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.

Akhanaten said...
on Jun. 23 2009 at 8:13 pm
“God must have had his reasons ….” The final line uses well-placed irony to point out the indiscriminate ways of death. “The Randomizer” by Aviel S. is supposed to communicate just how unexpected death can seem. We never, ever know when it’s coming, so we think it is cruel and arbitrary.

Heaven is portrayed in this short story – and elsewhere – as a peaceful afterlife. I like how death in Aviel’s story is controlled by “the randomizer,” because that’s just what it is … random.

I have an unusual sense of humor, so the line “Let’s just say we had to take that little toy away from him,” when describing God and death, appealed to me. “The Randomizer” was my favorite article in the March issue.

Mitch Rogers said...
on Jun. 23 2009 at 4:23 pm
Mitch Rogers, Spokane, Washington
0 articles 0 photos 5 comments
VERY good ending. It put the whole story in perspective and wrapped the whole thing up in a nice, easy-to-carry package. Bravo.

on Jun. 23 2009 at 2:18 pm
Austin Weber BRONZE, New York, New York
1 article 0 photos 5 comments
I actually liked this a lot. Its way better then numerous other stories that I've seen posted on this website. Actually pretty intersting, especially with the whole God getting board thing.

I find it strange though that they had to kill him for their machine when they got many other people on this planet who are most obiviously better then Jeff when it comes to being a techie. I'd assume anyway.

Overall, very intersting, a bit realistic, and fun to read.

Iamme BRONZE said...
on Jun. 23 2009 at 6:26 am
Iamme BRONZE, Parker, Colorado
4 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Love, in the universal sense, is unconditional acceptance. In the individual sense, the one-on-one sense, try this: we can say we love each other if my life is better because you're in it and your life is better because I'm in it. The intensity of the love is weighted by how much better." - Chris Crutcher

That was so great! I loved the idea, although I must disagree with the position you put God in. But I still loved it and realize its Fiction and so I say Great Job! Keep Writing!

on Jun. 20 2009 at 4:02 am
LoveLikeWoe DIAMOND, LeSueur, MN, Minnesota
54 articles 2 photos 748 comments

Favorite Quote:
Whoever laughs first has the sickest mind.

wow. LOVED it!

Samantha said...
on Jun. 6 2009 at 3:35 pm
That was AMAZING! Very original... what a mind you must have!! (No offense)

on May. 27 2009 at 1:50 am
Anjelika BRONZE, Marietta, Georgia
3 articles 0 photos 4 comments
I am in love with this story! I am so entranced by the detail and originality. I would give you ten stars but I suppose I will have to settle with five.

Chrissy_L GOLD said...
on May. 25 2009 at 12:46 am
Chrissy_L GOLD, Ramsey, New Jersey
13 articles 0 photos 66 comments

Favorite Quote:
An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

I love the writing style. The ineptity of human mortality in comparison to eternal life is intersting, since "mortals" value the human part of life above most anything else. It is also very moving.

But to those ranting about "anti-Catholicism", it's no big deal. Surely He must have a sense of humor, this story isn't worshipping the devil! It's fiction, and pokes gentle fun. No one suffers for this sort of creativity and originality.

on May. 20 2009 at 5:40 pm
I love this story! I'm a Christian, and while I can see where others are coming from, saying that God is a loving creator and would never use something like a "Randomizer", I think that the creativity and openness of this story are refreshing. One needs to realize when reading this that it's fiction, meaning 'NOT REAL', so one doesn't get their undies in a bunch.

on May. 18 2009 at 5:12 pm
Xinwen PLATINUM, Brossard, Other
44 articles 0 photos 25 comments
I love the new perspective in this.

And it's not anti-religious. It's a new theory on what's up there. I'm agnostic, so I love that. We should stay open-minded if we don't know for sure, after all.

I really like this one. It hits you, makes you think. Great dialogue flow too. Good work.

Firefly said...
on May. 3 2009 at 9:25 pm
Its a good read very moving but it culd be better

mmfdg623 GOLD said...
on May. 3 2009 at 6:59 pm
mmfdg623 GOLD, Lyndhurst, New Jersey
15 articles 0 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
Louisa May Alcott

Wow, this story is amazing. It keeps you thinking. I especially like the ending. If you have some extra time on your hands, maybe you could read mine: Gone.

on May. 3 2009 at 6:05 pm
project827 GOLD, Portage, Michigan
13 articles 1 photo 91 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Real Revolution Starts At Learning, If You're Not Angry, Then You Are Not Paying Attention" - Tim McIlrath

i love this. its a different look on whats 'up there'. not only that but its believable. if anyone has a problem with it being "anti-religious" just dont post any of that. the world could use more thinkers than priests.

Adreana T. said...
on Apr. 28 2009 at 11:06 pm
Some people are saying they don't like the anti-religious side of this story, but I disagree! I think people should be more open-minded, because not every story has to agree with their beliefs. I thought this story was quite clever, and the last sentence was the one that really stayed in my head---stories like yours are always the best!

on Apr. 21 2009 at 12:31 am
Alice Stein BRONZE, Beaverton, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
Very good story.

I enjoyed your writing style and the ending was surprisingly moving.

Good job.

AKlore said...
on Mar. 31 2009 at 9:28 pm
Brilliant idea. I agree with Rebecca, you should make this into a book or something. Keep it up!

rebecca said...
on Mar. 25 2009 at 4:00 pm
WOW insanly insanly amazing. u shuld make it into something more than just a short story. its a great idea please do i would definetly read it. awesome awesome awesome.

on Mar. 23 2009 at 2:43 am
ElizabethW. DIAMOND, Oconto, Wisconsin
72 articles 2 photos 28 comments
Your a great writer, I only dislike your view on God.

on Mar. 18 2009 at 2:28 am
SimplyBacon BRONZE, Ortonville, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 2 comments
Love it. keeps the noggin thinking. like the creativity too. very nice.

on Mar. 14 2009 at 5:05 pm
JustAbbi SILVER, Maplewood, Minnesota
7 articles 0 photos 7 comments
you know what? Yeah God is the loving creator, and that's why this is FICTION. I thought it was brilliant. I actually that it was really entertaining and funny to begin with, just the idea of it, and then it was amazingly sad at the ending. It was fabulous writing.

Thank you for this!