Uncertain Fate

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My name is Jiao Mei. I am a dissident. I was once a radical—a freedom fighter, but now, only a punished dissident. I resisted the regime in every way I could and with every fiber of my being. I fought daily battles for the rights of the unprivileged—and won my share of them too, marrying and raising a child with a foreigner, directly against regulation. I was threatened, imprisoned, and even beaten more than once, for my protests and written work. I shrugged off these setbacks, until finally, my oppressor realized they couldn’t fight me head on, or expect that those I’ve inspired would forget their cause while I stayed in prison. They realized they had to break me. And they did.
My husband and my two-year-old girl are under indefinite house arrest. In this era, in the United Eastern Federation, that means our entire house, my family included, has been sealed off from the outside world… and from myself. Though I can stand meters away from where they should be, I hear and see nothing from inside the black box prison that was once my home. A soundproof, lightproof shell containing only my loved ones and enough food and fuel cells to last a hundred years.
The true cruelty of the plan, however, was giving me the sole key to my jail, making me both warden and prisoner. With the press of a button, the door will unlock. When it does, there is a 0.5 probability that my loved ones’ smiling faces will greet me, and a 0.5 probability that an antimatter device inside the box detonates, wiping all matter inside the box out of existence the instant before the door lets in the first ray of true sunlight.
When, or if I ever open that door, I know that there are only two possibilities: yes or no. Are we to be together? Or never again? But who could take such a risk?
Months later, I still spend my afternoons standing in the lonely sunlight outside a prison that is, at once, both empty and filled with the people I care about most. It’s like me, in a way, for I am at once empty and filled unbearable love.
Every day I decide to not decide. Every day I decide that I’d rather live in a world where I can hope that my family is happy without the certainty that I’m wrong, over a world where I could know, beyond all doubt, that they are gone forever. A world where I killed them.
That is, until today. Today I realize something new—that this uncertainty is a fate in and of itself. And for me, it’s unbearable. I realize that hell is indeterminacy. I know my husband would have taken the risk if it were his to take, but who can decide for a child? I realize I must decide for myself and my child. My child’s world is a box. Depending how one sees it, now she is either already gone or living, suffering from my actions. When I open the door, she is either gone or free.
It has been three years since the box was sealed. My daughter is five and I have visited her prison every day.
Today, day one-thousand one-hundred sixty-four, I make the same impossible decision I make every day. And today, I choose to unlock the door. Shaking, with fear that borders on reverence, I swipe my keycard, and the door silently cracks open. Tears run down my face as I learn what it is to be lucky and to be certain once again. The warm yellow of afternoon sun mixes with harsh white industrial light as the door swings silently open. I hold my child and the illegal love of my life in my arms and know that chance has smiled upon me this day.

About the Author: 
Zach is finishing his undergrad in physics this Spring and hopes to go into science journalism. In his free time he loves to climb things, play violin, and write science fiction.