Thursday, January 3, 2013


Schrodinger's Gun
By James Wolanyk

There are 500 of us in this room. Each one of us has a black button to press, and a headset to wear, and a bright screen to look at. We’re all trained for this, and we’re good at what we do. We press the button when we must. We press it when we see someone who must be eliminated.
The statistics favor our method. With one press of the button, the system plays its own form of a lottery, and one of our buttons will link to the firing mechanism of the drones. Only one. Out of 500 trained operators, a single button will fire a single shot, and the other 499 will be for nothing. Of course, we like to keep it that way. It is preferable to think that you are in the 99.8 rather than the 0.2.
We used to hear rumors that they only had one button connected, and the other 499 were for show. One person did all the shooting, but they didn’t know it. Of course, we all sleep knowing we’re not that person.
When we spot the shadow moving across the white – the infrared effigy of a sprinting man – we all press our buttons. We do not hesitate, because there is no need. Our individual button-presses have no repercussions – it is the group as a whole which dictates the outcome. But we never neglect our duties, not even if the target is young. If the target does not appear to be holding his weapon. If we believe they are innocent. Our duties are our duties. A man is defined by what he does.
And in that moment, our eyes focus to the target, and our fingers snap to the buttons. The buttons are a chalky texture, meant to resist sweat on the finger-tips. But nobody sweats around here – not anymore. It’s instant. As soon as all press it, our eyes dart to the projector at the head of the auditorium. A paper-thin beam of laser cuts through the target.
We cheer.
We are all respected by our society.
This is the best way, though. It is ingenious to devise such a program – a mixture of physics, psychology, and chance – and in some ways, it has beaten the human condition. Long gone are the days of firing squads aiming above the heads of the condemned to spare bloodshed. No longer do we place important matters such as justice on the backs of untrained soldiers, pointing their rifles away from the enemy and shirking their obligations.
There is no better way.
Day in and day out, we watch the shadows move. Maybe we see one a month. We press. We wait for the laser to come down. And when it hits, we are glad. We have done our part.
But in the final analysis, I have learned my place in this machine. I am here to ease the pain of my brothers who have caused deaths without realizing it, pressing their buttons and causing the end of a human life. I must admit that their jobs are thankless, and must be crushing to live with. It is truly a burden to kill.
I am only here for two more years. We have pressed the button seven times thus far. Statistically, the chances of my button killing someone are astronomical. Each time I press it, the chances are lower than half of one percent. Those are low odds, are they not? I can say with fair certainty that I am one of the 499 put in place for show.
I know I am not a killer.
I hope.

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I'm a 19 year old sophomore at the University of Massachusetts. I enjoy dogs and sitting on river rafts.


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