She offered help to those who needed it. The wretches and ne’er-do-wells, the lost children, those of low birth and those cast down. She gave them hope, promising a new life away from the scorn of others; a land of warmth and peace far from the cold cobblestones and cries in the night. They followed her through the crooked streets and cramped alleys, through the concealed despair and muted suffering until they reached the constant dusk of the city limits. From there she led them through the softened woods, nourishing them with kind words and encouragement, identifying the edible nuts and berries; the herbs that could salve, the most comfortable moss to rest on. She led them over the creaking bridge to the great plain where the land stretched out to the horizon and the sky expanded overhead. The open space and fresh air rejuvenated her companions, they were able to smile and laugh more freely, the burden of their past lives gradually lifting. She seemed to take on new life too: a subtle glow, an ethereal aura, as if drawing strength from the elements. She lit a fire at night and named the constellations, telling stories of ancient gods and their follies. They roasted the nuts they had foraged and slept under the stars. She woke them at dawn, continuing their journey, picking wild flowers, singing softly as she led them up the mountain pass where the air took on a chill. She beckoned them over ridges, guided them around wayward rocks, encouraging them to keep pace. On the other side they were met with warm sunlight, just as she had promised. Below them lay rolling fields and golden meadows, and in the distance, a homestead, its chimney chuffing cotton clouds of smoke. She led them down the path to her house, pointing out the surrounding orchards, detailing the conserves she made from each: spiced apples, cherry jam, pickled plums. At last she welcomed them to her home, the warmth from the hearth felt like an embrace, like it was their home too. They sat at the gnarled kitchen table, resting their aching legs as she tirelessly fussed over pots and pans and jars of sweet things. She served them homemade broth and buttered bread and watched them mop their plates. For dessert there was a slice of fruit tart, the best they’d ever tasted. At sundown she showed them their room, a cosy clutter of tattered clothes piled on the floor; old shoes of different styles and sizes stacked in the corner. She wished them goodnight, smiling from the doorway before extinguishing the lamps. Relaxing into their bedding they felt all the things they had longed to feel: solace and serenity, a place in the world, peace. They soon fell into a deep, wakeless sleep.
And then she ate them.
Alternative titles include: “Unpaid Internship”, “Welcome to the Company”, and “Gainful Employment”.
Do you want to be oppressed?
Do you want a right to the anger which consumes you, a way to allay your guilt for feeling it, and a target on which to unleash it?
Are you searching for a purpose — a cause you can give your whole self to? Do you want to be a part of something bigger?
This is your chance to join the conversation — to speak out, and be heard. Sign up now and you’ll instantly have something to talk about!
We guarantee you a new experience, an identity, and an escape. Just follow these simple steps and you too can be oppressed, it’s that easy!
Step 1: Choosing Your Oppressors
Your oppressors are all around, once you know how to look, however, choosing the right oppressors can be tricky, so it’s important to consider these factors when doing so:
- Are they an actual threat?
- Do they have any real power?
- Are they a majority group?
- Are they a well defined group?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions you may want to reconsider. There’s a spectrum of oppression ranging from mild feelings of injustice to full-on physical violence, so keep that in mind when making your choice. It might be better to go with a group who seem more like a minor annoyance than a major threat, that way you can continue living as you normally would while still managing to feel marginalised.
Another important factor to note is the identity of the oppressors themselves — don’t worry about being too specific with your choice — in fact, it’s generally better to leave it a little vague. That way you won’t have any problem finding your oppressors, or even completely redefining them, while still holding on to your core values* and sense of oppression.
*When it comes to core values, again, the choice is yours. Just don’t set anything in stone.
Step 2: Reaching Out
Now that you’re oppressed, it’s time to find some kindred spirits. Generally, your rhetorical brothers in hypothetical arms will be hiding in plain sight. They could be neighbours, coworkers, or even close friends. For fear of further persecution, you may not be able to outright claim your oppression, so to find allies you’ll need to make some sort of indirect signal to let them know that you, too, are oppressed. This could be a subtle expression made during a conversation about a certain subject, or maybe even just mentioning a controversial topic and seeing how others around you react.
Once you’ve identified the like minded individuals, try to get them alone so you can reveal your true identity, however, be careful not to mention it too freely — don’t forget, you’re oppressed now, and the general public are just waiting to pounce.
If you can’t find any confidants in your area, it’s time to widen your search. The Internet, also known as “The World Wide Web”, is a vital tool for finding and growing a community. There’s always a place “online” for people like you to speak out, and be heard — and if there isn’t, why not make one? You might be the revolutionary spark to ignite the flames of change. You might also make some neat new friends.
