What you are about to read is a bit messy and, at over 1,100 words, rather long. I’d say it is worth the read, but I think that’s really up to you whether or not it is actually worth it. A story of life and death and choices and perspective… there is a section in the middle where you can choose one of two options, but the result is the same, and then I think you might be surprised by the ending…
Anyway, happy reading, if you choose to do so, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments after you have finished.
“Tell me what happened.”
“Am I dead?”
“Your story should answer most of your questions.”
“Yes, we all have a story, and yours must be told before you can continue. Take a moment, there is plenty of time. Collect your thoughts and then tell me what happened.”
We killed them all.
It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The terrorists were causing such a mess, blowing themselves up, and innocents with them, their psychological toll on the rest of the world was devastating. But we couldn’t catch those responsible. They were too good at hiding behind other innocents. Eventually the world grew tired of their tactics and, unanimously, decided to completely suppress that region.
Blown away. All of it.
I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised how quickly the resultant period of peace was replaced for further conflict. Once that nuclear option had been visited, countries were more and more willing to use it to quell other disturbances and disagreements.
With nations decimating each other globally, local issues also escalated quickly: North against South, Red against Blue, and neighbor against neighbor. Fathers turned against the sons they didn’t understand. The youngest generations pleaded for peace even as they were placed with their backs against a wall. The oldest generations cackled with madness and slipped away as they were forgotten. Everyone else fought, and bled, and died.
Except for me…
Somehow I went unnoticed through the bulk of the strife. I didn’t spew politics on street corners. I didn’t judge those different from me. I kept my mouth shut and my head down. When things got really bad I hid until the shooting stopped. I think I was lucky to be missed by the wandering rogues and mobs that swept through the cities. It wasn’t skill or cunning. I was curled into a ball in the closet, sobbing in fear.
When things got quiet, I eventually found the bravery to leave the house and go look for other survivors, others who had hidden away while society imploded. I traveled the Earth for two years before giving up and returning home, alone, the last of the humans.
I did the best I could to take care of myself. I found clean water. I grew healthy food. I had a good shelter. I thrived. I thrived until…”
….. (option 1) …..
“I thrived until I got lonely.
Humans are, were, social creatures and my mind split, shattered, so I could fill that void. Even that wasn’t enough. The split personalities, the delusions, the hallucinations, couldn’t replace actual interaction.
And, once I realized how little joy I had left there was only one thing left to do.”
….. (option 2) …..
“I thrived until I got sick.
I’m not sure if the water wasn’t actually as clean as I’d thought, or if I hadn’t grown healthy food, or if I just wasn’t equipped and knowledgeable enough to combat the diseases that doctors and nurses used to hold in check.
It doesn’t matter what the culprit was, the end result was the same.”
“Thank you for sharing your story, and now… If you would please…
I’m sorry for the break in protocol, but stay with me for a moment. Normally I would place you in the boat and send you on your way to find whatever waits for you next, but, I’ve been told this is the last story I will ever collect and I’m feeling an emotion that is foreign to me. I think it was you would call sadness. And perhaps a touch of fear as I’m uncertain what will happen to me next.”
“You don’t know what happens next?”
“My role has ever been the final scribe. I take down the stories and send the tellers on their way once they are done. I don’t know where the boat takes them. I think the destination is different for all of them, but I do not know that for sure. The currents of the river swirl chaotically at times. The boat disappears at different points in the gloom…
I’m sorry. I’m rambling. I’m not used to talking this much.
To answer your question, no, I don’t know what happens next.”
“What are you going to do when I get in the boat and fade away like all the others?”
“I’ll wait and see if the boat comes back for me. If it does, I will get in and see where I end up. If it doesn’t, then I will wait here until I’m told to start collecting stories again or the boat does return.”
“This is disappointing.”
“Death. I hoped there would be more structure, that it would make more sense than living. This all seems just as muddled as my time on Earth. Nothing is certain.”
“Who said this was death?”
“… I assumed, based on my exit from the world…”
“Death is a word that humans made up to describe the specific change that marks the end of their life on Earth. That’s all it is, just a word. Why would you expect anything that came after to provide more worth to who you are?”
“I.., I don’t have an answer to that.”
“Good, you aren’t supposed to.”
“It’s okay to not know everything, to not have an answer to every question, to exist and react to new situations based solely on your feelings and your hopes. As you said in the beginning of your story, you did what you thought was best at the time. That’s all that was ever expected of you.”
“And now I’m expected to get in the boat?”
“Everyone who came before you did.”
“But, that doesn’t mean that I have to… right? If I feel like staying here and continuing to talk with you, what will happen then?”
“I have no idea.”
“I think I’ll stay for awhile, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
“Are there pages left in your book?”
“And your pen still has ink in it?”
“It has never run out.”
“Then, perhaps we could write some stories together?”
“Go ahead and talk. I’ll write down your words. That is what I have always done.”
“Where should I start? Oh… I know. Are you ready?
In the beginning…”
… out of the void a world was formed. It was a masterpiece of beauty and a shining beacon of hope in the darkness. It was created from the collective desires and joy of all who had come before it, and all who would one day walk its surface. It was violent and peaceful. It was complicated and simple. It was perfect because of all its imperfections.
“This is going to be a good story. I can feel it.”
“Shall I continue?”