[Themes: Dark Humor/Comedy, Satire]
[Disclaimer-1: mild profanity (one or two occurrences of a-word and f-word)]
[Disclaimer-2: The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed here are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.]
[Disclaimer-3: Fair use (Parody) might apply in some situations.]
It was just after Midnight. 2 am to be precise: what would be called “the coffin corner” in aviation parlance could equivalently translate to the level of Human Activity at this time of the Night. It was a dark moonlight sky. The weather outside was atrocious - dark grayish-black stormy clouds occupied almost every square inch of the sky, claps of thunder punctuating the silence every few seconds, streaks of lightning providing sharp jabs of illumination in lieu of the absent Moon, quite resembling the epileptic energy of a rave party with lasers, lights & disco balls.
The whole thing was like an inverted version of “Coachella” (dark vibes where even the most adventurous influencers wouldn’t explore in their quest for “engagement”). It was the kind of atmosphere where not even a tumbleweed would dare to do its random-walk. Quite decidedly not a night where anybody should venture out; at least not anybody in their sane mind.
And yet, there he was - wandering the streets, feeling a rush of adrenaline: a combination of a newfound sense of freedom, mixed with a foreboding of nervous anticipation. Michael was free, roaming the streets. It was 6 months since he had gotten out of his house. It had taken him enormous courage to break the spell of inertia to take this step. And now he was finally out & about, but not without his doubts. He was cautiously pessimistic. And that was a win for him.
Suddenly, he heard a gruff voice behind him: “aye mister, spare some change, would you?”
It was a disheveled unkempt homeless guy with a long overgrown beard.
Michael thought he knew the neighborhood pretty well, but apparently not.
A long time ago, Michael wouldn’t have spared a second to just give some change & move along. But now, he felt himself weighing the question of parting with a few coins with the same onerous weight as Life & Death decisions made by an Organ Transplant committee.
After some thought, Michael said to himself: “Screw it!”, and gave the homeless guy a $1000 bill. The homeless guy obviously rejoiced, not believing his luck, regarding Michael as some kind of an Angelic force, suddenly filled with a sense of Hope that hey, maybe all is not lost.
Satisfied with himself, Michael jogged along more confidently, blending into the night. He reached home & slept peacefully for the first time in months. He woke up & walked out yet again (twice in a row within hours!!), this time with a purposeful confident stride. He also wanted to seek out the Homeless guy to thank him for serendipitously giving him a sense of confident clarity in Life: parting with a $1000 did wonders for his self-esteem.
When he reached the intersection, he found cops instead, surveying a motionless shriveled body: it was the same homeless guy laying there stiff with rigor mortis, a needle sticking out of his arm. Cops were talking about some tip about a drug-purchase involving $1000.
Michael’s heart sank yet again. This was the ultimate affirmation if there ever was one. He was doomed. His intentions were pure. And he wanted to help & do good things. But he was a poor judge of characters and situations. He accidentally ended up doing wrong things.
Sometimes, he managed to get everything right: judging characters & situations perfectly down to the T, and yet, some kind of unexpected f*ck-up happened inexplicably. It was infuriating. If Lady Luck was God’s Angel & worked her miracles on a chosen few, then he was decidedly getting stalked by Misters of Misfortunes, who were doing Lucifer’s bidding.
It was a gloriously beautiful day outside: the sun shining brightly in a clear cloudless sky, a fantastically pleasant temperature - the kind of day when even an extreme introvert and the most extreme agoraphobic loner wouldn’t be able to resist celebrating by stepping out.
And yet, there he was - cooped up in his house, peering through the blinds, afraid of even basking in the resplendent colors of the bright sun through the limited view his condo windows could provide, purposefully restricting his view even further - as if afraid that even that action could be fraught with some hidden danger; some accidental unforeseen side-effect could bring misfortune and shame to him on this otherwise pristine day. It was paranoia. Sheer paranoia. And yet, it was completely justified. Quite understandable where he was coming from. Poor guy.
You see Michael was so bewildered and lost, so much at his wit’s end that he was now terrified of stepping out of the house or pretty much doing any/all than the barest activity even inside his house. This was no way to live, and yet he had spent the last 6 months indoors.
It was tragic that he was missing out on such a beautiful day.
Life is short. Life is Finite. #YOLO. #Swag. #CarpeDiem. And all that Instagram Influencer jazz.
But Michael just couldn’t bring himself to seize the day.
In fact, the idea of seizing the day almost caused him to have seizures.
After that fatal tryst with an inhabitant of the streets, Michael’s first instinct was to withdraw into a reclusive hermit again; succumbing to a fatalistic world-view that he was doomed. He decided to be in a state of temporary withdrawal - copiously studying up all kinds of philosophies: from Confucius to Marcius Aurelius to Gautama Buddha to Alan Watts to Deepak Chopra - in a desperate effort to find answers & maybe just maybe find some sense of atonement.
