AND NOTHING HEARD MY SCREAM
I have received a request or two from readers for permission to copy and re-post certain essays of The Nine Point Five Theses in other forums.
OKAY, PERMISSION GRANTED---UNDER CERTAIN BROAD CONDITIONS, AND THE STORY "AND NOTHING HEARD MY SCREAM" MAY NOT BE COPIED.
Anyone can copy any of The Nine Point Five Theses and re-post them in other forums, under the following two conditions:
1). You MUST leave my name on it.
2). You may NOT change one single word or re-arrange any of the format of the essay. As is, or not at all.
It would be nice if you would include a link back to this blog site, but I won't insist on it.
AND NOT THE STORY! I'm still not happy with Michael Stone. The final version of the story is not yet done, I think. So I would rather he remain right here for the moment.
Thank you for your co-operation, and rattle all the cages you can.:-)
Meanwhile, back at the blog . . .
LEGAL NOTICE: All Rights Reserved. You may link to this story all you want. You may NOT copy and distribute this in any way, shape, form or fashion without my explicit written permission.
Now, if you don't believe in souls---what's the RATIONAL way for you to act? What effect would such a belief ultimately have on society?
The answer to those questions is simple. Quite stunningly simple. And yet, when that answer is pointed out, the response is surprise, shock---even anger. And a great deal of resistance, of deliberate refusal to understand.
Let me introduce you to somebody who can explain it a lot better than I can. Who will punch that simple answer across, no matter how much you might not want to hear it.
Shake hands with Michael Stone.
by Jeffrey A. Corkern
My path was long and hard. My path was a path of pain.
My path had driven me to the banks of the Mississippi River, to a journey through clouds of dense, confusing fog, to struggle my way over large slabs of shifting, shattered, cruel rock. The fog dragged at my skin with clammy fingers. Ice needles stabbed my lungs with each labored breath. Vicious chill sucked the heat out of my shivering body. The fog covered the riverbank with dank gray formlessness, the rocks with slick, wet, treachery. I stepped. A slab teetered and slipped from under me. I staggered and went down face-first onto a merciless edge, into starburst red agony. I rose spitting blood and continued on, wondering what the purpose was for it all, wondering if there were any meaning for my pain, if there were any meaning at all.
I had been born onto this path, into this world, this Darwinian jungle world. This was all the reality I had ever known. The journeys of others were easy. Mine was not. My journey had always been one of suffering and solitude, to my constant wondering and bewilderment.
I walked alone, as I always had, always would, in my pocket the only safety I could trust, a forty-five automatic, banging against my hip.
I came upon a dark form, a stranger rendered faceless by the fog.
"Hello," the stranger said. He wore a thick coat that kept him warm and safe from the fog's hungry cold. A child of the soft paths, a child of privilege. "Who are you?"
"I am Michael Stone. And you?"
"I am," the stranger replied, "Just Plain Old Skeptic. Did you know there are no souls?"
"Really?" I asked. Deep inside me, a spark of anger flared at the Universe’s infinite cruelty. "How do we know this?"
"The greatest scientific geniuses in all of history have assured us souls don’t exist."
"I have long suspected as much," I said. The spark flashed into a flame of rage, into a light that illuminated and distilled all the experiences of my journey into one blinding insight. "If there are no souls, the only rational thing to be is a sociopath."
Just Plain Old Skeptic smiled, a streak of white smeared against the blur.
"What an absurd statement," he said. “You are a silly woo.”
The statement stunned me. What a complete fool. I looked around for witnesses. We were an island of two in the fog, alone and isolated, beyond the reach of all justice. I raised my arm and pointed behind Just Plain Old Skeptic.
"Look," I said, "behind you. It is the great genius Dawkins himself."
Just Plain Old Skeptic actually turned his back to me to look. I drew the forty-five silent as a ghost, brought the muzzle to the side of his head and squeezed the trigger. In the fog, the crack of the round was flat and lifeless. Just Plain Old Skeptic became Just Plain Dead Skeptic. Red and gray brains pattered like gentle raindrops over the Mississippi's surface. Just Plain Old Skeptic pitched forward onto the rocks and was still.
I pulled that fine, warm coat off his body and put it on.
"Do you see it now?" I asked him. I flicked his brains off a sleeve. "Now is it clear?" I ran my hand over silken cloth as warmth spread through my being. "Once I was cold. Now I am warm. And all it will ever cost me is this spent shell. How my action affected you will never affect me. How was my action not rational?"
