The Reckoning 

Jake sat hunched over his laptop, the cursor blinking tauntingly on the blank document in front of him. He’d been staring at that damn blank page for hours, waiting for the words to magically appear. But his mind was as blank as the screen.

He leaned back, rubbing his temples wearily. This writing project was supposed to be the next big thing for his career, a philosophical exploration that would cement his reputation as a leading thinker. But the sheer scope of the topic was overwhelming: “When it strikes, realizing what you flee is what is sent to liberate you.”

What did that even mean? Jake had no clue where to start unpacking a riddle like that. He’d been putting it off for months, coming up with endless excuses about being too busy or waiting for inspiration to strike. But the deadline was looming, and he couldn’t avoid it any longer.

With a frustrated sigh, he closed the laptop. No words were coming tonight. Maybe a walk would clear his mind.

The crisp night air was a relief after being cooped up Inside. Jake shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket, head down as he trudged along the quiet streets. He knew the project was important — his mentor Sarita had practically begged him to take it on, calling it a “life’s work” type of undertaking. But that only compounded the pressure he felt.

He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the shadowy figure approaching until they collided head-on. Jake went stumbling back, catching himself before he fell.

“Hey, watch where you’re…” His words trailed off as he got a good look at the man’s face. It was asymmetrical, disfigured by twisted scar tissue that pulled one side into a permanent snarl.

The man said nothing. His one normal eye bored into Jake with an intensity that sent a shiver down his spine. Before Jake could react, the man thrust something into his hand — a folded piece of paper — then turned and melted back into the shadows.

Heart pounding, Jake unfolded the paper with trembling hands. There were only a few words scrawled on it in a harsh, slanted hand:

“When it strikes, you must face it.”

Jake’s blood ran cold. Those words…they were the riddle from his project, the one he’d been dreading. This had to be some kind of sick prank. He spun around, searching the empty street for any sign of the scarred stranger, but he was long gone.

His hands were shaking so hard he could barely hold onto the paper. What did this mean? Was it just a bad coincidence, or was there something more sinister at play here? Jake looked around again, suddenly feeling very alone and exposed on the darkened street.

He shoved the paper deep into his pocket and broke into a jog, heading for home as fast as he could.

Over the next few days, Jake tried his best to put the bizarre encounter out of his mind and focus on work. But the words from that scrap of paper haunted him relentlessly. “When it strikes, you must face it.” Face what, exactly?

He’d wake up in a cold sweat, haunted by visions of that scarred face and the intense stare that seemed to bore straight into his soul. He became tense and jumpy, catching himself looking over his shoulder at every turn, his heart pounding at every unexpected sound.

Maybe this was all just his subconscious working in overdrive, dreading the hard work looming ahead with the writing project. After all, ascribing profound meaning to a random street encounter was exactly the kind of nonsense he tried to avoid in his philosophical work. There had to be a rational explanation.

And yet…the more Jake tried to ignore it, the more it weighed on him. He found himself obsessing over those words, dissecting them from every angle like a piece of dense philosophical text. What if they held some profound truth he had yet to grasp, the meaning hidden in layers of metaphor and symbolism?  

The lack of progress on his project only compounded his restlessness. No matter how hard he tried to make himself sit down and write, an invisible force seemed to be holding him back, an oppressive sense of dread squatting on his chest. He knew he should face it head-on, and do the hard work of engaging with the difficult ideas. But something kept him running, avoiding the very thing that could liberate him.

One sleepless night, as those words echoed endlessly in his feverish mind, a shocking realization hit Jake like a bolt of lightning.

The scarred man’s warning, the cryptic riddle, his paralyzing avoidance of the writing project — it was all connected. Like a Russian nesting doll, the meaning was layered, each piece containing a deeper truth inside. On the surface, he had been fleeing from the hard work required to complete his masterwork philosophical treatise. But at a deeper level, he realized he’d been running from something much bigger and more existential.

For most of his life, Jake had been held back by fear — fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of truly putting himself and his ideas out there to be critically examined and picked apart. A big part of him had always been terrified of really reckoning with his own beliefs and examining them at the deepest level. 

He paid lip service to the idea of ruthlessly questioning assumptions, but in his heart he’d been a coward, avoiding true self-examination.  

The hard work of writing and fully grappling with this profound topic was the reckoning he’d been fleeing from his whole life. “When it strikes, you must face it” — it was the universe telling him his number was finally up. There could be no more running. He had to stop and engage, scrutinize his long-held ideas and beliefs with a merciless philosophical blade; and in doing so, he would be liberated.


