The Fountain of Truth

Ken Taro
7 min readMar 1, 2023

A science fiction thriller grounded in philosophy.

A metal bucket
Photo by benjamin lehman on Unsplash

There is a room with a tightly-packed dirt floor, an elevated security camera in the corner, a digital clock hanging on a wall, and two metal buckets in the middle. Both containers are filled with liquid.

There are two other rooms; one on either side of the main one. These side rooms contain almost nothing other than one unconscious person in each one, as well as a document they will find next to them when they both wake up. The people are addressed as “H1” and “H2” in the messages. The experiment begins after they both regain consciousness and read their notes.

After H1 regains consciousness, she picks up the note and starts reading.

Dear H1:

If you look around, you will find that you are in a room with one door — which is currently locked — as well as a black digital clock that currently displays 00:00. You have been given a sedative, which is why you are not panicking right now. However, now that you are awake, this anxiety-free state won’t last long.

Presently, you are wearing an orange jumpsuit meant for people who have found themselves in jail. We stuffed a ball gag into your mouth and cuffed your hands. This is not intended to hurt you. It is only meant to limit your actions for what happens next.

Ultimately, your task is simple enough. When the door unlocks and opens, you will step into the next room. You will see that there are two metal pails in the middle. One is filled with drinking water. The other is filled with poison. They are labeled as such. Rest assured, there is no deception there. The one that says “water” is indeed perfectly fine to drink. The one that says “poison” is truly poison. However, even if you don’t trust our words, you won’t be the one having to drink from either one anyway.

On the other side of the buckets, you will see another locked door. Past that, there is a replica of the room you find yourself in now. That is where we are holding the other person with whom you will have no direct contact. Despite that fact, you will still have to convey a vital message: the contents of the buckets.

You must indicate to the other person that one holds ordinary tap water, and the other is filled with a clear

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Ken Taro

Writer, satirist, and humorist. You can find my best work on my mom’s refrigerator.