I bent over and picked up the spent shell. I looted the rest of Just Plain Old Skeptic's body and eased him into the river.
A gator rose and drew him under, and Just Plain Old Skeptic turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.
I continued on my journey, slipping and struggling over rock, feeling a deep sense of confirmation. My anger at the Universe grew into a knife of rage in my guts, a knife that twisted and burned, aching for release. Another faceless stranger rose in the fog.
"Hello," he said. His skin was soft and unmarked, without a single scar. Another child of ease. "I am Sternly Rational."
"Hello," I said. "I am Michael Stone. Did you know there are no souls?"
"I do indeed," he said. "All smart and strong people know this."
"To the Universe, you and I are nothing, then," I said. "Human beings are nothing. We come and are gone like puffs of mist. The Universe is cruel beyond belief."
"You have grasped a hard truth," Sternly Rational replied. He cast his hand at the sky. "What is puny, weak, ephemeral Man, that the mighty Universe must be mindful of him?"
"To the Universe, zero," I said, "less than the dust beneath our feet. Our thoughts, our actions, have no physically real meaning in the end."
"I see you are one of the smart and strong who can grasp this hard truth and not hide from its sting, as am I," Sternly Rational said. "One must pity those who lack the strength to face this, who must take refuge from the Great Emptiness in the delusions of religion."
"How should I act, knowing this?" I asked.
My question took Sternly Rational by surprise. He stepped back in puzzlement.
I can't see how this would have any effect on how you should act," he said. "I haven't thought about it. What do you think it means?"
"My actions are free and uninhibited," I said. I drew my forty-five. "Since I do not exist eternally, I can escape the consequences of my actions."
"What?" Sternly Rational asked in a confused tone. "I don't understand."
"I may do as I wish," I said. "Without an immortal soul, the Universe began when I was born and will end when I die. I am therefore absolutely alone, a Universe of One. Anything I can get away with is rational." I aimed and fired. "Any feeling of connection I might have to the rest of humanity is strictly false and an illusion."
I missed my shot. Instead of smashing his head, I tore Sternly Rational's throat out, a red raw-meat wound like a great gaping mouth slashed open underneath his chin.
Sternly Rational put his hand to his throat and made a gargling sound of terrible surprise. He folded over onto the rocks making wet, bloody sounds.
He wasn’t dead. It wasn't safe to approach. I backed away and sat down to wait while Sternly Rational twitched and jerked and became Sadly Rational. I thought and watched a red stream flow into a brown one, bloom out into the water, and fade away. I brooded over the implications of this new fundamental insight as it spread throughout humanity.
The Universe didn't care. I was nothing. All humanity was nothing. Pressure clamped down on my mind from all sides, gentle, inescapable, inexorable, raw evolution itself, growing into pain as my understanding deepened.
For every human being I met, if he could kill me for whatever I had and get away with it---that was the smart thing for him to do. This was a newly discovered physical truth, the way the Universe was, an evolutionary force. Every single person I met was now a potential killer, everywhere, all the time, forever. The smarter he was, the more likely he would be to kill me.
What would this new physical truth do to the human race?
I felt a society, an entire world, crashing down in flames.
The flowing stopped. I rose, picked up the spent shell, and looted Sternly Rational's body. I rolled Sternly Rational's flaccid body to the river, tumbling it over the rocks. He went in without a splash.
Another gator rose and pulled him down in a swirl of water and Sternly Rational turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.
I continued down my path. The rage, the fire, jumped in me, roared and built up white-hot in my guts, began transforming me, forging me into a new being, evolving me. A line of V's formed in the river behind me as the gators followed. Around me, the confusing fog began to lift, rising to clarity, rising to final revelation.
I heard a bell ringing from up on top of the riverbank. The sound cut through the fog with a ring as clear as pure water. I looked up and saw a female dressed in a military uniform standing next to a small pot suspended from a tripod. She was swinging a bell back and forth.
“Alms, kind sir!” she called to me when she saw me. “Far, far away in a distant land, untold thousands of innocent people are dying from lack of food! Alms, kind sir, for the relief of the starving! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”
Far, far away? I felt a strong tug of connection, but contemptuously dismissed it for the lie it really was. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the innocent starve to death. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.
I passed her and her ringing bell by.
