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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Story of the Death Clock

Are you kidding me? 50 years difference? No way. That's not possible.

My journeys ultimately led me to the town of LiveJournal, and to the house of Old Man Hines. I saw him, as I do every weekday, for tea and conversation. My morning rounds take me to the realms of various authors to share a thought and a comment. Today, Old Man Hines was in a puckish mood, as he tinkered with an automaton shaped like a female, covered in a red hood (like his other work, it appeared promising, but I must admit I am looking more toward the release of his mermaid in the town square next year). "Have you been by the Death Clock recently?"

I replied I hadn't.

"Tis a silly oracle, not one to put your trust in, as far as any other in the Nets of Inter. Some basic questions, some options, and it shall tell you the date of your death. Barring some unforseen accident."

Needless to say, I was skeptical.

"Yet there is some truth in the web. The elders of the town I grew up in were all in good health and well-being. Yet when I approached, it decried my weight of 12 stone and declared my time well-nigh. Of course," he interrupted before I could console his imminent demise, "I find it no coincidence that, next to the oracle, you will find my shops and stores hawking life-extending wares. Medicinal herbs, crystals, powders and potions. The veracity of its findings holds no weight with me."

He snorted at his own joke as he adjusted the arm on his red-hooded character in a more menacing pose.

"But if your rounds end short this day, you might wish to visit. Tis worth a laugh."

And so I did. The temple itself was large, but the cloister holding the oracle, situated at the front, was humble, colored in the macabre decorations you'd expect of an oracle of death.

In order to provide me an answer, it asked me the date of my birth (an obvious query - how should one know when the journey has ended if one does not know where it started), my gender, whether I take of the pipe.

Then it asked for a BMI, a strange number indicating the matter held in my body. I told him I did not know. Then it gave me a simple algorithm for finding it, based on height and weight. I calculated and returned an answer. Though it was a mystery to me why, if the only two variables were height and weight, it couldn't divine from those figures instead of some magic number.

Lastly, and here's the rub, it asked for a "mode" and gave me three options - optimistic, pessimistic, and sadistic. Surely, this should puzzle you, dear reader, as much as me. Why should someone's personality determine their life span? Does one's outlook on life lengthen or shorten it?

As the oracle declared, it did. Unlike Old Man Hines, weight would not lead to my demise, it would be my charming cynicism. Jan. 20th, 2032 was to be my final day on this world. I had 23 more years to arrange my affairs. Not the number I was looking for.

Out of curiosity, and because there are no limits on the oracle, I asked what would be my date of death if I approached it in a more positive manner. The gears cranked and whistles tooted. At last, it gave me the answer - April 11th, 2080.

A difference of nearly 50 years. I buy fifty years of life in exchange for being positive and happy, to not look on the world with a realistic attitude.

Now here's the sticky bit. Unbelieving, I asked again, using the option for optimism. It said 2079. I asked again. 2072. Again, 2069. 2062. 2067. 2079. Scant seconds had passed between my queries. Did the world really change so much in so short a time?

True to what Old Man Hines said, the oracle's veracity was dipped in skepticism like a paper-mache puppet. My initial shock at the differences in my life based on outlook melted away. Not just because of the questionable data, but I refuse to believe biological lifespan can be determined by so few factors. That's what makes life worth living, to see how it ends. The definition of death is that all your potential stops. Knowing when I die would cause a premature death right then.

I walked away from the oracle, glancing at the other people in line and shook my head with a cynical smile. Then I got a taco.

#END#

*For the record, a "sadistic" approach gave me 10 years left - I wouldn't even see my daughter learn to drive.
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