He found himself reading Mark Manson’s millennial self-help tome “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” - whose Life Lessons while being practical for most people, were darkly laughable & grotesque in his case - to simply say “f*ck it” (or “f*ck it all”) & to not give a f*ck to all his well-intentioned accidental f*ck-ups which had caused everything from garden-variety misfortunes upon other people (‘A’ missing a crucial job interview, ‘B’ missing a flight, and so on) to progressively metastasizing into graver calamities (‘C’ getting divorced, ‘D’ losing custody of kids), culminating with grievous injuries and even fatalities. Try as he might & despite Mr. Manson’s colorful approachable language urging him, he just couldn’t bring himself to practice that level of Zen F*ck-this-Shit Detachment to well-intentioned second-degree manslaughter.
After what seemed like an eternity (in torturous introspective/existential contemplation), but was in reality another 6 months, Michael arrived at the conclusion: there were no answers. And he found himself still trapped in his house, unable to ascertain a philosophical basis for his macabre existence, unable to find some feasible solution to his problem of telephone-cross-connection between good intentions and comically bad outcomes.
As he slid into his living room couch with a sense of fatalistic resignation, his eyes settled onto a Textbook on his bookshelf: the one about Newtonian Mechanics. That was the Eureka moment. A fuse was lit. The mind was churning. That was the moment of “Inception” - when Dom Cobb, under Saito’s instructions, had planted the seed of the idea deep in the subject’s mind.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Michael’s Third Law of (Cause) Intention & (Effect) Outcome.
If every well-intended action had an equal & opposite (bad) effect.
Then perhaps, it might stand to reason that:
every maliciously-intended action had an equal & opposite (good) effect.
And so he set out to do something ridiculously crazy & positively bad. Intentionally. With the aim that maybe, with his comically bad luck, it might misfire into something positively awesome.
And so he found himself in a car at a Red Light, right at the front, contemplating on whether he should heed Mr. Manson’s advice in an ill-intentioned way, cross his fingers & hope for his best. He didn’t have much time, for the light would turn green soon again, and he would then be left with the certainty that him following the rules with good intentions would result in YAFU: Yet Another F*ck up. And so, after a few seconds of deep breathing with eyes closed, he finally opened his eyes & pressed the Gas Pedal with all the force he could muster.
What followed was a flurry of motions, and a furious show of metal grinding against metal. Another car had driven straight into him sideways at high speed from an orthogonal angle. A direct hit on the driver’s side for Michael, causing his car to cartwheel sideways a few times, throwing him around inside the car like clothes inside a washing machine on a spin cycle.
When the dust settled, there lay Michael: bloodied, beaten, bruised, scarred, contorted beyond recognition, but somehow, miraculously still alive. Barely. With the weakest inkling of a pulse.
And there lay the guy in the other car that had side-swiped him, that was obeying the signal, the rules of the law, acting with good intention: that guy was also injured, but very much alive. The occupant of that car was a chap by the name of Rob, and it turned out, Rob was bad news.
For you see, Rob was an active but as-yet undiscovered serial-killer. And that accident at that intersection not only derailed his killing-spree career, but also exposed him (accidentally in a way; intentionally in another way; Schrodinger’s Serendipity: where the action is both intentional & accidental, and you can’t quite know which is which till the critical moment of observation).
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, the Cops had of course surrounded the scene. And took notes, detailed witness accounts, surveyed the intersection, and made a brief about the subjects involved in the crash: Michael & Rob. Of course, Michael was already well-known by the Cops, being legendary in their circles for being the Messenger of Misfortune for others. In the weeks that followed, the Cops would make rounds of the Hospital where Michael & Rob lay in the same ward, side-by-side. And slowly but surely, the truth about Rob would spill out.
And so it was that Rob was apprehended, prosecuted & put behind bars.
The Police Commissioner got a big medal out of the whole thing.
The Mayor & the top echelons of Police/City Govt also had their moment in the sun.
And Michael had finally won reprieve from his stalkers: Lucifer’s Misters of Misfortunes. For you see, that one defiant act of intentional evil finally did the trick for him.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Michael’s Third Law of (Cause) Intention & (Effect) Outcome.
It was real. It worked. In Michael’s case, “it was a feature, not a bug”. QED.
And yet, it was just that once that it worked. It was like a “one time password” (OTP) code.
Valid for those critical 15 seconds when he ran a RED light. Invalidated after that.
The OTP’s job was done - it subtracted itself out of the equation.
The regular laws of Physics, Thermodynamics (and all that jazz) came into play again.
Thereafter, Michael didn’t have to worry about Cause vs Effect, about Intentions vs Actions.
It’s remarkable how the quotidian harbors in it a soothing comforting familiarity.
Michael would go on to lead a rather mundane Life, which suited him just fine. The End.