Chance is a Lie
Chance is a lie.
That’s the first thing you tell you, and then you wonder how you didn’t realize it before.
There’s no “true” randomness. Computers can’t do it. They pick one of a few numbers and run it through an equation, that’s all. One website does it using atmospheric noise levels. You think those are random? Completely by chance?
If the universe was truly random, everything would dissolve into chaos.
And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, the people that think everything’s a pattern or a piece of some cosmic puzzle, that with the right tools and thinking you can figure it all out. Fractal geometry – the theory that everything is just a smaller version of something else, that it repeats infinitely in ways you can predict, you can measure the surface area of mountain ranges or the coast of England.
Or even better, that it’s all part of some divine plan, meticulously chosen and planned out by an all-knowing, all-powerful entity, all for a reason.
It’s nowhere near as neat as all that.
Every moment in history was created by the whims and decisions of fallible beings. Every single one. And not just the moments. Every storm, every leaf on every tree, every genetic mutation. It’s not predestined, and it’s not random. Somebody’s got to make those decisions. Somebody has to make those things happen.
That’s why we’re around.
Music players that shuffle songs are one of the most hated inventions among us.
But I don’t mind it. I think it’s peaceful, sitting beside the device, going into her head and trying to figure out what song she wants or needs each time. It’s worth it seeing the smile on her face when I get it right, when I find the song that she was subconsciously thinking of or the one song that could lift her up from her sadness.
Some of us are more powerful than others. Nobody knows why. The ones that have been around longer tend to have more power, but it isn’t always the case. I wouldn’t know. I’ve only been here a few centuries.
Some say we were human once. I’m not sure. Nobody I spoke to remembers another life, or is willing to admit it. I don’t even remember the first human I was assigned to. But it wasn’t nearly as good of a system back then. We’d get sent around from human to human making choices that needed to be made for the world to continue, and you just stopped caring. They all blurred together. I know I’ve probably made a few bad choices, and people have suffered because of it. Bad luck, they thought.
But the choices need to be made. They don’t need to be good choices, but somebody has to make them to move on…
I probably haven’t caused much damage, because I don’t have all that much power. Some of us do. Some of us like causing mischief. It cuts away at the tediousness of the day-to-day choices, forever. And that’s fine, because as we are so often reminded, there is no good or bad, only choices. So I guess I should try to erase that concept. But some choices make people happy and some choices make people sad and some do both, and I can’t help but think that there is a difference, somehow. Maybe that’s why I’m so weak. These days they’re assigning the ones like me to a person each, to make all the little decisions. I don’t mind it. It’s peaceful here.
I think humans perceive things on a different level than we do. I don’t know how I know this, how I have multiple frames of reference, but I know it. If I told a human all this, their first question would be who I am. What I looked like. I find that ridiculous. I am me. We don’t exist on the same level of reality as humans do. We are. Humans can’t see us, but we can see humans. Why? I have no clue. I’m just here to run the list of songs through my head and search through hers and pick one that matches and hope she likes it.
Sometimes when she doesn’t care I pick one I want to hear. She’s listening to music almost constantly.
She doesn’t really talk to people. She’d rather withdraw into her own mind, and I find myself doing that a lot lately too. Which is why all the philosophy, I suppose.
Human actions are the one thing that we don’t decide. Them and us, that’s it. Together we make the world.
I get a notice. I refuse to believe it, and I send it back. No, I say. That can’t be right.
It comes back again, more sternly. We can’t argue with it, it adds. The choice has been made.
Who made it? I ask. She is MY assignment!
‘Who’? ‘My’? That’s thinking like them. It doesn’t matter who made it. The choice has been made. Now we move on. Perhaps this is for the best. We will assign a new human.
No. The choice was made, and I choose to unmake it.
That’s not possible. A choice cannot be unmade. We all know that.
I withdraw into myself. It’s a trick I’ve learned from her. I hide inside my own consciousness and build a wall and shut everything out. She does that against me sometimes. Luckily she doesn’t usually play music during those times, because I’d have no idea what to choose.
They’ll be angry.
When did I start thinking of them as they…?
They are us. We are us. I cannot do this.
I need to warn her, to get her out.
For the first time since I can remember, I am not making a choice for somebody else. I am not making a choice to make the world go on. I am making a choice for myself, and it matters what I choose.
More is riding on this choice than any other, but somehow it’s one of the clearest choices I’ve ever had to make.
I’ve never had a choice matter to me before. I like the feeling.
I don’t know what will happen to me. But I’m not even supposed to be thinking of myself as ‘me’, am I?
What can they do if they don’t even consider me a distinct entity, just part of ‘we’?
What does a human do when a part of their body feels disconnected, numb? When a foot falls asleep? They shake life into it, make it work like it’s supposed to again.
But I feel like everything else has been numb and this is the first feeling I’ve known.
I should be afraid. But I’m not.
I have made my choice.
I wish I wasn’t so powerless. I wish I could set off a blaring alarm or a detailed message appearing on the wall in cracks, but I can’t. I wish I could pull her out of there but I can’t interact with her plane of reality. I have no substance. I can only make choices. I search through her music frantically. Fire. Fire. Fire. We didn’t start the fire. I caught fire. Set the world on fire. No, she wouldn’t even goddamn notice. It was useless. She was home alone. She is supposed to be in school. She didn’t go. Nobody is going to tell her.
