The Randomizer | Teen Ink

The Randomizer MAG

December 9, 2008
By Aviel Steinberg, Tucson, AZ

Jeff glanced at the piece of paper in his hand once more, as if to confirm that he had found the correct office. It was so confusing here – all the identical white halls made this branch of Heaven seem like a labyrinth. At last, Jeff decided that this was the right place, and he cautiously opened the door.

The room was not especially large, but it was impressive nonetheless. The walls were just as white as every other room in Heaven, but they seemed to have a subtle apricot tinge. Distributed evenly throughout the room were six identical white desks, each with two people (one on each side). On each desk was a large screen displaying various statistics. In the center was another workstation with multiple small screens. The spotless marble floor reflected everything perfectly, except where a perfect red circle had been painted, along with the words, “That which lives must die.”

A man seated at the center desk stood up as Jeff entered the room, while everyone else looked up to see what was happening. He grinned and said in a deep, loud voice: “This must be the new techie! Hello to you. I’m Aldric, the head of the Mortality Department.”

“Hello to you too,” Jeff responded hesitantly. “My name is …” he paused. “Jeff. That’s right.”

“Oh, you must still be disoriented from your arrival,” Aldric observed. “You don’t look like you could be older than, say, your teen years, so you must have had an unnatural death. That may have made the confusion worse – but it will pass after a while.”

“I guess that’s good. I don’t really know why I’m here. Someone just handed me this paper and told me to come to this office.”

“You’ve been assigned to the Mortality Department as a tech specialist. The note I received tells me that you were quite the computer aficionado in life. You must also enjoy it quite a bit, or you’d never have been assigned to this job. You’re going to be caring for one of the most important machines in existence!”

“Really?” Jeff’s face lit up.

“We call it the Randomizer, and it is the technological masterpiece that runs everything you see around you.” He raised his hand as if to indicate the strange screens, the endless streams of data, and the large monitors on the walls that displayed maps of the globe. “The Randomizer is the dealer of death. It ­determines when it is time for a living human to die.”

“You mean it just picks that at random?” Jeff asked, incredulous.

“Nonsense! It requires careful calibration almost constantly. We tweak the machine to favor certain demographic groups when it selects who dies. For instance, the elderly are more likely to be selected. Someone near a burning building ­instantly has a much higher chance of death by fire. A smoker has a higher chance of fatal lung cancer. And all of this ­data is carefully tweaked every minute of the day.”

Aldric led his new protégé around the room, showing off the technology. The screens on the desks each showed a continent, listing the names of the deceased in rapid fire. The sixth desk handled island nations and the few souls living at the poles. Larger displays on the walls showed the overall mortality rate for the world and various countries, as well as which causes of death were most common. In the center was that circular desk with the open interior, where a swivel chair rested. More screens were positioned on all sides of this desk.

“This is where you’ll be working,” Aldric explained, beaming. “I’ve been manning it since our last techie retired, but now it’s all yours. I’ll show you the ropes and then you can start working right away – adjusting the probabilities to accommodate the constant changes in the world and such. All the information you could ever need is here on the screen – the rest is left to your wit and skill.”

“Hang on a second – there’s a manual override or something, right?”

“Pardon me?”

“I mean, if God needs to take someone for some reason, whatever his reason is. I know you can’t question that – he can do that, right?”

“Whatever for?” Aldric asked. “That system was revised centuries ago, and even then it didn’t work. We had to discard it outright. It hasn’t been practical since medieval times. With so many people in the world, it’s all that the Randomizer can do to even keep track of them. How can you expect God to sift through all that each day? Besides, when he got bored … let’s just say we had to take that little toy away from him.”

“Well … then there’s some kind of probability rule that favors good people, right?” Jeff asked. “Aren’t bad people more likely to die?”

“What difference does it make when they’ll have an eternal afterlife anyway? No, it’s totally random. No one dies for reasons like that anymore. Not everything can have purpose like that – when humans are so numerous, you have to leave it to chance, you see?”

“To … chance? But … but what if ….”

“Hold on! I guess I wasn’t clear enough, was I? We sometimes target particular people, if it’s really necessary.”

“Oh,” Jeff sighed, some color returning to his face.

“Take your death, for instance. We needed a new techie!” Aldric laughed heartily. “So … does that about cover everything?” Aldric waited for an answer, but none came – his replacement had fled the room.


The blurriness in his mind had begun to clear, and Jeff had remembered the moment of his death. As it flashed through his head, he had turned and run from the room. Now, as he sprinted down the deceptively white hallways, the scene replayed over and over. He remembered the pain in his limbs, the scattered textbooks he had been taking to school, the shattered windshield … and his father kneeling beside him, ignoring his own wounds, as life faded from Jeff’s eyes.

“It’s okay, son,” his dad had said through his tears. “God had his reasons … God must have had his reasons ….”

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This article has 143 comments.

