The Last Second

Ken was a very anxious person. He knew about choices.

Therapist : “You have control over your life. You make the choices.”

“Yes, I do,” Ken replied, so that he could get the hell out of there. His real thought was: Yeah, right, we all have choice. There is no such thing as destiny. That was all fine. The problem is that we have to make minute, incremental choices and we have no idea where they are going to lead us to.

Like a guy who had given up his seat on an aeroplane to the husband of a married couple so that the couple could sit next to each other. The trouble was that the ”Good Samaritan” ended up sitting right next to the emergency exit, the door of which failed during the flight. The poor bastard ended up flying, seat and all, into one of the aircraft’s jet engines during an explosive decompression. That was the sad result of his choice.

There were also stories of people who had left home a minute later than usual and ended up in deadly car accidents. Had they left at the normal time, they would have missed the accident.

“Glad to see you’re making progress, Ken.” The therapist nodded his rectangular shaped head as a sign of approval. Then he turned his naive blue eyes to look at his clock.

Condescending git. He doesn’t give a sh*t. “So am I”, Ken responded on cue. Now can you shut the hell up so that I can get back to the real world.

So much for choices. As far as Ken was concerned, it could all be broken down into steps. Should I take the next step forward? Should I go the other way? Should I put my right foot before my left foot or the other way around? It was chilling to think that one bad decision on a micro scale could lead to death or suffering.

That’s why Ken didn’t get out much. In fact, he didn’t even move unless he absolutely had to. He waited until he was starving before he would get something to eat. His theory was that making the least number of choices possible meant that there was less likelihood of making the wrong choice. His lack of exercise made him quite overweight.

Then he thought that all of his problems were solved. There was an advertisement on the television for a new computer program that could predict the future. Wow!

Ken had to buy it. He downloaded it from the internet and installed it straight away. Now he wouldn’t have to worry anymore. He would know the future.

Wait a minute. What if the future was bad? Did he really want to know? This turned out not to be a problem. You see, his therapist had been right. The future is not written. It depends on a very large number of variables. The program did not tell the future. It simply predicted it based on known variables. That’s where it got tricky.

Given that the variables that formed the basis on which the future was predicted in the program changed over time, based on choices that were, as yet, unknown, the program had one severe limitation. It could only predict what would happen in the next second.

It was an understatement to say that Ken was disappointed. Nevertheless, it was better than nothing.

Since using the computer program, Ken got out a lot more. However, he was slow. He would not move until the computer told him the consequence of his next move in the next second. He was slow because he thought that the program was helping him. His greatest assumption was that he would remain still until it was safe to move.

One very hot summers’ day, Ken was sitting in front of his television when he smelled smoke. Suddenly he could see flames in his house and they were spreading. He grabbed his portable computer from the table in front of him and quickly ran the future prediction program.

“Get up,” said the program. Ken responded as quickly as he could. In the next second his couch was on fire. He hadn’t quite got up in time because of his reaction time to the direction of the program. His leg was burned as a result, but not badly.

“Keep still,” the program ordered. He did.

“Step right foot forward”. He did. The remains of a brick landed where his right foot had been. It was like a game of “Simon Says”.

“Jump ten metres.” Sh*t! He couldn’t do that. No one could.

Several heavy, weight bearing wooden beams landed on Ken and crushed him.

This didn’t bother the program. It simply said: “Enter name of new user.”


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