While she was stacking dishes, she turned abruptly, dried her hands, and took the package from the bottom cabinet. Opening it, she set the button unit on the table. She stared at it for a long time before taking the key from its envelope and removing the glass dome. She stared at the button. How ridiculous, she thought. All this furor over a meaningless button.
Reaching out, she pressed it down. For us, she thought angrily.
—-Richard Matheson, Button, Button
Sunday, I came out into the living room to eat some eggs that I had scrambled with a few beans and some sausage. The television was on and a series of old Twilight Zone episodes were playing from the Syfy channel. Right when I sat down I Sing the Body Electric – which was written by Ray Bradbury and adapted into a short story of the same name (I was familiar with it) was on.
(2 minute preview)
I love the old anthology television shows – Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits… especially Alfred Hitchcock Presents. First, it’s fun to spot famous actors – Twilight Zone was the Law and Order of its time. I Sing the Body Electric had Veronica Cartwright in it.
But what I really like are the stories. So many of these were written by famous and extremely skilled short story writers. I am amazed at the work.
Sure enough, the next episode was Mute, by Richard Matheson. He was an amazingly prolific pulpy writer and you have seen his work everywhere (probably best known for I Am Legend – made into several movies) – he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone alone.
I looked for a copy of the short story Mute online, but couldn’t find one. I did find another Richard Matheson story however:
Button, Button by Richard Matheson
This is a famous story – the basis for a shitty Cameron Diaz move called The Box.
It was also made into an episode of The Twilight Zone – this time the 80’s incarnation.
The ending of the television is very different than the short story – not sure which I like better… at any rate, Richard Matheson wasn’t happy the Twilight Zone Version and used a pseudonym as the author. So read the story and watch the show. Which one do you prefer?
Actually, in looking around, I found something that I really liked… probably the most realistic take on the story.
This is Funny or Die’s version, which is genius: