The man walked down the street, hands in his pockets, and humming The Queen of the Night's aria from Mozart's Magic Flute. The hum started subconsciously, slow at first, and then loud enough to rival Callas, the voice strident and defiant against immense hardship.
It struck him as funny that he decided to hum this song at this particularly moment, but it was incredibly apt. The aria is filled with images of blood, murder, and motherly vengeance. Listening to it is akin to that split second after you begin your descent on a roller coaster, the fear of the climb obliterated by pure adrenaline. The decision he had to make today was one that would destroy millions and force people out of their homes or bring lasting peace.
The man had months, almost a year, to make this decision. Yet, on his way to the proverbial place of reckoning, he wasn't any closer to a decision than he was when the question was first posed to him.
When the problem was presented to him, he was floored, yet it wasn't a feeling of being overwhelmed. Over the coming months he weighed the pros and cons, talked to experts, and searched deep within his own soul. His friends seemed to be in the same mindset, telling him that the decision was his and his alone to make.
One night, fitfully trying to sleep after a few nights of insomnia, he imagined 5,000 red bloodshot eyes staring at him in the darkness of his cold-water flat. He heard the creaking of the system he would feed this decision into, the finally death throes before the rust inside the mechanism ate away at the components and destroyed the world.
Each night afterwards, he was plagued by a different sight similar to the eyes, even some that were not outwardly malignant, like a field of wheat caught in a strong breeze. He imagined the crisp plasticity of a newly-printed dollar bill. He saw hands rise from the earth, clutching burning scarves.
After many of these sights, he started to fear for his sanity. He consulted an analyst, who told him that there was nothing he could do for him. His worries were something we all face and the hallucinations were nothing but the brain trying to cope with a difficult decision. Many men are fraught with these visions, he said, because the human mind is a thing so innocent and susceptible that the forces of good and evil weigh heavily on even the most average of men.
There were thoughts of moving and ending his life in the small town. He was born there, schooled there, married there, divorced there, and suffered there. His whole life was lived within the space on these small seven miles, yet he was suddenly blase about that. In the face of the decision, all else was small cheese.
His wife left with the children the day after the parameters of the decision were announced. She knew her husband's decision even before he thought of it himself, and she would have no part of it. She knew the ramifications that the decision would have on the entirety of the human race. He didn't try to stop her, because he knew she was right. She knew him better than he knew himself, like a man who drinks from the same well and knows the metallic sting like an imprint on his DNA.
He steps didn't falter as he walked to his doom, knowing that he wouldn't be able to escape if he wanted to. The decision was pulling him closer to its wretched mouth, the smell overwhelming, like cheap cologne mixed with suntan lotion.
Suddenly, he heard the voice of the decision itself beckon him: "Come here, 'cause you knew all along what you needed to do, and I did too, 'cause I'm great and I knew."
The man entered the red brick building, one he had been in for Christmas pageants, flea market sales, and graduation parties. He had his wedding party in this room, and he could still see the scratches on the hardwood floor from his wife's heels. I'll never hear her voice again, he thought, but the voice of the other one was louder. "You don't need her, because women are like tissue: white, lightweight, and disposable."
He entered the smaller room within the bigger one, after exchanging pleasantries with one of his neighbors, who looked like a deer caught in the headlights when he saw the man. This was his next-door neighbor, and he looked at him like he was a robber coming to take all he had. In a way, he was.
He took a deep breath and closed the door. The computer screen in front of him was particularly garish in the darkness of the room itself. He heard they were trying a new sensory deprivation theory for the decision, locking people in a soundproof room with no natural light or comforting advertisements. It was just the computer and him, locked in a waltz of anguish.
The man hadn't yet come to a decision, yet he saw something that made him want to weep. There was a timer ticking down on the top of the screen, limiting the time necessary for his final decision.
The man's life flashed before his eyes, the triumphs and the failures, the love and the hate, the good and the bad. He saw his daughter at her first dance recital and the voice chided that "children are so forgetful, you know, you should see mine, they're attractive but they can't remember shit."
He thought of his wife in her wedding dress, but the voice reminded him that "wives are only good for a certain season, until they become worn and outdated."
He thought of his cousin, who died recently from respiratory complications resulting from his Down Syndrome. The voice laughed a belly laugh, shrieking "who needs another one of those in the world! What have they done for me?"
This drove the man over the edge, and he made his decision. The moment was like an ecstatic release from the pressure of months of indecision. In the end, the man felt he made a decision that he could live with, but he knew the world would choose differently. He knew that his life, his values, his morals, and his ethics had led him to this decision, the one his wife thought he'd never be able to make.
They found his lying lifeless in the booth a few minutes later, dead of an aneurysm.
His finger was still on the screen of the computer where he made his final decision.
The screen chirped and chimed, saying "Thank you for voting for Hillary Clinton."