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The Confession

Mike Mallory sits in on a future tribunal.

Confession: M3-2156-45,678

Identity: IC-US-1,784,832

Provide a full statement of events:

When it was first announced that health care and gene therapy had reached the point that humans could be made capable of immortality, I was, like everyone else, ecstatic. All I could think about was how lucky I was to be born at this exact time. It was like winning the lottery of all lotteries.

Then the restrictions started rolling in. I was not surprised when the International Immortality Commission determined that the planet could not support both reproducing and immortal humans. We all saw that coming. But then, when they declared that only the last surviving generation of any family was eligible – that having living children disqualified you from the program… Well, I had two children. I had touched immortality, and now it was being ripped from my hands! I was distraught. I could not think of anything but the unfairness of being denied when I was so close to the prize.

The regulations stated that if my children were to die of disease or accident before the list was finalized then my eligibility would be restored. At first I would simply imagine a calamity which took my children. I would be overcome with sorrow for them, but also elated in my own victory. As the weeks passed, my thoughts grew darker. Gradually I recognized that my desire for immortality was more powerful than my love for my children. This is not a realization any parent wants to have, and I am no exception. It drove me to a self-loathing which sickened me and could not be stilled with either drugs or alcohol. Yet I kept returning with vivid clarity to the certainty that my children and I were standing on the threshold of the greatest gift to humanity since creation put us under the wheel of time. I could see that they were no more entitled to this treasure than I was. Would they drift upon the waves of chance and wash up on the shores of eternity like so much flotsam: or would I break the chains of destiny and rise from the sea to walk upon those shores through my own will? Seen in that light, who is the most worthy?

The course of my life was in my hands. My wife would never accept what had to be done, so she would have to perish with the children. I wanted to be compassionate and limit the suffering, but their deaths would have to appear accidental. It took me almost a year of research before a plan was ready.

The closing of the list seemed imminent. It was time to act. An electrical fire at night without accelerant promised to be the cause of death least likely to raise questions.

I stumbled from the house covered in soot, with singed hair, howling to the two witnesses you’ve already heard from. My escape was early enough to avoid injury, and late enough to ensure that there was insufficient time to rescue the others. I’d learned that rather than from the fire itself, fire victims usually die of smoke inhalation, often without ever regaining consciousness. I prayed that this was so, but stood outside the burning house forcing myself to listen for screams or cries from those inside. Thankfully, I did not hear any, only the turbulence of the fire.

Image © Miles Walker 2022. Please visit mileswalker.com

Explain how you have benefited from or been burdened by the crime:

The benefit was my eligibility at the time the list was closed.

The burden? Soon after the fire I became depressed with guilt over what I had done. At first I could not accept that I had actually acted out my fantasy. There was a coating of shame and remorse which clung to every aspect of my life. I daily concluded that my actions had not been worth it, and that instead of eternal happiness I had crafted my own designer hell to which I was forever consigned. Many times I thought of taking my own life to pay for what I had done to my family.

However, as the distance from the incident grew, first in years, then in decades, the horror of what I had done started to lose its disemboweling edge, then began to fade. Whether it was my acceptance of what I had done or simply the insulation of the time, the entire incident began to change slowly from one of immobilizing self-loathing to a mere historical fact of my life. I vividly recall the day thirty-two years after the list was sealed when I laughed out-loud for the first time since the fire. The sound of my own happiness and pleasure affirmed to me that I would survive my guilt, that my self-inflicted trauma would heal over.

Of course, even after many decades stood between me and the fire there was always a concern that my crime might come to light and I would be served a never-ending life-sentence. So, on the Centennial of the closing of the list, when the Immortality Commission agreed to grant amnesty for any act committed before the list was closed upon a full public confession, I recognized the new policy as the withering of my last concern. I knew that there would be some unfavorable reaction by other citizens, but just as my own self-revulsion waned, the judgements of my fellow immortals would also have their limits. Therefore I want to thank the Committee.

Compliance Determination: The Committee rejects the confession. The victims are not identified, and the description of culpability is ambiguous.

Supplementary Statement: I did it. I, John Creston, set the fire. The names of those who died in the fire are Joan Creston, James (Jimmy) Creston, and Sheila Creston.

Action: Confession Approved. Amnesty Granted.

© Mike Mallory 2022

Mike Mallory majored in Philosophy at the University of Washington and then went into law. He is now retired and collects wisdom.

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