Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fiction #18

There is a choice to be made:
My integrity? My belief that I am a good man, whose actions lead to good outcomes?
Or human life?
It matters little, now, to curse the safety failure that has led to this moment, where a million tonnes, literally, of responsibility comes crashing onto my shoulders. My hand is on the switch, it is foreign to me, as if disconnecting the arm at the joint could ease the burden.
My mother taught me to be a good man.
She could not forsee this; No-one could.
Which is why I am unprepared. My careful facade of training and thought is dissolved and I am my core; An animal - Man, and I am alone with my choice.
Perhaps I should begin.

This morning I went to bed. I woke up this evening, tucked my little girl into bed, kissed my wife good night, then packed my lunchtin and went to work in a 6 x 6 booth in the middle of nowhere.
I work for a railroad company, running an integral checkpoint. I have railroad crossings, timing sheets, some mechanical stuff, and a large switch that controls an emergency track diverter about a mile up.
This is the scene in which this Shakespearean tragedy will play out.
With me to decide; Antagonist or Protagonist?

From my booth today, I saw five men enter the main tunnel, I am unsure of their purpose. I could only identify them from the lights they carried. They were swift, and soon I could not see their lights anymore. When a train began to approach, I was annoyed. I would have to divert the train, signal it to stop, back it up (trains take a damn long time to stop) then wait till they clear to resume the course. The tunnel is twenty miles long, so I was sure they were still in there.
As my hand gripped the switch to divert, I saw, to my growing horror, a person on the diversion track, obviously stuck between the rails. Should I divert the train, the person would be killed. Should I fail to, the five men will be killed.
My mind rails against this disgusting unfairness! I should not even have to make this choice! It is four hours to my next scheduled train; I do not know where this one hails from, and we are allowed, even encouraged, to sleep between trains, to promote alertness. I should be asleep! Then I would not know this, would not stare this evil in the face, but I do and the knowledge sits on my brain like a gargantuan toad.
To save five men, I must kill another.
Blood on my hands, but to watch five men die?
I wish to close my eyes, to pretend it is not happening, but I cannot avert them. I must confront this abyss, and see who I am. To take direction. To not let anyone die without consideration. This decision must be made. Must be owned.

I will hug my wife and child when I return home, on stress leave. For now, there are the men, the tracks, the switch, and the blackness chewing on my soul.

A side note: This is my 200th post. I wanted to make it something happy, but it is deep instead. Please give this thought experiment due consideration, and thank you for reading! I hope things will only improve from here!

No comments: