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“He should push the button.”

“No, he shouldn’t push the button.”

“He doesn’t have a choice! If he doesn’t do it now, we’ll never know what we’re missing here!”

“That’s not what’s important here, can’t you see that?!”

“I’ve already decided.”

———

May 25, 2010

A day with Katherine, still confused

I met up with Katherine today. We talked as usual, and I really thought I’d figure some things out, come up with a plan, but now that I’m writing this, I don’t think I made any progress. I mean, I know my problems: I need a job, I need to “go out and experience life more”, and I need to figure out my love life. You’d think at 24 I’d have figured some of this stuff out. I just don’t know what I want to do. I know my degree was worthless anyways, but dropping out seems like it was an even worse decision now. Well, I knew it was a bad decision, but I just didn’t want my degree to be a thing I put on my resume. It means something to me just to have learned what I learned. I mean, without it I wouldn’t have done all my writing, and I wouldn’t have met all the friends I love. That’s not an excuse as to why I dropped out though I guess. I guess I wanted to prove something? I’m just so sick of people judging me, taking pride only in things completed or accomplished. What about the whole: It’s the journey that counts? No one talks about your “journey” when you get down to it. Well, I’ve liked my journey, and yea, I still have a long way to go, but I’ll get there. That’s the whole point right?

James closes his journal and hides it. Someone reading it would be devastating, his whole world is contained on its pages… well, those pages and the pages of his other journals and stories. Not once have they been read though by someone other than himself, and he has only admitted their existence to Katherine. He would have admitted them to Aunt Mary too though. Maybe even let her read them.

I miss her, he thought for a moment.

James’ friends, Katherine and Lee, don’t know much about his relationship with Mary, but neither does he. His own mother treated him well, but there was a comfort with Mary that he didn’t get anywhere else. She was experienced, a veteran of life, and was always pursuing new things. Her pursuit came from a place James knew little about, but he knew that she didn’t want to talk about.

She’s gone now though, so how will I ever know, why didn’t I ask then? He continued in his thoughts.

James got into bed, he knew he would think for a while longer, but it’s more comfortable lying while thinking these thoughts. He can rest and bury himself that way, hidden in his own little world, away from the judgmental stares.

And so he thought, alone in his own world.

———

He got up late the next day. He was alone, as usual. His roommate Aaron was always out working, and it was pointless to try to figure out his ever changing schedule. His dreams were intriguing ones though, and he went to pull out his journal to write about them.

But, there was something wrong.

The door to the cupboard was hanging slightly ajar, just a small opening. James opens it quickly, it can’t be happening, nothing is happening, this is not supposed to happen. Inside and under the cloth, it lies perfectly in its spot. Untainted. Relief washed over him.

No… No, wait… Beside it.

The sphere fit into his hand perfectly. There was nothing remarkable about it beyond the fact that it was in his cupboard. The cupboard. It felt like a smooth metal, unbreakable, however was light as if made of wood and hollow. It’s only interesting feature a slighted elevated section, as if it there were a button. James was curious, but overwhelmed. He always wanted something remarkable and interesting to happen, but it’s not actually supposed to happen. What is it? Why was it in my cupboard, the cupboard?

He was stumped, but compelled none the less to get some sense of routine and reality back, and grabbed his journal. He should write his thoughts out, figure out what to do. He opened his journal to look for a fresh page. There was only two pages left of this particular journal, and he flips quickly through it until he reaches the second last page. But it wasn’t a fresh page.

In a perfect, computer-like font it read:

You have a choice.

If you press the button, a person will die. Do not worry, you will be unaware of who the person is. Then, you will be given your deepest desire.

If you do not press the button, no person will die. Your life will go on uninterrupted, with only the memory of this event left as a sole reminder.

You have 24 hours.

———

It was insane.

How can this kind of decision be made? Is this real? Could I possibly kill someone? This feels like it’s one of those philosophical morality puzzles. Except it’s not a puzzle. If it’s a prank, then there is no harm is pressing the button. Wait… I won’t even be aware of who dies, so either way I wouldn’t know. Unless I do get my “deepest desire”, I guess.

How can I possibly decide this? How can one choose to end another person’s life?

I know… I know there are psychology studies where people were tested to see if they’d kill someone if prompted by an instructor, and seeing the person they were killing lowered their chance of doing it, well I mean, it was an actor, but still. I think the more anonymous you got and the farther from contact the easier it became. Well, this looks like it’s as far and anonymous as possible. Maybe that’s the test? Is someone testing me?

