Free Will

Had he remembered history, William would have felt like a cliche. He was a child trapped in a well. He’d only been in there for about 40 minutes and his rescue seemed inevitable, but already his plight was the most talked about event on the planet.

Will was a serious, mature (for his age) thirteen year old and he was annoyed but not frightened. He was standing in water up to his thighs and getting bored and tired. He knew his dad, the famous lawyer Hank Latimore, was coming with a rope ladder. Will would be climbing out shortly, inevitably.

A week before researchers had confirmed the answer to an old philosophical question. We now know that free will is an illusion. People were still coming to grips with the loss of their free will when they became engrossed in efforts to free Will. As a result they were unsure how to feel about the minor crisis.

This brave new predetermined world affected people differently. Suicides were up sharply. So was laziness. Relationship broke apart everywhere, suddenly and dispassionately. Work, play, love, hate. What’s the point?

Hank finished his transaction and began loading the long rope ladder into his pickup truck. He thought about his deceased wife. She died 2 years before life had lost its meaning. Laura, he thought, was lucky. What would he do with his own empty life? What would Will do?

Despite his disillusionment, Hank was not depressed, just phlegmatic. He went through the motions, surrendered to his conditioning and the inevitable movement of his molecules. He turned the key and started the truck.

The world stopped tuning in to Will’s story. They could see the end, the “happily ever after,” and there were new stories to follow. Hank’s well-engineered truck made little noise and kicked up no dust. It handled perfectly and Hank didn’t feel a single bump.

A handful of spectators were standing by the well when Hank pulled up. He began lowering the rope ladder and called out to his son. “Will! I’m here! Grab onto this!”

Will grabbed the rope ladder and began climbing.

So predictable. So dull. So meaningless. Will was halfway up when Hank pulled out a lighter and set the rope on fire. Anything for a jolt of excitement, he thought. But he still felt none.