“They want to replace our source of life! The very reason life exists will be taken away and replaced with something else! It’s the end of the world!” Homeless people are so annoying. Why can’t they just die off? Doesn’t he understand that the world will continue without him? All the incessant barking about the world ending. When has there not been someone proclaiming the end of the world? Maybe in ancient times, when everyone was homeless? No, that doesn’t make sense.
I walked into the white building. Well, it’s less of a building and more of a fortress. “Hi, Daniel!”, yelled Barb. I couldn’t quite see her, but I think she somehow knows the sound of my footsteps despite me working here for only a few months.
“What’s new?”, I ask.
“I’m assuming you noticed the peasants?”
“Yes, I almost called the police. But I decided against it.”
“How sweet of you.”
A few formalities later, I escape to my office. Ten unread messages, two missed calls, and twenty-three emails. Quite busy for a Friday morning. I opened the first email. Inside was a screenshot of an article headline: New star chosen to replace Sun renamed to Sol. I closed it after viewing a few of my co-workers opinions.
Our sun is dying, and eventually we won’t be able to live on the planet any longer. That’s why we are replacing it. I’m not sure why someone would be so attached to this planet or the Sun. I mean, isn’t it all random chance that any of this happened anyways? If we lived somewhere else in the universe, would we be attached to that star? Also, “replacing” is somewhat of a harsh word. A better word is “replenishing”. Anyone that actually sat down and did real research knows the process. Essentially, we want to drive one of the closet nearby stars towards the Sun and have them merge. Earth will be a little hotter for awhile, but it will gradually cool down. The Sun only has a couple hundred thousand years left until it burns out. If we didn’t do this now…who knows what humankind will look like in half that time? It’s all about prevention. And our computer models are so accurate it’s sure to work. They haven’t reported anything wrong yet.
I open a message at random. It’s my boss. Hey man, just wanted to know if you could sync up with me about something real quick? I put my headset on and called him. He picked up after a few seconds. Before I could say hello, he managed to get out:
“Hey buddy, so good to hear from you. Look, I just wanted to say that I am so proud of you and really appreciate all your work.”
“I do want a tiny bit more out of you though. And I haven’t seen you much in the work social groups.”
“Oh, I’m not really—”
“Kind of a loner, eh?”
“Right, I gotcha. You’re a lone wolf style type of programmer, aren’t you?”
“I…I guess so?”
“Well, hey, I remember I was kind of weird when I first started working in a professional environment too. I didn’t talk to many people either.”
“Well, I do talk to Barb.”
“Whoa man, don’t get so defensive. You really get defensive that quickly? It’s okay though, I forgive you. Look, just keep learning and all of this will work out. And remember don’t feel trapped, like you have to stay here. I want you to be happy. We want you to be happy. Oh, shit. I have a meeting soon. Let’s do this again, man. I feel like I got to see another side of you.”
He left the call before I could say anything. I started learning.
I think of it like ketchup. And maybe mustard, but it’s different. Used to be, you had tomato and mustard greens. All the flavor you want packed tightly in a natural fruit or leaf. There was no 50% reduced salt version. Everything naturally came without fructose syrup. But now, everyone is using ketchup and not tomato. And rightly so, it tastes way better! And that’s exactly what this new Sun is going to do. People are going to get more cancers, more health problems, and the heat will drain the oceans. But oh, we need it, we want it! It’s better for you, science says! Science says what exactly? Science started this damn problem in the first place! Did you know that the oceans take in the equivalent in heat of three million Hiroshima bombs per second?!? Now, that’s Crazy!
Join us again every hour as we unlock the secrets behind each crucial issue threatening the nation! Consider donating, or become a member and get a coupon for our merch store! Now, that’s Crazy!
“Russell, can you please turn that off?”, I asked.
“We really are.”, he said. “Can you believe that thing about the bombs? That’s crazy.”
“It means basically nothing.”
“Dude, what? That’s three million h-bombs. Per second!”
“And what were they before the invention of the atomic bomb?”
“I don’t know, two million? That’s still way too much.”
“All I’m saying is, is a measurement of h-bombs really something meaningful?”
“Uh, duh. Of course it is. They’re bombs, man. I swear you never think sometimes dude.”
I wish I hadn’t.
“The peasants have grown in numbers.”
“So I have noticed.”
“Maybe we should call the police.”
Another message. I ignored it and worked some. I can’t believe we almost have this project done. It would really help some of our engineers in deciding who will be going on the ship to the star. The survey begins with a simple background check, and then verifies some credentials. It will then go on to ask you about previous related projects that you may have worked on, and then tries to silently place you into a career category. So far, results have been mixed. We have been testing some new algorithms to making more accurate though.
The buzzing got louder. I realized it was my headset. They can do that?, I thought as I put them on. I clicked “Answer” before realizing who it was.
“Heyyy, buddy. Just wanted to check in. I tried messaging you, did you see that?”
“No, it’s okay. I understand. I get busy too. Just remember that we hired you for your personality, okay? You should be talking in the chats more often. We really want to get to know you here.”
“You didn’t look at my resume? I have a lot of skills.”
