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By Alessia Panait February 19, 2024

In the Shadows of Certainty

DATE: 3202


I woke up. I was all alone in my cell. Through the glass walls, to my left and my right, I could see 6 other Runners waking up. From the ceiling, a digital clock slowly descended with a countdown from 10. As the clock hit 5, the metal door started lifting. An empty metallic abandoned hallway lay ahead of me. 3, 2, 1. GO! The second the start was announced, the other Runners and I took out our certainty device. The rules of the game were: with the help of the certainty device, get out of the maze as soon as possible.

The certainty device was invented in 2023 and, even though its technology was complicated and advanced, its functionality was simple. You would hold your finger on the central button, focus your thoughts on the situation from which you needed the certain outcome, and then the answer would display on the screen. The certainty device had been a major breakthrough for society because it had eliminated all potential of uncertainty in our daily lives. Everyone knew exactly what to do and how to do it in every possible scenario.

The maze was the last test I needed to pass to graduate. They were testing our ability to concentrate on the situation as specifically and as quickly as we could. The clearer the thought, the quicker the certainty device would act, and the quicker I could get out of the maze.

We were all standing still, with our fingers glued to the certainty device, eyes closed, and lost in thought. I could only hear the continuous buzzing coming out of the devices that were working hard to calculate the exact trajectory to get out of the maze.

My device started vibrating. Bzz. Bzz. I was the first to open my eyes. I had managed to find the solution in less than 10 seconds! The map indicated the following steps:

30 steps! The maze was way longer than what I was used to in training. Nonetheless, it could be done; I just had to pay extra attention to the instructions to not mess up any of the steps.

I managed to get out of the maze as the first Runner. Not only this, but I was the first woman to complete the maze in less than 45 min. This ensured me a 100%. I had finally succeeded in graduating from the most prestigious academy in all of Veritas. I was ready to leave boarding school and live in the real world.

The next morning, I packed my things and got on the earliest train to Certaintropolis. I picked a spot in an empty compartment and closed the doors. Out the window, I could see the view of the boarding school fade away as the train left the station. The landscape slowly turned into infinite wheat and corn fields that made you believe the window was only a picture of such scenery. The hypnotizing view made me wonder what my new life in Certaintropolis would be like. I could feel the nervousness take over my mental state. To calm myself down, I took out the certainty device. Trying hard to focus on my picture of Certaintropolis, I held my finger on the button hoping that some message would come out.

Bzz. Bzz.

Looks like I had nothing to worry about. Everything I needed would be provided by The Association and my only responsibility was to find the 3rd paper and call the employer.

The train arrived at the station six hours later. I got down and scanned the area for the other Runners. At first, I did not notice anyone out of the ordinary but once I looked back and forth a couple of times, I spotted them. They were all dressed in the black uniform from boarding school. I quickly joined the group waiting for our departure. A few minutes later, at exactly 14:30, the Certainters came. I had heard the Certainters were the personal police of the Association and oversaw all activities in Certaintropolis. I assume this meant that they would also be the ones guiding us and informing us of our duties as new citizens of Veritas.

There were 5 of them. They all looked identical with their black armour and their leather berets covering their eyes. They reminded me of a picture I had seen in my history book about the old British King’s Guard. They looked just as mysterious, but the Certainters looked far more dangerous. I knew I should never cross them.

They ordered us to stand in line and to take out our certainty devices. One by one, they took our certainty devices and scanned each serial number to check our identities. When it was my turn, they forcefully took it out of my hand, turned it around, scanned it, looked me up and down, and threw it back at me without looking back. When the identity verification protocol was over, they clicked on their own devices and each of our devices vibrated.

I followed each step down to the last detail and entered the apartment. Everything was clean and everything I needed was already supplied. The fridge was fully stocked as predicted, the closet full of all the clothes I could wish for, and the large pile of papers was right on the desk.

Out the window, I saw an incredibly beautiful sunset like none I had ever witnessed before. In my old room at the academy, there were no windows, and I would rarely go outside. This sunset was truly breathtaking, but the reflection of the light in the apartment on the window made it hard for me to see it perfectly.

I went towards the window and lifted it. The second I did, a gust of wind entered the room and blew off all the papers from the desk. Panicking, I ran after the papers, trying to catch them and remember which was which. Because I forgot to close the window, the papers kept flying off in every direction. Instead of continuing the impossible chase, I ran towards the window, closed it abruptly, and the papers fell immediately to the ground. The papers had mixed up so badly that they were all over the room. I ran towards the fallen papers hoping to see that they were numbered. They were not. The third paper was now lost. What was I supposed to do? I had never failed to follow the directions of the certainty device before. No one had.

I decided to blindly choose one of the papers and hope it was the right one. I picked up the paper that had fallen on the bed. The job opportunity was for an assistant at the Association, as a Certainter. A Certainter? I did not know that I could have the qualifications for such a job, or that someone like me could work as one. Right under the job description, there was the employer’s number. When I put the number into my phone, the call went directly to an AI bot. After the AI system interviewed me on my skills and background, it said that my transcript would be analyzed overnight and that I should check my phone for a confirmation tomorrow morning. If I received it, I had to go to the address on the confirmation message. The bot said that I would not have access to it now to preserve the secrecy of the headquarters in case I was not hired.

