“All you have to do is keep this meter down. Easy right? A monkey could do it. When it gets past this level, right here, press this button. This one right here, with the signs pointing to it. That’s all.”
And if I don’t?
“I know exactly what you’re thinking. Well let’s say in the unlikely event you don’t, then a lot of people will die. Look down there. You see all of them? Yup. Goodbye to that happy couple. Him. Her. That old guy will definitely not make it. And that baby, forget it. Absolutely annihilated. You certainly don’t want that, right?” The latch turned and the door opened. Bill left, waving. “Remember the button!” His laughter has stayed with me.
“How many years has it been since we circled the sky?” I look to my monkey, who picks its butt and shrugs. “You’re right. Who cares.” The files have risen well above my head. For every person, another piece of paper. Their name, eye color, birthday, personality, their quirks and problems, everything must be accounted for.
The buttons scintillate against a galaxy of stars when my machine poops out another paper. I skim the details, which I had quickly learned matter very little in the grand scheme of things. Who cares if that kid will get anxiety when he turns twenty? Who cares if that old woman will lose her leg to a shark attack. What the hell is a shark? Bill stopped categorizing them since the dinosaurs.
My monkey hobbles over with a plate of food. “Wooo AHHHHHHHHH!”
“Hm. Yes, I should eat.” As I eat my celestial mush, I pour my monkey a glass of Tang, the delicious fruit drink brought to us by the astronauts, very rare and very delicious. It smiles with all its teeth at me. “You know I still don’t know your name after all this time.”
“EH. Heh heh.”
“I see. Well Alan I suppose you’re right. We should clean a little.” I look around the room. I never was very organized. But to be fair, I inherited this mess from Bill. The piles and piles of paper can’t be thrown away for however long. After I vaporize my dish and Alan’s cup, cleaning is done.
In my maze of documents, we take a stroll. “Alan, can I tell you something? I am tired of this room. It is both infinite and confining. I don’t even know what that means.” I sigh. “Do you remember your life before you came here?”
He mutters something under his monkey breath.
“Yes. The grass is greener.” The memories of my past life are vague and ephemeral. Its better to bury them. Yes. We walk for some time through the maze we’ve created. I am silent. Alan, disgusted by my existential fuming, runs off when red flashes about the room. The alarm sounds.
It must have been years since we’ve checked the meter. The room turns bloodier and darker with each passing second. I run my fastest, but the maze blocks me at every turn. “Alan! Why did we make this maze?” I can hear his hooting at the maze’s end.
“Where’s the button?” Alan is at the control panel pushing every button, flailing. He screeches at me to help.
“I can’t find the button!” I shove the papers off the panel. They fall like snow. But the panel keeps stretching to oblivion, all the buttons flashing. Alan slams his monkey hands down on all the buttons and I follow his example. The alarm keeps blaring. “What are all these buttons for?”
“Wooo WOO EHHHHHH.” He shrugs.
“What? You’ve been here longer than I have!”
I am filled with dread as I look to the stars in the black abyss. I see the people ignorant of their demise, and I see the consequence of the buttons. “Alan stop. Look what we’ve done.” I pull my hair. I had forgotten I have hair. “Shit! Why do we even have these buttons?!” I sink in the red. The alarm is blaring, louder and louder. I shudder at the thought of what’s to come.
Am I going to die?
I usually hide my thoughts or opinions behind silly stories. But here goes. There’s no ending to this one, at least a satisfying ending. I wrote this to channel my anxieties, but it became an issue of how I address and resolve my anxieties.
There’s no way this story won’t end terribly, at least not if I’m honest with the writing. I’m not OK with that though. Because that’s not the message I want to send about anxiety…
If there’s any satisfaction reading this, it should stem from the fact that’s it’s completely hyperbole. Someone smarter than me wrote that anxiety is imagining the worst situation in which you are completely powerless.
But that’s purely a narrative that we choose to believe. I think rarely is reality as bad as our predictions; the worst situation being arguably dying. “Am I going to die from this panic attack/shitty situation?” Probably not. Hopefully not. And unlike this story’s situation, in which there’s no resolution unless its lame deus ex machina or absolute shit, life is more surprising and unexpected that my story. At least I hope so.
I like to believe that people are always willing to help when they see others in need. We all have friends and family, even though we lose sight of that sometimes. And maybe they’re not always observant of that because they have their own shit to go through. And if not find strength in others, maybe finding strength in yourself is enough. Things aren’t as bad as they seem, and everyone is equipped to navigate past their anxieties if that most terrible outcome can be dispelled.
All right, my nonsensical bullshitting is done. Thanks for reading.
And thanks Lily for encouraging me to write about my own feelings. I think it was the only way I could’ve resolved this.
Thanks Spencer for bouncing ideas back and forth with me.