A little girl sits in front of a pail filled with reddish colored clay. Staring at the clay, she notices the circular door-less room, with nothing more than a hole in its ceiling allowing in light.
As she looks down towards her body, she notices her hands. They seem alien, pudgy, and confusing. Lifting them towards her face, she realizes they are smeared with the same dried red clay from the pail. Pondering her situation, she notices her nose. First, its oblong curves as it hides just beyond her focus. Then, by its purpose as she smells the damp earthy clay before her.
Within this moment of discovery the girl hears a voice.
“So, which did you choose?” the voice asks.
“I don’t understand?” she replies, looking up towards the ceiling.
“Are you going to stay, or are you going to go?” the voice continues.
Just then, the girl looks down and notices something has changed. Where there was once a singular pail, there are now two. One, still filled with clay, the other, empty. While continuing to inspect the two pails a vision flashes before her eyes. She sees a person waking up, making coffee, then beginning their day. Next, she sees two people sitting on a white porch-swing in the mid-summer sun. Then, a person having children and watching them grow. Finally, a sense of accomplishment flows over her as she realizes the impact, although small, in which her life had upon the world.
With these visions and thoughts clear in her mind, she asks the voice a question.
“If I go, do I get to keep these memories?”
“No.” the voice answers. “If you go, the empty pail will remain for those who loved you as they continue to experience and reflect upon your legacy. They will continue to fill the pail until it is their time to make the same choice before you.”
“And if I stay? What will happen then?” she asks.
“If you stay, those who loved you will be reminded only of your death as you hold their precious memories hostage.”
The girl ponders the voice’s answer and continues to have more visions of her life. She now remembers her family, spouse, daughters, and friends. She feels emotions rise as the thought of leaving everything behind causes more resistance. But, if she moves on, then those memories will remain cherished for all who remembered and loved her.
“So,” the voice continues. “have you made your choice?”
As she looks at her hands, she notices the dried clay once more. She then looks over at the pail with clay and sees it has finger-sized trenches carved throughout it. But the clay drawn from the pail is missing. She then looks back and her tiny fingers and begins to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” the voice asks.
“The choice has already been made,” the little girl says looking back towards the ceiling. “but you already know that don’t you?”
“And what makes you think that?” the voice responds.
“Because if I’m here now, sitting before a pail of clay as a little girl, then that means I am no longer a man. And, if I am no longer a man, then that means I have already made my choice.”
Just then the light in the ceiling begins to disappear as the little girl starts to hear new voices. Her environment changes and is now filled with warmth and comfort as she lays bear within its center. While the darkness gives itself to the light, the first thing she sees are those same pudgy little hands covered in red. With her first breath, she leaves behind her memories so those she loved may cherish them.
And with her next breath, she begins a new journey carved from the same clay of her past.