Step 3: Living as an Oppressed Person
Living as an oppressed person has its challenges. You will constantly have to bite your tongue, you’ll have to interact with people you find unsavoury, you may even have to exchange pleasantries with your oppressors. You’ll often be outnumbered, outgunned (figuratively), and out-reasoned, inundated by your oppressor’s opposing opinions, and forced to suffer their ignorance without recourse. Of course you’ll want to retaliate; to challenge their views and speak your truth, but this is ill advised — if you initiate a discourse in the wrong environment you could be publicly shamed, or worse yet, made to question your own ideals.
Facing these indignities will be without question the most difficult part of your new life, but it’s essential — these constant affronts will hone your spirit, fuelling the fire that burns within and cementing your notion that everyone is out to get you. These tribulations also highlight the importance of building a strong network of allies: people in whom you can confide, and who’ll unquestioningly support your worldview, like buttresses on a teetering tower, each strengthening your foundation, leaving you unshakable.
Step 4: Coming Out
Once you’ve completed the previous steps, and you feel that entering the public sphere will have little to no negative impact on your life, you are ready to take your fight from the message boards to the streets. Entering the public-forum can be daunting, but if you push past the trepidation it can also be a lot of fun. As always, there’s power in numbers, so it’s best to make your debut amid a large group — you could organise a get-together, maybe in the form of a protest or counter-protest, or even a parade — as long as it’s somewhere you feel safe. Then, surrounded by your new friends, you can relax into your true identity and show the world who you really are. Meet-ups are a great way to boost the confidence of yourself and others, and if your group is enthusiastic enough, you might even encourage others to join you.
Once you’ve attended a few get-togethers and feel secure in the knowledge that your cause is righteous you can begin to challenge people on their views openly. They may still try and shame you, or use logic to confuse you, but with your newfound confidence and sheer determination you can fight back, and even win! Just remember: never doubt yourself, never compromise, and never back down.
Step 5: Don’t Stop Believing
As your group grows it may start to seem like you are, in fact, the majority. There may come a point when you begin to wonder if you are still oppressed, or if you were, in fact, ever oppressed. You may even wonder whether you’ve become the oppressor? Or if you always were… There’s no easy answers to these questions, so it’s generally better to ignore them — times may change, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
The sound was alien to her. Alien, but natural. It was the sound of fear. The sound of dying. Not that she knew that it was, in fact, dying — but she knew it didn’t sound good. It stared at her as it lay there spasming. Its black eyes filled with the abyss.
She was shaking too, trapped in its stare. A car sped past, its lights fading into the night. A decision was needed. A diagnosis. A verdict. She considered driving home; thought of her bed. But — that wasn’t right. Was it? She knew what was expected. She knew she had to take responsibility. She had to end its suffering. That was the civilised thing to do. The humane thing. If the roles were reversed, and the deer was standing over her, she’d want the same. Right? She’d never killed anything before. Not really — she’d set mouse traps and swatted insects, but that was different. Wasn’t it? This was basically her size. It felt more. Probably. That meant something. It had to. She looked around for a rock. But even if she found one big enough she’d hardly be able to lift it. She had some tools in the car…
She stood over the animal, wrench in hand. She wondered if she’d eaten deer before. If she’d eaten it she should be able to kill it, right? She’d certainly eaten other things — other animals — and if she was content to eat meat, but not to kill for it, that was hypocrisy. Wasn’t it? She raised the tool over her head. Such a beautiful animal. One deft blow should do it.
* * *
One deft blow hadn’t done it. She noticed her blood flecked sleeve as she turned the key to her apartment. Oliver was waiting, circling under her legs before running to his empty bowl. The smell made her gag slightly as she opened the tin, Oliver diving in head first before she could finish forking the food out. The eyes came back to her. She had done what needed doing. Though traumatic, she was sure that if she hadn’t gone through with it, it would have haunted her the rest of her life. This she could move past. It was almost a formative experience. She’d taken control of the situation. For herself, and for the deer.
She threw some chicken fingers in the oven and fell back on the couch, Oliver curling up in her lap, vibrating beneath her hand. A documentary was starting on the TV. It was about the horrors of trophy hunting. She wondered how anybody could see it as sport. A poacher posed next to a dead zebra. Its eyes stared back at her. Oliver stopped purring. She looked down at her bloodied shirt. She was suddenly hit with the profound sense that it all meant something — everything in that instant. She teetered on the edge of the epiphany, allowing herself to fall towards it; ready to submit to a higher knowledge; to embrace a new understanding — and then the oven alarm went off.
