The Immortal Coin

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It was almost three years into my captivity before I truly put up my first real resistance. Sure, there had been moments of stubborn protest early on, but I know now that my heart was ever really in them. Even my refusal to flip the coin my captor brought to me daily in those initial days was rooted in an understanding that I ultimately didn’t have a choice. It is not surprising that it didn’t take long for me to back down after an initial defiance that I’m pretty sure we both knew was just for show. Today was different though. Today something awakened in me.

It wasn’t something I’d planned. In fact, even while the coin was in the air I was still locked into the motions of my daily routine. My situation was beyond any reasonable explanation at this point.

Every morning, my captor entered through the heavy steel door at breakfast time carrying with him a tray with two soft boiled eggs, two pieces of toast and a glass of orange juice, a small box containing the coin, and an understanding so regimented by now that no words were necessary.

The coin I knew well. It was as much an old friend by now as it was my nemesis. On one side, the profile of a man I did not recognize, and on the other an abstract design I did not comprehend. Every bit of wear, every nick, and every scratch I’d studied until I could envision it perfectly during my many hours of quiet contemplation. What I contemplated most though, was how it defied the odds day after day. Not that I could complain; the odds seemed to endlessly come out in my favour. Sparing my life every morning with yet another flip of heads.

As I caught the coin today, though, I felt something unnerving. I covered the coin on the back of my left hand and hesitated. Panic set in. Something in my brain screamed for me not to uncover it. It was as though my world was suddenly tearing at the seams, trying to drag me in two separate directions at once.

“Please reveal it.” said my captor. It occurred to me that it had probably been months since we’d last heard each other speak.

“No.” I responded, steadfast with a sudden conviction that surprised even me.
“You do understand our arrangement?” he reminded me.

“I understand,” I said. “I also understand that I’ve been relinquishing control to this coin for far too long.” My voice sounded foreign to me. Was I really doing this?

“Very well,” he said. He reached slowly into the box and produced another coin. It was identical to the one under my hand. Identical in every way. In fact, I became certain in that moment that it was the one I had just covered up. My hand began to lift in disbelief, I steadied myself and held my ground.

“What… what is this?” I asked incredulously.

“This is the coin,” he replied. “My coin. This coin is the counterpart to yours.”

“I… I don’t understand.” I stammered.

“This coin’s fate is interwoven with that of the coin under your hand,” he said slowly. “And it will tell me whether you will be spared or not. We mustn’t linger in this third state for long.”

“I don’t understand,” I repeated, bewildered at how the tables had turned back so quickly. “Third state? There are only two possibilities: yes or no”.

“Or Yes and no,” he corrected, “which is where we find ourselves now.”

Before I could protest further, he flipped the coin into the air. The sound of the coin leaving his thumbnail rang out exactly as it had when I had flipped mine. He caught it with cat-like reflexes and quickly covered it on the back of his right hand.

“Stop!” I shouted, but it was too late. The tug of war I’d felt earlier ebbed away the instant that he uncovered the coin. Tails. I recoiled in disbelief. This was it. Today was the day. I had never seen the coin come up tails. Slowly, I peeled my hand away to reveal my coin and confirm what I already knew.

As I uncovered my coin I saw the worn and nicked rim before I saw its face and I knew immediately that something had gone wrong.

It was heads. Again. Over a thousand times in a row. Heads.

As a great relief washed over me. As I raised my eyes to meet my captor’s gaze I saw for the first time something in his eyes that I’d never noticed before. I saw a reflection of myself, and a look I can only describe as a deep resignation. Had it always been there? No, it was something more than that.

It hit me hard when I recognized it. What I’d seen was not a reflection of myself – no, they were my eyes. My captor was me. Our fates were as interwoven as the coins. They always had been.

He collected the coins, and left the room wordlessly in the same manner as he had countless times before. Only now did I understand that it was to meet his inevitable fate as the possessor of the coin that always came up tails. It always was.

I settled into my breakfast with a renewed sense of wonder. I had something new to contemplate. Despite my attempt to assert my free will, fate had again conspired to allow me to live for another day.

And to die for the thousandth.

About the Author: 
Fiction neophyte, science enthusiast.