Mar 23
Ben McIlvaine's picture

I Don't Know

I Don’t Know

By Benjamin McIlvaine

    “How does it work?”

    “I don’t know,” I said even though I knew exactly what I was about to do. I had built this machine, it was my life’s work, and right now it was the deciding factor between our deaths or the hundreds of people onboard the ship with us. It was easier just to say that I didn’t know, I could justify the feelings I felt; guilt, shame, the crushing weight of knowing neither option was the right thing to do.

    It was simple, a button that released the airlocks on the escape pod on the underside of the sinking ship. One problem, the airlocks had all been damaged in some form or another. Releasing the pod was a guaranteed sinking ship right on top of us. The airlocks on the pod were the only thing standing in the way of our entire crew and hundreds of thousands of gallons of seawater. We didn’t find out who the perpetrators were until it was too late, but it didn’t matter, it was too late for any of us to stop them.

Jonas stood there, terrified. “Me neither.” He had spent his whole life with me, we grew up together, perhaps he knew I was avoiding the question, but he went along with it regardless.

We were carrying more research than the human mind could comprehend but was it worth the entire crew’s lives? I didn’t know. Simple as that. 

Jonas pulled the lever, releasing the escape pod and disconnecting the hatches. I remember an unbelievably loud crack echo through the pilot's quarters. The last of the airlocks popping like balloons. That was it. The end of our decision and the death of our crewmates. I could have stopped it just by telling the truth. I don’t blame Jonas for what happened that day, I blame myself. But by saying those three words, I doomed more people than even the most prolific killers.

    Silence engulfed the room until we reached the shore, the alarms beeping the whole way there. 

The last I heard from Jonas was three years ago. It was a phone call we used to reminisce about our time in the research department. “I knew” he said “You knew, we can’t avoid it any longer.” The deafening click of him putting down the phone has haunted me for too long.
“Is that all?” The agent broke the silence with his understandably sorrow filled gaze. 

“Yeah, that’s all.”


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About the Author: Ben McIlvaine
Ben McIlvaine
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