Another faceless stranger appeared in my path, clad in expensive clothing, fat, well-fed. The gators sank out of sight to safety, like the perfect Darwinian sociopaths they were, to await my gift.
"I am Michael Stone," I said. I gripped the forty-five in my pocket. "There are no souls."
"I am Naïve Skeptic," the stranger replied. "Of course there are not. Such a transparently foolish, impossible notion, clearly born out of desperation and fear of death."
"People everywhere will soon finally realize what that means," I said. "Killing is smart. A rational thing to do to get what you want."
"Oh, fudge," Naïve Skeptic said, with the blindness of a lifetime of comfort. "People would never do such a horrible thing. People are nice."
"People are not nice," I said, drew and fired. Naïve Skeptic snapped backward with a little round hole in the front of his head and a big round hole in the back. He lay on the rocks staring up at the sky with a permanent stare, Forever Wide-Eyed Skeptic. "People are smart. 'Homo nice' is not what people are. People are Homo sapiens, Homo smart. That's what people are."
I picked up the spent shell. I looted Naïve Skeptic's body and dragged the idiot to the river. The gators surfaced like ancient gray submarines, sank their teeth into Naïve Skeptic, and Naïve Skeptic turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.
The gators and I continued our journey. My anger continued to rise. Hot-lava anger coursed through my bones, flamed in my fingertips. The pressure of evolution, of being nothing, crushed in on my skull. The fog continued to lift, patches of clear sunlight moving along the rocks.
Again I heard the ringing bell up on the riverbank, again I saw the female in the military uniform.
“Alms, kind sir!” she called. “Far, far away in a distant land, thousands upon thousands of innocent people are dying in agony from a terrible disease! Alms for the sick, kind sir! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”
Far, far away? I felt the tug of connection, but it was weaker this time. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the innocent die in agony of their terrible disease. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.
I passed her and her ringing bell by.
I smelled him before I saw him.
A pungent, sweetly aromatic smell cut through the fog. The stranger stood on a rock with a burning tube of something clasped tightly between his fingers. As I approached, he put the burning tube in his mouth, took a deep drag and held it in his lungs.
“I am Michael Stone,” I said. The stranger turned to face me. His face bore a dazed, sweetly beatific expression. His eyes were shot through with viscous red lines. Although we were less than an arm's-length apart, he squinted at me as if he could barely see me in the fog, as if I were a long way away. “There are no souls. We are all nothing.”
The stranger expelled a massive cloud of smoke from his lungs.
“I am Barely Here Skeptic,” he gasped, coughing. “Yeah. It's a bitch, dude, but that's the way it is. All the scientists tell us this, and they should know, shouldn't they.” He offered me the burning tube. “Here, dude, I got the cure for it all. The finest, most expensive emotion drug in the world, primo stuff. Have a toke. All your pain will go away and you will feel completely happy, I promise. You can hide from the agony of being nothing for all of your life.”
Barely Here Skeptic's eerie red eyes opened wide in shock.
“What?” he exclaimed. “It don't make no damn difference what you do with your life, dude! We are all helpless little nothings, man! Getting stoned and staying that way is the smartest thing to do! Why the hell not?”
“I am not weak.”
Barely Here Skeptic blinked and became sullen. He closed in on himself.
“Yeah, well, screw you, dude,” he said. “Watch this. Watch me make you go completely away.” He put the glowing tube between his lips and took a deep drag.
And he did it. The emotion drug hit him, and he went completely away, became completely unconnected to the Universe. Although his eyes were open, he saw nothing, lost in an addled haze of induced emotion. When I pressed the cold steel barrel of the forty-five between his eyes, he didn't even twitch.
He was happy.
I squeezed the trigger and blew his stoned brains out. Barely Here Skeptic became Not Here At All Skeptic. The burning tube dropped from his lips and vanished between the rocks. Barely Here Skeptic folded in on himself like an empty sack and dropped, going down without a sound.
I bent over and picked up the spent shell. I looted Barely Here Skeptic's body. I got him by the collar and dragged him to the river, gagging at the stench of the emotion drug that clung to his body.
I dropped Barely Here Skeptic into the river. The gators sniffed him for a moment, then dragged him down, and Barely Here Skeptic turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.
I turned and continued on my journey, wondering if there were anybody he had been connected to, anybody who would miss him.
The ringing bell cut through the fog.
“Alms, kind sir!” the woman cried. “Far, far away in a distant land, thousands of poor people have been injured in a great natural disaster! Alms for the wounded, kind sir! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”
Far, far away? The tug was only barely there. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the wounded die of their wounds. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.
