James Beach

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Nonfiction and More


The Last Word

This is a rough draft, a work in progress.

* * *

She decided to read her comment one more time before posting it. It looked good. No, it looked better than good. It was perfect.

It had taken her hours at home on her laptop, when she could have been enjoying many other things. But she had had enough. In the middle of responding to the previous commenter, who had been relentlessly dismissive and insulting, Mae had crafted the perfect response. Through a lucky happenstance, a random typo had led her to thinking more deeply about things she’d never considered. This train of thought had led her nearly instantaneously to musings she’d had in the back of her mind without being addressed, her entire life. In some ways, even before she’d learned to speak and was just beginning to experience her first sparks of awareness.

A bit about existentialism, and awareness, and the place of people in the world and the larger universe, and something that really resolved everything while also telling the other person how wrong they were – in a way that not only proved Mae was right with the universe, but that the other person also simply could not deny admitting no matter how they tried.

She looked it over, and reached forward to hit “Enter” on her keyboard.

A hand reached out from nowhere and grabbed hers before she could complete the stroke.
“What the fuck?” she blurted, shocked. The rest of the hand around her wrist emerged from a … a hole in the air, she realized.

The hole enlarged, and the person leaned through a bit further. He was encased entirely in a grey-green suit of what looked like plastic, with a plexiglass globe for a helmet that showed glowing lights throughout the inside.

“Oh my God!” he said, speaking back into the hole that hung in the air in the middle of her room. “We did it, people! We found her! Oh thank whatever might exist!”

She heard light cheering, coming impossibly from further inside the hole he was reaching from. She looked inside it, to see barely lit cracked concrete walls and a few other people, in similar suits. Their suits were all in some states of disrepair – patched and sewn with material that didn’t match at all.

“Who the hell are you?” asked Michelle.

He faced Michelle, still leaning forward out of a hole in the air in her bedroom. “Listen Michelle,” the guy said, in his suit. “You can’t send that!”

“But it proves I’m right!” she protested. “And – and it could really make things better! It really has – I’m talking about-”

“Don’t tell me!” he screamed. “The rest of us are only still individuals because we didn’t hear it!” He almost looked towards the monitor, and shuddered. He turned off the monitor, and pushed her back from the keyboard.

“Michelle, that’s exactly the problem. You had an internet argument with a jerk, and you found the secret. Whatever it is, somehow you found a way to change his mind and convince him you were right! Then everyone else who read that comment also convinced. Your comment pierced the ego defense mechanism of all human minds, effortlessly.”

“But that’s great!” said Michelle.

“It’s not great,” the guy said. “As a result, as that comment spread, everyone’s egos on Earth just melted. They no longer had a way to disagree with her. And it turned out that our egos were the only thing holding back our consciousnesses merging on a quantum level.”

Michelle narrowed her eyes. “So…?”

“So as that comment went viral across the Internet, the melded consciousnesses snowballed until all of humanity became one mind. We no longer had individual points of view. We became one large wriggling sentient mass.”

“Okay,” said Michelle. “So…humanity then became one being? Almost a God?”

“Maybe that’s what we could have been. But the problem was we were still assholes! We hadn’t worked through how to not be shitty – basically, our crazy. We evolved to the next step too early! Left to our own for even a century longer, we might have become mature enough to handle massive, godlike collective intelligence as one being. Instead, when your comment spread, we became one giant 7 billion-person sentient complete asshole!” He shuddered. “The resulting crazy thing has simultaneously expanded into quantum time and ruined the entire globe! The human race is worse than doomed – it’s become a giant asshole that’s producing nothing but shit!”

“But I…” she looked at the screen and back at him. “But I’m right! Are you telling me I just have to let this go, when I’m actually right?”

“How important is this internet argument to you?” he asked. “How much time is this guy worth? Let alone potentially destroying all of humanity before we could advance to our next level and *not* be a giant asshole?”

“We always have to be quiet though!” she said. “We women have to go along or not hurt egos, all these things…”

“Go ahead and hurt egos!” he said. “I’m just telling you your best-case scenario, actually changing this troll asshole’s mind, is a disaster. You cannot change his mind. He doesn’t want to change his mind.” He reached over with his other hand. “Can I – just so we don’t accidentally…” shielding his eyes from even seeing the comment that she’d typed, he pulled the cord out of her computer keyboard. He sighed with relief, and turned off her monitor. Only then did he let go of her arm.

She rubbed her arm, and frowned. “Well…if it’s so bad, how’d you survive?”

Through his glass bowl helmet, his eyes became haunted. “We escaped the initial barrage of memes only because our cellphones were dead at the time. When everyone started talking at the same time, we pretended we were mutes until we reached the sewers. There we waited until we found ourselves near one of it’s sentient quantum-altering mind-shits.” He shivered, leaned back and heaved a bit, then regained his strength. “That was something you never want to experience. We followed it back here in time and space. I’ve tried many times to stop this moment. This last time I was able to punch through the second before it began. Now that timeline can undo itself.”

His voice became choked.[ argument could start here?] “I only have a little time left before it mentally flushes. Don’t make our sacrifice in vain. Don’t make that comment! Just let that asshole disagree!” The figure faded, as the hole disappeared.

Michelle looked at where the hole in the air had been, and back to her keyboard She reconnected it, turned on the computer monitor, and looked again at what she had been about to send.

She stared at it for a good minute, cherishing how well written it was.

Then she erased it, called the commenter a stupid ass instead, and signed up for some yoga.