Choose Day

The queue shuffled forward.

Martin tried to focus. Everything he’d been told for the past few weeks was buzzing around his head, like a vibrator in a mixing bowl. The chorus of thought was dizzying, and he had to grip the stanchion to stay upright.

It’s never as obvious at it seems.

The good one will always have a nasty side effect.

There are hidden traps.

Think it through very carefully.

Never make a rush judgement.

Choose wisely.

It had all seemed to clear yesterday. All of the advice had coalesced into one cohesive ball of wisdom that was impossible to misinterpret. As the line stepped forward again though, it was all just a horrible white noise that was making him feel a bit sick.

He dared to lift his head and look to the front of the queue. A girl his own age was being ushered into the room. She looked confident, poised, and even happy. Was it an act? A show of bravado? Or did she really have that self-assuredness in abundance?

Time ticked on, and with each step forward the cacophony in his mind grew louder and louder, until all he could hear was a noise that made his head throb.

At the head of the line, a kindly old man patted him on the shoulder.

“Ready?” he asked.

Martin nodded, and winced at the pain in his swollen cranium.

“Choose Day is a once in a lifetime thing. Enjoy it.”

The old man smiled, then guided him through the door. Martin heard it close behind him and stood alone in the dark, hearing his own panicked breathing. This moment would shape the rest of his life. He been tutored by his family, all of whom had been through this on their own 18th birthdays. His father had chosen a stable career over a shot at fame. His mother had chosen money in a lump sum over a steady income. His brother had chosen to learn to be a pilot over learning to be a carpenter.

Everyone was given a choice individually tailored to their needs and wants.

A complex algorithm crunched all the date of the first eighteen years of your life, and offered up two future pathways.

Martin had been obsessed with his Choose Day for most of his life, and he’d been drilled relentlessly about every possible choice he might encounter. He should be ready. So why did he feel like curling up into a ball and pretending to be dead?

The lights came on.

A screen blinked into life.

It offered a simple choice, and asked him to touch his finger on the one he preferred.

On the left it read ‘Lawyer’.

That was to be expected. When he wasn’t myopically focused on Choose Day, he was reading law books.

On the right it read ‘Burnt To A Crisp’.

He dithered.

He prevaricated.

His finger hovered from one choice to the next.

Finally, it was the strong words of his Father that prompted him.

A door opened, and Martin stepped through it.

The flames engulfed him.

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