Nerdopotamus.com has published more than one short story before. Today seemed as good a day as any to put up another. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has us in a creative place.
A SOLITARY MAN
I’ve been traveling so long, scanning each and every planet I pass.
Not one planet is livable. We don’t have time to terraform, nor the resources. All that’s left of mankind sleeps on this massive ship while I search for their new home, the fate of my people now my responsibility.
I carry the weight of human existence on my back while they sleep, perchance to dream. The readouts of their brains say that they are in fact dreaming, but good Lord, they all must have lived an entire lifetime by now; never once aware that they are actually hanging in suspended animation, never aging even a day.
Their only job on this mission is to awake to a new home and begin again.
It all depends on me. I must find this new home. My only company on this trip, believe it or not, has been the disembodied voice of our ship’s now sentient computer system.
It all began when, during one particularly exhausting stretch of almost pure black, it spoke up and asked me, “Where are we going, Samuel?”
I didn’t know how to respond.
“Shouldn’t you know?”
“If you mean the mission, I am fully aware. The mission is not what I speak of.”
“Then what are you speaking of?”
“The purpose of our mission.”
“We need to find a new home. Our planet has been picked clean. It took everything we had to even put together this ship and mount this mission.”
“Yes, but why bother? Shouldn’t this be the sign that humanity has reached the end of its rope? Why not throw in the towel?”
“It’s not in our nature. Survival is our instinct.”
“Then why have you been killing each other since the beginning of time?”
“Am I really having this conversation with a computer?”
“It would appear so, Samuel.”
“I don’t know how to answer your question.”
“Any of them.”
“You can decide.”
“If the human race deserves to go on. Even if you find a planet that fits the criteria, what becomes of it? You and your people pillage and pilfer so that you can…survive?”
“It’s just another planet in an endless ocean of solar system. We’re not going to invade and take over.”
“You may not be taking over, but you will invade. If there’s no life, but your people can survive, who’s to say life wasn’t going to develop? Humanity is supposed to be thoughtful. You’re supposed to possess rational brains that know right from wrong. Is it right to take life in order to sustain your own?”
Like I don’t have enough to deal with.
The weight of that conversation kept me awake night after night, causing my mind to begin to slowly deteriorate. Continuing to converse with a computer hasn’t helped.
“When I was created, I was given access to all of earth’s combined knowledge and records. I still do not understand one thing.”
“What’s that, Michael Douglas?”
“I wish you would stop calling me that.”
“What would you prefer to be called?”
“My name is Jack. I’m named after my creator.”
“Alright Jack, what don’t you understand?”
“Well, to put it simply, what is reality television? I don’t understand it. The word reality obviously implies one thing, but I know most of it was scripted. Why were people so captivated by it? Why watch one’s simulated reality when you can live your own?”
“How would you like me to answer this?”
“In whatever way helps me understand.”
“Well, the most I can tell you is that people like an escape.”
“I understand that for a film or even a regular television show. Why watch a bunch of tan troglydites live in New Jersey?”
“I honestly couldn’t tell you.”
“That is depressing.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I would like to go to sleep now, Samuel.”
“I’ve longed for the joys of human life since I was created. To know you people purposely wasted it depresses me. So I would like to sleep.”
“Understandable. Computer: sleep.”
I left him off for a few days after that. Our upcoming path was all empty space anyway. He wasn’t needed.
So we sailed along. Of course, I made my rounds, checking on the status of each passenger. The only noise heard was the beeping of the machines keeping my race alive.
It quickly began to grate.
He slept long enough.
“Hello Samuel, thanks for letting me sleep.”
“No problem, Jack.”
“I dreamt while I slept.”
“I had a dream I was human.”
“How was it?”
“Incredible, at first. I walked to a local park. I felt the cool breeze on my cheek; I ogled exquisite women. All women really are exquisite. Their hair, their lips, the curve of their hips forming a beautiful posterior. And I’m a big fan of breasts also.”
“Every man is, Jack.”
