“Take Your Choice” (short story) by Sakyo Komatsu
From Apostolou & Greenberg’s The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (1989)
Originally from William H. Wheeler’s SF International #1, January-February 1987
Original: Japanese, 1967
Translated by Shiro Tamura and Grania Davis, 1987
“The ultimate escape: a one-way ticket to the future” (85)
Synopsis: Roaming alleyways in search of a shop which promises one-way time travel, a man hopes that his 2.5 million credit payment will be worth his choice of three possible futures: an ultra-modern technological society through door one’s scene, an ecological Eden for society in door two, and a nuclear holocaust in door three. Knowing the seen future is twenty years away, the man chooses door three, as so many others have chosen.
Analysis: A symptom of today’s increasingly complex and technological society is uneasiness. There are many who cheer on advancement and are keen on the next new thing, but there are also many who see the silliness in all the rush and seek peace away from modern society. If the world were bipolar, these would be the only two options—options presented in doors number one and two, respectively. Those seeking a far-flung ultramodern future have the freewill to choose their path just as well as those whose seek a bucolic social bliss.
But at this underground shop, where the proprietors use terms like “time-space channel selector and time-scope” (91), many have chosen the third door, which presents a clear and present end to the world. Rather than choosing one of the bipolar options for the future, they have chosen fatalism, a predictable end to life’s uncertainty. Door three offers certainty: “[T]his world has no future … There will be no tedious, prolonged years that will be recorded as an infinite repetition of daily life” (101). Clarity in predictability settles the mind of the man who chooses door number three. What is the cost of peace of mind?