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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Emotional · #2320763
How does it feel to be human? Do some of the best plans you make get ruined?
Natalie stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, overlooking the vast, colorful, striated cliffs carved out by the Colorado river eons ago.

She pulled out her phone and took a few half-hearted pictures. What's the point in taking selfies here if I'm alone? Todd was supposed to be with me. How can I run our travel channel without him? That was going to be our main source of income for a while…

People elbowed around her to enjoy the view. It was hard to think or even breathe in the heat and noise. I didn't realize this place would be so crowded! Everyone's taking pictures and filming. Is there a quiet spot somewhere?

She edged away along the path, eventually escaping the goggle-eyed tourists and meandering along what became a narrow and rugged trail through the desert scrub. There were plenty of signs indicating her location; she figured it was impossible to get lost in such a well-trodden area.

At some point Natalie rounded a rocky bend and saw a rough-hewn bench set near another stunning cliffside view. Having tired herself out, she plopped down and took a drink from her canteen while considering her life.

How could it happen? We took all the usual precautions. I wasn't planning on being a parent, and neither was Todd. Now he's gone. Scared. Or something. And I'm left with my van and a bunch of broken dreams and a baby on the way. What's the point? Maybe I should get an abortion before it's too late. How am I going to work and take care of a kid all by myself?

Then again, even without a baby I'd still be in trouble. No education means I'll be working at McDonald's or worse. Is it worth the struggle? How could I live with myself knowing I aborted my baby because of circumstances? Maybe I should end the whole thing. I'm running out of money. I'm worthless. No one would know if I…

Her phone buzzed with a notification; someone had commented on their last video, asking when they'd be putting out a new one. Since Todd left, about a month before, Natalie hadn't posted on the channel. How am I supposed to explain what happened to the whole world?

She put away the phone, rested her chin in her hands and closed her eyes. God, if You're out there, I need Your help! Make Todd come back. I don't want to be a single mom. And I can't make the videos by myself! Are You even listening? She heaved a sigh. I guess I haven't prayed in a long time. Are You upset I'm only knocking at Your door now that there's a crisis?

"God is delighted to have a conversation with you, Natalie."

The unexpected voice made her start and look up. Standing to the side of the bench was an older man with a long white beard and a gentle smile. Her first thought was he looked like Santa Claus wearing a safari outfit.

"Who are you? How'd you know what I was thinking and who I am?"

He sat down on the other side of the bench at a respectful distance.

"Chance encounters are never mere coincidence. Is there something you need to say?"

Natalie eyed the enigmatic fellow with trepidation.

"I'm wondering where Todd is."

"Does it matter?"

"Of course it matters!"

"What is your perceived value of Todd?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"How about the value of the baby? How does one determine what a human being is worth?"

"I don't know why you're asking these questions."

"What about your own value? Do you value your contribution to society?"

"No, not really. I've never been to college or gotten married or anything. No one expects much from me, and they aren't disappointed."

"If you have no inherent value, does that mean you're only worth what someone else thinks you are?"

"That doesn't sound right," she responded, feeling interested in spite of herself.

"Is value inherent in a human? Or is it all subjective, like determining the price of a gallon of gas?" His tone never changed, never seemed to imply an opinion.

"But that would imply some humans are worth more than others, right?" Natalie frowned.

"Is that such a bad thing?"

"It's a terrible thing! Who can say what someone's life is worth?"

"Indeed, who can?"

"I don't get it." Natalie shook her head, her blonde ponytail flapping. "Are there any answers to these questions? What's the point of asking them?"

"Are such questions trivial? Will the answers help you? Are you aware of the far-reaching consequences of the decisions which are now laid at your feet?"

"Yeah, sure. I need to make the right choices. But how can you help if all you do is ask questions and never give me any answers?"

"Do you know about the Imago Dei?"

"That we're all made in the Image of God? Yeah. So does that mean I'm just as valuable as the next person?"

"Is that what you want to hear?"

"It sounds good, sure. But what about… my baby? How am I supposed to survive alone with it?"

"What makes you think your YouTube channel will be unsuccessful without Todd? Perhaps you overestimate his value?"

Natalie couldn't help giggling at this.

"I'm an airhead. I don't know the first thing about technology and running a channel. It was all Todd's idea. He loves traveling."

"Isn't it already up and running? And fairly popular?"

"Yeah… someone just asked when our next episode is coming."

"How difficult could it be to keep it going? Are you afraid to tell everyone your circumstances have changed?"

"Not so much fear, as…"

"Shame? Is it a shameful thing to be a mother? Or a lady entrepreneur?"

"Well, put it that way, no. But… it's so hard. The van will need new tires. Everything costs money."

"Is money so hard to get these days?"

"I'm not going to beg on the street! But maybe you're right about the videos. I could travel alone. I'm doing it right now, for lack of a better idea. I can learn how to run the channel myself."

"Is death an option?"

"No! I wasn't really thinking…" But Natalie knew the thought had crossed her mind.

"Do you have inherent value? Does your unborn baby have inherent value?"

"Yes, of course it does…" Now she hung her head, seeing every grain of sand on the ground at her feet. "If we're all made uniquely in the image of God, then we must all be infinitely valuable."

"Is life worth living, no matter how difficult?"

"Ugh… I guess so. I can't abort my baby. But I would so much rather have had things the way they were."

"Is change bad?"

"Look, why did Todd leave? We could have handled it together. And who are you anyway?"

"Does change lead to growth?"

"Are you saying Todd was supposed to leave so I can grow? That's weird. Did God make him leave?"

"Is it worth asking those questions?"

"I guess asking things like that is like banging my head against the wall. I need to move on, right? Make new plans?"

"Wouldn't that be a better idea?"

"Yeah, in theory. It'll take lots of work to put together a functional life, though. I'm not used to these big serious things. Like setting goals and pursuing an education. I wanted to have a little more fun before I settled down."

"Does a solo travel vlog sound like fun?"

"Eh… I guess it's better than nothing. May I ask how many more questions you're going to ask me?"

"Is it helpful to consider the answers?"

"Uh… I think I'm beginning to understand certain things. I mean, I guess some things are pretty obvious, right? I'm worth more than the sum of my experiences, but I need to work on myself to create the life I want."

"Is it an impossible task?"

"I wouldn't say impossible, I guess. If God helps me, I can probably do it. With God all things are possible, right?"

"Are you considering the possibilities?"

"It's better than considering ending it all, I guess," Natalie said. "So, thanks for the chat. I should go now. I've got a lot to do if I'm going to learn how to survive as a single mom. And hey, I'm kinda excited about it. May I ask what your name is?"

"Some call me Socrates," the old man said with a smile as he stood up. "Others call me Jesus…”

Word Count: 1,412.

Lyrics to Human

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