“If you could choose the script of your life, which one would you choose?” This question may sound unrealistic, but this was the problem that Camaron Dorman just was facing right now. He was a very young man, but the tedium of life had taken all the edge off him. His open shirt, pointed hair, puzzled expression, and his whole person looked tired and out of place in the neat surroundings. At the moment, he was sitting in a second-floor cubicle, hunching over a desk, and staring at a few sheets of A4 paper in front of him. Each piece of paper was clean, flat, and without any wrinkles, and they all printed with an outline of a life story.
“I’m sorry, these are really…” The young man said in a timid voice, “… really life scripts I could choose?”
“Of course, this guest, aren’t you coming into the store for this product?” Another young man sat across the desk, in a crisp black uniform, with a fake smile, “choose one, and your life will proceed according to the established script.” He was called Liam Strange, the owner of this store.
Immediately, Mr. Strange turned his head and smiled: “Are you afraid to be cheated?”
“No, no, no, sir, I didn’t mean that,” Camaron repeated his denial in a slightly flustered voice, “My friend who introduced me to this shop said that everything sold in this shop is so efficacious that there is no fake.” He paused, kept stroking the edge of a piece of paper on the table with his left hand several times, then looked up, “I just don’t get it…”
“Huh?” Mr.Strange picked up his eyebrows and did not change his smile. “it doesn’t matter,” he said, “as long as the customer has questions, I have the obligation to explain clearly.”
“These scripts are more ea… ” Camaron stammered, “easier than I expected.”
“I see, so that’s the question.” Mr. Strange conveniently took out a piece of paper from the desktop to see, the story on the paper was very brief, a few decades of life had been condensed into short dozens of lines. “We don’t really want to write everything about your future life. However, we can only specify the key points of each stage but not reveal too much about the plot.”
Cameron nodded vaguely, shivered abruptly, and looked down. A fluffy cat had just brushed against his legs, jumped up into Mr. Strange’s arms.
“But rest assured, these sketches are enough to lock in the direction of life without much deviation.” Mr. Strange touched the cat in his arms, but his eyes were still fixed on the guests in front of him, and the explanation was not interrupted by the presence of the cat. Cameron was silent and went back to the papers.
“You said earlier that you wanted to get out of your ordinary life and have a brilliant and successful hero’s life, so these are all good options.” Mr. Strange reached a piece of paper, pushed forward to Cameron, “like this, a scientist’ script, you will be in the future world caused by unknown viruses suddenly in a global epidemic, based on your professional skills and biology knowledge, you found effective vaccines, beat the horrible plague, save the world at the same time, also become one of the great scientists remembered by people around the world.”
“Well, it fits my professional background.” Cameron picked up the paper and nodded.
“All scripts are based on where you are right now in your life. There are no connection problems.” Mr. Strange smiled and pointed to another page. “this great celebrity’s script will suit your needs, too. This script, though a little bumpy, is more exciting, your life will be changed by a major maritime accident. As the only survivor of the ship, you are shipwrecked and at-sea experiences have attracted much attention. Finally, you become a lone hero in the hearts of all. Not only your books sell well, but your experience was also adapted into a hit movie with a huge box office. After that, it was easy to give lectures and stir up topics. You have a lifetime of wealth and attention!”
“A shipwreck…” Cameron was holding the script in one hand, looking at it from side to side, but also hesitating.
“It would be a tough experience, and if you don’t want to go through it, there are other options, which I recommend.” Mr. Strange rapped on the third page of the table. “A superhero’s script, all it takes is a quick and simple biochemical lab accident and no suffering, and you will have the extraordinary ability to save the world from danger.”
The young man, who had been drinking the tea Mr. Strange had poured for him, suddenly choked, coughed a few times, and nearly knocked the old glasses off his face. After a moment of frantic efforts to steady himself, the expression on Cameron’s face changed to one of disbelief: “I turned into a superhero? Am I gonna film a science fiction movie?”
“Sir, if you believe that the script of life can be chosen and bought, why doubt the authenticity of ordinary people being superheroes?”Mr. Strange sat with his hands on the cat above his lap, and the cat let out two comfortable squeals, “We sell everything, but we don’t sell lies.”
“No, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.” Cameron seemed to be used to apologizing, and the look of trepidation on his face expressed genuine fear. “I just… It’s just…”
“It doesn’t matter. Many other guests will be surprised at first. They are normal reactions. Never mind!” Mr. Strange waved his hand and continued to introduce the scripts. “There’s also a lot of drama in the superhero script, there’s a biochemical accident where other researchers are transformed and become your Nemesis, causing massive disasters and chaos that you have to deal with every time. After a long struggle, you will finally bring him to justice and real peace to the world. In this vigorous life, everything about you will become the heroic deeds to the people, and of course immortal myth and legend.”
