'Dempster’s Rule' by Marion Moffatt

Darkness begins to envelop us. The rain, a light drizzle as we set out, now drums on the windscreen – the wipers barely able to keep up. We arrive at a T-junction. I apply the brakes and wait. Sweating. Barely breathing. Await instruction.
Jake says go right, not left, and Neil says go left, not right.
How do you resolve a conflict? Think. There’s a rule.

Jake mass {right} =  1
mass {left} =  0
Neil mass {right} =  0
mass {left} =  1

Combining these creates a conflict, due to both Jake and Neil’s absolute certainty.
I hesitate.
‘Which way?’ I ask. Not really wanting to know the answer.
Jake – beside me in the passenger seat – turns to Neil in the back.
‘I’m telling you it’s right.’ He’s insistent. Firm. Unmoveable. He turns to me.
‘Right.’ Jake nods at me at looks forward.
Clutch down. First gear – I have to obey someone.
‘STOP!’ Neil’s seat belt is off. He’s almost kneeling on the handbrake. He has a hand on my shoulder. He squeezes. Digging his fingers into my collar bone.
I take a deep breath in through my nose. Reminding myself. Remembering. I try to concentrate. On something. Else.
It is better to have a process that can recognise conflicts...

Neil



right
left
straight






0.00
0.95
0.05




right
0.95
0.00
0.9025
0.0475

right
0.00
Jake
left
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
=>
left
0.00

straight
0.05
0.00
0.0475
0.0025

straight
0.0025

My breathing quickens. I run my tongue along the front of my teeth. So I can’t clench my jaw. To try to relax. To slow my heart down. Breathe. Out through my mouth.
We’re still sitting waiting at the junction.
Frozen.
Immobile.
Jake elbows Neil in the chest and then thrusts his face towards mine. Hot breath on my cheek. ‘Stupid fucking bitch, don’t listen to him. Turn right. Now.’
Winded, Neil retreats to the back seat.

...recognise that a strategy dependent on resolution of the conflict is inherently high-risk, and perhaps an unattractive option.
           
            Straight ahead. I want to go straight ahead. Into the bushes. Through the field beyond. I can see lights in a house. A farmhouse perhaps. Warm. Friendly. Someone’s home.
I feel the cold bite of steel on my neck and I turn the wheel.
Right.
1.00
Dempster’s Rule. Broken. 

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