Machina Ex Deus
It was a fine Wednesday morning and exactly three seconds after Barry Thodol sat down for breakfast and put his coffee mug on the smiley face coaster, the doorbell rang. The sound startled him for he could not even remember the last time he heard it. As silent as he could, he stood up and walked towards the front door. Before he could ask who it was, the doorbell rang again and Barry was almost knocked off his feet. He opened the door and saw two policemen standing there with their arms folded across their chests and wearing sunglasses.
With only his lips moving, the one on the left said: "Are you Barry Thodol?"
"Yes," Barry replied.
The one on the right suddenly held a sheet of paper in front of his face. "Did you write this short story?"
Barry looked at it. It was a printout of the short story he wrote and posted on an online community yesterday. He had given it the title Ampersands, which had absolutely nothing to do with the plot. The story was about a boy who had an irrational fear of beards and the invasion of humanoid aliens who have the longest beards in the universe. "Yes."
"You're coming with us." The policeman on the left said and brandished a pair of handcuffs.
Twenty minutes later, he was being escorted into court. It was a good thing that he was already dressed for work and it would have been quite embarrassing if he went on trial wearing pajamas. But the courtroom turned out to be very different from what Barry expected. It was small with no seats for anybody else but the judge. The policemen guided him in front of the bench, uncuffed him and left the room. The chair behind the raised desk spun around and the judge revealed himself. The judge was old and bald and wrinkly with long white nosehairs. And he was wearing pajamas.
"Do you know why you are here?" asked the judge whose name was Fred Frederick according to his nameplate.
"Nope," Barry said.
Judge Frederick yawned. "But you do know that it is against the law to write a story without a twist ending?"
"Yes," Barry said.
"That is why you are here. You have violated section 2-21b of the Literary Law."
Barry scratched his head. The judge began pounding the gavel. "There will be no head scratching in my court," screamed the judge.
"Sorry," Barry said.
"You wrote a short story entitled Ampersands which is about a beard-fearing young man who becomes the world's hero against an invasion of bearded aliens. The last two paragraphs detail how Popo, your protagonist, defeated the invaders and escaped the exploding mothership without a scratch on his skin. Am I correct?"
"That is not a twist ending."
Barry thought real hard and deep why Judge Frederick said so. He was about to speak again but the judge interrupted him.
"Popo, despite his phobia, managed to infiltrate the alien mothership, free the captured humans and kill hordes of alien warriors with beards. I think the proper twist ending would be his unexpected death after surviving through all those obstacles."
A moment of silence passed. Barry opened his mouth but the judge interrupted him again.
"Or he was an alien himself."
Nodding with a smile, Barry realized that that was actually a better ending. He later realized that he had been nodding with a smile for too long because Judge Frederick started tapping the desk with his fingers. "Well, Mr. Thodol?"
Barry took a deep breath and said: "Your Honor, in my line of work, I deal with people dying every day. Yesterday, I was so bored. I went home early to sleep so I could spend the night awake having fun in some bar. But the instant I lied down on the bed, the idea for the story popped into my head. It wouldn't let go and I couldn't sleep. So, I got up, went to my laptop and just began typing my idea away. As I have said, death is an everyday thing to me and so, as my twist ending, I made my character live. That is my defense, your Honor."
Frowning, the judge asked: "What line of work are you talking about?"
Barry moved his hand to scratch his head but then remembered the judge's warning. "Um...Population control."
"Oh," Judge Fredrick said. "Very well. The short story will be granted public viewing as long as you change the ending. You will be fined $100, payable now or else you'd spend a day in jail. Case dismissed."
Fortunately, Barry had exactly $100 in his wallet. Unfortunately, it meant he had to walked 6 miles to get to his office building. He was late for two hours. It was the first time anyone in the office came in late and instead of the computer screen, all eyes were on him when he entered. He reached his workstation with relief. He turned on his computer and loaded the company software. He ignored the queue of emails on his inbox. On the Name field textbox, he typed in Fred Frederick and on the Occupation field, judge. He clicked Submit. Judge Fred Frederick's profile came up. Barry clicked on the Detailed Cause of Death button and on the corresponding textbox he typed:
Judge Fred Frederick dies of a heart attack while pooping.
Barry pressed enter. He then proceeded to do his work routine: open an email, copy-paste the name to the company software and input how that person would die.
Six miles away, Judge Fred Frederick died of a heart attack while pooping.
Jai believes that he's an immortal who has lived through many iterations of time and space and that his stories are actual events he had experienced. His parents believe he belongs in a mental institution.