It wasn’t that he missed home. Life on Mars wasn’t much different. In fact, that was the problem. He’d left with the promise of more. As he caught his reflection in the table he was wiping, it struck him that he was doing the exact same job he’d done back on Earth, and he wondered why he’d come at all.
In part, the colonisation had seemed exciting to him. A call to adventure in a land of opportunity. A chance to be a part of something bigger than himself. A chance to grow. Though if he was being honest with himself (which he wasn’t inclined to be), it wasn’t the adventure that called to him, more the perception of said adventure. If anyone asked what he was up to, he could tell them he’d moved to Mars. It would define him. Though if he was really being honest with himself, he was running away. From nothing in particular. Just a general pressure. He thought Mars would give him a chance to breathe. A chance to be himself, free from the chains of expectation.
He told people that Earth had become boring. Though in reality he had become boring; stagnant; existing on a plateau while others around him climbed to higher ground, before adulthood flooded the planes. Mars offered him a ladder. A stairway to contentment. Of course, he hadn’t realised all of this at the time, but now, with a few million miles for perspective, he saw it more clearly.
The journey itself took just over a month. He got a job cleaning the cabins of elite colonisers as a way to cheapen his fare. As he scrubbed and mopped he dreamt how once they touched down, class distinctions would be abstracted — everyone would be equal: a pioneer, toiling to establish their place in the new world, deserving of the same respect as anyone else. He knew it was naive, but it wasn’t until he stepped off the transport that he saw to what extent. The aristocracy were met by their chauffeured buggies and driven off to their luxury accommodation and administerial jobs, leaving the rest of the Earthers at the port, waiting for the subrail to take them to the city-domes. As he sat there, he noted the faces of his competitors, for that’s what they were now — rivals in the quest for a better life; these exiles, economic refugees, lost souls, all here for the same reason: the Martian Dream.
They weren’t true pioneers, terraforming the rock or founding settlements — that had been established generations before their arrival — they were just bodies to fill the shiny, corporate fiefdoms which propped up the automated mining industry. But it was still an adventure to him. He looked out across the red rock to the distant outline of New Colgate and wondered what he’d find there.
Once he’d reached his temporary lodgings, a shared dorm on the outskirts of the city, he collapsed on his bunk, sleeping for the best part of a day. Then he set about starting his new life. He felt abnormally driven, fuelled by a mix of nerves and necessity. He needed to find a room and a job to pay his way. He had an advantage over other new arrivals as he’d been raised with the customs common on Mars and spoke prime-tongue. He quickly found a bedsit in the heart of the city and a job at a nearby diner. He was relieved to know he could support himself, but it was just a temporary commitment; something to keep him going until he’d truly settled.
He felt good; high on self-reliance. He’d proven to himself he could best a challenge if he set his mind to it. Over the next few months he shaped a simple, pleasant existence. It was his and his alone.
Initially he was too caught up in the thrill of starting a new life to process his surroundings, but gradually he took it all in. There was a lot to like about life on Mars. New Colgate was different from the cities back home — functional; calm; a stark contrast to the chaotic clutter of Earth. It was meticulously planned; engineered to make life easier, and orderly in a way that made him feel secure. Not to mention there was more space, clean, filtered air, and a lot more greenery (go figure). The people were pleasant too. Everyone polite and friendly, always smiling, free from Earth’s malaise. He even earned a little more doing the same job he’d done on Earth. But what he valued most was the anonymity. He could be a new person here. Or not. He could be anyone he wanted. Or no one. There was no one from school he could bump into, no awkward chit-chat, no telling people what he was “up to.” In a sense his wishes were fulfilled, he was free here.
And so he’d achieved his goal of self sufficiency. He was an island. He’d carved out a living for himself with his own two hands. But.. Was that it? As he settled further into his new life the fervent urgency dissipated and he fell into a safe routine. A routine he knew too well. It was as though he’d scaled the garden wall, only to drop down the other side and find himself in another, very similar garden. Sure, some of the flowers were different, but it had the same neat lawn, the same washing-line running through it, the same exact layout. Maybe the grass was always greener… Or the dirt redder, or whatever. It didn’t help that Social had advanced to the point where you were constantly updated on your friends’ lives, even if you lived on another planet. He couldn’t escape their successes. He could still see everyone excelling while he stood still (albeit in a different place). It was hard to embrace his newfound anonymity when he was perpetually reminded of who he was — and who he wasn’t. He considered turning off his comms chip, but he wasn’t ready to leave Earth behind for good. Then who would he be?
