This story, written by myself, was narrated by Colonel Jack Staples on Outside The Lines radio. For the broadcast/podcast, check out the website, http://www.otlradio.net, or Jack’s page, http://www.toastnjack.com
When I was 14, I was asked to save the world. I told them I’d think about it.
I didn’t take them seriously. How could I? They told me I was somebody, I told them I was nobody. They told me I was stronger than anybody could have ever imagined. I told them that people’s imaginations aren’t that big. They told me I asked for this. I know that’s a lie. Nobody would ever ask for this.
I would never ask for this. I would never want this.
How could I ask for this? I didn’t find you, you found me.
That’s not true, they said.
What is truth? I asked.
They showed me. Oh, the things they knew! Not just about me, but about life. Existence. They saw pathways, and they showed me these pathways. They showed me all the interactions of beings from whales to neutrinos, and everything in between. They showed me the paths of actions taken from centuries ago. Kingdoms conquered, blood shed, prophesies fulfilled. War, famine, death, and life. So, so much life! Constant life everywhere, the birth of creatures, species, bacteria, blood cells, DNA, suns, solar systems. They knew all paths.
I knew they were old beyond anything still alive today, so I asked them why they looked like kids. They didn’t know why they looked the way they did any more than we know why we look the way we do.
To say they looked like kids was a bit of a stretch, though. They were two feet tall, ghostly white, bright blue eyes, and naked. The nakedness wouldn’t have bothered me if the peoples looked normal; they had no anatomical parts, including nipples or belly buttons, and they had no mouths. It was as if they were wrapped in a skin tight white leather that stretched like spandex.
I asked them how old they were, and they were confused, saying that they do not age.
When does the world end?
It’s not ending with you, they said.
What if I do nothing?
Our answers are as limitless as your questions, it is only time that is lacking abundance.
What if I do nothing? I asked it again. I hate repeating myself.
Without mouths, I assumed the one standing closest to me was doing the speaking, but after a while I distinguished multiple voices that spoke as one, and eventually I assumed all spoke as one.
They avoided my question and instead told a story. Every eight hundred and thirty two years there is a major crossroad that effects all living creatures. The first occurrence of this was 4,151 years ago. They asked a woman to change her path; they asked her to save the world. She was a woman of compassion, so she said yes. Eight hundred and thirty two years later, another instance occurred, and they asked another individual to change their path in order to save life. Not a life. Just life. All of it. This happened two times after that. I am the fifth they have asked. All existence has been in jeopardy four other times, and now the decision is mine.
What if I do nothing? I asked it a third time. They responded immediately.
If you do nothing, everything will die, but not right away. Five years after your death, it will begin. Six years after your death, the existence of life will only exist in percentages. 13% of everything will be dead. Seven years after your death, it will be down to 50%. Eight years after your death, everything alive today will be alive no more. Fifty years after your death, not even the sun will exist. All hope of life in the future will be extinguished.
What if I do something, change my path, or whatever?
Life and death will exist in its normal cycle for another eight hundred and thirty two years. At least we think so.
You mean you don’t know?
We see all pathways of the past, which help us see most pathways of the future. For a while at least. The paths we don’t see will eventually change a path we thought we saw, which will change all the paths’ frequencies from blue to purple.
I have no idea what you just said.
This concept, they said, is almost impossible to translate into words.
Apparently, I said.
So if I save the world, I would only save it for 832 years. It was a statement awaiting verification more than a question.
We are not certain, was their reply. Remember, this cycle is relatively new. You are only the fifth stage. Before this, man’s ability to end life didn’t exist. Not even we could predict such a possibility at the very beginning. It may be that with capabilities of man’s destruction increasing, the periods of time in between certain extinction decrease. We do not weave the paths, we only see them.
As the cycles get shorter, won’t you eventually be unsuccessful?
It is possible. If such an event were to occur, we could trick a path into destroying man, and still retain life. Even that might not last forever. It would be a tragedy to exist without humans, but lesser life is better than no life.
If I do nothing, will you die?
We are not sure if we die, because we are uncertain if we live, but we will almost certainly cease to be.
When he said this, I felt an emotion, and for the first time in the entire conversation I felt like I wasn’t being read to by an inanimate object.
What do I have to do to change my path?
When they told me, I would have thought they were tricking me if I wasn’t so absolutely certain these beings were lost to the concept. The task was so easy it had to be meaningless. This was all some cosmic joke, or maybe a motivational lesson to get me to feel, for the first time in my life, that my existence had meaning.
What they asked me to do really could have been anything. It could have been to avoid smoking cigarettes until I was nineteen, or to avoid eating a specific chain of pizza shops during the month of July. To not let a woman cut my hair while I sleep.
After they left, I had a million questions to ask them, but it wouldn’t have made things any simpler, or clearer. Who weaves the paths? What is the purpose of their frequencies? How was man created? What is going to destroy life? A comet? Nuclear weapons? A disease? Global warming?
Judging by what they asked me to do, I don’t think it’s anything anybody has thought of yet. Otherwise we would just avoid it. Or maybe we would run toward it.
When I was 14, they asked me to save the world. I’m 22 now. I have had eight years to come to a decision, and one year left to think about it. One year until 4160, if you’re counting years from when the cycle began. This year is 4159 A.C., or After Cycle. It could be 1 B.D., or Before Death. Both are equally cheesy, but it’s the numbers that are important.
The world had eight years to convince me to save it. It became like a game, a cosmic pro-con chart, or a live-die chart, putting little tally marks in each column, then adding them up at the end. Every war is a mark under con. Every peace treaty is mark under pro, or at least it would be if they still existed. Every marriage is a pro, and every divorce is a con. Those tend to balance each other out, since the rate for divorce is about half. Every scandal is a con. Every death over road rage is a con. Every murder, suicide, theft, arson, assault, verbal abuse, act of rudeness, is all a con.
I’m giving the world one opportunity to save itself. This is the ultimatum. If life wants to exist, it has to work for it. It can no longer suck the energy out of it’s surroundings like an overweight couch potato. Life has to prove to me that it deserves to exist.
Because it has less than a year, and I’m still unconvinced.