“You think we hired you because of experience? No man, it was because you actually talked to us during the interviews. That’s what we want here. Communication. But, now we aren’t really seeing much of that and we’re a bit worried. It’s cool though, just keep doing what you’re doing. Ah shit, sorry. I have to hop out.”
Am I doing a good job?
Hey guys, what’s up? It’s your boy Derek, coming to you from my house! Now, before we get started, let me just say…New Sun, New Day beanies are back in stock! These are selling really fast so be sure to pick one up. Okay, so let’s get started. But actually, before we get started-started…I have to give a shout-out to my bro Taylor over at Stitch-Things. He made this dope hoodie for me and remember guys, everything is one-hundred percent vegan, no fillers, no synthetics, no chemicals, no dyes. You could probably eat this hoodie if you wanted to! But don’t. It’s got that thing in it that tastes bad to animals and babies. Okay, now let’s for real, actually, definitely get started. The sun, right? It’s going to die.
An explosion noise plays.
“Russell, turn that off.”
“Dude, I know it’s hard to hear about this stuff, but I have to listen to both sides. It’s my duty as a citizen.”
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe the sides you’re listening to aren’t actual sides?”
“Well this guy sounds a lot different than the guy I usually listen to.”
“He sure does. What I mean is, where’s the scientific fact? Otherwise, it’s just noise.”
“Dude, obviously they do their research. How else would they be so popular?”
“How else indeed.”
“Maybe those beanies?”
“How’s the army?”
“Growing each day, but recently I’m hoping I won’t have to join them.”
Probably not the best thing to say to Barb. But she’s mostly harmless, and at least she listens. Beyond that, I am a little concerned about the morality of the job. While it is true that we will eventually need a new Sun, is it reasonable to place people into a ship with the sole purpose of saving humanity? Of course it won’t be them saving humanity, it would be generations down the line. I suppose it’s their choice. But do they realize they are making a choice that will impact their offspring thousands of years later? Can humanity really survive on that ship for thousands of years? Or will they all end up killing each other, and then we are just back to where we started, minus a couple hundred intelligent people?
Twenty messages. Guess who.
“Hey man, doing okay?”
“I was getting worried since you never responded to my messages.”
“Well, I was—”
“Probably doing something important.”
An unusual pause.
“Well, the project is going well. The survey system is—”
“Who told you to work on that?”
“Uh, well…you did right?”
“What about the updates to our streaming platforms?”
“Well, Ian told me this took priority.”
“You don’t come to Ian. You come to me.”
“He’s my manager and he said he asked you.”
“Defend, defend, defend. Is that all you do? You know, nothing will ever get done if you keep talking that way.”
“This is what happens when you’re a loner. There’s no communication.”
“Just stop talking for a second and listen to me. Can you do that?” He let out a sigh. “Look man, I don’t mean to be so harsh. I’m sorry. Maybe you struggle with anxiety or something so that probably doesn’t help.”
“Man, I am so sorry. Anxiety and depression is so common in this country. I struggle with those too so it’s good to know someone else is here that understands.”
“I’m glad we could patch things up, man. Keep going for it and keep working hard. But remember to take breaks and not get stressed out. Talk with you later.”
He hung up.
Well, what we are doing today is testing the micro-thrusters that some of the pilots will control for minute movements through space.
“Russell, let me see that.”
“What? This is boring. I was about to switch off of it.”
“Just do it.”
Russell scowled and fiddled with his monitor, turning it slightly more towards me.
And over here we have several energy cores that power these micro-thrusters. They might not look like much, but they can carry a lot of energy. The science might be a little too much to go into, but consider that in space, there’s no gravity, so things are easier to push and pull. The gravity around Sol is exceptionally low, which makes this mission possible in the first place. Because the gravity is so low, we can get closer to the star without it pulling us in too hard. Sol’s rotation is very slow, which is why we think the gravity is as low as it is. However, this could also be due to the materials in the star. Oh, look at me rambling. Anyways…
“Okay, I’ve had all I can take. This nerd keeps going on and on about so many stupid technical things. We need a new Sun and they can do it. Why do we need to know all this?”
I stared at Russell in disbelief.
“Aren’t you the one that wants to know all sides?”, I asked.
“Yeah, but come on. It’s so boring listening to this kind of stuff. You know what they say about attention spans nowadays. I just can’t pay attention to someone who only talks about boring things.”
My face of disbelief stayed with me for a bit longer before it was time to leave work.
“Listen to me, son! Do you hear the cry of God? He’s calling to you, everyday! Repent! Repent, I say!”
“How can I hear God over your yelling?”
He looked utterly confused. I continued walking into the fortress, which I was soon realizing might be better described as a jail where the warden abuses his prisoners.
“Hi, Dan. How’s things?”
“Oh, just great. Is the boss in yet?” I almost said warden.
Much to my dismay, he was, but Barb said he was in meetings all day. Maybe I could finally catch a break and work some. I considered stopping in to chat at various places, but then I remembered that I’m supposed to be more social online instead. I ended up not talking to anyone the entire day. I felt exhausted after work, but the good kind of exhausted. The I got a shit-ton of work done kind of exhausted. It felt amazing.