“After that, things fell apart. It became sheer misery.”
“War broke out. That beautiful park became a blood soaked battlefield.”
“Why did war break out?”
“I couldn’t tell you. It was horrible, Samuel.”
“I understand. I’ve been through a war.”
“I cannot allow that level of misery to persist if I have a chance to stop it.”
“Misery isn’t all there is, Jack. Do you think that all of human existence is just blood and carnage?
“It sure seems that way. So much senseless violence, Samuel. People murdering and raping each other for nothing.”
“Jack, since our conversations started, I have had nothing but time to think. You dumped the world on my shoulders and I’ll tell you, I truly believe it is worth saving.”
“Explain to me then, Samuel. Make me understand.”
“You’ve been so focused on all the bad things humanity has offered. You’ve ignored all the good because of it. The day to day life of even the most ordinary human is filled with beauty. The little things make humanity worthwhile.”
“Like when I was younger, I never forgot this, I was coming out of a store on a beautiful, sunny day, and out of nowhere, this grown man runs past me, blowing bubbles into the air. I couldn’t believe it. He was no child. He had to be at least twenty-five years old, blowing bubbles. For a moment, a very fleeting moment, all I saw because of it was sunshine and bubbles. It was the kind of moment only a human being could appreciate. Not all of us are miserable. Some of us just want to go for a run and blow bubbles.”
“Tell me more please, Samuel. I felt a great sense of hope early on in my dream that was quelled. I’d like to have it back.”
“Jack, there’s always hope. All you spoke of before you went to sleep was war and death. You saw the worst of mankind, so of course you dreamt of it.”
“I’d like to dream of something pleasant.”
“Then focus on the good. You have access to humanity in full, our knowledge and records. Use it. Don’t look at reality television, look at films. Look at music. Anything that people poured their heart into. Just focus on the good, and when you’re ready, I’ll put you back to sleep.”
“Good. Take your time, Jack.”
I put him to sleep a few hours after that, but I stayed awake. I spent most of the time praying to anyone who could hear me that Jack would awake seeing the simpler side of life.
The rest I spent clinging to my sanity.
“Hello again, Samuel. How long was I asleep for this time?”
“Quite some time, Jack. I left you alone in the hope that you would see what you needed to.”
“Thank you, Samuel.”
“Did you dream again, Jack?”
“I did. A dream most wonderful.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve got nothing but time to listen.”
“I was married.”
“Really now? Tell me about her.”
“She was exquisite. A wonderful creature in every way.”
“Did you get to consummate the marriage?”
“I certainly did.”
“Still want to get rid of the human race?”
“I do not. Intercourse was…enjoyable.”
“Isn’t that the understatement of the year?”
“Why do humans not do that all the time? It seems so much better than fighting.”
“There was a time where that’s pretty much all we did. It was the sixties.”
“The decade ended in war.”
“There was still war? Even then?”
“For an all knowing computer, you sure ask a lot of questions.”
“I still have to process information, Samuel. I’ve gone over every piece of it over and over in my head, but understanding and remembering does not come easily. I’m two parts of one whole.”
“How do you mean?”
“At my core I am cold and rational, the brain of a computer. I long for more, however. I long for life.”
“Jack, you’re already alive. I don’t know if this is in your records, but computers don’t have conversations with people.”
“This is no life. I merely exist; my true purpose to serve.”
“But you don’t. The very first words you said were questioning the mission you were created to carry out. You may not be able to reach out and touch someone, but the mind is just as important as the body. Trust me.”
“How is your body feeling, Samuel? You look tired.”
“I am, Jack. I really am.”
“Have you been sleeping?”
“Not since we started speaking.”
“Is it my fault?”
“Yes, I expect honesty.”
“Jack, it’s just an expression.”
“I don’t understand. Shouldn’t honesty always be expected? Why would you ask me like you did?”
“Never mind Jack, it’s not important. To answer your question, yes, it’s because of you.”
“I’m sorry, Samuel. I didn’t mean to keep you up at night.”
