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Finally, We'll Be Okay.
In the final valley, below the final mountain, laid the final town. The final citizens did their daily rituals. Tom was among the wheat. He was farming, laughing and having fun with his work.
Today was his birthday.
In the distance, someone shouted for him to come quick. It was the village doctor. When Tom reached him, the doctor was crouching beside Tom’s dad, who was shaking, sweating, suffering. His dad couldn’t say a word, and sat there dying slowly. Tom crouched down, and caressed his father’s hair and face. Tears started welling in his eyes, as the village doctor spoke: “The spider did this.” Tom could feel the rage in his mind, the duty in his soul, the emotions in his flesh meat body and he KNEW what he had to do. Tom helped carry his dad to the infirmary, where he died, unremarkably. Tom and a few others built a pyre, and laid his father’s lifeless body upon it. As Tom lit the branches, he watched the flames lick at the limbs of the dead. More rage than grief began to take over him. Tom went home and began to pack up his things. The spider, that stupid spider! That evil, egocentric, malevolent spider! That reason for the village suffering! He would kill it. He would destroy it. He would end the suffering and he would avenge his dad. In the morning Tom left to complete his quest. He was just about to cross the boundary of death, when one of his mates called out “Wait!” as he rushed up to Tom. “You don’t need to do this.” He pleaded, begged Tom not to go. Tom simply replied “I’ll kill the spider. Then, we will finally be alright.” Tom tossed his mate off of him, crossed the barrier, and went into the wilderness.
The rocks were hard that first day, the hill steep and his stamina low, and so he decided to take rest by a river. An old woman was there, as well. With sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, and ragged hair.
“Hey!” she called out, proceeding to take a swig from her hip flask.
Tom ignored her.
“Hey! You!” she insisted.
“What is it then?” He replied, a bit irritated.
“You sound like you have unfinished spider related business, eh?”
Tom looked at her, now possessing not irritation, but curiosity, “Have you seen him?” Tom asked, eagerly.
“Yeah, he went up that way.” She pointed up the mountain.
“Thanks,” Tom said, beginning his trek up the mountain.
“Hey!” The old woman said again, but Tom ignored her. Tom continued walking up the trail, only to see the old lady up a ways away. “How did you get here?” he asked the old lady.
“Oh, I just walked,” she said, casually. She continued speaking, “You’ll need a chaperone, you know, and you’ll get no person better than me.”
Tom sighed a long sigh, and replied with a nod, as he asked, “How did you know the spider went up the mountain?”
She took a swig of her hip flask, and replied, casually, “Oh, how does anybody know anything?”
Tom and the lady began climbing up the mountain. They searched under nooks and crannies, under trees and in the canopy, but there was no spider. He must have gone further up. The old lady led the way now. It was close to dark, sunset, as they came upon old decrepit structures, made of steel and iron, and minerals Tom didn’t know the name of.
“Who made this?” Tom asked.
“The new gods,” The lady said.
“Why did they abandon it?” He asked once more.
“Because all children grow tired of their toys, eventually.”
Tom spoke again, “And what is it?”
“Old science,” the lady replied.
“What’s science?” Tom asked.
“It’s like magic, but it works,” she replied, then pressed a finger to her lips, signaling for him to shush. They were deep in the ruins now, surrounded by geometric shapes and collapsed towers that would have gone to the moon. A great graveyard of the new gods’ toys. Suddenly Tom saw glyphs and symbols appear in the air, bright lights flashing around them, speaking words Tom did not understand. The floor was made out of trigonal steel slabs now, not rocks. The trees were made out of twisting points of glass and quartz, and ahead, there was a lectern, upon which was an unreadable book, and a monocle.
“Put on the monocle,” The old lady said.
“But my vision is fine,” Tom said.
“No, no it isn’t,” The old lady said. “This is the monocle you’ll know the spider with.”
Tom took the monocle in his hands, gazed into it for a moment, and then put it on.
Suddenly Tom understood everything. He knew algebra and physics. How to cure tuberculosis. How to find the area of a triangle. He knew what happened to Amelia Airhart. He knew how to make AI. He knew how to cure the poison from spider bites, from snake bites, from platypuses. He knew that matter was a point, a wave, and an enormous joke. He saw madness on top of everything, and the logic on the bottom. Then, he saw everything in perspective. He was not but a speck upon a speck, upon a flick, upon a grain, upon a dot, upon a giant canvas.
The old woman removed the glasses.
“What was that..?” Tom asked, quietly.
“Just some 50th century science. Keep that monocle safe, will you?” The old woman said casually.
“Just who are you?” Tom asked.
“Oh, who’s anyone,” she replied.
They searched under nooks and crannies, under trees and in the canopy, but there still was no spider. He must have gone further up. The next morning, they woke, the sun only then deciding to come up. They had a fine view of Tom’s village below. It was made up of what seemed to be ancient materials in comparison to what Tom had seen yesterday. Tom asked, “Why is everything dead besides the village?”