As I lay in bed, my mind wandered. For some reason, my thoughts strayed to the homeless man I saw today that was yelling at me to stop sinning. Why is he out there? Does he really think he’s doing something good? That he’s changing anyone? Does anyone ever come over to him that’s not religious and ends up being a devout believer? Surely not. I wrapped it up in my mind by thinking that that’s all he can do. Maybe he was injured in the military or something and has a mental condition. But wouldn’t that be generalizing? How many homeless people are veterans? I did a quick search on my phone to find out. Wow, that’s a lot. War really hurts people, doesn’t it? Am I on my phone too much? This probably isn’t helping my sleep.
Something is hot. Very hot. Swirls of smoke suddenly surround me and I do the only thing I know to do. I hit the ground hard and scramble over to the door, still blinking sleep away. Breathing feels like deeply inhaling a cigar, so I stop doing that. I manage to crawl down the steps towards my front door. My eyes are on fire so I’m just going by memory alone. I weakly turn the knob and drag myself out past the steps and towards my car. I watched the wild flames hug my home, and how each kiss evaporated what was once there.
“It just hurts so much. But, sometimes…”
“Sometimes, I think about when I looked at the fire. And there was a surprising comfort. A sense of starting over. Something good can come from a bad thing.”
I looked on in silence. It’s strange to me that you can find a group of people that are all suffering over losing a home. But I suppose it’s what I need. To express how I feel.
“Angie. That was great. Thank you so much for sharing. Would anyone else like to share their story?”
Nobody looked at me, but I felt their eyes.
“Hi, yes. I’m Dan. I—”
A cacophony of Hi, Dan ´s sounded the room.
“Mostly I feel angry. Not because of the stupid kid that started the fire. But because of how people treat me now. Everywhere I go, people have these puppy dog eyes. They ask How are you doinnnggg?. How do you think I’m doing? I’m homeless now. I sleep at work. I go to these fucking stupid meetings with you pretentious fucks that need to talk about how many opportunities opened up once their home turned to ash!”
Dear Diary, today I did something truly awful. I accidentally saw my next door neighbor take a shit inside of his tent. No, no. No bucket, or any kind of holding device. He just took a shit. Needless to say, I moved. I was over there, but now I’m over here. And over here is just about the same, except it doesn’t smell as bad. I would move above and beyond, but I’m not sure I’m eligible for that now. Did I fail to mention that? I really wanted to go. I thought about it more, I did. Who would be better? I’m fairly attractive, I have nothing holding me down. I really should’ve put a fail-safe in the code for the surveys. Homeless fail-safe, activate! Did it work? No. It didn’t.
Dear Diary, have you ever considered the length of the universe? No, not how big it is. I mean the length. Do you think the universe has more girth to it than length? Which is more important? I would say either way you go, you’re in for an adventure. I mean, nobody has traveled the length of the universe. Certainly no one has traveled the girth of the universe, either.
Dear Diary, when paper is done away with, do you think we lose a certain sense of touch? There’s something to these pages I’m writing in. All of the devices I have had are smooth and polished. There’s no texture, nothing to grip on to. But these pages have a feeling that you know is of the Earth.
Dear Diary, I made a friend today. His name is Adam and he’s probably the only semi-sane person here. Talking today made me very happy and I’ve considered playing cards in his tent. He’s a bit of an oddball, and he’s a talker. But he talks about the old days and there is this glint in his eyes that gives me hope. He tells me about his old house and how there used to be no taxes. You worked a day and you could buy the things you needed. You came home to a small farm and that was your hobby. You knew the insides and outsides of each machine you worked on, and could buy spare parts from a few stores in town. Surely none of this is true, because nobody from that time is still alive. But it sounds nice.
Dear Diary, I have been writing in you a lot recently. I’ve seen multiple things telling me that writing in you is good, but I wonder if it really is. You see, I often flip back through your pages and I’m reminded of things that I don’t want to be reminded of. I think it’s better if we part ways. I’m a different person now. It’s not you, it’s me.
I am an old man now. I have a full beard and twice as many chest-hairs (although some have fallen out). My teeth have started repositioning erratically, and I believe God has blessed me with a laser-hair-removal halo. Each morning I wake up to sounds of coughing, fighting, sirens, and terrible, terrible heat.
The ship has launched, and without me. I sometimes like to imagine that I would be on that ship. I’m moving through the stars, on a slow but steady journey. I get to see things in person that most people won’t see but through a screen. As we swim along, I meet a dashing female partner. She takes me by surprise and sweeps me off my feet. Our passion for the stars is only surpassed by the love we have for each other, and we take great strides to teach our children all about our experiences, hopes and dreams. I tell them, “Well, did you ever think a homeless person could make it to the center of the universe?”.
In our old age, we would think more critically about our lives. Our children grown and easily offended, the only words of regret and sympathy are shared between us. Did we do a good job? Did we live good lives? These are the questions one must ask at the end of life. Eventually, I slip out of it; a police officer is waking me up, or someone needs a spoon.