As the sheen began to wear off the Martian Dream, he started to see New Colgate in a different light — less magic hour, more office fluorescence. The city’s functionality hindered its potential for fun; its pristine design was sterile and lacked personality; and he’d begun to sense there was nothing behind the people’s smiles — no deeper connection. He soon realised that even his precious anonymity was a double-edged sword, the other side of the blade severing his ties to the world, leaving him isolated. While he had made friendly acquaintances, he had no real supports; no connections to help him move up in the world; no bridges. He was an island; an outsider; he felt he would always be an Earther on Mars.
He recognised the anxieties from back home — baggage he’d unwittingly packed; the general pressure descended anew. But he couldn’t blame his surroundings for his failings again. He had to consider that maybe problem wasn’t with his location in the galaxy, but with himself. He couldn’t run from it anymore.
The nerves were waiting for him on the transport, right where he’d left them. The same sense of plunging into the unknown, only the excitement he’d felt on emigrating had been replaced with a sense of dread; his head filled with what people would think of his retreat; his defeat. He wondered if he was making a mistake by returning — he’d never have another chance to start again. The doubts circled him like wolves — maybe if he’d tried harder, maybe if he’d stayed longer, maybe if he’d wanted it more. Maybe things were worse than he remembered back on Earth; maybe the grass being greener was just something he’d heard so much he’d begun to believe it — maybe it was just an excuse people used so they could neglect their lawns. But there was no turning back now.
On the long journey home, he contemplated all that he was leaving; a world possibilities; the hypotheticals haunting him. He was aware that it was a futile exercise, but it passed the time.
And then he was “home”; back where he’d started; the grand narrative complete. He wandered the city streets for a while. Everything was the same, but different — unchanged in all the ways that made Earth, Earth — the thick smell of gasoline; the constant hum of the reactors; the weary people. But there were countless discrepancies too, things that challenged his memory, as if it were a puzzle and the pieces had been rearranged while he wasn’t looking — a new apartment block here, an old restaurant gone, a lone tree still standing — something for him to hold on to.
He observed that while the evolution of humanity’s creation was constant, so was the essence of Earth; eternal; rooted in millennia of hardship. He felt his bonds to the place grow stronger. But he was still lost. He knew he had to begin again, only he couldn’t find the starting line.
He assessed his position in the galaxy once more, now that he’d been to Mars and back. The cliché of realising that what he’d been searching for was right in front of him all along didn’t quite apply; he hadn’t found himself — though maybe he had, and was just a little disappointed with what he’d found: the same person he’d been before, incapable of change. Though maybe he had changed. He didn’t know. He felt the same. Though Earth had changed. Maybe. Or maybe it was him. He couldn’t tell. Maybe he’d changed so gradually that he hadn’t noticed… He must be different. Somehow. Mustn’t he? Maybe we don’t change. Maybe we do. Maybe everything can be learned and forgotten again.
Amid his confusion one thing was clear. To continue his search for solace, he would have to journey within; deep inside himself. And not in the figurative sense. To get to the root of the matter, he’d have to clone himself, shrink himself, then literally travel up his own nose, into his own brain, and remove whatever was making him feel this way. Because this is a science fiction story.
“In the future there is one history. To focus on the vast expanse of what may unravel ahead of us, we had to simplify what came before. An immense canvas of block colours laid on in the broadest strokes. There was no good; no evil. Just before and after. Before was conflict and struggle. After came innovation and growth.” — Notes On The Future Vol. II
The future had grown out of the hardships of its past. People no longer starved or suffered needlessly. Wars were no longer waged for power or resources or any other reason. Everyone had a place. Everyone knew their place. There was a plan.
The Plan allowed for no deviation — any slight alterations to its trajectory might have ramifications beyond the scope of the Planners. But there was no need for deviation. Everyone had a place. Everyone knew their place. They were each a piece of a puzzle; all necessary in completing the picture. Some were notable features — a ray of sun or a leafy branch — while others filled a nondescript square of ground, or the white of a cloud. Though some pieces seemed more integral to the picture, the truth was, every one was needed — for without even a single piece, the puzzle could not be complete. There were people who catered and people who created; people who delegated and people who did, everyone judged on their merits for the role that suited them best; their plan laid out within the Plan. But everyone was equal. Everyone went back to the same planned housing units and ate the same planned meals. Everyone acknowledged that in the grand scheme, no one was more or less important than anyone else.
