The Story of Everything

Submitted into Contest #197 in response to: Write a story that includes the phrase “I’m free!”... view prompt


Fiction Speculative

I stand alone in vast emptiness, a proprietor of knowledge. In my hands sleeps a glowing sphere of pale white electricity, crackling and popping lazily up at me. In my hands sleeps a secret, a secret I guard with what you could call my life. 

How do you guard a concept? An idea? You hide it. In vast emptiness. 

I watch with eyes that see everything as the ball wakes and lights the room with hues and colors of a different reality. Synchronicities and miracles engulf me and a sporadic hum of the sound of everything all at once settles inside my stomach. I have to swallow it whole before it overtakes me. These are the things we cannot control, of predetermined paths, of coincidence. I am only a witness to this grand power contained within a glowing sphere of pale white electricity. 

Just as each time it wakes, the ball allows me to sift through individuals and the paths they're on, paths they can't see but that are laid before them nonetheless. I walk their lives, a clear linear path. I watch laughter and unbridled anger and horror and despair until I come upon a man, stuck. No. Not stuck, waiting. 

He sits at his kitchen table and he is studying his next choices which are laid out before him. He watches them almost as though he can see them in their physical form just as I can: formless pictures depicting where his choices my lead. This can’t be right, he shouldn’t be able to do this. I have to go backwards. 


“What is free will?” He thinks to himself only a few months before I find him sitting at his kitchen table. 

What is free will. 

I peel back his mind and find an organized fog, like there is a mystery he is only beginning to put together. This is not a mystery any of his peers will share his desire to unravel. He is alone but he is curious.

Only days before he asks that age old question he finds himself in the thralls of another dilemma. With fingers thudding against his skull, eyes unwavering against a carcass below him, he pollutes his mind with all things existential. He had been sitting on a bench, watching the sun set behind the lakefront when somewhere to his left he notices a freshly dead bird. It had been so close to him and yet he had not noticed it until there was only a sliver of sun to be seen beyond the silky waves. 

His thoughts danced around death, wanting to grasp it yet not willing to wield the fullness of it. He understood we all die. It is the only thing that unites us in that true, genuine way. It is the thing that reminds us that we are all human, and birds are birds, and we are all fleeting and small. 

At this time spring was following closely on the heels of a particularly barren winter season, so as he looked up he allowed himself to hear the almost deafening chirping and to see the baby geese and the flowers blooming, and he watched as the truth folded out before him. The grim reaper is not a solemn hermit, but a newly wed that holds birth and life as closely to its chest as it does death and letting go. They are intertwined in a cycle, just as all things are. You cannot have a beginning without first enduring an end. 


Somewhere beyond this, I find him sitting in his car, speeding along a quiet road when he spots a hand waving from the ground in the distance. A warmth cascades across his body and he pulls over. Call it a ‘knowing.’

The person he finds is badly hurt with just barely enough strength to hold their arm up at all. Scratched and burned, he doesn’t ask what happened, he only gently feeds them water with his phone up to his ear, telling the operator as best as he could where they were. 

When the ambulance comes they tell him that they were lucky he pulled over. That the person he saved only had a few minutes left before it was lights out. 

He waits until they are all loaded up before pulling off onto the road again. He sits in the congestion of traffic only caused by a terrible accident, an accident he had narrowly missed.

He thinks to himself. “Yeah. Lucky.”


I find him next standing at the exit of a building and I am unsure if I have gone forwards or backwards. Perhaps it does not matter. In his hands he holds his life- a box of his most important things he kept scattered along his work desk, the place he spent most of his days whether he realized it or not. Everything, he believes, has led him to this work, to this way of life. Every choice he has ever made has been aligned with getting him here, yet it was all thrown away in less than a moment. Years of working. Gone. The word “downsizing” rings in his ears. 

“It couldn’t have been prevented,” he remembers his boss saying. 

It couldn’t have been prevented. 

He had to wonder if his life was ever his to hold. 