I passed her and her ringing bell by.
The gators saw the next one before I did. It was a man wearing a white lab coat. The gators submerged beneath the surface, leaving only a ripple behind to betray their presence.
This time, I could see his face, but did not wish to. There was nothing there that meant a damn thing.
"I am Michael Stone," I said. "There are no souls, and soon society will dissolve from within, in an overwhelming wave of slaughter, as people realize this means killing is smart."
The stranger smiled in a superior fashion.
"I am Hypercomplex Scientist," he said. He stroked his lab coat and looked proud. "Oh, my friend, no, such an awful thing could never happen, because it would destroy the gene pool. I have spent my life of ease and affluence, which I deserve for being a genius and therefore a superior Darwinian competitor, in the study of these matters, and I know it all."
"The gene pool?" I asked. "Please explain."
"You are suffering from the delusion of free will," Hypercomplex Scientist said. "What you think is consciousness and free will are actually only emergent properties of the Darwinian non-linear electrochemical competition between your brain cells, which themselves are controlled by the structure of their genetic makeup."
"Darwinian non-linear electrochemical competition? And this means?"
"It is not what we want that controls our actions, my friend, but what our genes want," Hypercomplex Scientist said. "We are only zombies, controlled by our genes!"
I drew my forty-five and aimed it at Hypercomplex Scientist.
"Is this not Darwinian competition? What you believe in?" I asked him over the sights. "Am I not now the superior Darwinian competitor? Am I not now the genius?" I squeezed the trigger. The bullet slammed Hypercomplex Scientist backward onto the rocks, turned him into Simply Dead Scientist.
"I had a gene I didn't like once," I said to the corpse. “It was an altruism gene. I changed it. I turned it off. If I can change my genes, I am controlling my genes. They surely are not controlling me. How incredibly stupid, my friend. What an absolute, utter fool you were."
I picked up the spent shell. I looted Hypercomplex Scientist's body. I picked his body up and held it over my head. The gators rose and came for Hypercomplex Scientist. I watched the perfect Darwinian sociopaths come and realized they were my brothers, my evolutionary goal, what the Universe wanted me and all humanity to evolve into. I blessed Hypercomplex Scientist to the river. My brothers the gators accepted my benison with open mouths. They pulled Hypercomplex Scientist under, and Hypercomplex Scientist turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.
I turned away and continued down my jagged path, feeling the anger twist and burn inside me, the evolutionary pressure re-shape me to the core of my being. With every uncertain step, my transformation grew more complete.
The ringing bell had no effect on me.
“Alms, kind sir!” the woman called. “Far, far away in a distant land, thousands upon thousands of innocent people are being murdered by armies of evil! Alms, kind sir, for the defense of the innocent! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”
Far, far away? There was no tug at all. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the innocent be slaughtered by evil. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.
I passed her and her ringing bell by.
Another stranger in the distance. My step quieted. He only heard me when I was close.
"I am Michael Stone," I said as he turned. "There are no souls. This means anybody who is smart should be a killer."
"I am Apologetic Skeptic," the stranger said, waved a manicured hand and looked helpless. "Maybe, well, yes, but I have signed the social contract, and would never do such a savage thing."
"I refuse to sign that contract," I said. The forty-five roared its oblivion. The back of Apologetic Skeptic's head spouted brains, and he went down Sorry As Hell Skeptic. "Me and a million other savages. Your 'social contract' is totally stupid. It has no physically real enforcement mechanism I am absolutely forced to respect, and is therefore not worth the paper it's not written on."
I picked up the spent shell. I looted Apologetic Skeptic's body and hurled him to the gators. They fought to be first to get him. Apologetic Skeptic splashed into a ferocious maelstrom of roiling gray, was torn into pieces and sucked down, turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.
I knew I was close to the end of my journey. The fire inside me bubbled and burned in anticipation. My brothers and I continued on. The last of the fog lifted away, and I saw the Universe for the Hell it really was. I walked on the harsh, brutal landscape of final Truth. My evolution, my transformation, was complete.
I had become the supreme killer the Universe wanted me to be.
Again, fresh prey for me and my brothers, another stranger standing balanced on a rock contemplating the river.
"I am Michael Stone," I said. I edged closer. "I have no immortal soul, so the only rational thing I can be is a sociopath."