It was also acknowledged that not everyone was happy. But what was happiness compared to the Plan? — the knowledge that you were a part of something bigger; that through your actions, however seemingly big or small, your legacy was guaranteed. Happiness was eclipsed by certainty, and even death couldn’t contest that. And when certainty wasn’t enough, there were suppressants; medication to help people adhere to their plan; the dosage dependant on the disassociation. Everything considered, even the unhappiest of people were still satisfied; content; contained.
Of course, there were those who believed themselves outside the Plan — even railed against it — but they too, were pieces of the puzzle — the majority of insurgents instigated by the Planners themselves, like a controlled burn; a small minority of revolutionaries to give a sense of threat, one which the Planners could regulate, manipulate and extinguish if necessary. The Outsiders were in fact as essential to the Plan as everyone else. They tempered it; strengthened the resolve of the people within it; unified them against the menace of chance. Though the majority of the populace didn’t know the particulars of the Plan, they found comfort knowing there was a plan. They knew the rough outline — that it was ultimately for their contingency; that, for humanity to survive indefinitely, they had to colonise the stars, and to do so, they had to be as one. That wasn’t to say individuality was discouraged — the Plan strived to realise the unique strengths of all people — but emphasis was always on the whole. They were each individual parts of something bigger. Together they looked to the horizon.
As the people were definite of where they were headed, they were definite of whence they’d come. As per the Plan, history had been simplified. There was no need to get caught up in the particulars of the past, nothing more they could glean from the imperfect passages of the people before. They knew there had been a world of chaos and strife, and now there wasn’t. As infants, the people learned how the Plan came to be; how the great Thinking Machine had shown humanity the way. They learned that the first Planner, through the machine’s data, had seen the Plan laid out before them, and thus given birth to a new era. Initially there had been a period of unrest, but soon the world accepted its destiny — borders were lifted and nations dissolved, leaving in their place one race, one goal and one plan. The newly established Planners were tasked with interpreting the machine’s data — analysts-cum-technicians-cum-prophets, perpetually pouring over the readings while maintaining the machine’s monolithic body.
Over the millennia the Planners held fast the course, steering humanity through countless calamities. All the while, the people remained faithful they would reach their destination. However, the destination had not been specified in the Plan. When was the diaspora dispersed enough? When was humanity’s contingency guaranteed? Or could it ever be truly guaranteed? How long could the species last before its inevitable decline? How long was long enough? The universe surely had a plan of its own — eventually set to fold in on itself — or could the Plan project past even that?
Opinions on these variables varied, and as time went on, the cracks in the Plan began to show. By this point humanity had established itself as a prominent force in the universe, inhabiting more systems than could be controlled by one ideology. Many, believing the Plan was complete, found other callings, allowing chaos to inhabit their lives once more. But there were those who were sworn to follow it to the end. Whatever that may be.
And so the Plan winds through the cosmos still, occasionally shedding parts of itself — birthing new plans — as it propels itself towards its unknowable inevitability.
“Nothing is over.” — Notes From The Past Vol. XXIII
It’s a portrait of a woman. She has a handsome face and dark features. Below her waist is hidden but she seems to be sitting; her right hand crossed over her left wrist, gripping it slightly. She has brown, shoulder-length hair covered by a very thin veil, peeking just over her crown. She’s dressed in a dark green, silk robe which leaves the top of her bosom exposed. The background is an impression of a rural landscape. In the distance are some shapes resembling trees, surrounding what appears to be a lake. Behind the woman, to her left, is a winding path. Over her right shoulder is the outline of a far-off bridge.
The picture isn’t immediately striking, but there’s something about it… Something you can’t quite put your finger on. It might be the way she’s staring at you; the way her eyes seem to follow you around the room… Then it hits you — it’s her smile. It’s a subtle smile. A faint contentment registered on the upturned corners of her mouth. A gentle satisfaction. It’s the kind of smile that might form when one’s thinking of a loved one. Or when they’re stirring their tea, remembering the time the vending machine gave them two Snickers when they’d only paid for one. Or it could be a secretive smile; an I-have-a-secret-but-I’m-not-telling-you-teeheehee smile; a playful smile. Or maybe it’s the smile one makes when a photographer tells them to smile before they take a picture. An obligatory smile. An I’m-just-smiling-because-someone-told-me-to-smile smile.
