Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
He was rich, rich beyond his wildest dreams, with a beautiful wife by his side and two equally beautiful children. He had everything one could want in life: money, love, happiness. I should have left it alone. I should have felt happy for him. But I couldn’t…. I just couldn’t understand how his life was so perfect and mine wasn’t. I was the one who had received a 2200 on his SATs, who had gotten in an Ivy League school with a full scholarship. I was the one who had married his high school sweetheart, the one whose teenage romance never had to end. He was the one who had ditched class multiple times, the one who wasn’t able to get into a decent school, the one who was never able to land a job or a girlfriend. It was my life that was supposed to be perfect, not his. I should have left it alone… But I had to ask.
We met up for lunch about a month ago. I snuck the topic into the conversation casually, not wanting to offend him. But he wasn’t offended at all- in fact, he was quite excited to tell me the story.
He was passed out drunk on a park bench at noon when his life changed. He was awoken by whom he first feared to be the police; rather, it was an old woman who wanted to help him. She told him about a game that had changed her life- The Destiny Determiner. If you win, you get everything you ever dreamed of. A man could go from having absolutely nothing to absolutely everything. And me- I could heal my marriage, quit my job, and focus on raising the family I always wanted. This was my chance.
Of course, there was the possibility of losing. If you lose, you die. Most people who play this game aren’t afraid of that. They’re willing to risk everything for happiness, even their own lives. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit scared of losing… But I knew I wouldn’t. I was too determined.
The game lasts one week. Once you download it, you will get one message a day, starting from Sunday and ending on Saturday, explaining your task. If you quit or fail to complete a challenge, you lose. The challenges revolve around the Seven Deadly Sins. Maybe that means if you win, you end up in Hell later on. A small price to pay for eliminating pain and sadness in life, if you ask me.
My first challenge was on Sunday morning. I told my wife I had to go the office, then drove over to the beach, took out my phone, and waited. Finally, I got a text:
“The hot dog stand is by the seashore. Eat until you can not eat anymore.”
Gluttony. Simple enough. I bought hot dogs, enough to feed a family of five at a barbecue, and ate. I ate until I threw up, and then I left. This is going to be easy, I thought. I was wrong… so wrong.
The next day, I skipped work so I could focus on the next challenge. I got the text around noon.
“Go to the dress shop by the theater. Show off your vanity until you make someone lose her sanity.”
Vanagloria. I spent the day in the shop, berating every woman I saw. I called one girl ugly, another one fat, I kept going until the young ladies ran out of the shop in a flurry of tears. Eventually, my act was uncovered and I was banned from the shop. But I knew I had done a sufficient enough job. I had destroyed the esteem of several innocent people, and now I could rest until my next challenge.
The boss called and demanded I come in the day, so I did. It got the text while I was in the bathroom.
“The code to the safe is 5462; open it and keep everything for you.”
Avaritia. Greed. I waited until the end of the day, and when everybody had left I put on gloves and snuck in. Inside the safe was some money- not too much, only about $5,000. There was also a ring. The boss was planning to propose. I didn’t want to take the ring, but the challenge was to keep everything, so I slipped it into my pocket and left.
On Wednesday, I was on my way to my car when I saw my neighbor struggling with a box. She was young and pretty, but that’s not why I stopped to help her. I stopped to help her because I’m a nice person, or at least that’s what I like to think. That’s when I received challenge number four:
“Time for something new in your life; use this chance to betray your wife.”
Luxuria. Lust. I love my wife, more than I love myself. I would rather die before hurting her. But I wasn’t just doing this for me; her happiness would give me happiness, and if I completed this stupid game we could both finally be happy together. Our relationship had been rocky lately, and maybe this was the only way to fix it.
It was easier than I thought it would be. It looks like silver foxes are my neighbor’s type.
Thursdays are my day off, and my wife and I always go out, and so I had no excuse to go and complete my challenge. However, I soon found out that I didn’t need to leave; the challenge would take place right in the house.
“Yesterday you had a fun shag… Now it’s time for you to brag.”
Superbia. Pride. Not only did I have to cheat on my wife, now I had to tell her about it. Brag about it. How was I supposed to do that? Well, I didn’t have much of a choice, did I?
The scene wasn’t pretty. I got slapped a few times, and it took all my power to keep on pretending that I was proud of what I had done, that I wasn’t broken inside. I think that’s what hurt the most. The fact that I was acting like I had thoroughly enjoyed breaking her heart.
My wife left the house, but I knew she would soon be back. All I had to do was finish the game, and then all the pieces of my life would fall into place. On Friday I went for a walk to clear my head, which is when I got my fifth challenge.
“Graveyards are where different bodies lie, old and young and large and thin; they’re where people mourn, but sadness is a sin.”
Tristita. Sorrow. This time I did not have to commit one of the sins; I had to stop someone else from committing them. Going into that graveyard and criticizing all of the people who had come there to mourn the loss of their loved ones was difficult; I yelled at a woman kneeling over her son’s grave and called her pathetic. Each challenge was making me hurt more and more people, and I felt as if my soul was slowly draining out of me.
Two days left and I got arrested. Apparently berating people in graveyards is against town rules. Lucky for me, the game adapted to my environment. On Saturday I got my second to last task:
“Tonight another man will commit a sin. Your job? Do not step in.”
Acedia. Sloth. My job was to do nothing. Simple enough, right?
I was placed in a holding cell, where I would remain until Sunday morning. I was sharing it with two drunk men who did not get along. I stayed in my corner and let them argue. I figured at night they would go to sleep and it would be over. I was wrong.
One of the men had made a shiv, and when the argument heightened, he stabbed the other man with it. Repeatedly. I was in the position to stop him. I was larger than both of him, I could have easily grabbed the shiv and wrestled him to the ground. I could have saved a life… And I would have, if it weren’t for the game.
The next morning was hard. I tried not to watch the body bag being carried out of the prison. I tried not to look at the tear-stained faces of the dead man’s wife and children. It was almost over. A man was dead, but soon my life would be complete. Only one sin left- wrath.
It was while I was leaving the prison that I realized the shiv used to murder a man was in my pocket. I never put it there… I realized that it must be an integral part of the game. I hoped I was wrong.
As I walked down the steps I almost ran into a man who cursed me out. He was old, with a wrinkled face and an injured leg, so decided to let it go. The game had different ideas.
“Cursing is a very bad thing to do… Teach him what happens when someone messes with you.”
As I read it, my pocket became warm. I knew what the game wanted me to do. But this was where I crossed the line. I could criticize people, hurt innocent strangers, hurt my wife, even let someone die at the hands of another… But I could not commit murder with my own hands. I would not go that far.
I took out my phone and pressed quit. I waited for death to come. Maybe it would be painless, and I would just collapse. I doubted they would let me go that easy, but one can hope.
Like I said earlier, that was a month ago. You’re probably wondering why I’m still alive. I quit The Destiny Determiner. I should be dead, shouldn’t I?
I guess you could say I found a loophole. I made a deal. I would document my story, the story of what happened to me, with a cursed pen. And then I would share it- and once the eyes of an innocent reader registered these words, they would automatically be enrolled into the game. They would be forced to play. I traded my life so that they- whoever they are- could get multiple new players. My life is far from perfect- I lost my job, my wife, my friendly reputation- but I’m still alive at least. Whether you will be as lucky, however, remains to be seen.
Good luck with The Destiny Determiner.