This is a fictional short story. Any similarity to real people or events is only coincidental.
Jim was driving home from a pick-up game of basketball. He glanced at the clock in the car. It was 9:37 pm. As the highway lights whizzed by, he began to think about the day’s events. He had a job as an accountant. At work, he had not felt comfortable with the way his company was trying to avoid taxes. He knew that the policies of his company were strictly legal, but he felt guilty that the company was acting like a leech on society. With so many homeless people roaming about the city, he felt that the tax money could be spent building shelters for those who could not afford the rising costs of apartments. However, Jim also knew that if he mentioned his qualms at work, his boss would feel no regrets about firing him. Accountants were a dime a dozen, and since computer algorithms had been taking over many white-collar jobs, there were a lot of unemployed accountants that his boss could choose from.
Jim’s troubles had not ended when he left his workplace. He had had dinner with a woman that he was dating. They had had an argument, about a trivial thing, but he felt that their relationship was inevitably coming to an end. He didn’t feel that the benefits of the relationship could compensate for the friction that existed between them. Every time they tried to communicate, they would get into an argument about something unimportant. He didn’t know why.
After dinner, Jim had gone to play basketball with some of his friends at the gym. It was usually a game of three-on-three. Jim liked to get the exercise, and to forget about his troubles at work, but he didn’t care for the overly competitive nature of the game, and the trash talking and bravado that some of the guys participated in. Even though he liked the feeling of being on a team, he didn’t know whether he would continue with these pick-up games since he didn’t have a strong competitive drive like the others.
As he drove, Jim began to feel that his life was meaningless. He couldn’t find any real satisfaction in any of his activities or relationships. The things that others seemed to value had no attraction for him. Saving every possible penny of taxes was not something that he could get excited about. Continuing with a relationship that caused him stress was not something he wanted to do. And competing in a basketball game… he realized that he didn’t care whether he won or lost. If he won, he would lose friends, and if he lost… there was nothing great about losing. When he was younger, he had tried to fulfill his parents’ wishes for his life, but he had come to realize that his parents would never be completely satisfied with his work. He felt that he didn’t know what to do with his life. It seemed so empty and meaningless.
Jim looked at the clock again. It was 9:55. He slowed down and drove through the gate and into his apartment complex. After parking near his apartment, he got out of his car and climbed the stairs to the apartment where he lived alone. Although he had lived alone for many years, tonight he felt a stab of loneliness. He felt that no one understood him. Not his boss. Not his girlfriend. Not his parents. And definitely not the other basketball players.
Jim unlocked the door, walked into his apartment, and bolted the door. He filled a cup with cold water, fell onto the couch, and flipped on the TV. The ten o’clock news was just starting. A news anchor began to tell the news of the day:
“The President and Congress are in a deadlock again. The President is threatening to veto the latest legislation because he doesn’t agree with…”
Jim switched to one of the other national channels.
“A volcano erupted earlier today. Several villages were destroyed. The death toll stands at 532 and over 2000 are still missing…”
Jim hit the mute button. Then he closed his eyes. He was about to fall asleep when something made his heart skip a beat. Then he began to feel dizzy. He opened his eyes and glanced at the TV. He noticed the words “SPECIAL REPORT” on the bottom of the screen, so he turned on the sound.
The anchor seemed completely shocked, which was unusual for someone who normally calmly read the news each night. The anchor was saying, “It… seems…” Then she broke down and started sobbing.
The camera switched to another anchor, who was slightly more composed. “People… please don’t panic… something has happened… all around the world, many people have suddenly dropped to the ground… they seem to be… dead.”
Jim stood up and looked out the window. It was dark, and he couldn’t see anything unusual, but his heart began to race. Suddenly, he heard a scream from somewhere within the apartment complex. Then he heard another scream. He sat back down and took a gulp of water.
Suddenly, a bright light lit up his field of vision. At first, he thought it was coming from outside. Then he thought it might be coming from a nuclear explosion. But the bright light continued, and he realized that he could see it whether his eyelids were open or closed. Next, he realized that the light was coming from everything around him. It was as if every object in the room were glowing. He looked at his arm. It was glowing too, even brighter than the objects. He looked at the TV. It was glowing.
He realized that the light had intelligence. He felt that the light could read his mind. And he began to feel guilty and sad. He thought about all the mistakes he had made in his life, and about all the compromises he had made. But when he thought about his mistakes, and how he hated himself for being so weak, the light simply sent out a beam of understanding. When Jim accepted this light and its compassion, his guilt and self-hatred simply disappeared.
Jim looked again at the TV. He immediately began to feel a strong feeling for the anchor who was having a hard time composing herself. What was this feeling? Was it love? If so, Jim had never felt this kind of unselfish love before.
He heard another scream from outside the window. Immediately, Jim sent the love that was in his heart out the window and into whoever was screaming. The screaming quieted down.
Jim focused on the TV again. The anchor was saying, “People, please don’t panic. The President has issued a state of emergency. Please stay inside. If you are driving, please stop as soon as possible and take shelter.”
Outside, Jim heard several gunshots and breaking glass. Then he heard sirens. Then more shots and more breaking glass. But Jim did not feel afraid. He could still see the light that flowed through the room and through his body. He felt a peace that he had never known before. He felt compassion for the dead, for whoever had died, and he felt compassion for the living, who were terrified and did not know what to do.
He walked into his bedroom and lay down on his bed. For the first time in many years, he prayed. He prayed that he would be shown what to do. He prayed for guidance. He prayed for the living and for the dead. He prayed that they would know the peace and love that he was feeling.
Jim felt that the chaos outside his apartment was trying to enter his apartment and his heart, but that it could not enter. The peace that he felt was beyond understanding and beyond destruction. He didn’t know why he felt this peace when the whole world seemed to be falling apart. He didn’t know why he felt love when everyone else seemed to be terrified. He wondered if there were others like himself. He only knew that he had to trust that the light would guide him each step of the way.
He felt a yearning to share his love with the others, who seemed to need it so badly, but who were unable to receive it yet. Although the terrified people outside his apartment were not yet ready to receive and give compassion, Jim understood that it was only a matter of time before they became aware of the light and became peaceful like himself. He didn’t know exactly what was happening to himself or the world, but somehow he knew that this peaceful awareness would go with him everywhere, whether he lived or died.
(written c. January 2019)