Is he not just a feather destined to fall and sway gently to the ground? Is he not but a pebble swept away in a river, destined to ride a current he never had any control over? 

He never stood a chance in preventing this, just as the bird could not have prevented his own death. As he walks numbly to his car he cannot think of what he should do next, he can only ponder his life thus far. How many times has he thought he was in control only to be shown how the universe scoffs in his face at the notion. How many times has he been shown just how grand and big and inescapable the inevitability of everything is?

He never was and never will be immune to the way things are Meant to Be. 

He lets go. 

I feel it as he does, a feeling I’ve long forgotten. 


I am with him now at the top of a hiking trail. He is in awe of a butterfly that has decided to land on his finger. He studies the way its wings close and open in that careful and slow way. He gazes at its beautiful patterns before he looks out at the world before him, the trees and hills taking on a pattern of their own.  

He speaks to the butterfly now, “Everything is made up of patterns, isn’t it? They are all around us. In everything we do. Patterns and cycles, patterns and cycles, that’s all life is. The seasons, and death, and the amount of birds in the sky, the day you're born, the leaves on a tree, even the choices we make. They are all small pieces of the picture. Little messages we are meant to decipher if we can.”

The butterfly lifts off his finger and flies away. He takes that as a yes. 


He is faced with a decision even though he has already come to the conclusion that control is an illusion and so is every choice he's ever made. He knows he was brought here, somehow. He was brought to this moment and now he must exercise the free will he wasn't sure he had to make a choice. And that choice will lead him to another point in his life until he has to make another choice. Choices that are limited by his reality and limited by who he is as a person and limited to his human knowledge and limited by what the universe actually wants him to do. How can he go on like this? Knowing nothing is real and yet it is the only tangible thing he has. 

All he can do is listen. Listen to that warmth cascading through his body and trust it knows where to take him better than he does. 


I am now at the place it all started, watching him stare at those tangible choices no one should be able to see. Now I understand a little bit better, maybe because it was all familiar to me. Strangely familiar. 

He looks up and our eyes meet.

He sees me. 

He sees too much, knows too much. He is dangerously close to that secret contained in a ball of pale white electricity. Of understanding destiny, free will, and control. How they mingle and intertwine. 

He gets up, maintaining eye contact, and another choice appears though he doesn’t have to look at it to know it’s there. He was waiting alright. He was waiting for me. He walks towards me, through me. We are one.

He is a master of himself and in that he is a master of free will and destiny alike. He is free. We are free. The only true freedom you can ever have. 


I awake with a fresh memory of how I got here- how I got myself here. How I came to understand myself and the nature of things. How I would tell myself the story of everything. How I pieced together its beginning, middle, and end.

And yet-

Would I be here at all if I had not seen that bird? If I had not pulled over or gotten laid off? If I had not been guided to these conclusions. 

I look at fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it as it crackles and pops in my hands, asleep again. I look at it, not with contempt, but with a knowing, and I let it slip from my hands and crack to pieces on the ground. It explodes with light, enveloping me in everything, in the story of everything. 

This is how fate and free will interact, a cosmic crashing together of concepts, ideas, and realization. A knowing that the two cannot be separated. They cannot exist on their own. They are one.

May 12, 2023 18:45

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Mary Bendickson
14:47 May 15, 2023

You are a deep thinker. Pondering depths I never think to imagine. Thanks for following me.


Show 0 replies
Wally Schmidt
22:58 May 13, 2023

I could spend a whole afternoon sitting here thinking about everything this story put out into the world. Food for thought and well -written. Thanks for sharing Molly!


Molly Sickle
20:49 May 14, 2023

Thank you for your kind words


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Helen A Smith
07:04 Jun 01, 2023

I like your writing Molly. You ask many deep questions here. I think the idea of cycles and patterns being a constant part of life. I’m guessing the person holding the sphere is a higher being watching over an individual’s choices and predetermined fate. Well-written and thought provoking.


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.