Resonance - A Short Story
How about a little reading and a little food for thought while most of the world is under lockdown or quarantine from the threat of covid-19? This is a story that I've had in my head since last year -- I just never had time to put it down into actual words until now. Of course, it's now been influenced by more recent events.
Aethernet Servers #writing: March 16, 2030
Jin: Hi, anyone around?
Karen-chan: S’up, Jin? Usually don’t see you around these parts.
Jin: Hey, Karen! Uh… yeah. Just chilling and trying to gather my thoughts for a bit.
Karen-chan: Ready to write your next big hit?
Jin: Since when have I ever been a big hit?
Karen-chan: Hey, you’ve won over 20 Palanquin awards for your stories in your time. Some of us are still struggling to win our first one.
Jin: Heh, you’ll get there eventually. Anyway, TBH, I was hoping there’d be more people around.
Erick is now online
Erick: Whoa! Jin?
Jin: Yeah, yeah I know. I’m not often here blah! Blah! Sorry I don’t hang around with you guys more.
Erick: Ah c’mon. We understand what it’s like to be a prize-winning author.
Jin: Guys! that was over 2 decades ago. Now I’m just an old man clinging to the glory of the past. I haven’t even had a weekly best seller since forever.
Karen-chan: Whether it’s the past or the present, your writings never cease to amaze me.
Erick: I’ll second that… but tell us, Jin. Are you working on anything right now?
Jin: But anyway, this feels nostalgic. Just the three of us here. Feels like that time when we first started this channel and we were just a bunch of hopefuls.
Erick: Actually, I joined a bit later. Meg recruited me.
Jin: Oh yeah, Meg, whatever happened to her?
Karen-chan: It’s “they.” You have to respect Meg’s personal pronoun, you know.
Jin: Oh puh-lease. I don’t have to respect her right to murder the English language.
Xx00Meg00xx is now online
Erick: Speak of the devil.
Xx00Meg00xx:: Who’s a devil and why were you talking about me behind my back?
Karen-chan: Nah, nothing like that. I was just telling Jin here to respect your personal pronoun.
Xx00Meg00xx: And let me guess, he said something like: why would I respect her right to mutilate English?
Jin: Close enough.
Xx00Meg00xx: Figures. Anyway, what brings you around this here parts, stranger? How many months has it been since we last saw you here? Six? Eight?
Jin: Actually it’s been a year and 4 months. I kept count. As for why I’m here, just chilling… ah well, actually now that there’s a lot more of us here, I did have something to say.
Xx00Meg00xx: So say?
Erick: We’re all ears – although technically, that’s incorrect, but “all eyes” sounds so wrong.
Jin: Well, let me start with this… why do you guys write?
Erick: I could write an entire essay on that.
Jin: Yeah, figured as much. Anyway, the point is that we all have our own reasons for writing, right? Same is true for anything else – any creative endeavor or any kind of work or vocation, really. Like the best athletes in the world are always trying to outdo each other or like how an artist is always trying to improve upon his/her last piece.
Xx00Meg00xx: I like the jab at inclusivity there, but yeah go on.
Jin: So… I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all worthless. Like, no matter what kind of goals you set for yourself: win an award, become a PhD at something, become a world leader, be recognized as the world’s best author – it doesn’t really matter.
Karen-chan: Are you going through some kind of nihilistic phase right now?
Jin: Well, I’m not sure if I would label it as nihilism or if it’s just being pragmatic. Like, take for example someone we’ll call “Person A” who spends a lifetime perfecting a skill and then he becomes really good at this particular skill, becomes the best in the world… and then what happens?
Jin: Some kid writes an AI from his basement that completely trashes Person A at whatever skill he thinks he’s perfected.
Xx00Meg00xx: Yeah, I’ve seen that happen with MOBA tournaments with cloud computing AI totally dominating the best pro teams.
Jin: Yes, exactly! And it doesn’t stop there… whatever you do in whatever field, someone or something will make you obsolete eventually or perhaps the world will change in a way that makes any achievements you make meaningless.
Karen-chan: I’m sorry, but that sounds really depressing
Xx00Meg00xx: Well, the very fact that we’re all a bunch of writers here is in fact a contradiction, if you think about it. Nothing that we do at all makes sense. It’s not going to help anyone, it’s not going to save the world and unless we get lucky like you, Jin, it’s not even going to result in any kind of ego boost.
Erick: Hey now, that side-comment was unnecessary, Meg
Jin: Actually, Meg is right. I completely agree. I mean, whether I got my awards via earnest effort and skill plus some talent or completely by luck makes no difference. Some other author could have been chosen and gotten these awards in my place – and to me, to us, this other author might really suck at writing – but if the judges of the award-giving body thought that “this guy’s works are a masterpiece,” then this chosen author would be in my place right now. That’s exactly what I’m driving at.
Karen-chan: So, you don’t think your works are any good?
Jin: To be honest, a part of me still wants to believe that “I’m a really good writer,” but – and this is something that I’ve been pondering my whole life, the more I’ve seen of this world, the more I’ve come to understand that it’s not really the case of being a good writer or not.
