By David Edward Nell
Cloud City – which happened to not be a cloud city in the literal sense – was unusually desolate for a morning setting; though it must be said that normality itself was regarded as offensive in this post-conformist world. Trends were different these days: buildings were constructed upside-down for style; each food item was required to taste like radish and be considered more enjoyable in that respect; meditation ten hours a day was compulsory if one excused oneself from work due to flu or if one broke the law; being watched by smiley-face drones warranted yourself a primetime television spot. Such was life. Emily didn't exactly understand, nor did she reckon her mother did either. But she did think it was nice, what the world was, whatever it was. The two of them had just left home, and Emily was thinking about all that stuff.
Mother warned, “I told you, I don't want you objectifying yourself for the whole world to see. And can't you walk faster? Already blooming late for your school's silent hall meeting.”
Emily stopped making funny faces to the smiley faces in the sky, and replied, “But aren't I going to be famous? Aren't I going to be a model if I keep doing this?”
“You will never be famous, because there is no such thing.”
“But then there is no such thing as anything, right? Because science class says reality is an illusion.”
“Keep saying that to yourself, honey. If it helps you get through school.”
“But the thing is, Mum, if nothing is real, I don't really need to go to school, do I?”
Mother planted her lips on Emily's nose and breathed in to keep her quiet. That did it. They rounded a corner and stumbled onto a large crowd fascinated by televisions playing behind an electronics shop display window. It seemed everyone and everything on the city block was present, even the drones, smiling alongside civilians. Mother stopped for a curious peek, and appeared startled by what was being shown. Emily likened her mother's gasp to the sound of a cat crying; however, to note once again, strange was not quite.
Emily remarked, “I thought we were late.” She spitefully went on walking but got tugged back to her mother.
Mother whispered, “The president of the world is speaking live. We must listen.”
“Who?” Emily asked. As she had raised her voice and revealed her ignorance, the crowd barked and glared at Emily as though she was the greatest traitor of all times.
“That's the president of the world.”
“Everyone knows the president of the world.”
“No one interrupts the president of the world.”
“You'll never be as great as the president of the world.”
“Have some respect, young money.” Young money was a derogatory term, of course.
And after they eyed her enough, they returned to the skeleton of a man with the big head on the televisions. Apparently he was saying important words.
“So, humanity has arrived to its most critical point in history. I, the president of the world, have made my decision regarding humanity's fate. Perhaps humanity has sealed its own fate. Indeed, we've made some peachy advances over the course of our history, but we've also done incredibly silly things, none worse than witnessed in recent years. For example, when we accidentally drew the moon nearer to us and caused enormous tidal waves, resulting in the complete obliteration of the South-Eastern Canadian region. Or when we destroyed all data servers because we thought they harboured digital malaria, resulting in the infamous data server riots which saw billions of social network user deletions and the rise of the warrior robots. Rest in peace. Or when we brutally crucified a shy, web-obsessed fellow who, we learned later, really was the second coming of Jesus Christ. And when we made memes poking fun at him. These mistakes show we have not evolved in the proper manner; that, in our present state, we are much too flawed. When President Hertz announced he had personally gotten rid of the nature of imperfection, we all wanted to believe. Alas, imperfection prevails. So, I had to do something about this once and for all. I said no more. I said it was time for action. Just an hour ago, I sat down with people-who-do-important-stuff for tea and biscuits. Discussing ways in which to reduce humanity's impact even further, we came to the first conclusion that we should all kill ourselves and apply for voluntary human extinction at our nearest goods stores. But then no one liked that idea, because who knows yet whether killing oneself sends one straight to hell or not? And who wants that? So this enlightened scientist dude who sleeps outside the parliament building offered up a truly marvelous idea: how about we start over? He said – after we cleaned him up and gave him a haircuit and a warm meal – that there is a way we can return to our source, and he has the solution. He wants to stick everyone with needles. And I say, that's fine. That's what we need. For in those needles lies our salvation. Millions of years of evolution bred a monster, and now the monster must be tamed. My friends across the world, we will start over. We will begin evolution anew. Starting right this minute, every single person in the world – including myself – will be transformed into jellyfish.”
The watching crowd grew restless. Some began speaking of escaping into the wilderness. Some said not to speak of such things. Some began fighting. Some were hugging. Some decided to play a last round of cards. Some were staring back at the drones like they already knew what was going to happen. Some were staring at the drones so they could get their last pose on camera. Emily's mother now looked concerned too.
“What's actually happening here?” Emily asked.
There was silence again when the president of the world continued.
“I need everyone to calm down and wait where you are. A black van is going to come pick you up and bring you to our laboratory, where you will then be injected, transformed and sent into the sea.”
And right then, a civilian went panicking down the street. Unfortunately for him, a drone caught his collar before he could get anywhere and picked him up into the air, disappearing somewhere.
Mother was even more distraught. She was biting her nails. “This is bad,” she kept repeating..
“I told you, remain where you are,” said the televisions. “Now you see what happens. Ugh. Anyway, on the bright side, at least you get to keep your souls–”
“Why's it bad?” Emily asked, pulling her mother's dress.
Mother looked down at Emily, her eyes wide. “What's wrong with you? This is the end. We're not going to be here anymore.”
“So? That's good.”
“Yes, because now there's no more school. Yay!”
- - -
David Edward Nell writes from Cape Town, South Africa. He can be touched at: http://davidedwardnell.blogspot.com .
Thursday, February 13, 2014
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