limbs? Organs? A child? Feces?) but what fell out surprised me even more than gore or shit would have.
Bundles of money slipped from the tear I'd made. There were tens, twenties, fifties, and hundreds all rolled up and bound by rubber bands. At the time I had no idea initially how much it was. After counting it, I'd come to acclimate a grand. A solid grand, in that bag, in my apartment, in my possession.
All thanks to that button and close to no work on my part.
I laughed in disbelief, eyes going wide as I thumbed through the fifties for the third time. The moment was short lived as I heard a whirring coming from my bag and ran to grab the button again. Perhaps it wasn't a curse but rather the button was a gift...A cosmic gift in my otherwise boring and orthodox life. I took out the paper from the button and it asked me a simple question:
“Would you like to play more? Press to continue. Throw away to decline.”
Without even an air of hesitation, I slammed that button and it whirred louder than before, almost gleefully.
“Enjoy your cash prize, press at 6AM promptly for next task.” Read the next slip.
And that was that. I had no idea if this thing was a magic genie, if it was a universal accident, perhaps my game show theory was right? But, something in the air had told me that there was no going back now that I had pressed to continue on. Yet, at the time, nothing could bring me down.
I had never felt so alive.
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