The Button (part 1)

handPart 1 of 3

He stared absently into a nearly empty cup of coffee, observing grounds which stuck to the sides of the cardboard cup and formed a ring. As he rose from his seat at the Fortune Café, an automated female voice coolly announced the readiness of order 67. Sidestepping tables and chairs occupied by businessmen and women, each fixated on their glowing screens, he meandered towards the exit.

Out on the city streets, glass buildings burst forth from wet sidewalks and disappeared into the low clouds like conduits into another world. The drizzle didn’t bother Scott. He briefly considered taking the new high speed subway (still called “the T” by locals, though the sleek new cars which glide silently on magnetic fields held little resemblance to the boxy, rattling dinosaurs used up until 2019) before realizing he blew his last credit on an overpriced coffee.

A dirty, bearded, man dressed in layers of frayed and mismatched clothes stood in the middle of the sidewalk ahead. With not much of a crowd to blend into he felt obligated to respond to the poor fellow’s query.

“Can you spare any change, my man?”

He fished around in his pockets and only found a couple coins but dropped them into the man’s cup (which featured the palmistry-diagram logo of the café he just left).

“Thanks, my man! I knew it. I saw you comin’ and knew you’d help, my man.”

“Yeah you’re welcome I guess,” said Scott, setting off down the street while the man continued his thankful if not rambling monolog.

He walked the 30 minutes from the business district towards the waterfront, past monolithic government offices, past a knot of poncho-clad Japanese tourists on a guided bus tour, and finally to a nondescript brick warehouse on one of the wharfs. This part of town was nearly deserted. He tried the front door and found it locked, but then noticed a tiny silver plaque with the familiar name “Alhazen Corporation” engraved into it, and rang the pearlescent button.

Two weeks ago he was in the three bedroom apartment he shared, looking over job postings, feeling neither inspired nor encouraged. The words he read washed over him like a slow moving river. They didn’t feel like opportunities so much as dead ends. Scrolling back to the top of the page he tapped “Misc.,” the section where he had previously found paying ‘jobs’ as a practice patient for medical students as well as a sleep study participant. The usual pyramid schemes were listed, along with a sketchy request for a naked maid and a couple uncompensated writing gigs, but this time something new caught his eye. It was a post which simply read:

“Time is the substance I am made of.” – J.L. Borges; if interested visit the Alhazen Corporation.

So having nothing much to do one day, he did. The door buzzed unlocked and he grasped the handle, pulled, and stepped inside.

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