Their Days Are Numbered is a new year-long project authored by the collective Entropy community. It is a collaborative online novel written by the Entropy community on a weekly basis. A different author will write the next “chapter” each week, to be posted every Tuesday, following the previous post from the previous week, and following a very limited set of guidelines (that each author has one week to write the next piece after the previous week’s installment goes up, that installments should range between 150-1500 words, and that pieces should somehow incorporate a real-life occurrence, current event, news item, or other happening from that week).
Follow the entire “novel” here: Their Days Are Numbered.
The twenty-fourth installment is presented this week by Shane Cartledge.
You pass a stranger on the street in a city (pick a city, any city, that’s the city that you’re in) and the stranger is a man who is falling apart at the seams. You want to avoid him, dislocate yourself from this particular part of society. You don’t know if he will rob you or stab you, ask you for change or a cigarette, maybe even attempt to solicit some form of sex. All your thoughts toward him point to disgust. A moment later all your thoughts point disgust toward yourself, to judge someone with poor quality of life simply because they may have been born into a broken system or made choices they thought were good but turned out not to be very good at all. Or maybe they were just shit out of luck, trying to ride out their days until they can pull themselves together. You don’t even know him, but your moment’s hesitation leads to confrontation. He holds a card out for you to take. Nothing more. On the card a holofoil image of a skeleton with hands folded in prayer, shining rainbow in three dimensions. You don’t understand the gesture but you take it and keep walking. Before you can erase him from your memory he says “our days are numbered” and the card somehow finds its way into your pocket.
This man’s face, his words, his card, reminds you how much this world has been reduced to fragments. We live on them. We act on them. We die scattered all over the place. We try to find logic or meaning. We tell ourselves that the system is not broken and that history is full of triumphs. Hard work gets you to the top. Heart counts for nothing. On the phone you hear that a politician has been telling everybody the secret to affording a house is to get a better job. Was he joking? Was he high? Was he that delusional to think that every person fighting day-to-day to stay real and relevant, to hold themselves together, to pass the stranger on the street whose days are numbered, reminding every person that their days too are numbered, that every person wanting something better for themselves can move from a low-end job to a high-end job and all their problems will be over and there will be no social or economic imbalance?
If such a thing did happen. If you did not witness, only consume the gossip, knowing how every ladder needs its rungs from bottom to top, remember that some people turn to trees, sway in the breeze, some people dig their roots into a good thing, some people stay rooted to the bad. The rockets burn golden and yearn for planets tucked away in distant pockets of space. Some people will open their mouths and claim to know you better than you know you do. Better is a place. A trajectory which rockets hit or miss. There is nothing better than this. The image of the skeleton shining up at you. The words etched in your skull. The number of days since you felt the disgust in your body shifting targets from those who know and feel the struggle to those who think they know better.