A crystalline sense of clarity washed over Jake. He felt like Neo finally seeing the code of the Matrix, a long-obscured truth now laid bare. He didn’t know what truths about himself or his most deeply-held ideas would be revealed or overturned through this philosophical self-exploration. But the scarred stranger’s riddle had shown him that he could no longer avoid it. He had to lean into the discomfort and stop fleeing the very thing that would ultimately set him free.

With a new sense of determination, Jake got out of bed and opened his laptop. Instead of that old blank document staring back at him, he created a new file, the cursor blinking with possibility. Almost reverently, he began to type:

“When it strikes, you must face it. Realize what you flee is what is sent to liberate you…”

The words flowed from there as if a dam had finally been broken. Jake wrote feverishly through the night, fueled by a burning sense of purpose and an urgency to finally reckon with the ideas that had been haunting him for years. Shedding his old patterns of hesitation and self-imposed constraint, he picked apart his beliefs from every angle, turning the harsh light of scrutiny onto the foundational ideas he had long accepted without question.

It was grueling, intense work. At times it felt like he was battering himself with a philosophical sledgehammer, smashing away at layers of faulty premises and knee-jerk assumptions until the core of something true remained. Often he found himself arriving at entirely new realms of thought, disorienting and terrifying conceptual neighborhoods he had never dared explore before. But he leaned into that discomfort, riding the swell of liberation that accompanied each fresh revelation about life and truth.

With each insight and overturned belief, the scarred man’s shadowy face seemed to materialize before Jake, his one eye blazing with intensity. Then it would fade away again, a fleeting visage that Jake came to see as a sort of spirit guide, the embodiment of the reckoning he was undertaking.

He wrote nonstop, losing all track of time, sustaining himself on caffeine and sheer mania. Sleep was an afterthought, a mere blip of unconsciousness he grudgingly allowed himself before plunging back into the delirious flow state. The essay grew into a treatise, then a manuscript, then a great, rambling philosophical tome. The project he had been paralyzed by fear to start had taken on a life of its own, a churning vortex of thoughts and ideas that threatened to swallow him whole as it grew into a raging philosophical tempest.

When at last Jake finally emerged from his manic creative bender, he was a shattered, hollow husk of a man. His eyes were sunken, his body withered after a period he couldn’t even fathom. He felt like a piece of driftwood that had been thrashed upon the rocky shores of existence, worn smooth and stripped of all physicality until only the essence remained.

But in that broken vessel contained the most profound and revolutionary ideas, the most utterly earth-shattering realizations about the nature of life, consciousness, and existence itself. Jake’s entire personal philosophy and conception of reality had been smashed to pieces and reassembled into something almost unrecognizable yet shimmering with a shocking, beautiful new truth and clarity.

He looked around at the wreckage of his living space with a sort of disassociated bemusement. His laptop was still open, the last few words of his magnum opus seared onto the screen:

“…and in reckoning with that which we most fear to face, we are remade anew, reborn into the searing

light of truth and set free.”

Suddenly, Jake wasn’t afraid anymore.

Something within him had been irreversibly torn down and rebuilt into something stronger, almost inhumanly resilient. The spell of fear and self-doubt had been broken, the shackles of irrational assumptions and unfounded belief cast off forever.

After all the shuddering, earth-shattering revelations, Jake felt unmoored in a way, untethered from so many of the constructs that had defined his identity and worldview. But in that disorienting void of certainty, a brilliant new cosmic perspective had taken root, a powerful and profound way of seeing the universe and its place within it with searing clarity.

He would share these revelations with the world. His life’s work would be this great philosophical text, this Herculean labor to birth something boundary-shattering into existence through the sheer force of thought. It would send shockwaves through the intellectual world, upending belief systems and rewriting the foundations of human understanding.


But first, Jake needed sustenance. And rest, oh god did he need rest. With heavy limbs he trudged to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, surveying the meager contents.

A folded piece of paper fluttered out from behind one of the shelves and landed on the floor at his feet. Jake frowned and bent to retrieve it with trembling fingers.

It was the note from the scarred stranger, the only words remaining:

“When it strikes, you must face it.”

Jake let out a rasping chuckle, the first laugh that had escaped his lips in ages. He could almost see the man’s intense, blazing eye seeming to bore into him once again.

With a weary smile, he crumpled the paper and let it fall to the floor.

“Already faced it, my friend,” Jake whispered. “And you helped show me the way.”

He closed the refrigerator and headed to his room, finally ready to rest. As he laid his head down, a profound sense of peace and purpose, unlike anything he’d ever known washed over him. The long, harrowing reckoning was finally over.

A new man had been liberated.


Enjoyed this philosophical journey? Want to explore more thought-provoking stories and ideas? Subscribe to newsletter to get more inspiring posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Sign up now and join the community of motivated truth-seekers!