At that moment, Mr. Strange leaned forward slightly and gave Cameron an inquiring look: “Well? Are you satisfied with it?”
“Oh, yes.” Cameron laid the pages on the table again, looked from one to the other. “But I just need to think it over.”
“There is no need to worry. Please take your time. After all, it is a very important decision that concerns the direction of life.” Mr. Strange moved back with the cat in his arms and was still smiling. “I just want to add one thing that every script here guarantees you a loving couple and a happy family, so you don’t have to worry about that. I suggest you think more about your personal aspirations.”
Cameron continued to read the rest of the scripts that Mr. Strange hadn’t introduced yet one by one. The scripts above were all about completely different stories. There was a monopoly’s script, talented artist’s script, and scripts that have access to an official career. Every life seemed wonderful, could let him save others, become a hero, and success at the same time.
They were infinitely better than his present hopeless existence. Excitement crept into Cameron’s brow, the original eyes with no spirit also became bright. However, he soon returned to his undertone: “Can I afford a life like this? To be honest, I still have a lot of credit card debt…”
“Sir, did you forget that I told you as soon as you sat down that you don’t have to pay for anything in the store.” Mr. Strange reminded, “Technically, there will be an infinite number of new scripts for everyone’s future, and if you choose one of them, the price we charge you would be just getting back all the other scripts you gave up. From now on, your future could only go on like the selected way, no matter how reget you are, there is no other possibility.”
Cameron habitually adjusted his glasses frame, replied with a bitter laugh: “I guess the original script of life I had is terrible, isn’t it? Is it really worth that much?”
“You can rest assured of that.” Mr. Strange had a flash of subtle shrewdness in his eye, “We always give the customer an estimate before offering an alternative script of equal value.”
Cameron looked down and did not speak. He turned the paper, again and again, with some expectations, but also at a loss. All of a sudden, concerns occupied all of Cameron’s head:” I have one last question. In these scripts, there are always some bad things like disasters or accidents. Do they have to actually happen?”
“Sure.” Mr. Strange smiled. “How else can you bring a change in your life?”
“So…” Cameron moved his throat with difficulty as if suddenly choked with something. “And are those people who suffered because of this real?”
Mr. Strange picked up the teacup in front of him, slightly sucked it, and nodded.
Cameron’s face, which was not full of vitality at first, now momentarily turned to complete white. He tossed the pages back onto the table as if bitten by something, and hurriedly picked up his cup, tried to hide his uneasiness, but the rippling surface of the tea still leaked out some water.
Mr. Strange didn’t say much either, he bent down to knead the cat in his arms. The room was quiet, with an occasional sweet “mew” or two.
As Cameron tried to speak again, something made his voice sound hoarse. “If I hadn’t chosen any of these scripts, those bad things would also not happen, right?”
“Sorry, I can’t guarantee that.” Mr. Strange shook his head. “Something was meant to happen. It’s hard to say how much it had to do with your choice.”
“So bad things can happen even if I don’t want to be a hero. But if I’m going to be a successful man, bad things were bound to be set up.” Cameron murmured, “The probability of the disaster would always be increased by my choice.”
“Depending on how you interpret it, it could be that the total probability of something bad happening is always the same. The scripts we’re offering are just to make sure your future is tied up with the specific events which could make a bad situation better.” Mr. Strange stopped stroking the cat and sat up straight. “But let’s be clear, there’s no need for heroes to appear in a world where nothing happens.”
“But……” Cameron’s pale face was now flushed, unconsciously pinched his cup, and hesitated for a really long time. He was unable to utter a coherent sentence, but only his face sank lower and lower under the table.
Mr. Strange didn’t worry, just stared at him with a half-smile.
Outside the window, there was a luxuriant old locust tree, the sun cast a crooked shadow in the afternoon, through the glass window asperse in the house.
“Is there a script…” After a while, Cameron looked up and pleaded, “Just the sort of… It won’t hurt anyone or any of their interests, but it will make my life successful and heroic.”
“Ah? Haha…” Mr. Strange stopped laughing and raised an eyebrow. “There is a script of that kind, but it is too rare and precious. We have no stock at present, so we can’t sell it to you.”
The light from the young man’s pupils had completely disappeared and his face turned pale as death.
It was a long time before he whispered, “I want to break this deal.”
