The Box

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“Where am I?” I asked.
I said it out loud, but there wasn’t anyone else in the room, so I wasn’t sure who I was asking – I could have just thought it, really. I was in a room which was white, and … very little else. It was like a waiting room at a doctor’s, or a clinic, or a hospital; or in any generically unfamiliar building – possibly before you went to an interview. It was like these rooms, but it was also unlike any you’d actually been in. It was like the idea of one – the version you’d see in a movie. More like that than an actual real waiting room. There was something eerie about being inside it.
“Where am I?” I said again; in case whoever wasn’t there hadn’t heard me.
“You’re in The Box,” a voice said.
“The Box?”
“Yes, The Box,” the voice repeated.
Silence followed. I was hoping the voice would have taken my inference more clearly.
“What’s ‘The Box’?” I asked.
There was a chuckle.
“We don’t know that until we open it.”
“Not ‘What’s in The Box?’,” I said. “What’s ‘The Box’?”
“Oh,” the voice said.
I sensed an awkwardness.
“’The Box’ is what decides things.”
“How’d you mean?” I said.
“Well, it’s like…” the voice paused. “Take a simple question, a simple situation, something like – ‘Were you born?’.”
“That’s easy – yeah, I was! Anyone you ask would be born – everyone’s born. The answer’s always yes. That’s a stupid question.”
The voice seemed to grumble something.
“Easy for you to say.” It sounded tetchy. “You might not have been.”
“But I was!”
“Yes, you were. But not everyone is, are they?”
“Did you not hear my last point?”
The voice sighed. “This is why I usually ignore people.”
We were both quiet for a while.
Time elapsed. It felt like a long time, but it wasn’t.
The voice spoke again. “Imagine if you hadn’t been born.”
“That’s pretty hard to imagine?”
There were sounds like muttering under breath.
“Imagine if someone else was born instead of you.”
“And imagine if someone else was born instead of them.”
“And imagine all of the different people who could have been born.”
“That’s a lot of–”
“And now imagine that none of them were born, because – instead – the person that was born was you.”
I was silent. Then a little bit snappy.
“You don’t have to make me feel bad about it.”
“You don’t have to.” Damn thing knew I would anyway. “You can imagine they were all born too. Somewhere else. Imagine there are a lot of The Boxes.”
“A ‘lot’?”
“A lot. Think of them as infinite.”
“What’s the point – of all those lives?”
“Of all of them?” The voice became a chuckle. “We can’t be sure of that without opening their The Box can we?”
“Can we do that?”
“I can – but they’re not your The Box to open.”
“So what’s the point of my The Box – of my life – if it’s just one speck among so many?” Moments ago I felt like I’d killed them. Now, I resented they were even there.
“Because you need them.”
“I don’t.”
“You do – more than you know. You needn’t be so binary.”
I decided to ignore the voice. Increasingly, it seemed not to have anything worth saying. Then I decided to annoy it.
“There are only two possibilities: yes or no.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” it said. “But they aren’t yes or no.”
“On or off then. Alive or dead. Either they live, or I do – and I already did! Nothing else is possible.”
“Oh, everything is possible. Always is, always was. Even with infinity, it always boils down to one way or another.”
“Which way or the other? If it’s not ‘yes or no’, what is it?”
“It’s Heaven or Hell.”
I swallowed. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear more, but The Box wasn’t soundproof.
The voice continued, “Of all the lives you could live, could have lived, one of them – only one – was the best. You were free to make your own choices – as are all inside The Box – and so, all choices are made. There was one life where every decision was right: where the greatest possible happiness was achieved. And one life which was the worst, too.”
I wondered about some of the choices I’d made.
The voice was still enjoying the sound of itself. “You make your own heaven, or you make your own hell. And you make your own choice between them.”
“You live your own life? That’s hardly big news.”
“You do. As do many others. Then, for better or worse, you live it again – in your after-one. That’s what The Box decides.”
I felt like I might collapse. “I’m about to go to Heaven?”
“There are only two possibilities: yes or no.”
I saw a light – a different light this time; one more like the world I’d been used to. There were arms and hands and someone said “Push!” and I thought I could hear myself screaming.

About the Author: 
Ian Peek is an author in the UK, currently working on his first novel. It has much to do with Scrabble.