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The Green Button - A Short Story

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Peter wondered what would happen if he pressed the green button on the device he held in his hand right now. Sally & Ron egged him on to do it but those dumb wits were not in their right senses. Sometimes, in their line of work, extraordinary amounts of patience and character was required. Successes were rare and failure a constant companion. So it was not uncommon for their small group of archaeologists, who were stranded in a deep cave, to have some marijuana to while away their time as they waited to be rescued. And Peter, Sally & Ron were a breed of customers who the peddlers would tumble over to keep happy for their personal business benefits.

Peter had allowed himself to refuse another joint to which Sally & Ron happily obliged. As his head cleared, he took stock of his surroundings and his curiosity instinct took over. It had been three days since they last had contact with their on ground teammate, Jack. Jack was coordinating the whole excavation process and now the rescue efforts. He was increasingly getting snappy on ground with the rescue workers as days passed since the efforts were not producing the desired result. Meanwhile down in the cave, Peter, itching to give his legs some much-needed exercise, got up to explore the third recess of the cave which was still a mystery. He gingerly took his first few steps as veins in his legs got accustomed to the normal pressure of freely flowing blood through them. He did some stretching exercises to bring all his bodily faculties to rapt attention. Once sure of himself, he moved towards that recess.

The whole recess seemed empty except that he found some skeletons propped up & resting near the back wall. It had scared him, but he was quickly learning to get used to such macabre sights; his line of work frequently involved meeting them in god forsaken corners of the world. His eyes were now focused on an object in the hands of one of the skeletons. He bent to remove the object from the firm grasp of those bony fingers. With some struggle and a broken bone – the skeleton’s! – he managed to free it. It was lightweight. He turned it over and over to gauge what material it was and soon he was convinced it was wood. He ran back excitedly to the spot where Sally & Ron were enjoying their time as if on an outdoor picnic.

He sat down and poked Ron in his eyes. Ron winced and howled in pain, tears now fast filling his eyes and starting to roll down his cheeks. Peter repeated it with Sally and elicited the same result. He waited for a few minutes and had a go at it once again. This was supposed to bring them down from their high and into their normal senses. Sally was quick to react. She punched Peter on his left jaw causing him to lean on his right to balance himself. Ron followed that punch by Sally with a kick of his own into the exposed abdomen of Peter. This was more than Peter could handle to keep his balance in check and he flipped. When he got up and sat down once again, he wasn’t agitated. It was a playful attack on him, because of his misdeeds a few minutes earlier. They all burst into a fit of laughter. Once it subsided, Peter showed them his discovery. Both mimicked Peter’s earlier excitement and gathered around him to closely examine the item in his hand.

In the glow of the lighter, they saw strange hieroglyphics etched on what seemed to be its top surface. Peter commented that the object was made of wood. Sally took the object from Peter and blew off the dust that had accumulated over the grooves of the hieroglyphics. She then settled to observe and decipher them. She instantly went into her Google mode trying to find a match for those strange symbols amongst every script known to man stored in her encyclopedic mind. She was unsuccessful. It was as if she had come across symbols from some ancient undiscovered language. She looked at it for a long moment and passed it to Ron. As Ron took it, he noticed a small lever sticking out from side surface. He pointed that out to others and tried to pull at it. But it didn’t budge. So he tried to push it. This time it moved and it aligned with the outside surface of the object disappearing quickly amongst the surface. A moment later, the object seemed to develop some cracks around the bottom. Peter quickly snatched it from Ron.

Apparently they were holding it upside down. Peter turned it over. It was a box. A hollow wooden box. Peter peered inside and saw three tile like protrusions from the depth of the inside surface of the box. Ron asked Peter to see if it held any engravings. Peter brought the box as close to the eye as possible so he could see the surface of the protrusions clearly. He didn’t see any engravings, but he identified three distinct colors – Green, Yellow and Blue –  each tile a different color. He looked up at Sally expecting an explanation, but none was coming through. Peter thought that was strange for the ever intelligent Sally, but he since he was quite excited about the discovery, he didn’t give her slip a second thought.

He put his hand inside the box and pushed the yellow tile protrusion to see if it behaved as the one Ron found outside the box. He wasn’t disappointed. As he pressed the yellow button, he observed that the green and the blue ones rose in height very slightly, blue one a bit more than the green one. Intrigued, he moved his thumb over to the blue tile to press it. He gently pressed it but nothing happened. So he tried once again. Still nothing. Loosing a bit of interest, he moved his thumb over to the green tile and was about to press it, when they heard a faint noise from the radio transmitter. Peter stopped and Sally stretched to pick up the radio.

Though the radio line had lot of noise, Sally sent out an emergency SOS code and waited. Few minutes later, the line cleared and Jack responded from the other end. Sally jumped with excitement and she quickly narrated where they were and what they had discovered in the cave. Jack said that he was coming down himself to rescue them. Before he went off the radio, he warned them not to do anything with the object they found. If they happen to find it open already, he explicitly warned them not to press the Green button. Peter was surprised, Jack knew about the object and the buttons inside them. But he didn’t argue then. He will have time later on to discuss such trivialities. So he kept the object aside and lit up another joint and relaxed.

Two hours later, they heard a faint knock over the right side wall of the cave section. Ron got up to examine and lining up his ears to the wall, he could hear the faint knock of metal hitting the rock on the other side. He came back to give the good news and they all got up to get ready. By the time they were packed up and ready to go, Jack & his rescue team had managed to create a large hole in the cave wall, big enough for one person to be able to crawl through. Jack crawled through the hole first and when he laid his eyes on three of them, he heaved a sigh of relief. He went over and hugged each of them.

Once Jack was satisfied about their well being, he enquired about the object and Peter pointed it to the ground beside him. Jack bent down and carefully handling the object, placed it inside his pouch hanging around his waist. Closing the zip, he looked up and asked what did they do after they had found the object. Peter walked him through his discovery in detail and also explained the effects of pressing the yellow and the blue tiles – buttons Jack corrected him. Jack patted Peter on the back when he told him that the radio crackled into life when he was about to press the green button and since Jack’s warning, he hasn’t pressed it.  Peter now seeing his chance, probed Jack and asked him the mystery about the green button and the box. But before he could begin his question, there were four loud gunshots. The next person who had crawled in following Jack had removed a handgun from his back pack and had fired them, killing all the four archaeologists. The last thought on Peter’s mind, what the fuck, would have happened if he had pressed the green button…

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