Short Stories

Short Story: Pre-programmed

I have this theory that there are two types of people—those preprogrammed to have good fortune and excellent genetic makeup. And those like me, who draw a short stick always in the lottery, whose body is a minefield to be navigated and negotiated, and who is a test to the point of the whole existence. So years, I have tried to fight to get to the other side, and for years, I thought my theory to be rumblings of the self-pitying me. I encouraged myself to stop trying to see past the surface into the code. But then, she came into my life, and I knew my truth was the truth. And it’s always a she. Now I realize it’s how the scripture goes. Then I thought it was my luck turning and finally being accepted to the finer side of life. How easily she fooled me.

So, as I said, I had never known what a good life looked like. I got glimpses of it on TV, but no personal encounters. It would have helped if I was blessed with intelligence or good looks. Neither came easily to me. Early on, I realized that if I wanted to get ahead in life; I had to devour knowledge. At first, I started reading everything I got my hands into. By the age of fifteen, I had read the entire neighborhood library. Mind you, it was a small one. Still, I never felt like I knew a thing or two about anything, despite all the books I swallowed. I got beaten in school, and at home, I was ignored. I’m pretty sure my parents thought I was dumb, and that was about it. At least my parents didn’t abuse me in any other way than emotionally. You know, the stunted, absent parents, who were holding to their dear lives for not to fall to the cracks. They happily rolled on the road laid by media. I fitted the image of what had to be done, a child. As soon as I was birthed and weaned off milk, I had to fend for myself and exist as a prop for their play.

In my twenties, I added to my theory a sliding scale. Most in society saw those who landed in the middle of this lucky and miserable spectrum as the ones who had made it. I saw them more miserable than me. They could never take a side step, or they lost their position. I refused to be anything like they were. So I rebelled and got kicked to my guts for trying to be more. I got used to it. Used to be alone and hated.  

But sorry, I got sidetracked. About my ugly muck, it didn’t help my case. Be beautiful and desirable, and you can get away with anything. At least, if you play your cards right and are not a complete dick about it. My face and scrawny appearance made others walk past me and, as I said, get the wind kicked out of me in school and later. So to survive, I made myself not to exist, disappearing from the world and encouraging people to ignore me. There were times when I said something foolish to get people to notice. That desperate moment that you need to experience dislike and even a punch to feel alive. Otherwise, you are sure; I was sure; I had become a glitch in the program. Unexisting. And I couldn’t take it. Being something which slid off the scale, yet not free. Not free at all. Not when the program still held its reins on me and I to it, seeing it as the norm.

So I started to test it. I had nothing to lose. I looked into the stories people told about themselves and to each other, how reality is composed. Back then, I had yet to realize about the arch-type of the one, the irresistible her, stepping into your life and making you throw away all you knew and believed in. I got to know about self-deception on a personal level and on a massive scale. We, humans, are pre-programmed with biases. We have availability biases, confirmation biases, belief biases, logical fallacies, biases caused by our pre-framing, not to mention egocentric biases; that’s just a few. The professionals insist that they are there to help us make snap judgments to aid our survival if we move on a dark stormy night and hear a branch snap and see glowing eyes. I say it’s the program manufacturing us to be blind and believe in the stories told.

All it wants is for us to be its control group. So, I started to lie. I told stories about my success and how I was self-made, how I struggled into my fortune. Such stories needed not be accurate, as long as I played the part. And playing the role made me get more money than my parents had seen in their entire life. The system knew that good luck favored those who were lucky, and I appear to be one, so it gravitated towards me willingly. There were other stories I told. I tried being this guru who knew the secret of the universe and our existence. People were hungry for it. I repeated lines from those books I had devoured as a child, and my followers took them into their hearts. Oh, I gave them hints about reality to spice it up, but I didn’t need to. They were willing to hear anything as long as they felt they had a purpose, they were loved, and there was this meaning to their existence. I gave them all that. I didn’t swindle or torture them. I’m not cold-hearted. I did it to understand if it was all about perception. It was. While I tested all the possibilities, I had no clue that the system was on to me. That it knew I broke the patterns, and I had become sentient about its existence, and how it pre-installed people into this world to run its simulated path. The system didn’t send her for me being a guru. No, I was still part of it even when I ran my own simulations.

I went from being a guru to an alcoholic washout. Partly because my spirit had broken while installing meaning in a meaningless world. The happiness on my followers’ faces didn’t transport inside me even when I was well aware of what the expert said about how to live contently: those who helped others and lived for others’ well-being are often the happiest. A truth which might have been if I didn’t know it was just a narration created by it; I still don’t have a name for the system governing us. It doesn’t matter what you or I want to call it. It exists despite it.

I hung at a local pub, starting my drinking when others told themselves that a reasonable person went to work and gradually eroded the dreamer inside them. A reason which made me consider the system to be a masochist. Why else would they give such a line as a fact and yet install conflict into the core? It was all a test, but I could not see that for years as the alcohol numbed the functional me. It was too late when I finally woke up with the thought.

So, I readied myself to fight. I transformed once again, knowing that a complete and utter test of my person would help me get to the other side. I became the master of my body. A fighter and a spiritualist, bringing my body and mind as one. That was the point I had deviated too far, and she suddenly appeared. I had had others before her. But she took hold of me. She showed me that I had cut out all the joy from my life, that I had become a machine in my struggle for absolution. I let her make me forget my quest. I let her guide me back to the one I used to be, showing her the child inside me who had read the entire library. She encouraged the past to come out, and I truly believed she was releasing me by accepting the one I was supposed to be. My absolution. But I became that someone who never fitted, the one who was meant for nothing. That horror I had fled peered back at the mirror. There it was, my family, my father and mother staring at me, and I saw the cold dead eyes of theirs in mine. They hated me. I hated myself.

Yet, I couldn’t go. I gave her permission to break everything I built, the person I had become, and she made me question the philosophy I had formed. It was in the small hours of some forgotten night, I dared to tell her what had driven me all my life. She laughed at me and brushed her hand against my cheek. All I could do was smile even when my insides broke into thousands of pieces, which would never fit together, like a chewed-up jigsaw puzzle. I stayed with her. Her stripping gaze and her intoxicating charm had become the only source of meaning to me. I knew that if I left, hope was gone.

And here we have come to the now. I can hear her breathing in the next room. She fooled me thus long, letting me get lost for living solely for her, but I finally caught up with all the lies. I cannot understand how I missed the major way the system corrects itself. That she is nothing more than a program to transform me to become what I was initially meant to be. The being I am now, the one I hate, the one hated. All I have is a hollowed-up existence inside my empty chest and no luck or happiness. So, I have two choices. I can kill her and escape or kill myself and do the ultimate act of freedom. None of which satisfies me. I love her, and while I don’t love myself, I cannot seem to choose my flesh and blood over a program. If the system had made the gun in my hand sentient, I would let it decide. It hadn’t. Maybe I should tell a story, a story where the gun is sentient, where the system is not there, and she is a free and real human. But it would be just a story, and I would always doubt it. 

Thank you for reading. Have a lovely day ❤

© K.A. Ashcomb

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