It's your regular city center square. Shops, cafe's, houses for the people of means, and a bustling crowd going about its business. But there's something in the center of the square that is a bit odd.
In the center, there's a lamp-post. About a month ago, someone came and attached a small metal box to the post; on the box there is a large, red button. Just below the button there is a label, on which in friendly letters it is written "Please press me".
The button is as spotlessly clean as it was on the first day. Nobody, ever, pressed it.
On that fateful day I was going about my business, like everyone else, I happened to be walking in the center of the square when I got accosted by a fellow with a notepad and a pen. He had a bizzare rodent-like quality, what with being short, hunched over, and a twitch of his writing hand all adding up to near perfect rodentness. Weird. You'd think they'd send charismatic people to do surveys. In a voice I can only describe as the voice of a rat, if a rat were human, he asked-
"Hello, sir, would you mind taking a short questionnaire? Merely a minute of your time."
See, this was back when I was stupid and thought nothing about being helpful. I said, it would be no bother taking the questionnaire so he started asking. Harmless little questions as far as I can remember, they had a certain innocent but draining quality to them. My advice to you is never answer any questionnaire.
"Fascinating" he commented as he wrote my last reply in his notepad. "Now, one more thing sir, if you please. Could you be so kind and press that button? The red one over here, please press it."
"Iiiuuhhm ... I don't think I should".
"But it says right here, 'please press me'. Please sir, press the button."
"It feels iffy, you know, I'd much rather not."
"Please, please, please sir, only one press" his eyes becoming ever more pleading. I looked at the button, the button seemed to look at me. Then I looked back at him. "N-noo, sorry, I think I'd rather not and be on my way, sorry".
"Please don't make me do this sir" he squealed. I nodded my head as a no and motioned to leave.
He took out a gun and pointed it at my head.
"Please sir press the button NOW!" he cried. There was a gun at my head.
"Look what you made me do, please, sir please for the love of God press that damn button!" At my head. There was. A gun.
"I-i-ii-uhm *gulp* *cough*" At my head. A GUN.
"Please press that button NOW sir or so help me the Lord I'll shoot you where you stand!"
"F-ffine, look, I'm going to press the button now. Calm down, I'm pressing the button, just, just put that gun down." There was a gun pointed at my head. Also, I was slowly regaining composure.
Slowly, I raised my right hand, and on it the index finger. Placing it slowly on the middle of the red button, I began to push. I only had eyes for my hand on the button, but somehow I felt the rat-man's gazing upon my hand as well.
I pushed. Slowly. Counter-pressure was building up in the internal spring, ever so gradually. With a low thunk, audible only in the finger tips, the plastic button began bearing down on some fexible metal blade inside it. Clink-clonk through the finger tips, as the metal blade touched a pair of others. That was as far as the button could go. Plunk, as the internal blades disconnected, I allowed my finger to be pushed back by the counter spring. Slowly.
I only had eyes for my hand on the button, but I felt that a crowd of people had gathered and were watching me. Everyone in the square must have stopped, and in complete silence they were glaring at my hand. The weight of their stare was nigh unbearable. I swore that if I got back home that day somehow, I would scour my hand with drain-cleaner.
Ever slowly, I began to remove my finger from over the button. The glare of the crowd began to diverge, going away from my hand, mercifully, and focusing now its full force on the button. For its part, the button glared back, like the red eye of a monstrous fiend. Defiant. It knew it could win any staredown contest.
One by one, cowed by the gaze of the button, the crowd began to disperse, shamed. Shamed, and troubled. Something terrible, something unfathomable, had just transpired. I bowed my head as well. The only person who seemed to depart with any kind of cheer was the rat-like questionner, now moving about the crowd trying to get somebody else to answer his questions. He seemed to have lost any interest in the button box and within moments he was lost in the crowd. The crowd itself had a curious air about it, as if everyone was now just rushing to wherever, and were purposefully avoiding any sideways look and desperately wanting to keep out of trouble.
All right button. You won. But I won't accept defeat so easily. I will find out what it is you are. I snatched my multipurpose toolknife from my pocket; it's good to carry one of these things, you never know when you need to take something apart.
Promptly I proceeded to undo the screws that held the metal box together. In a rather shoddy display of construction, there were only three rather than the four that the box required. Out went the three screws and with them, the back of the box. It looked like an ordinary metal plate, nothing special about it.
Inside the box, a pair of clamps held it to the post; apart from them and the button mechanism the box looked completely empty.
I examined the button mechanism. Sure enough, there were the metal blades I felt earlier. Curiously, there was one blade that the button would bend and push, while a pair of blades had wire stubs screwed at their ends. And mere wire stubs they seemed to be.
No insulation, extremely short, almost unraveled both of them. Apparently going nowhere. Idly, I thought there might be a portal on the end of the stubs so I started pulling on them to see what I could find. It then occured to me that this test was stupid; had there been a portal on the end of the wires, who was to say that there wasn't a lethal voltage between them?
Obviously though, portal or not, there was no lethal voltage. Still, I began to regret not packing the oscilloscope that day. Those things are very useful in times like this. Looking carefully around, I mounted the back of the box again and left the place, deciding to think about it later. By next day the box was gone.
I thought about it ever since.
And for the life of me I can't figure out anything. What was that button supposed to do?! What do you think?