The Button (part 3)

button

Part 3 of 3

Scott sat at a large hardwood table in a room barely lit by a single lamp above it. The perimeter of the room was in shadow but he got the impression of it being vast and empty, save for the table and chair. The sole item on the table is a low profile silver box, the housing seamless with rounded edges and corners, with a four inch pearl button on the top softly glowing. He became aware of the hum of electronic equipment emanating from the darkness, buzzing in frequencies at the limits of human perception.

Thea handed him a pair of wrap-around goggles, black with a tiny red LED blinking.

“Pressing the button activates the experience. Whenever you’re ready,” she said with one hand on the door.

“Did you press it?”

“Mr. Perkins, let’s stay focused on the matter at hand.”

“I was just curious…it might help me decide – you know, to get a different take on it.”

“It’s personal.”

“So that’s a yes? What did you see?”

“It’s…personal.”

She left the room and he was alone, gazing motionless at the opal iridescent object before him.

~

“Do you want to go over it one more time? In case you remember anything more you’d like to document while it’s fresh in your memory?”

She sat upright at her desk, her glasses now off, taking an occasional note while a tiny video camera on a gooseneck stand recorded the debriefing session.

“No…no, I think that’s all I can remember,” he said softly, as if just waking up from a dream. “The main stuff anyway.” He restated: “Lying in bed, in that room, and there was someone there in bed with me. I couldn’t see her face. The room was pretty nice, I must have done alright for myself.”

“The details are important. Sometimes the system has a strange way of revealing its predictions. Take as long as you need,” she said reassuringly.

“Wait, there’s something else. I just remembered. The person next to me…she started to roll over but all I could see was her shoulder. There was a…like a scar or something. It was shaped like an X.”

Thea began to make note of his comment, her pen became motionless then fell from her hand.

“What did you just say?”

“A scar. Like an X. On her shoulder.”

“That’s…not possible.”

He looked up and saw a look somewhere in between disbelief and alarm.

“Oh my god,” she said. “This can’t be happening.”

“Huh?”

Sliding her left sleeve up to her shoulder, she revealed the mark he described.

“My brother pushed me into a fence when I was seven.”

“Wow, that’s a weird coincidence. What are the odds!” And then he finally understood. “Oh. Wait…wow. So did you see me in your session? What did – “

“Just stop! Please.”

They sat in silence for a moment, neither of them sure what to say.

“So…what do we do now? Cause we know –“

“No,” she said, cutting him off again. “We don’t really know anything for sure. Maybe that’s just one possible path. It’s not 100% accurate. I think.”

“But maybe this is good news?”

“Good news? Look, everybody who comes in here, they all think they’re going to get a leg up in life. Like the future is some secret they suddenly they’re in on. But I see them struggle with what they’ve learned. It’s a gift that people don’t really understand, and it’s never what they want it to be. You don’t get answers, you just get more questions,” she stated wearily.

“Well what’s the point of it then?” asked Scott.

Sheepishly: “I don’t know.”

A longer pause this time. They both listened to the sheets of rain on the windows, which had picked up considerably.

“You should know, I have a boyfriend. I live with my boyfriend. We’re happy,” she said, aware of how hollow her voice sounded in the confined concrete office overlooking the harbor, where the spring rain blurred the distinction between sea and clouds. “If you don’t have anything else to document, then maybe our session is over.”

“Ok…” He felt like the moment called for a profound truth to be said, but all that came out was “Will I see you again?”

She stared at her desk for what seemed like a long time.

“Yeah,” she said with quiet resignation. “You probably will.”

###

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