A Penlight

Imagine a snake has just bitten you. Its venom will kill you in one hour. Fortunately, there is a serum stored in a warehouse a short distance from where you were bitten. Unfortunately, the warehouse is large and filled with many things beside your snakebite serum. What’s more, it is as dark as a tomb inside, and you cannot find a light switch. Fortunately, you have a flashlight in your pocket. Unfortunately, it is only a penlight. And so begins your search for the serum – for That Which Will Save Your Life. You can feel time slipping as you scan shelf after shelf after shelf in this massive warehouse. My God, it’s like this place has got everything. Hairbrushes, toothpicks, wading boots, underwear, 12 year-old scotch, novels, computers. What about serums? Where are the damn serums?

As your time winds down, as you feel the poison moving through your veins, you stumble over something. No – someone. It’s the guard. And he’s sitting by the light switch. At last the place is lit, and there, right beside you and your now unnecessary penlight, is the serum.

If fear is nothing else it is that penlight. The world grows dark and your vision narrows, and always fear tells us our life hangs in some sudden balance. As you drink the serum how can you not wonder if your light had passed across the bottle, so consumed were you by the mounting evidence of your imminent demise.

Nice that you found the guard, but wouldn’t it have been just as fine if some friends had come along to help you, and maybe brought with them better flashlights. Why, if there were enough of you, even without that single light switch all your beams could have illuminated that place, and there in your accumulated glow would be everything everyone needed.

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