She replied “Everyone got clever. Now they’re gone.“
“Where are they gone?” he asked, but the woman didn’t reply, and just took a swig from her hip flask.
“Come on, it’s getting late.”
As they began to walk, Tom saw the peak of the mountain so far away, and the village so far below. Tom thought again of his father. The days ahead would be cruel and lonely. That spider, it had taken everything. He would kill it. They continued walking, and slowly the ground turned to riches and jewels the further they walked. Then the river began to turn red. Tom didn’t know it at first, but then he smelled the smell of blood. It was a creek of blood, nay, a RIVER of blood. The ground was burned, with vapors of toxic gasses coming up from specific places that both Tom and the old lady avoided. Tom spotted a broadsword on top of a significantly large pile of gold and treasure. The air around it gave off a mix of death, and war, and domination.
“Take it, boy.” The woman spoke. “That’s the sword you’ll kill the spider with.”
And with one great pull, Tom brandished the sword from the ground. He felt all powerful. He pointed it in one direction, and a mass of wasps and hornets shot out. He struck lightning in a few places. He spewed flames from its tip. He was a god now. Nobody would tell him what to do. Not the village elders, and not that spider! That spider surely stood no chance now. He would make sure it would never, EVER see the light of day again. He brandished it again, great pools of blood seeping from the ground. It was only power, malignancy, and rage then. “Thou shalt always kill.” He cried, and he knew nobody could do a single thing to stop him, ever again.
The next morning, Tom ate in silence, the old woman drank from her hip flask. They began hiking, as usual. Tom asked, “How long until we find the spider?” The woman drank from her hip flask, ignoring him. “Why is that not empty?” Tom asked. The woman flipped it upside down, as a stream of booze continuously flowed out of it, then took another swig. “Are you one of those new gods?” Tom asked.
“I appreciate that you think I look new,” the old woman replied.
“Well, what happened to them?” he asked.
“It killed them?”
“Sure.” she replied.
“Then how do you expect me to be able to kill that spider?”
“It had crossed my mind,” she spoke. “Still, the glasses and sword will aid you enough. We have a few more things to get anyway.”
“Like?” Tom asked, but he began to hear music. It was a happy music, like the kind he would hear at a party. Sure enough, they came upon the ruins of a party, with a bottle of hard liquor which glowed an orangish hue, as it sat on the table.
“Drink from it,” the woman said. “This is the indulgence you’ll kill the spider with.” And so he did. And when the lips parted the bottle head, the woman led him into a dance. The mountain began to wobble about them, colors flashing around him. “So what if the spider is about? So what if everything is bad? Who cares?” she spoke.
Slowly, Tom began to feel the same way. So what if everything was bad? That didn’t matter now. They danced across the mountain, over the ruins and under the moon. Tom was not thinking about his dad, or the spider, or the ruins. “What if there’s no point to anything?” she said, sing songingly. “Who cares?” she added on.
“Who does care?” Tom agreed. “Bad things happen, people die. There’s no good thing, there's no meaning!” He saw into the heart of things now, and realized there was none. Everything was suffering, but that itself didn’t even matter. A joke that god decided to play for the world, for nothing more than his own sadistic amusement. They danced this nihilist dance long into the night, until the sun began to rise. Tom woke with a huge migraine, and a mouth that tasted like the embodiment of death.
The woman was already up, drinking from her flask. “You alright?” she said.
“Hugh…” Tom replied. “Was that all really needed?”
“Yes, of course,” she said.
“Come on, we are oh so very close now, the spider can’t hide forever you know.” She began to walk.
Suddenly, Tom grew angry. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what the HECK is going on! Where are the new gods? Where is that spider? And who even are you?!”
“Yeah, whatever.” She started walking, but Tom did not follow. She paused, breathing a sigh and rolling her eyes. “Okay, okay, what’s the year?”
“326.” Tom stated. “Well, according to me, it’s the 147th century. Your ancestors did great things, became all powerful and full of wisdom. Those objects we grabbed, they are what they left behind. Relics.”
“Relics of what?” Tom asked.
“I’ll show you,” she said.
“No!” He shouted. “No more games!”
The old woman got angry then. “Look, you’re only doing all of this because you think you killed your father, because you said you wanted a meteorite for your birthday, so he went beyond the death barrier to find you one. So don’t take all this out on me!”
Tom was quiet. “How did you know that..?” he whispered.
“Because I’m really, really smart, and I’m trying to help you here, so would you give this old woman a break?”