She sits there cluelessly, on her laptop, not a worried thought in her head, on the internet. The internet. I can slow down the internet. I can take away everything that keeps her in her room and she’ll have to go outside. I concentrate until the internet becomes so slow as to be unusable and I do the unthinkable and refuse to choose a song to come next. The choice whirls inside my head, demanding to be made, but I shut it out. Pushing it outside my brick wall, I vaguely hear screaming from the other side. Screaming at me. Notice after notice after notice. I need to make the choice. But I have no other way to stop her music. I’m not going to choose. Time freezes. No breaths are taken. The choice has to be made for the world to move on…
I close her Itunes, and it resumes. I had redirected a choice. She is staring at her laptop now, confused, wondering why it stopped working. It has a random error and shuts itself down. She curses and picked up a book. It slips from her hands. As fast as I can, I sort through every word in the book. No fire. ‘Leave now.’ It’ll have to do. It is the phrase her eyes land on.
She stares around the room in a panic. She is scared. I have seen her mind inside and out but I’ve never tried to talk to it. I try now. Leave now, I scream. Run. Please.
She runs. Right out of the door and to the elevator and No I scream and I draw her eyes to the sign ‘In case of fire, use stairs.’ She runs down the stairs and she smells the smoke and she knows for sure. She pulls the fire alarm and keeps on running and the fire is going to reach the staircase but I use all my energy and I stop it. I feel power surging through me. I focus and a pipe bursts and the fire is smothered but it is still upstairs and now there are many people running. She almost trips. I don’t let her.
She bursts out into the cold daylight and takes a deep breath. I feel triumph. I have succeeded. I won. I am powerful. I can do anything, take on anything. I can choose.
And then my brick wall breaks down and the screaming enters. I am being reached for. I have nowhere to go. I am being pulled and I feel nothingness and I have no choice but to enter it. I am disappearing. I -
...Consciousness cannot be destroyed. But you are no longer one of us. They cannot know. Forget.
I wake up. There is something I need to remember. Something important. But it fades away. Probably just part of a dream…
I have the worst headache.
Am I hungover?
I don’t remember drinking anything. But that could be part of the problem.
“FAY!” comes a shout from downstairs. “The bus is leaving!”
I look at the clock. Crap. I must’ve slept through the alarm. I have to get to school.
Or I could just...not go. The choice is mine.
For some reason this fills me with happiness. I can choose to go, or I can choose not to go. And the choice is for me and me only and it will affect only me.
...But I better go.
School passes by in kind of a blur. As I walk towards the bus through the crowded courtyard full of laughter and conversation, I see someone. Not just someone, it’s her. Do I know her? Of course I know her. But I’ve never spoken to her before in my life. Yeah, but that doesn’t make a difference because it’s her.
I need to talk to her. I can’t just go up to her like I know her. But I do know her. The bus is about to leave. I stare at it and at the girl and I make a split second decision. I follow her.
She doesn’t notice me until I tap her on the shoulder. She whirls around. “What the hell do you want from me?”
“I just...uh...wanted to say hi.”
“You haven’t spoken to me once in the four years we’ve known each other, and now you’re trying to speak to me? Bullshit.”
It’s stupid. I know it is. I knew this wouldn’t work. “I...just wanted to talk.”
“Are you high?” she asks. “You seem to...not fit with the world, somehow.”
“Something’s definitely off, but I just...don’t know what it is.”
I see something in her eyes change. “I think you’re right. We’d better talk.”
Some time later, we are in her room. It’s a hotel room, but she tells me this is where she’s currently staying. Her stuff is scattered around it.
“What’s your name, by the way?” she asks. “It’s slipping my mind.”
“Fay. I think.”
“Wow, you really are out of it.”
“What about you?”
“Call me Aly.”
The song she’s playing on a brand new laptop ends and another one begins.
She sees me staring at it and gives me a quizzical look.
“Is that a playlist or…” I ask, to avert the awkwardness.
“It’s on shuffle.”
“You have good music taste.”
She pauses for a second. “I used to feel like it knew,” she says, with a little bitter laugh. “Like it could read my mind and play exactly the songs I needed. It hasn’t done that for a while, though. Not since the fire. Maybe I’m just so emotionally confused about that shit that I don’t know what I want to hear.”
“Yeah…there was a fire in my apartment building a couple months back. On my floor. I got out just in time, I…dunno, I guess I just sort of had a feeling that I had to get out of there. It was weird. I got incredibly lucky.”
“Luck…” Luck doesn’t exist. How do I know that? I don’t know, but I do. I decide to tell her. “Luck isn’t real. Everything’s the result of a choice.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Well, there was certainly no choice of mine involved. I just…felt like I needed to get out. And then I smelled the smoke and pulled the alarm.”
I sit quietly.
“You’re not going to say I’m brave or heroic?” she asks.
“Something tells me that’s not what you want to hear,” I reply.
“You’re the first one who thought so.” Her voice grows quiet. “All the newspapers say I saved lives. I’m glad those people are okay, but I was just panicking. I wasn’t trying to save anyone. I pulled the alarm because I was scared and I thought it might turn on the sprinklers…I was only thinking about myself.”
I want to say something, like that it’s okay to think about yourself, or that she saved those people anyway, but I know she wants me to keep quiet.
She stares into the distance for a little while. “But the feeling. That I had to leave. It was...weird. Surreal. Disconnected. I thought I was crazy. Still kind of do, though it did save my life. Do you feel the same thing? Do you know anything about it?”
“I do feel pretty surreal…” I answer. It seems like there’s something else I should tell her, and I rack my brain desperately trying to figure it out, but it eludes me.
I think harder but I feel it floating away, this forbidden knowledge, as if it had fallen in a rushing river, and before I can grasp it, I inexplicably know it is gone forever.
And I am certain that a part of me has been lost with those memories.
A tear runs down my face before I can stop it, and she stares at me.
“Yeah,” she said. “You feel it too.”
And then she hugs me.
She cannot forget what she desperately wants to forget. I cannot remember what I know I must. But somehow, in this moment, in her arms, it is all right.