prompt: wager, title: it happened here in misc. flash fiction

  • Nov. 19, 2020, 9:30 p.m.
  • |
  • Public

Your failure saved the world, you know. Yes, you. The one reading this. This message has been distributed publicly so you won’t end up targeted, like shortwave broadcasts available anywhere but decipherable only with a secret one-use decoder pad, but you know it somewhere deep down inside, this truth is just for you. This fact that you saved the world.

There was a point in time recently where, had you achieved all your dreams, you would’ve used your celebrity and influence to sway the masses to an awful cause. You wouldn’t have been the leader, you wouldn’t have pressed buttons or pulled triggers, but you would’ve been the grain of sand shifting the fates in that direction. Your fabulous existence would’ve insulated you from the real, from compassion, from humanity. You would have found it empowering to be so important and you would have been the reason it succeeded. Nations would have fallen and billions would have burned. Not directly because of you, perhaps, but on the wings of your entitled whims.

In your old age, in the ruins of a dying Earth, someone would come to you with an actual factual time machine, who knew the role you played and knew how over the years, you finally came to understand the horror you’d caused. Understood how good fortune, how affluence and fame rob people of their perspective and shame, how success makes monsters of us all. Made one of you.

Your failure saved the world, you know. This once-and-never future you would’ve told the traveler how to undo you, how to undermine your accomplishments, without even the moral stain of suffocating you in the cradle. Just undermine you. Lay you low. Remove a domino or three from your chain of events until you no longer lived your dreams. Your achievements rendered modest at best, at least compared to what you once considered destiny. You never attained the influence to aid and abet Armageddon. You were also never made cruel by the moral vacuum that renown inevitably envelops a person. You are the better for it if that counts as anything. Your empathy retained, a minor perk against the continuity of the human race, but still worth nothing to you in the least.

Your undone self said that you probably wouldn’t see this as a solace but we determined that we had to at least try. Perhaps a life of indignity and disappointment would allow you to understand. Everything you ever wanted, lost inside causality’s wager. We mourn your loss, even as it saved us all. We lost so much in the wars you caused, then no longer caused, we of course sympathize.

All the regrets that run roughshod over your many sleepless nights, just know that by living out this invisible humble way instead, there’s still a future to be had. The fruit of your self-sacrifice is the chorus of a thousand generations yet to come. Your failure saved the world, you know. We’re sorry.

Last updated November 20, 2020

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