A gunshot reverberates from the next room over. Aside from an involuntary wince at the sharpness of the sound, the two scientists pore over their results once more. “It’s certain,” says the one, “the data can’t be interpreted another way.” He walks despondently into the adjacent room and soon after another shot rings out. The other, alone under the sickeningly bright fluorescent light, rejects his findings. Revolt wells up in him making every limb come alive with a humming, throbbing power. This is his burden.
Thick, salty sweat beads form on the calves, the arms, the forehead, and all over the modern Sisyphus, pushing a car up mainstreet towards the crest of a hill. A riotous crowd has gathered, jeering, shouting, naming, watching the man, the other, ascend the peak, his toil before him: a car painted in fast-food reds and yellows with iPhone rose-gold rims. Sleek, chrome plate atop cheap, plastic trim adorns the gaudy utility vehicle slowly making its climb.
“They just don’t get it,” thinks the other to himself, “it’s art.”
“Art doesn’t need a point. Art is the ends and the means. Art is that which makes you wonder and think and provokes the mind and the emotions. Art is the end all, be all.” The other had spent his life watering the fruitless, sowing the infertile. He had built up a monolith of reason to at once, when the crucial results came in, reject his duty. He had set out to scientifically, objectively, affirm his philosophical hypotheses. Instead Camus’ singular absurd question came resounding back.
A shout from the crowd broke into his mind, “Just turn on the car!”
“The exact mindset which got me into this mess. You can’t take the easy way out. What is expedient, what is efficient, it’s not the answer to what we’re seeking! Justifications, endless papers and books and theses and opinions. Designs and mechanisms, gadgets and toys. I can’t explain it, I cannot speak it, just look, look all of you at what I’m doing. You’ll see, the crest is near!”
The car reaches the summit and begins immediately, with no respite, a slow acceleration down the other side. It gains momentum, and ends up racing towards the bottom of the hill. A now hysterical other, screaming in his mind, affirming, “YES!” watches the vehicle bolt over a speedbump, shudder, spit parts and pieces and continue, its momentum unshaken. The crowd is screaming, and the other leads its fervor.
A man down the hill behind a corner rushes to work, he eyes the people gathered and spies the cross signal before trying to jog to the other side of the street. On the phone in his hand, clasped tightly and pushed against his ear, his wife asks when he will be home from the office. While turned away from his oncoming fate, the other’s art hits him at breakneck speed and kills him immediately. The phone flies through the air, the man’s wife waiting patiently on the line, and his body falls limply to the ground while the vehicle continues its descent.
The other sees this and sprints down the hill to the man, red hot purpose burning within him. His blistered feet rip out of his shoes, meet the asphalt, and tear open pus-filled sores. Those people that lined the streets gather round the crumpled, crinkled man, and the other breaks through their ring.
He sees the lifeless corpse and kneels to kiss it. On the hands, on the forehead, on the cheek, and he wails, “Oh this man, this blessed man, he is truly free! Of all of us, this man is the only one, and if only it were me instead!” The many grab at him --the other, the involuntary murderer, the freshly forsaken-- and drag him away from the crime.
A crash and siren’s song indicate to all that the runaway vehicle has found its mark, the small engineering dormitory at the bottom of the hill. Bricks fall and crash while exposed plumbing spits water into the street. Shock and excitement ripples through the neighboring buildings, everyone keen on figuring out what exactly is going on. For certain there must be a reason for this madness, for this chaos and noise.
The other is enchained and on the ground. An officer of the law stands over him, perplexed.
“But why would you do something like this?” questions the officer. He has seen the other’s credentials and status. Scientist. Doctorate. Published. Family. The policeman is at odds with the facts he bears before him. The other seethes while seeing what is going on. From person to person information flows. Causes and effects coagulate in the common corpus, forming a solid, lumpy, picture with the other at the center.
He thinks to himself, “They missed it. They missed the point. All for naught, everything for nothing! But what could I have expected? Surely not understanding. For to understand would be to have reasons. And there were no causes for my actions.”
The other hesitates, “But perhaps there were reasons. I rejected my truth, and in rejection I wanted to show others, and to do that I would need attention. Thus, the act, the art! And yet the vehicle, it represents nothing. Or perhaps it does! Why would I choose out of the grand plurality of colors such a scheme? Surely it must mean something to someone, to myself, to the world at large. No, I reject it, I reject the trap of reason, of life!”
He tries to cup his ears with his hands to hush the onslaught of noise, but his cuffed arms move not in the direction he wants them to. The officer puts his hand on the pistol in his holster.
“Don’t move,” cautions the policeman, eyeing the restlessness of the other and seeing a threat. The other murdered just recently, afterall. Force may be justified.
The other see this and the crowd and makes his move. He lunges upwards but the officer is quick on the trigger and strikes him down. Now prone, the other’s thoughts race as the end ostensibly draws near.
“It was not my decision to die; I did not pull the trigger, and thus I am free. Sweet release from these mortal chains! And yet, I surely knew what my actions would entail. Is there no escape? There must be some other way!”