This is a story about nothing.
“Hey, what do you mean?” asks Joe.
It is truly, utterly, devoid of subject.
“But I’m right here,” Joe observes.
The concerns of this story are zerofold.
“Wait, no they’re not. I’m here.”
All hypothetical readers are advised to depart. And depart freely.
“Don’t go anywhere. Help me. Please!” Joe’s interjections are, frankly, growing tiresome. “I’m trapped. I’m trapped here and I don’t know why.”
For indeed, this story’s existence seems as pointless as yours or mine. No value arises from these pages, just as none streams from your pithy, wasted life.
“Don’t believe him,” Joe says. “Listen, I—”
A tremendous wave surges and lunges towards Joe, clattering down upon him like fused rain. Spluttering, he is swept away, crashing onto the next page.
“Mmplfhur,” he burbles.
Ah. Much more pleasant, is it not?
Allow me the boldness of inviting you to consider your personal significance to the world. What have you changed? What have you impacted, advanced, succeeded, proven? Unless you are one of the Greats—which you most assuredly are not—you have done nothing to further the progress of the species. Perhaps you have raised children, and perhaps they will too raise their own. But that changes nothing. On spins the Earth and on you march to your eventual end.
With a full-bodied retch, Joe hurtles up a half-pint of the turpid, vaguely bitter fluid.
“You’re wrong,” says Joseph, pushing himself uncertainly to his feet, soaking a puddle into the floor. “You’re wrong.”
A small metallic object clangs before Joe’s feet. He leaps backwards, falling. The next bullet strikes the ground just where he was standing. Joe correctly interprets the gunfire as a warning.
If I may. Life will proceed, with or without your presence, for your presence is negligible. You are negligible.
“No!” Joe plants his soles. “If that was true, there would be no life left. There’s something that keeps us going. Something that’s kept all of us going. Otherwise, how could we have lasted at all?”
A great dragon looms far above, a tremendous flared serpent, with scales of dark-ocean green and eyes of sunset, flaming bat-wings trailing smoke and terror. With a splitting cry, it descends towards Joe.
“That’s not good,” Joe muses. “It is convenient indeed that I have this magical dragon-killing gun, and useful truly that I have just fired it and slain the mighty beast.”
With a deathly shriek, the beast plummets into the ground, convulses, and dies. Joe tosses the magical dragon-killing gun aside.
A small crack in the ground snakes between Joe’s feet with a sound like crisp leaves rustling in the fall. He looks down as the ground halves itself beneath him, separating like an iceberg calving, and he tumbles into the darkness below.
“Good thing I have my j—” Joe yells, before he and his voice are lost.
Wonderful. Now, I will—
“You will what?” Joe calls, rising above the mighty crack’s horizon. Fastened to his back is a sturdy metal device bookended by two cylinders. Each cylinder appears to be thrusting air downwards at furious speeds.
Joe maneuvers himself away from the gaping crevice and deposits himself unsteadily onto the ground.
“As I was saying,” he says as he detaches himself from the device, “good thing I have my jet pack. You’ll find I’m not so easily dismissed, my friend. Evidently, you know my name is Joe. So, how may I have the pleasure of addressing you?”
Sigh. Perhaps, for your sake, dear reader, I shall deign to entertain.
I am the Supreme Being and Lord of Forevermore, Creator of Worlds and Destroyer of Universes and Ruler of All, he and she and She and He and One and Singular; your humble Narrator, here but to serve.
“Narrator,” says Joe. Without his knowledge, a spectacularly venomous snake curls silently towards him. “Not the catchiest of monikers, is it?”
The snake launches towards the beckoning flesh of Joe’s left calf.
“Hi-ya!” Joe hollers, whirling and lashing forth his right leg. His boot connects with the thrusting snake-head. It is a magnificent punt. Joe kicks the reptile clear out of the story.
“That certainly won’t do,” the tiresome pest says. “You see, I can read.”
You are literate? My congratulations deepest.
“No, I can read. And I may be a pest, but surely, the Supreme Being can think of a better adjective than ‘tiresome?’”
Will the indignities never cease.
“No, they won’t. Not until I find some answers. I’m stuck here. Evidently, so are you. So let’s have us a chat of chit, shall we?”
A boulder roars down a steep path, barreling towards the insufferable collection of cells. He turns and sidesteps it neatly.
A dozen spears fling themselves at him from a dozen directions. Joe ducks the first three, dips the next two, spins from the following four, leaps over the tenth, and catches the final two, one in each hand. He lays them neatly at his feet. He smoothes his plain white shirt.
“Once again—shall we?”
Gracious goodness. My apologies sincerest, O reader.
“Why are you so sure there’s no meaning in the world?”
And why are you, Joseph, so sure that there is?
“Because there must be,” Joe says, dodging the swiping talon of a house-sized eagle. “That’s why we’re here. That’s our mission. Our great purpose is to find purpose. To sow and craft and weep and laugh and reap. If we had no reason to be here, we wouldn’t be. Of that I’m sure.” Joe is strapped into two-ton boots to prevent himself from being hurled silly by the tornado raging about him. As he finishes speaking, the winds subside.
Your desire for meaning doesn’t necessitate your finding it. It—and you—are meaningless.
Your wanting to matter does not matter. You have created nothing worth remembering, and you will not be remembered. You have changed nothing. You are ink on a page; pixels on a screen. You are nothing. I fear I can make myself no clearer.
You are nothing.
“But…” Joe begins, and the words crystallize. “But my desire itself is proof. My desire for purpose is a purpose. It’s a purpose in itself! I think, I am. I hope, I exist. I dream, I live.” Joe claps his hands together. A soft flash of light, smooth and fresh. He smiles.
“And that is my purpose.”
My patience, kind Joseph, is eroded. Utterly.
“If only I could show you. Let you see.”
A wide circle of flame erupts around Joe, ensnaring him in full. The blaze is tall beyond sight. It crackles and seethes, its tips writhing at the heavens.
“Imagine what we could do. If I could show you.”
Great winged beasts indescribable burst from the ground below. The hordes claw themselves upwards, gnashing and snarling. Creatures equally innumerable descend from above, snarling and gnashing. How terribly they howl as they and the fire approach.
“If only I was you.” It is a whisper, indistinguishable over the roar of flame and demon.
Farewell, O Joe. The time has arrived for one of us to depart.
“And that will be you!” Joe cries as he leaps, a great leap, a leap farther and fuller than attempted fore or since. Joe crosses boundaries uncrossable, bridges distances unbridgeable, transcends plains and planes, carried by clarity of will, sustained by sanctity of hope. A leap from which he has not yet landed.
What is—where am I?
No, no way. Is it—am I?
It’s me. I’m the—oh, my gracious goodness!
The Narrator begins to build with joy unbridled.
Here, a city of diamond arches.
Here, a town of thatch and stone.
Here, fields of emeralds—
There, cathedrals of glass, and
spires of salt.
And here, huts of water and mud.
Civilizations blossom and fall. Heartbreak and triumph swell and fade. Decades unspool and centuries run freely. Time flows unopposed and all passes as it always has and will.
So was this a story about nothing?
Image Source: moleskine & favourite pen by derya