GaelicC said...
on Nov. 12 2011 at 3:38 am
GaelicC, Longford, Other
0 articles 0 photos 91 comments

Favorite Quote:
No -Rosa Parks

This is an excellent and very clever piece, well done!

on Nov. 10 2011 at 5:07 pm
NightStalker PLATINUM, San Diego, California
21 articles 1 photo 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I reject your reality and substitute my own!"
-Adam Savage

A five star worhty peice, even print worthy.

on Oct. 13 2011 at 3:21 pm
HarlequinHurricane, SomewhereLikeThat., Other
0 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
A horse ate my cousin once. Me and horses got a fuuuueeeddd.

this is really good. i read it like ten times. i think you definetly need to keep writing.

notmehaha GOLD said...
on Oct. 11 2011 at 3:02 pm
notmehaha GOLD, Suffolk, Virginia
17 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be who you are and say what you feel. Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." -Dr. Suess

Ridiculously creative! Amazing, five stars fo' sho'

on Oct. 2 2011 at 10:05 am
lucygirl26 GOLD, Greensboro, North Carolina
11 articles 0 photos 68 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life is like a bowl of spaghetti. Every once in a while, you get a meatball." - Sharon Creech

Wow. GREAT work, GREAT ending. I loved this!

on Sep. 30 2011 at 8:28 am
derickinc BRONZE, Rockford, Illinois
4 articles 0 photos 36 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I hate all of you." - Squidward Tentacles

OH, GOODNESS, this is truly fantastic. I'd pay $7 just to read this little story. I knew I'd love it when I saw the title. Please read "Lioness" and "The Moon Man" under my work!

swannie said...
on Sep. 12 2011 at 7:16 am
Superb. This piece could easily have been written as a screen play for the Twilight Zone. I hate to break it to some of those who made previous comments about wanting more to this particular story, but I believe this piece IS finished! It does exactly what it's supposed to do. I'm really impressed – both as a former high school English teacher and as a writer with an MFA in Creative Writing. Congratulations on a horrifying, provocative, creative, ironic story! Wish I'd thought of that...

storm lily said...
on Sep. 6 2011 at 3:30 pm
This is my favorite piece ever! write the sequel soon!

wasps said...
on Jul. 30 2011 at 10:29 pm
wasps, Other
0 articles 0 photos 153 comments
To be perfectly honest, I was actually a wee bit bored in the beginning paragraph, but found the rest of the story AMAZING! Thankyou for sharing that :)

on Jul. 30 2011 at 1:04 pm
Terminal_Laziness PLATINUM, ????, Ohio
40 articles 1 photo 773 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I am not invincible or unstoppable, but I stay strong because it is the only way to survive in this world."

I LOVED THE STORY!!! Great job and keep on writing!!! one of my stories was just posted. if anyone could read it that would be great. Its called: Alien Invasion Series: Book One: The Caller. just click my user name and then that story and start reading, I enjoy the comments and feedback! :)(:

Ally_H. GOLD said...
on Jul. 17 2011 at 8:38 pm
Ally_H. GOLD, Bridgeport, West Virginia
18 articles 26 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don\'t matter and those who matter don\'t mind.

The end is supposed to make you think. It's not supposed to be some happy-go-lucky bubble gum story about kittens and ponies and ice cream sundaes. It's meant to strip down the walls of what we've been told throughout our lives and make us reconsider what we believe. The ending was absolutely necessary because in the ending lies the point of the whole story. It's not meant to please everyone. If the reader's mind isn't open enough to consider what the ending is implying, then they've missed out on what is definitely one of the best pieces I've ever read, and I pity them greatly.

Ally_H. GOLD said...
on Jul. 17 2011 at 8:30 pm
Ally_H. GOLD, Bridgeport, West Virginia
18 articles 26 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don\'t matter and those who matter don\'t mind.

I'm pretty sure the point is to make you think whether what you've been told is true or not. Because really, no one knows, even if you think you might...

on Jul. 2 2011 at 4:33 pm
Dragonslayer5000 GOLD, Boise, Idaho
10 articles 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Resistance is Futile." -- Borg saying in "Star Trek: Next Generation"

That was good. Great grmmar, and it was a good plot.

Nina.C said...
on Jun. 27 2011 at 2:23 pm

Meko8195 said...
on May. 23 2011 at 12:02 pm
Meko8195, Dover, Pennsylvania
0 articles 4 photos 96 comments

Favorite Quote:
The pressure makes us stronger, the struggle makes us hunger; the hard lessons make the difference...and the difference makes it worth it.


on May. 17 2011 at 2:00 am
Saffron_tides GOLD, Dubai, Other
14 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
My candle burns on both ends,
It will not last the night;
But Ah! my foes and Oh! my friends it gives a lovely light.

Great work, you answered many questions subtly!!! Keep writing!

on May. 12 2011 at 1:32 pm
it seems pretty interesting to me i like it. i hope i dont die in my mid-tens like that.

stargrl SILVER said...
on May. 1 2011 at 12:23 pm
stargrl SILVER, Ballston Lake, New York
5 articles 0 photos 26 comments
this is interesting! i loved the irony of "God had his reasons" :)

on Apr. 23 2011 at 10:55 am
twix.n.pixi.stix7 GOLD, Stewartsville, New Jersey
11 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
"you can dream big
or you can dream small
the important thing
is that you're dreaming at all"
~me! haha i wrote that :)

wow! very creative idea! i loved it!

on Apr. 13 2011 at 9:32 am
Nimthiriel SILVER, Holland, Michigan
6 articles 1 photo 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so." -Stephen Leacock

Wow, that was really good! I actually started a novel-like version of a similar story, with the heaven/premature death=confusion in the afterlife....great minds think alike! :)