What would you do if faced with a hard choice?
Let's say you were climbing a mountain, and you got trapped on a plateau in the cliff face by a snow storm. You are with about a dozen inexperienced climbers and none of you expected this level of challenge, it was meant to be a fun, routine climb. Now you are huddled together against the cold and terrified.
Amidst the blizzard, you hear noises that do not sound like weather. Perhaps like foot steps. You shout "who's there" but nobody answers. Just foot steps clearly heard at intervals. Someone in the party stamps their feet three times, and then you hear three distinct footsteps in answer. "Hello??", no reply. every few moments, you hear footsteps again.. but now always three. Sometimes they are faint, sometimes they sound alarmingly near.
The party is bickering now, "someone is out there trying to get us!" "Nobody could survive out in a storm like this!" "Well what else could it be then?", etc. During this time you pluck up the courage to tramp in the snow four times.
Four distinct footsteps are heard. From the opposite side now.
The fear and the bickering intensifies. People are getting unreasonable, and the storm is growing in fury: people are shouting at one another over the gales. One woman grows entirely hysterical, pleading with voices who aren't there. She crouches near the cliff-side, inconsolable.. The footfalls come, more viciously than ever. The unhinged woman screams at the top of her lungs...
and in a crash part of the plateau gives way. 2 of your party topple over the edge, gone in the flutter of an eyelash.
The storm abruptly weakens in fury. It remains impenetrable but it gives you time to think. Everyone tries to make sense of what state things are in. 2 people are dead. Many more are bawling. What of the footfalls? They seem to have stopped now. But what of the inconsolable woman? She is huddled near the cliff.. unmoving. Is she alive? Frozen solid? Has she gone deaf?
You take the lead investigating the matter. You talk to her, you call her name, tell her it's alright, things are calming down. She slowly uncovers and looks you in the face. She gazes at you with baleful eyes, but when she begins to speak she only copies what you are saying. When you ask her to stop, she copies that too. When someone else speaks, she swivels her head to them and copies what they say.
The situation quickly devolves into frustrated cries of "STOP IT!" answered by ghoulishly precise retorts of "STOP IT". "Make her STOP!" / "Make her stop." The woman stares, cruelly unblinking at whomever speaks as she mimics them.
Your group's terror takes on a new dimension. They conclude that whatever was making the foot falls must have made the plateau give way. They conclude that just as it had mimicked their footsteps initially, "it" has now possessed this woman in order to mimic everyone's speech. Terrified of being the next to die, someone suggests flinging this woman from the cliff.
There is silence. Then, each in turn, every member in the party nods in agreement. Every yea vote, no matter how sheepish, is mimicked dispassionately by the figure gazing evilly at you from the cliff face.
The question is turned to you last of all. What is your choice?
If you watch British television you might already recognize this scenario. Yes, I've simply put it in a new setting. Since I was first posed this riddle I did not understand why the party chose as they did, and since then I have seen reviews on websites where people agree with the decisions made by the party. So now I am interested in your thoughts on the matter, fellow YA folk. ^_^
It is science fiction, so I modified the details a bit here. They don't climb a mountain, they travel in a transport across an alien planet which breaks down. It's not snowing outside, it's radioactive. It's not footfalls, it's knocking on the hull.
The review I mentioned was here, if anyone would like a read: