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The Ones Who Don't Walk Away

Sean Vivier--pronounced like Vivian, but with an R--is a web app developer from central Connecticut who moonlights as a ballroom dance instructor and a writer of science fiction and fantasy. He is not a workaholic. He can stop working any time he likes. You can find his work in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online. Learn more at seanvivier.com.

A lot is made of those who walk away from the city. And I get it. I do. It's a shock to learn the city's secret. That a child must suffer for our prosperity. Of course it breaks a lot of people. Of course they walk away. Of course they abandon their civic duty.
Sure there are those who go about their business as before. Who bury the new knowledge so they can return to their normal lives and go about their days. To keep their sanity. To convince themselves they're still good people. To follow the easiest course.
But not all of us can ignore the fundamental injustice, and not all of us have the heart to leave. Not all of us have the heart to abandon our home to damnation. Some of us choose to stay and fight for her soul.
We are the ones who cannot live in such a place without offering a challenge to its corrupt way of life. And we are the ones who cannot leave knowing we did nothing to try to stop it.
There are those who use their voices. Who argue with the comfortable who do nothing, who write opinions and marshal all their arguments both logical and moral against the cruelty at the heart of our city. They, too, do their part.
There are those, a small number, who plot violence. But they get nowhere with it. Still, that child suffers, only now more suffer with her. Our opponents take them and use them as proof that no one need pay attention to our ideas.
There are those who organize campaigns and who run for election if only to end the torture of innocents. They do not always win, but sometimes, here and there, they do. We have not yet made change, but our numbers grow, and so too our voices in the halls of power.
There are those who try to find the tortured child and rescue her. But not everyone knows how to find the place of torment, and fewer know how to release the bonds without the complete obliteration of the city, the tormented child included.
There are even those who offer to take the child's place. They will feel more righteous, they say, if they know they chose the suffering, that others will prosper for their sacrifice, that the price will be paid knowing. One phlegmatic masochist even says he will enjoy the torment that brings prosperity, which will benefit everyone, himself included.
As for me, I do the only thing I know how. I come to the child at the heart of the city. I talk to her. I listen to her. I play with her and I teach her. I try to mitigate the worst of it. And whenever she cries in sudden and terrified pain, I rush and I hold her. If all I can do is comfort a hurt child in agony, then that will be my part in all this.
One day, we will find a means to end this abominable practice. Until then, none of us has the heart to surrender and flee. None of us can ignore the problem like the ones who walk away.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

Author Comments

[Jonathan's comment: everyone has a response to Omelas somewhere in their soul. Mine is different than this one. So, I bet, is yours.]

- Sean Vivier
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