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"Do Not Push"

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I was watching a piece on Adam & Eve on History International today, and it reminded me of a story I had come up with a couple of years ago.

A man, drifting on the sea in a raft, comes to an island just as he is on the brink of death. He is rescued by the natives, and nursed back to health.

The inhabitants of the island have been peaceful for thousands of years, living primitive, simple lives. On the highest point of the island, however, there is a shiny temple. Inside the temple there is an altar. Upon this altar, there is a large red button. When in the presense of the button, any viewer can see words floating above it, in whatever language the viewer can read, and is even perfectly understandable by the illiterate.

The words read: "Do Not Push".

The elders of the island spend a long time debating whether or not the newcomer is indeed the one of prophesy who is fated to push the button. During this time, the man learns about the inhabitants of the island. Everyone has their own theory about what would happen were the button pushed. Some believe that the island would sink beneath the waves, or some other great disaster. Others think that a great boon would be visited upon the island and he who pushed the button.

The elders come to a decision. The newcomer is indeed the one of prophesy, and he is lead to the temple, and placed before the button, and left alone. Here the story ends.




I realize that this is the second story of this nature I have posted here. I always liked stories like these, sort of the "Lady and the Tiger" type. Since I am the author of the stories, presumably I know how they end. In reality, I do not. I have discussed them with a number of people, and heard their endings. It is really quite fascinating to me. For myself, I have come up with several ways that the story could end. In some, the man pushes the button and nothing happens. In a few of these scenarios, after reporting this to the elders, the society on the island breaks down into anarchy. The mystery of the button was the only thing that kept them from savagery(this is my favorite ending, btw). In other scenarios, the man does not push the button, and simply walks away, but as he does so, a bird flies in and lands on the button, and the island sinks or there is an earthquake.

My friend Reggie's ending was that by pushing the button, the man is admitted into the fold of the elders. In reality, the button does nothing and is simply a test.




Why this story comes to mind when I think about the story of Adam & Eve is that it is the same basic story: something is forbidden, and if it is done, then great harm will come to you. Or will it? Was the great harm going to happen anyway, or is it a direct result of your actions?
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Well I think having something good happen when the button is pushed would be a ripoff. This button was presumably installed by a more advanced civilization than the natives, what with the floating words and all. To make this advanced and vanished civilization full of lying bastards who installed this button with instructions not to press it because it makes something GOOD happen wouldn't fit.

Rather reminds me of the Shmoos from "Lil' Abner.

"Shmoos is the greatest menace to hoomanity th' world has evah known."

"Thass becuz they is so bad, huh?"

"No, stupid, it's because they're so good!"

My vote is that the button does nothing and is just a test to see if the induct-ee has enough self-discipline to avoid pressing a button that makes clear the probability of adverse consequences for pressing it.

After all, they're on an ISLAND! Hundred things can go wrong on an island. Witness Krakatoa, which got blowed up so good in 1883 that it barely even exists anymore!

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It is all because it is a big read button you realize...

He flips a coin and if appropriate pushes the button.

Large nuclear type boom if button is pressed, of course. What else could a big red button what reads don't push be?

I like the button as a test though.

Fwiw, I’d push it because they wanted me to.

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