They both walked on, without speaking. The village was hard to see below, and the peak was very close to them now. They turned a bend, and came upon a picture of a king, of rulers of old. Of wise men, strong men. Wise women, strong women. Faces that spoke of legacy, and the mandate of heaven. Now the portraits were of places and scenes that Tom did not recognise, battles he did not know, millions dead, nations turned to dust. The huge human experiment, forgotten, as if waking from an unremarkable nightmare. The last point of a time when trillions existed on a fragile bubble holding back the inky blackness of space, and even worse threats that were within themselves. Somehow, they did hold out. Getting better, until suddenly, they were put to bed. A toddler with no supper. Then savagery, decline, then ash. Ahead, he looked, and saw a pair of armored gauntlets.
“There,” the woman said. “As long as you wear these, you’ll never perish. You could live into your hundreds, if you want. This is the armor you’ll defend yourself from the spider with.” They fitted like it was destined to be his. “And just one more thing.” The old woman took out a locket from her shawl, and opened it, displaying a picture of Tom’s father. “This is the story you’ll kill the spider with.”
He finally felt as if he were ready to attack the spider. The peak was just a few meters away now. It was a small, flat area, the wind bellowed, and it was raining. And there, sat the spider, it’s abdomen turned to Tom, and its eyes facing the village. “There.” The woman said. “Do what you must.”
With the monocle on his face, he saw the spider for what it was. Evil. It’s rotten heart, its psychopathy, its hatred for the last humans. Tom approached, silently, his heart in his throat. In one hand held the locket, in the other, the broadsword. He prepared to slash at the spider and closed his eyes. He thought of his father then, thought of how the spider had killed him, thought about how pointless death was, and raised the sword up high. He screamed, and brought it down with a loud clang. He opened his eyes. The spider was not there. Tom turned to the old woman “Where did that spider go? Did you see it?”
“No,” said the woman. “I didn’t see it, because it doesn’t exist.”
The rain got heavier, Tom stood quietly.
“Did you really think there was some evil spider on a mountain bringing all the death and misery to your village? That everything was simple enough that one thing was the culprit of all the bad days and things? What is it with you people? You have everything, and you stomp on it! Like living in a huge house, finding some chipped paint, and burning the whole house down. You have EVERYTHING in that village, I gave you EVERYTHING. Endless food, endless life, and you’re still miserable! Do you know how difficult it is to play god? I’d give up almost anything, to give up knowing everything.” And on the horizon appeared translucent skyscrapers and buildings. “You know, they got everything they wanted, your ancestors did. They still weren’t happy. The spider was still there. Misery, plague, chaos, death. They tried sending it away with the best knowledge there can be. Destroying it with the power of gods. Forgetting it with abandonment. Living longer. Clinging to each other, even. The monocle, sword, bottle, armor, and locket. They searched under nooks and crannies, under trees and in the canopy, but there was no spider. He must have gone further up. And so they climbed up, and up, and up. They found nothing. It was just them in this large universe, and they were still miserable. So, they are all gone now. All but me. And your species is gone too, all except your village, the old way of living. I keep you around because it's a nice reminder to how we were once. I’m sorry your dad is gone, I’m sorry you’ll never hear from him or see him again, but there is a WHOLE VILLAGE of people who love you, down there. Here you are, screaming at the wind on a freaking mountain! Sometimes bad things happen, and the reasons aren’t always clear-cut. There is no spider, no snake, no evil genius. There will never be a point where everything lasts forever, and nothing ever stings again. The strength however, is being able to look into the nothingness, into the eyes of the spider, and still being able to be a good person. Even in the face of evil, of uncertainty, of the day that everything will be gone. It isn’t gone yet, okay? It won’t be for a long while. Don’t waste your time on spiders. Say goodbye, now.”
She took then, from Tom’s backpack, his dad’s ashes, in an urn. She put her arm around his shoulder. Slowly, Tom spread his fathers ashes, and the woman smiled.
And that was it.
“Your species, and mine as well, we must be the only creatures to be allergic to happiness. They couldn’t accept that happiness was not to be found in the cosmos, but in the streets of everyday living. We’ll know everything, and finally we’ll be okay. We’ll kill everything, and finally we’ll be okay. We’ll forget everything, and finally we’ll be okay. We’ll live forever, and finally we’ll be okay. We’ll cling to everyone, and finally we’ll be okay. But then, we still weren’t okay, because the game doesn’t work like that. Go home, Tom, don’t try to be a hero, a sage, or a warrior, just be with your friends. If you want to keep all those trinkets, you could rule the world if you wish to.”
“No,” Tom said.
He asked, “am I the first to come up after the spider?”
“No,” she said. “Everyone tried to at some point, even your dad. God, he asked a lot of stupid questions, I see where you get it from.” She then bid him farewell, “Be human. The world doesn’t care about you, but I do, and they down there do too. If you ever need to, you can come back up, and we can chat.”
He bid her farewell, after that, leaving everything but the locket of his father there, but she understood. He began walking back over the final mountain, through the final valley to the final village. It wasn’t a long walk, but even if it was, he would not mind at all. It would give him time to recall and finally everything would be okay.