The next morning, to my surprise, I got the notification. I had gotten the job! The message said to use the certainty device to get the address of the headquarters and that I would have to be there by 9. Now how the certainty device would guide me there was not explicitly mentioned. I guess I had to just focus on the idea of Certainters and the information would appear. Hopefully.

Bzz. Bzz.

Once I arrived, the place did not quite look like what I imagined. It did not at all. I ended up in front of a vet's office. The certainty device must have malfunctioned. I tapped on it a couple of times and refocused my thoughts on my future job, but the analysis remained the same.

When I opened my eyes on my last try, I saw a young man on my left inclined against the wall. He was smirking at me and asked, “You lost?”

I shook my head. "Well, yes. I’m trying to find the Certainters headquarters, but my certainty device isn’t working. I assume you don’t know where it is, though."

He got off the wall and got closer to me. “I was right on my way over there. You a new recruit?” He got even closer. “Or are you more of a villain trying to infiltrate the Association?”

Even though it was not my intention to commit such a crime, his questioning still made me feel incredibly nervous; nervous enough that I momentarily lost my words.

Having registered my silence, he backed up and said, “Follow me.”

I walked behind him without a word, waiting for an opportunity to speak. The moment I was about to open my mouth he turned around and asked me, “So, you a new graduate or something?”

“Yes,” I replied nervously, “I just came to Certaintropolis yesterday.”

“And you’re going to be a Certainter? You look too cute and innocent to be strong enough. I mean, have you ever even thrown a punch at someone?” He said that last part while laughing.

His misbelief in my capabilities started to irritate me, “I’ll have you know that I broke the female record time for the maze test!”

“If you’re so good at using the certainty device, why’d you get lost this morning? Without my help, you’d still be stranded in front of that vet office, and you’d have never gotten here.” He pointed at the bare brick wall next to us. He then pressed one of the bricks and a secret door opened.

The inside of the headquarters was huge. There were so many Certainters everywhere and every one of them was in continuous movement. They all looked like they had a purpose: somewhere to be and something to do.

When we entered the building, we immediately got stopped by a Certainter.


“Alexander 7302051,” he replied.

“And you?” The Certainter looked my way.

“Uhhhhh Aria 9674105,” I said hesitantly.

Alexander turned towards me. "Nice to meet you," he paused for a second, took my hand and kissed it. "Aria."

He then saluted the Certainter and left. The Certainter told me to follow him to register and to get my uniform. There was no turning back now. I was going to become a Certainter.

The following day, they gave me my first assignment. Since this was my first one, I was assigned a mentor. Once I got dressed in my uniform, I started reading the information on the assignment. Once I got to reading the name of my mentor, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. At first, I did not recognize him because of the beret. It was Alexander. Before saying anything to him I looked back at the paper. My mentor was going to be: Alexander 7302051.

“So, you’re going to be my mentor,” I told him.

“Yup, I’m going to be the one babysitting you all day. Try not to get into too much trouble, kiddo,” he said, winking.

He took me by the arm and dragged me to the truck. We both took a seat next to the other Certainters. The entire ride to the destination was completely silent. Looks like there was one thing I did not get wrong about them; they were serious about their job. When the others started to get off the truck, I got up and was heading towards the exit when Alexander stopped me.

“Hey, before we go out there, I was wondering if you wanted to grab dinner together tonight; just the 2 of us.” This time he looked at me with a serious expression.

I hesitantly answered, “I need to think about it.”

He sadly bent his head and turned around going out of the truck. I needed to complete this task first with no distractions. I would think about my response on the way back.

Surprisingly, I was quite good at handling stressful battle situations and excelled as a Certainter. I had performed perfectly on this first assignment. I could not have done it without Alexander’s guidance though. Before I made my decision, I thought about checking the certainty device.

Bzz. Bzz

Uncertain? How could the certainty device be uncertain? This glitch was on a whole other level compared to the GPS mishap. What was I supposed to do then? Should I go on this date with Alexander? Would it go wrong? Would it go right? What could this mean?!?!?!?!

The only thing I could do was decide on my own without knowing the outcome. Would he be worth the uncertainty? The doubt? The possible disastrous effects? Or maybe the possible amazing effects?

When we got off the truck, I told him I needed to sleep on it. He said he would be available whenever I wanted and gave me his number in case I wanted to contact him about my decision.

Once I got back to the apartment, I threw myself on the bed. I was exhausted from this day, not only physically but also emotionally. Thanks to the certainty device, I had never had any wrenching decision to make, but now I did. I looked up at the ceiling, still thinking and wondering about what I should do. If I would take this leap, would a little uncertainty in my life be so bad?


Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

About the author

Alessia Panait is a first-year student in the Enriched Health Sciences profile. She is interested in science disciplines, gets excited about new projects and initiatives here at Dawson and hopes to find the right career for her in the future. 

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