And so he thought. James thought for hours. His mind in circles. He wrote and wrote again. It was too impossible, too daunting. He needed help. He called Lee and Katherine over.

———

It took them over an hour to get here. An hour of more circles, more anxiety. It felt never ending. It wasn’t surprising that they took over an hour, that’s how long it normally takes, but it was frustrating. This was important.

He explained the situation to his two friends as fast as he could. They were the only people he could rely on for this, what would they say? He wished he could ask his parents, but it isn’t a question for them, they wouldn’t understand what this decision means.

Lee was a practical person. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, his parents influence was hard to miss, and even through all of his rebellion, he still got a degree in electrical engineering and landed a well paying job. He was trapped in his practicality, yes, but still, a good person.

Katherine was there when Mary passed away. She helped through those tough times even though she hasn’t truly opened up in that way herself. She was trapped in her traumatic past, and hides it with a joyful mask, but still, a good person.

Everyone James has met is a good person. Was he just lucky? Or maybe he’s naive?

No one deserves to die.

———

“I really do want my life to progress, to do the things I want to do. I do want to get my deepest desire though, obviously. I don’t know what it is, but if it is my deepest desire, then obviously I want it, or else that wouldn’t be it.” James was sulking. He was so confused. No one understood what he was thinking.

“But you can’t end someone else’s life to do it, you’ll always regret it. You can’t feel good about causing someone else misery, you need to do this with your own strength, James. Fulfill your wishes with what you can do. Even if this is a prank or whatever it is, you’ve got to get rid of it, you’ll always regret what you’ve done otherwise.” Katherine was always the kind one. Maybe because she wished that for herself?

“Look, Katherine is probably right about what you should do. But, if you think about it, tons of people die everyday that you’re not saving, from starvation and disease and all sorts of other things. You gotta see if this thing actually works, it could be something revolutionary. In all likelihood, this is a joke, so you don’t really have to worry about it anyway. Just press it, and see what happens.” Lee’s rebellious nature rears its head. It’s always about the discovery for him, disregarding the consequences.

“I just don’t know. I don’t know what my deepest desire is. I know I’ve told myself I’d never kill another person in my life, no matter what. It’s something I never want to do… but if I do have a desire that should overrule that, then maybe I should. I need change. I need to do something with my life or I’m going to go crazy. Maybe this is my opportunity, am I allowed to pass it up, it being handed to me right here?” James was crying now. he left to another room, with his journal.

Lee and Katherine talked amongst themselves while he was away. What would they do in this situation? What is their deepest desire?

I don’t even care about my own life, I don’t really have any real aspersions, I’ve just been living, experiencing, observing. So much I’ve been wanting to say, but I’ve only been able to express myself in these journals. There is so much I still want to learn, but I’m too scared to go through the process. Maybe my deepest desire is to gain that strength? Find it within myself?

———

“He should push the button.” Lee.

“No, He shouldn’t push the button.” Katherine.

“He doesn’t have a choice! If he doesn’t do it now, we’ll never know what we’re missing here!” Lee.

“That’s not what’s important here, can’t you see that?!” Katherine.

“I’ve already decided.” James.

James walked into the room with the sphere, the button, in hand.

“I thought about it, and heard what you guys had to say, and I know what I should do. I should get rid of the button.” James said this very carefully. Katherine seemed relieved.

“That’s good. You don’t know what could happen, and it’s just not worth the risk.” Katherine replied.

“…But I’m going to press it. I’m sick of living this way, I do need the change, even if this is the wrong way to do it, I need to do it.” James pressed the button in that moment. His eyes filled with burning fear and anxiety. Something had to change, I have to change, he thought.

———

Katherine had read through these pages countless times. Six Journals, Nineteen short stories. She wasn’t that deep of a friend with James, but she had made a connection these past years. Not only that, his writing was brilliant.

She still cried.

Katherine was now twenty-eight years old. She was an accomplished artist and author, and had connections to a local publishing company. It was an controversial issue, but she was determined. She had finally figured everything out.

The journals and works of James Knight” edited and with foreword by Katherine Alton.

Only now can he be heard.

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One Comment

  1. Hey everyone, this is my first attempt at a short story. It’s very personal, and I think that makes the best kind of story.

    This is a first draft, and I’d love to hear feedback on it. The names right now are placeholders, I didn’t spend too much time thinking on them.

    Hope you enjoyed it.


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