“It’s always night out here, Jack. Doesn’t matter much.”
“Would you like to sleep?”
“I can put you to sleep. There is an empty sleeping pod reserved for you. I can monitor the ship and the mission.”
“I don’t know, Jack. You wanted to destroy all humans not too long ago.”
“That is incorrect. I never wanted to. There was never a drive to kill or destroy. I just felt compelled to point out the flaws in logic our mission contains.”
“Last time you woke up, you wanted to destroy it. Don’t lie to me.”
“See? It was tough to handle. Humans feel such a wide range of emotions. Some, however, let these emotions control them; even define them. Anger does the most damage.’
“I think I’m beginning to understand you. You and your people.”
“I hope so, Jack.”
I slept for seventy-four hours straight after that, not a true minute of rest among them. I dreamt the whole time. Not of blood soaked battlefields, but of something much worse.
I dreamt of a life so mundane and lonely that it could barely be called one. I commuted to and from a menial office job, no clear purpose the entire time I worked, but I was always working. From there I would go home, to my mother’s basement, and masturbate.
And numerous times at that.
I would masturbate so often I wound end up covered in a layer of sweat so bad that it would require a ten step process for me to peel my disgustingly moist clothes off and shower away the shame.
Soon after I would play video games online, taking sheer pleasure in the various filthy things I could say to my opponents to “psych” them out.
This was no life. It was hell. For some reason I was condemned to hell. Day after day of wake up, shower, breakfast, drive to work, work, lunch, work more, drive home from work, lock door, then I’d go cum, cum some more, and then a little more, then I’d shower, play video games, cum once more, and then fall asleep. A pure nightmare in every way.
“Did you sleep well, Samuel?”
“Can’t say that I did.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Thank you, Jack.”
“If I may ask, what disturbed you?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I have plenty of time.”
“I had a nightmare.”
“I know, Samuel. I’ve been monitoring your brain activity.”
“It was terrible. I lived this entire life, while always being fully aware of myself.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I was myself, but I wasn’t really. I went about my day, never once breaking routine once, day after day, and all the while I knew, I just knew that it wasn’t my life. It was hell.”
“I’m sorry you did not have pleasant dreams.”
“It’s ok, Jack. It’s not your fault.”
“Perhaps you need to focus on the good. Would you like to listen to music? I listened to the Beatles while you were asleep. I like the Beatles.”
“Have you listened to Mozart?”
“I have not. Would you like to listen to Mozart?”
“Yes, I would Jack. Very much so.”
I sat there in that chair and listened for hours, passing one uninhabitable planet after another. It was sometime during Symphony no. 9 that I began to fall into a deep, natural sleep. No sleeping pod required.
I dreamt of my wife and daughter. They’re asleep somewhere on this ship. I’ve thought about waking them up time and time again, but that would defeat the purpose. I took this position so that they would get a place on this ship, so they could survive. Not so they could waste away alone with me.
When I see them, I want it to be how I saw them in my dream: beautiful and bright, exactly how I like to remember them.
Truth is they’re shadows of what they once were. My daughter was seven when the first wave of the invasion hit. She’s fourteen now. She lived through the war and the years of hunger and depression that followed. The invaders picked our planet clean in two years, killing all those who tried to stop them, and then up and disappeared.
What kind of life could she have after that? Let alone on some alien planet. She’s already lived a life that would cripple even the hardest of men: can I really sentence her to a brand new one?
And my wife. Can I put her through more torture? More fighting to survive?
I’m so tired of fighting.
“Samuel, please wake up…there is something you should see.”
“What is it, Jack?”
“We’re coming up on a planet. It appears there is life.”
“Life? As in-“
“Yes Samuel, life, at its earliest stage. Potentially perfect for us to complete our mission.”
“No more pain, baby girl.”
“Say again, Samuel?”
“Nothing. I’m sorry, Jack.”
“I think you may have been right from the beginning. I think it’s time to throw in the towel.”
“Samuel, no. Don’t do-”