Jin: People set standards all the time. Back in ancient times, the Egyptians had their own idea of what is beautiful, the Romans worshipped art – but if you look at the type of art they enjoyed back then through a contemporary individual’s eyes, could you honestly say to yourself that “this is beautiful,” without being somewhat pretentious in the back of your mind?
Jin: Standards and conventions change all the time. Sometimes in little ripples, but sometimes in giant tidal waves causing an entire paradigm shift, we’ve seen it happen throughout history time and again.
Erick: To add to this, we’ve seen it happen as recently as 2020 when people started valuing basic essentials and the little luxuries of life a little bit more after the great plague.
Xx00Meg00xx: True, beyond 2020, even I would like to believe the fires of hope had been rekindled in mankind.
Jin: And it all comes to nothing… if say, a far more advanced civilization comes tomorrow and wipes out all of humanity. Then they might study our literature, art, or any piece of information left behind by us and then they’d decide on what was beautiful and what was not about our civilization.
Karen-chan: It’s really sad to think of, but I can see your point, Jin.
Jin: Right? So that’s why I’ve come here to announce that my latest novel “Oceans of Blood” might be finished soon… and I’d like you all to read it. I’ll send you the manuscript here of course.
Erick: Wait, but doesn’t that totally contradict everything you said?
Xx00Meg00xx: Yeah, like you were so gung-ho about all this “everything is meaningless” nihilistic BS and then you go and announce your latest novel on us?
Jin: Well, it might seem contradictory, but it’s really not. You see, I’ve finished 21 of about 25 chapters but I wrote this story knowing that you guys might enjoy it. It’s one of the most selfish novels I’ve ever written in that I wrote it only because it’s a story that I might like to read and I know after having known you guys for decades that you would get some enjoyment out of reading it too… and there’s another thing. I’m sick.
Erick: Dude… you can’t be serious, right.
Karen-chan: Oooh… I had an ominous feeling but nothing like this.
Jin: As I type into this chatroom I’m actually just battling to stay awake. I’ve been drifting in and out of consciousness for the last few weeks. The doctors told me some medical jargon, but basically it’s terminal and it will kill me eventually – it’s just a matter of when. I tell ya guys, it’s a weird feeling – being totally powerless to do anything against forces much greater than you. Like sometimes, I’d be going to the faucet to wash my face and then all of a sudden these water droplets, just the sound of them bouncing off the sink makes me all nauseous and they sound more like giant boulders bouncing on marbled flooring and the next thing you know I’m urinating blood all over the floor – then I’d find myself tucked back in bed, feeling dizzy. I don’t know how I’d gotten there, but it’s easy to deduce that someone must have found me and brought back there. I can’t even sleep in peace.
Jin: Whenever I try to sleep my mind starts thinking non-stop wandering from one incoherent topic to another. It’s like that Linklater film, “Waking Life” where one strange talk with a stranger just leads to another, you know?
Erick: Of course we’ll read your story bro.
Karen-chan: It’s the least we can do… and I’ve always enjoyed your stories.
Xx00Meg00xx: Yeah, we all do, Jin.
Jin: Thanks! That really means a lot to me. A lot more than these silly awards I used to receive.
Xx00Meg00xx: Better get back to writing then. You don’t have much time, right?
Jin: True… I think I’d better sign off and get back at it. Thanks, Meg. Also, one more thing: I lied about everything being meaningless. It’s not the awards, it’s not about satisfying myself, and it’s not about some higher altruistic purpose to help humanity and all that. I think I’ve finally figured out why I write… It’s the memories. The memories I have in this channel with you guys, the memories I’ve made writing my stories and my journey through my over 8 decades throughout life.
Jin: All the memories I’ve made over these years… how can I say they’re meaningless? How can I just throw them away? So… I won’t. I’ll allow these memories to overflow and roll down my cheeks – and immortalize them into the words that I write – I guess at the end of the day, I just want my writings to mean something to someone – and I couldn’t have picked a better audience than you guys.
Karen-chan: That… was so profound.
Xx00Meg00xx: Hold on, I’m taking a screenshot.
Erick: … I have no words, dude. Just no words at all.
Jin has left the chat
Aethernet Servers #writing: March 18, 2030
Jin: Anyone around?
Xx00Meg00xx: Hey buddy! We missed ya. How’s the novel going?
Jin: This is Jin’s sister. I regret to inform everyone that he passed away 3 days ago. I’m here to share this manuscript that he was writing. Fortunately he left me with some instructions since he knew he wasn’t going to live long. I don’t think he ever managed to complete it, but I’m honoring his wishes and sharing it with you – his friends. Please do with it as you please.
Xx00Meg00xx: OMG! My condolences for your loss.
Karen-chan: He was a great loss to the world.
Erick: Guys, we should pay a visit – and, we should do something like create an online shrine to archive his works – and of course, we should release his last manuscript to the world.
Xx00Meg00xx: He still has a pretty active fanbase after all these years, I’m sure they would love that!
Jin: I leave it up to you guys, I’m sure Jin would have been happy with your decision either way.
These are the final archives of the human race, one day before Armageddon. 24 hours later, a comet that was supposed to pass just within 400 million miles off the planet, veered off course ending all of human civilization.