Posted on July 3, 2012 by Brian Jaress
Tags: story

At some point, the fly was doomed. The bag of cement powder fell broad side down on a clear path, and there was a point at which the fly no longer had enough time to leave that path before the bag touched down to earth so forcefully.

That point must have come before the fly was even aware of danger. Flies can always see above themselves, but can’t see very far. The bag of cement had enough speed, picked up earlier in its long fall, that the point of no escape must have been well above the limits of fly vision.

If the fly had faster wings, or more distant vision, it might have escaped. It’s not very fair to the fly, though, for us to dwell on ways it might have survived by being a super-fly. It verges on blaming the victim to spin out alternate scenarios in which a fly beyond the norm could have escaped the same fate. Better to say that if the bag had covered less area, or not fallen from so high above and picked up so much speed, the fly could have lived.

We can also imagine the bag falling differently, with its long edge down, instead of its broad side. Then the fly would have had a chance, to go along the length of the bag and die or go to the side and live. Similarly, if the fly had been walking closer to the edge of where the bag would land – no, more just to say: if the bag had fallen off-center to the fly – the fly would have had a shorter, usable path to safety.

But the bag fell broad side down, almost centered over the fly, which had no escape by the time it saw danger. It could have left before then, acting on a whim or following a scent, but that fact only unsettles us further. No comforting flaw or error of the fly doomed it. Circumstance sprang a fatal trap, placing the fly in a collapsing mathematical prison.