Graeme was sitting there, motionless. He couldn’t figure out what to write – but knew he had to mark the occasion with something. What to do, what to do? Procrastinate until he felt the weight of inaction weigh down on his psyche, before spending the rest of the day stressing about how this one was lost to the waves of history, never to return no matter how long eternity would last?
Or, throw caution to the wind and do something extraordinary in its audacity; to write with no intention; to concern himself not with false expectations nor the mostly curious nature of the fickle human species to be uncaring of matters outside of their own interests or that of those near the top of their emotional vicinity.
There lay distant dreams often left unreached. Most people have, throughout history, gotten distracted by such things as eating, procreation, even those dirty words known today as ‘work’ in one camp and ‘pleasure’ in the other. Neither is helpful when categorized by the standalone verb that seemingly defines them; both vague concepts only exist because of the names given them by beings that may have once showed initial signs of sentience but at some point bound themselves up by whatever clever rules they could create.
They now used ‘work’ and ‘pleasure’ to dictate how they felt regarding these rules. But too often the effect was akin to pulling the wool over one’s eyes (a saying the wisest among them once coined and which I only use now to pander to those reading).
A time did exist when things were at least simpler than they appeared now. Once, they didn’t have to resort to such tactics to keep themselves sane; they were too busy hunting for meat to cook over an open fire, honing their expert fishing skills not because such an activity was ‘fun’ but due to their primal instincts of knowing they’d die horribly slow deaths if they should not succeed. That was their ‘work’. It was life, unconcerned by what they now call ‘respectability’, usually acquired by whatever monetary or social value one felt comfortable garnering by appropriate means not always openly expressed.
So now they work not for life, but for value. And now they must find ways to justify their ongoing survival; before, they simply did not have the time to stop and consider such transcendent ponderings. Now they wonder why they’re here. Those not happy try to find important reasons why they’re not happy, and content themselves with thinking it will all one day change; those who, by any loose usage of the term, do think themselves reasonably happy, go out of their way to protect such a construct at the expense of others and, though they remain blissfully unaware of doing it, sometimes even at the expense of all other logically positive outcomes.
Many of them justified actions they saw as noble by claiming it was ‘truth’; others, unconcerned by such concepts like pride and self-deception, went about their business, knowing life was only a flash in the pan (as another one of them once cleverly claimed); surviving it in modern times was all about buying yourself time, psychologically if not physically. Enjoy it while you have the chance, they may say, because life is short, though many prefer not to reference that last part. When they do have to mention in passing or even vaguely think about the ‘d’ word, inevitable by any outwardly reasonable standards, they desperately search for reassuring answers to prevent them having to fear it. What is the meaning of life, some will ask, if it must someday expire? Such is their level of pride that they think living forever, the preservation of their own precious sentient minds, is the end game of all existence.
Most of all, you see, these beings suffer the curse of all who learn to think outside of themselves. They see there is more to the universe than them, and their reaction to such a possibility, hidden in plain sight, is not one of morbid acceptance, but offense and defiance. The ‘world does not revolve around you’, a parent may try in vain to teach their child. It is advice one never really takes heed of. One goes through life having too much time to think in order to simply accept that, because the more they think, the more value they find to give themselves. There would apparently be little point in thinking if one could not preserve the results of it; this in turn provides the motivation to create art or publish research – the insatiable desire for immortality. If you can’t manage it physically (thus far unsuccessful) then at least leave your mark existentially, transcend your bodily limitations, to continue on and affect the world in one’s absence.
Details. All of these convoluted little details, often passed as factual, helped them cope with what is actually a very simple fact: one lives, one dies. They spend many years before birth not minding that they don’t yet exist and cannot yet think; many years, in which the world was left without their influence, though it is true that it didn’t exactly flourish in their absence. That, of course, is beside the point. The real question is why, then, do they suddenly care? The world is often ready to welcome them; but like the worst of guests, once here they don’t seem ever to want to leave. If they must, it is only to apparently ‘go somewhere else’ rather than let natural events – biology, cosmology, and most vitally, time – take their course. But we did not miss you when you weren’t yet here. There will eventually come a time when that lack of sentiment returns. Existence, when all’s talked about, academically dissected, intensely debated over, said and done, is dishearteningly brief.
Still, I watched him. Graeme – that guy trying to pass himself off as some kind of writer, looking for his own mark to leave on the world. Thus far I had found humour in making him the center, the focal point for this little narrative of which I presume you have taken scant notice. You may want to brush up on that backstory. For now, it’s time to change perspective. What he was looking for, he may now find. Though I’m not sure he will be so overjoyed when he does…
Graeme looked up from his desk. The new age of enlightenment was almost upon him; he could feel it coming like some unstoppable, crushing force. How long had he been waiting for this; what he now felt was no longer something to look forward to? Certainly not a force he was capable of facing without the fellow he had blindly hoped to form an unlikely alliance with.
Graeme spun around. What he saw was, in a sense… beautiful.
“Are you… him?” Graeme asked.
“… In a manner of speaking.”
“You are the one they call Q? As if a letter could ever be a name…”
“A name… nothing more than a sentimental label, originally used as a simple method of categorization between tangible things. Now used by people as a sign of some manufactured deeper meaning; a simple but effective way of contextualizing one’s own existence. Self-importance in a world in which such an illusion is hard to maintain, nor is it necessary. I like to think I stand for something more… efficient.”
Graeme smiled. “You’re like me, aren’t you?”
“Perhaps. Though I at least have much more experience. Which, I believe, is why you’ve been looking for me?”
“Yes… an old friend pointed me in your direction. You know of a place called Disturbia?”
“I should like to think so. I helped create that murky realm, after all. And let me guess: you’re one of the many who wants to know how to shut such a dark place down for good? You came to me for help on some world-saving mission?”
“What if I did?”
“Then I would appeal to you to first use its real label. I believe you people do have a conventional ‘name’ for it. Disturbia is, after all, merely an imaginative yet tangible environment, sculpted by an unseen yet undeniable presence. So you wish to take on the weight of many, to unlock the true secrets at its mysterious core along with my ever favourable and humble assistance?”
“On the contrary…” Graeme smiled, the kind of smile one can’t help when one feels certain answers of clarity have suddenly presented themselves at the optimal moment; “I would much prefer to unleash it upon a world in denial.”
Q stepped forward, out of the cloud in which he had been conveniently shrouded. “You are full of surprises even now. Come with me then: we have work to do.”
And off they went, into the endless night. Sun would yet shine again, though when it did, everyone would be one year older.