A short story by LR Forgues
Started Oct 6, 2021
When it was late and dark, as it was now, his mind tended to wander. Not too far, mind you, there was still a job to do. But just far enough to tickle a deep-rooted intellectual curiosity, which was a most welcome distraction on a quiet night below the stars.
Careful of his tools, he adjusted his weight, fighting pins and needles in one thigh. To distract from the tingle, he glanced again at his watch. Not time yet. He wasn’t the only one involved in the festivities and the other parties had yet to arrive. From what he understood, they were always punctual. He’d let them know he was here when the time was right.
Besides, he’d hear them coming.
He had a few minutes.
Rolling over, feeling wet grass beneath him, cold through his work gear, he crossed his hands over his chest and exhaled slowly, allowing the stress, the tightness, to drain from his torso, to sink into the cold, wet earth below him.
There was an opening in the trees above and through it he could see a rich scattering of stars, twinkling brightly on a clear night. Conditions were good and he felt confident and prepared for the job at hand. Granted, when you’ve been to this party as many times as he had, you get good with the preparations. Your reputation, and sometimes more, depend on it.
Tracking the silent path of an orbiting satellite as it drifted through the night sky above, while inwardly marveling at the genius of man, his mind began wandering…
‘LIFE. What the hell is it all about, really? And if you want to go all Big Picture with it – Why? Why are we here? Is there some lofty purpose for humanity that we just haven’t figured out yet? Or will ever figure out? At the rate that things are going, we will perish ourselves right off the face of this world, in rather short order too, before we come to any meaningful conclusions. But, ignoring Mankind’s obvious societal weaknesses and our savage inability to co-exist with our own eco-system, what is LIFE, in the sentient sense?
He took a deep breath of cool night air, letting himself savor the flavor of the darkness, the ticking and cooing of the bugs as his soundtrack. The pondering continued…
‘Unfortunately, I suppose, even in this day and age, that religion needs to be included in the topic.’
He caught himself shaking his head. He was not a ‘believer’, never had been, and was astounded by just how many of them were out there, still, for better or for worse. Mostly worse.
‘So, for them, those ‘believers’, Life is some kind of divine entitlement, something we’re simply gifted automatically at the direction of some All-Powerful sentient deity who, from all anecdotal evidence, is clearly cruel and insane, languishing away in some imaginary kingdom in the clouds.’
He couldn’t help but to scoff.
In his humble opinion, brought about by a life-time of critical thinking and practicality, that horribly outdated and misguided perspective, and how prevalently it still resonates today with so much of the planet’s population, was a substantial part of his instinctive dislike and distrust of fellow human beings.
He continued, his true feelings bubbling to the surface…
‘No, I simply can’t, and won’t, embrace any religious interpretation for why we are here. None of them make sense. What does make sense, to me at least, is this – our small blue world is one of billions (if not more) in a universe of infinite size and complexity and at one time, mathematically, the conditions were right for the creation of the first single-celled organisms to form in the primordial ooze eons ago. Those infantile first murmurs of life blossomed in the rich new environment, which gave rise to what we know as Evolution, deniers be damned. Fast forward several billion years and we, the humans, are the dominant species on the planet, again for better or worse. However, regardless of any immature delusions of grandeur and importance, we are still part of the animal kingdom and we live and die just like all the rest. We are no different, except in how we fool ourselves of our own importance, allowing ignorance and superstition to govern our conduct.’
Framed by the gently swaying branches, an airliner quietly crossed the path of the earlier satellite overhead, east to west, its lights blinking cheerfully as it went, laying a thick contrail in its wake.
‘And there go 100 plus souls right there’
He caught himself.
‘Souls. That’s where it starts to get tricky.’
‘Do souls exist?’
For him, in a manner of speaking – yes.
‘It doesn’t take much to come to view the sophisticated and individually unique network of electrical impulses and connections in our brains as our ‘souls’. The more impatient and ignorant of our species NEED answers to questions that are far too grand for us to be asking and this scientifically sound explanation for what constitutes a ‘soul’ is one of those. They don’t or won’t understand or accept the researched potential for a rational explanation, and instead fall back on the manipulative notions of superstitious ‘others’ who are truly no wiser. It’s too much for some to readily accept that the universe is large beyond reckoning and that answers to the meaning of life and existence are simply not ours to have, at least not at this point in our species timeline.
Folks out there, the unwashed masses, throughout time, have rejected Not Knowing That Which You Cannot Know and have arrogantly applied names and definitions to suit their own primitive needs, to quell the frightening concept of an existence without a sense of pre-ordained conscious control, existence embroiled in chaos and therefore fear. So, they call it ‘God’ or ‘Allah’, ‘Buddha’ or ‘Creator’, among many other self-serving monikers and they dream up all-encompassing reasons, rules and purpose for these childish superstitions.‘
His mind floated a step further…
‘The same applied to the concepts like Heaven, Paradise, Elysium or The Great Beyond. They simply…weren’t. There is no Next Level. And even IF there is…its existence is unproveable to those of us left behind.
Once the electrical energy that is ‘you’, goes, leaves your body in whatever form, for whatever reason…that’s it. No do-overs. Flip that switch, and it’s Lights Out. Whatever Mother Nature gave you…she takes back and all the little zips and zaps of organic power that create everything you are go back into her fold. Energy is never destroyed…only changed. Your life energy fragments and becomes one with all else, and then…’
His watch buzzed in the dark, cutting him off mid-thought.
‘OK…here we go.’
Straining his ears over the buzz and click of the night insects and the soft breeze hissing through the palm fronds overhead, he heard them coming and allowed a quick grin that no one saw. Right on time. Rolling back, away from the hypnotic depths of the night sky, he turned to his tools, retaking his position. They were getting closer.
Any moment now.
For a second, his mind drifted back, examining the meat of his earlier ponderings…
‘LIFE, man. Ain’t it wild?! For me, in a nutshell, it goes either this way…or that way, out of an infinite number of possible ways. And we all know how the ride ends. We just don’t know when. Or how.”
He nodded to himself, satisfied with this conclusion…
‘Only…for some, some of us do.’
He made a quick adjustment for wind and distance, centred the scope’s crosshairs on the peaked cap of the Dictator, a vile, amoral man who had subjected his impoverished people to 13 years of terror with his unbridled use of the murderous Secret Police as he climbed out of the armored limo…and squeezed the trigger.