The stranger turned to face me.
His eyes froze me in place.
The Great Emptiness burned in his eyes, a vast inhuman blankness beyond all hope of light, a gaze before which all humanity shriveled and vanished away to utter insignificance, a total disconnect beyond anything I had ever seen.
"I am Stone-Cold Genius," he said. "Precisely true. I have understood that for a very long time now. Hello, brother."
"You understand already? I’m not the first?"
"Not even the ten-thousand-and-first," Stone-Cold Genius said. His blank eyes burned at me. "There are many of us who understand, hidden in the shadows and the darkness."
"Check my reasoning, so I can be sure it is right," I said. "Tell me what remains of the history of Man."
"Come, let us reason together," Stone-Cold Genius said. "I challenge you. Tell me how you think the end of humanity will come."
"If there are no souls, the only rational thing to be is a sociopath," I said. "All of society's members will evolve into sociopaths. The smarter you are, the quicker you will turn. But sociopaths hate society by definition. Society must inevitably collapse, in a tidal wave of murder."
Stone-Cold Genius shook his head.
"No," he said. "Your understanding is not complete. Your logic is correct, but people don't think logically. They think emotionally. Tell me. What does the lack of immortal souls mean? What are scientists telling us about life?"
"That life is a random occurrence in an uncaring Universe," I said.
"And this means what, in a physical sense?"
"All human action is physically equivalent and physically meaningless."
"To the Universe, what are human beings? What are you?"
"And human beings will feel what about this?"
Clarity struck like a steel hammer. I stood revealed to myself. Truly his understanding was deeper.
"Rage," I said. "Rage and despair."
"And the effect of this on society?"
"Killing," I said. "There will be rising numbers of little massacres. Random killing sprees, murder-suicides, that will seem to happen out of nowhere and for no reason at all."
"What is mass murder, in the end?"
"The same as all other human action. Nothing."
"Correct," Stone-Cold Genius said. "Who will start the killing?”
“The fresh, unclouded minds, who will perceive this new physical truth clearly, without being blinded by the prejudices of the past,” I said. “The children. The first little massacres will be committed by children.”
“Have you and I both not seen precisely such little massacres?” Stone-Cold Genius asked. “Let us recite their number!"
"Harris and Klebold at Columbine," I said.
"Woodham at Pearl! Weise at Red Lake!"
"Kinkel at Springfield."
"Malvo at Washington! Gill at Montreal! Rouse at Lynville! The Oriental Boys at Sacramento!"
"Cho at Virginia Tech."
"Tell me," Stone-Cold Genius said. "Why did children commit mass murder?"
"They were angry. Because they had been treated like nothing."
"What did science tell them they really were? What did the Universe tell them they really were?"
"That they really were nothing."
Stone-Cold Genius spread his arms wide in complete futility.
"Our children are our future!" he cried. "And they will be called the Children of the Slaughter! What unimaginable horror will they unleash upon the human race?"
The future was torn open before me like a curtain. I stood on a high point overlooking an infinite plain. I saw the surprise massacre of Man.
"The little massacres will continue, grow in number, and become bigger and bigger massacres," I said. I ascended to new levels of knowing. I saw the cities die. People by the millions ran screaming in the streets, only to drop coughing fountains of red and die writhing in agony in puddles of their own blood. "You will see them more and more often in the news, until they become common. The record for the number murdered at one time will be broken again, and again, and again. The death toll will rise exponentially, to dozens, then thousands, then tens of millions."
"How? How could this impossible murder happen? What awful thing could make it possible?"
"What is the essence of the power technology has given us?" Stone-Cold Genius asked. "The ability of one to massacre millions at the push of a button. All hail mighty technology, savior of Mankind! Now one man can kill another man with a finger's barest twitch on a trigger."
"One lone angry Child, one lone killer, one lone mass murderer, all on his own," I said.
"Your understanding grows," Stone-Cold Genius said. "One lone angry Child can kill dozens by breaking a bag of manufactured Sarin in a city's subway."
"One lone angry Child can kill tens of thousands by releasing refined anthrax spores into a city's wind," I said. I looked into the coming years. Stinking heaps of rotting bodies filled the cities. Blood ran like water in the gutters. Rising crematoria smoke blackened the sky, the entire Earth.
“Even as we speak, scientists are picking out the smartest of our children and teaching them they are nothing,” Stone-Cold Genius said. “What will they feel? What will grow deep inside them with each lesson?”