“Sir, you have put me in a difficult position. The terms and conditions of the transaction were spelled out when you first entered the store, and the binding document that you have read and signed is clear. Once a guest sees where he or she is likely to go in life, they must make a choice.” Mr. Strange shifted into a more casual position and leaned back in his chair, he looked more casual than before, but the warmth of the smile was gone, and there was a hint of indifference in his polite voice. “From the moment you decided to read the alternate scripts, the deal could not have been canceled under the principle of confidentiality.”
As he spoke, the cat, which had been lying meekly in Mr. Strange’s arms, suddenly jumped onto the table and walked like it was perambulating across the table. Its huge eyes stared at the young man Cameron, and sounds of “meows” came out from its throat. The voice was low but menacing.
A strange chill rises abruptly from Cameron’s back ridge and turns into a slippery cold sweat, which is closely attached to his forehead. “I…” At last, Cameron’s mouth tried to open several times as he remembered to put down his teacup but finally stopped. He just drew his hands back on his knees and clenched them into firm fists, couldn’t stop trembling.
Cameron was never a good decision-maker, but now he had to choose his entire life from a few paths. Nevertheless, each of these few roads was a really brilliant one that common people had been seeking all the time. Once Cameron made his final choice, he would then enjoy the rest of his life happily. However, a voice whispered in his heart noticed many other innocent people may get involved in bad circumstances.“It is not like that at all.” retorted another voice, “The suffering of strangers may have been preordained, they are unrelated to your personal choices.” It was extremely difficult for Cameron to decide: “But what if it does? Why do people have to struggle so much about the successful future when superheroes in movies also have to go through all kinds of disasters?” “They didn’t choose this. I don’t want to live my life with guilt. So I’ll just be willing to give up my future to protect the people who will never show up in my life?”
The situation for Cameron now was so tangled that it started to become more and more chaotic. The grievance oppressed in his body rushed forward, knocking the original yes to pieces, forcing the young man suddenly raised his head, came across on the other side of the table, grabbed Mr. Strange’s arms like a cry for help: “These are all I can choose? No more? Shouldn’t life always have new choices?”
Mr. Strange, startled by Cameron’s action, soon regained his composure and asked, “Sir, do you have any misunderstanding about life?”
“Based on the assessment of the value of your life, our store already offers a maximum number of choices.” Mr. Strange calmly pulled his arm out of Cameron’s hands, stepped back, and said with a smile, “Ordinary people don’t have much choice in life.”
Cameron’s rare courage soon wore off and slumped back into his chair.
Mr. Strange looked at him with great interest, chased the cat away from tramping on the tabletop scripts, neatly gathering up them and holding in his hand and said: “Sir, I know that you are not satisfied with all these options. Of course, we would not intentionally be difficult guests since we are not something like a devil, but an honest businessman.” Just then, he opened a drawer on the other side of his desk, pulled out an A4 sheet of paper and pushed it across to the customer. “Here’s a backup script for customers when they are having a hard time deciding,” he said.
After being bewildered, Cameron took the paper, his eyes darting over the printed lines, and for a few minutes, his brow furrowed and relaxed. By the time he had finished, his face was no better, or worse, and his voice trembled a little: “Is this…”
Mr. Strange nodded. “This is the most possible life you could have had. All of your choices were wrong, all the efforts you made were in vain, you died in endless loneliness and pain after decades of privation and fruitless toil, and you were quickly forgotten by people and left no trace of existence. As if you had never really lived. I won’t hide anything from you now, because your life is so unlucky, so rare. Therefore, we give it a high valuation, and it’s enough to give you a successful heroic life.” Mr. Strange shook the stack of the alternative scripts in his hand, “Well? Did you suddenly find it easier to choose?”
Cameron was silent and looked down at the page in his hand, wondering what he was thinking.
It was getting late in the afternoon, and the sunlight outside the window was getting more and more slanting. When it poured into the window, it had lost its previous heat and showed a certain languor, just like Cameron’s voice at this moment: “If I continue to use this script, will I be the only one who will be hurt?”
Mr. Strange stopped his hand, “Yes!”
“Ha, ha, ha…” Cameron suddenly began to laugh out of turn, a laugh that was grotesquely ugly and choked with patient sobs. He bent slowly in his chair, his face completely buried between his arms, which still held the script of his life, and a few drops of transparent water trickled down onto the paper.
“I’m sorry.” He apologized as usual. “I’m sorry.” But the voice was sincere and his tone was gentle. He was still confused and didn’t know who he was apologizing to.