A Little Bit of God
for Paul S.
he stood in a black room. At least, she thought it was a room. Certainly it was black. But not the black of a night sky. No, not the black of nothingness. More like the black of ink suspended in ocean water. The black of the disk of space outlined by a crescent moon. The black of a new moon. She was sure, at least, that it was a room. There were walls, though she couldn't see them. She saw black. But she stood on a solid floor. Certainly it was solid. Though black as well.
A window opened before her. A rectangle of soft white light. She didn't know how far away it was from her. Like when the sun seems two feet in diameter and only two hundred yards away. Or isn't it? Two forms, two naked boys stood in the opening. They looked like brothers. Similar features, same straight brown hair and wide eyes. The neutered bodies of prepubescence. One, however, was a little taller than the other. The two looked around, turning and lifting their heads, seemingly unaware that they stood beside one another, or that she stared at them.
Then, she felt it. Cold and heavy in her hand. The light from the window revealed a small revolver. A weird sensation filled her. Like when you spend sixteen seconds looking for a pen, only to discover you were holding it the whole time.
"You must choose one. Judge fairly." A heavy baritone voice sounded all around her. Maybe even in her head. She couldn't tell.
She looked again at the gun in her hand, then tilted her head upwards, thinking it made the most sense to address the voice by looking up. "What do you mean 'choose one'?"
"One must be shot. You must choose one. Judge fairly." The voice, calm in its power. No intonation. No emotion.
"But...why? I mean, I can't."
"Yes you can. You must choose." The voice continued its steadiness. Its infinite patience stressed with each syllable.
"Well, what have they done?"
"That is irrelevant. You are to choose. Judge fairly."
She paused a moment, and turned around. "They don't seem to be different. Is there a difference between the two?"
"Yes. One is seven years old. One is nine."
She turned to look at the window. "So, how do I know which is the right one?"
"That is the point. You must choose. But judge fairly."
"O.K." She looked down at the gun and smiled. "Fine. I refuse to shoot at all. There. Now what?"
"That is not an option."
"Oh." She scratched her head with the barrel. "But I don't know which one to shoot. Can't you tell me?"
"If you were told which one to shoot, you wouldn't be doing the choosing now, would you?" The voice continued in its monotone. She felt as though the sarcasm were laced in the frigid words. Or perhaps, true sincerity.
"Can't somebody else do this?" Her words turned desperate. "Can't you do it?"
"If I, or somebody else, were to shoot for you, you wouldn't be doing the choosing now, would you?"
"No. I suppose not."
"One must be shot. You are to do the shooting. You must choose one. Judge fairly."
She paused a moment. Then, she took a last look around at the black walls she couldn't see, turned to the window and aimed the gun at the seven year old. Then the nine year old. She began to pull the trigger, then quickly aimed at the seven year old, and fired.
The tiny body jerked back, and fell out of sight. The nine year old continued to stand. Still oblivious to anything happening.
"There," she started, triumphant, and lowering the gun, "I did it. I chose." She looked around her, smiling.
"But you didn't judge fairly."
Her eyes widened, shocked. "What do you mean I didn't judge fairly? I chose, damn it! What was the right choice?"
The gun slowly moved up and forced its barrel into her mouth. Her hand was firmly attached, though she tried to remove it.
"The right choice is the fair one." The voice's incessantly logical tone, still unchanged from the beginning.
She felt her forefinger uncontrollably begin to squeeze the trigger.
First published: March 1994