“Pain,” I said. “Pain and anger.”
“What will they become?”
“The apotheosis, the highest form, of the totally Darwinian human,” I said. “With the pathetic, weak, silly, ignorant superstition the Universe cares burned completely out of their skulls.”
“The brightest, most intelligent, most savage expression of Man in the uncaring Universe,” Stone-Cold Genius said.
“In a state of constant and unending agony,” I said. “I now know the complete evolutionary history of Man.”
“From the killer ape,” I said, “to the screaming killer genius.”
"Soon, very, very soon," Stone-Cold Genius said, "one lone angry Child, one lone screaming killer genius, will be able to murder tens of millions with a mere tap of a button, or the twisting of an aerosol-release valve. What does this mean?"
"At its core," I said, "human civilization is violently unstable.”
"Your understanding is complete,” Stone-Cold Genius said.
“Given the current high level of technology,” I said, “it can’t possibly survive much longer."
“What must be the inescapable fate of the human race?"
"On a day of complete peace and calm, out of the clear blue sky and utterly without warning, human civilization will be attacked," I said, caught up in the madness of world-wide massacre, "and destroyed, like twin towers crashing down."
"Yes, we grasp the ultimate meaning, you and I," Stone-Cold Genius said. Total understanding glared from his eyes like total insanity. "Only a physically real restraint could stop it from happening, and there is no such thing. The historical forces of Science and Technology are driving humanity to an inevitable, unavoidable end. One lone angry Child, one lone screaming killer genius, in an act of rage and despair at being nothing, will soon manufacture and release a technological creation obscene beyond imagining, for no reason other than mass murder, that will wipe out the entire human race."
"I feel its name hanging in the air like the blade of a guillotine," I whispered. "The Damnation Flu."
"A whirlwind of death is coming to smite the entire world," Stone-Cold Genius said. "It will be every man for himself. The smart will survive only if they prepare and strike first."
"Tell me," I said, "why are you here?"
"Hunting," Stone-Cold Genius said, and moved like a striking snake, but I fired first, and turned Stone-Cold Genius into Stone-Dead Genius, lying at the river's edge with muddy water lapping into his empty skull.
My brothers undulated to the river's edge to get him. I barely had time to loot Stone-Cold Genius' body and put the forty-five in his hand. The haul was rich. He had been having a long, successful hunt. His experience had apparently been exactly like mine. There were many, many fools who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand.
I stepped back and let my brothers have him. They yanked him down, and Stone-Cold Genius turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.
I picked up the last spent shell and tossed them all into the river, severing all connection to the events here, to the past. I exhaled a long breath and took stock of my journey in the light of my new understanding and transformation.
The value gained: Three thousand, five hundred ninety-eight dollars.
The value lost: One forty-five, seven shells.
The value of the humans killed: Zero.
I had shown a profit.
That was smart.
"If there are no souls, the only rational thing to be is a sociopath," I whispered to the Great Emptiness. "How strange that this is so difficult to see."
But of course, the Great Emptiness made no reply.
The Universe didn't care, never had. How insane, to want such a thing. I stared out over all of human history and added it all up, all the pain and misery of all humanity throughout all of history. It rolled over me and crushed me like a bug, all the empty suffering and death. Billions upon billions of human beings had lived and died lives composed only of completely purposeless anguish and pain, and none of it had been worth it. It had all had absolutely zero meaning.
The Universe was an infinite death camp, a vast Hell house, whose only real purpose was to inflict as much pain and torture as it could on all of its inhabitants.
The Universe was an abomination.
The anger boiled and erupted inside me with a volcano’s force, ripped its way up through my guts, forced its way out to the Great Emptiness in a long, primal scream of rage so crystalline and pure it threw my mind reeling and shaking into horror.
And nothing, nothing at all, heard my scream or felt my horror.
I came back from horror lying face-down on the rocks. My final duty shone clear in my mind. I had finally found the purpose for my journey.
The Universe had to be destroyed. Smashed beyond all hope of recovery, blotted out of existence, thrown back into the Great Emptiness it came from.
A wild laughter ran through me. The Universe had created its own destruction.
Blood was running into my eyes from a cut on my scalp. I staggered up, wiped the blood from my eyes, and headed away from the river. The onrushing doom of Man prodded me, hurrying my step. I fingered the money in my hand. Time was short, and I had much to do.
The Slaughter was coming.