It’s an enigmatic smile to be sure. The kind of smile that one could spend a lifetime contemplating; the kind of smile one imagines scholars have debated for years. It’s a glass half empty smile; a glass half full smile. A Rorschach test smile, its perceived meaning reflecting the impliers intentions back upon them. A mirror smile. It’s the kind of smile that movies are made about. Movies which star Julia Roberts and Julia Stiles. Not to mention Maggie Gylenhall and Kirsten Dunst. Movies which you haven’t personally seen, but upon further research are about feminism in the 1950’s. Movies which critics are calling “a formulaic Roberts vehicle that isn’t without its charm” and “the female variant of Dead Poets Society.” Movies which will remain in the cultural consciousness for many years to come.
As you stare at the picture you begin to feel uneasy. The smile combined with her piercing gaze leaves you feeling naked — like she can see straight through to the true you; like she’s plumbing the depths of your soul.. And she’s slightly amused by what she’s found there… It could be the memory of the time you you farted in front of the whole class; or when you passed out at that party and wet yourself. Or she could be diving deeper still, down to the bedrock of your being. It’s like she knows all of your secrets: the things you do when no one else is around; the things you think about late at night; how many seasons of Suits you’ve watched. It’s like she’s Judge Judy (there’s definitely a resemblance) and she’s scrolling through your internet search history, smiling all the while, savouring the power she holds over you. You look away, but still feel her eyes burning your body. You leave the gallery in a sweat, but they persist, tracking you all the way back to your home; into your bedroom; into your dreams. Whenever you close your eyes you see them. Unblinking. Your sanity begins to fray. Then it hits you, just as her smile did weeks before — the only way to be free of this ocular imprisonment is to bare all for her.
You return to the gallery, determined to confront her once more, then, looking her dead in the eye, you strip butt-naked and begin to shout, “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT??? TAKE A GOOD LOO—” You stop mid-sentence, having noticed something new. It’s her smile — it’s different somehow. You’re not sure how you got it so wrong.. It’s not a judgemental, malicious smile; it’s a benevolent, compassionate smile… As though she’s expressing sympathy for the time you farted in front of the whole class; or when you passed out at that party and wet yourself. Or maybe she feels sorry for you right at that very instant. Standing naked in a crowded gallery. You drop to you knees sobbing, giving yourself up to her completely. She is now your god.
Another notable feature of the picture is its antiquity. The tangible sense of history in every brush stroke. The colours faded by time. What became of the woman in the picture? Who was she? She reminds you of your friend Gabby, from school. Gabby was the Charlotte of your group, and from this revelation you form a kind of composite personality for the woman: a mixture of your friend Gabby (ie. Charlotte) and Judge Judy; a chirpy, no-nonsense, regal kind of character. Who works as a judge. In olden times. You imagine what it would be like to hang out with her, your daydream taking the form of an episode of Sex & The City, only set back then. Like, it’s still about a group of empowered women, but instead of cocktails, they drink the equivalent of whatever cocktails were back then — who knows — maybe they had cocktails back then, there’s no possible way of knowing that — I mean, you’re not even sure when “back then” was. Though you imagine it had a lot of castles and banquets and horse pulled carts. Not dissimilar to Disneyland Paris. Anyway, at some point your daydream takes a turn for the dramatic when you’re falsely accused of killing the king. After that it turns into more of a Judge Judy/Suits style crossover? You think it might make a great pitch for Sex And The City 3: Back In Time. Or it could be called Sex And The City 3: The Return Of Carrie But Also The Thing That Happened With The —
Oh, that’s a thousand words? Sweet — that should paint a pretty good picture, so… I’m out. Peace.
“It is funny.”
“Here man, it is.”
“I think if you told that joke at a stand-up show you’d get hella laughs.”
“And I think I wouldn’t.”
“Right well, there’s only one way to decide this…”
Rory walks over to the UNIVAC, inputting the numerous variables. The hulking computer comes whirring to life, its tiny lights blinking on and off as if adorning a Christmas tree. Seconds later the whirring is replaced by a mechanical grinding as a piece of paper emerges from the UNIVAC’s printing port. Rory tears it off the reel.
“Let’s see now.”
Ziggy sidles up alongside him and they begin to read the UNIVAC’s projection…
UNIVAC SIMULATION 42,572 — THE JOKE
The crowd erupts in a frenzy as Ziggy takes to the stage, looking like a young Chris Rock by way of Wexford. They’re going nuts and bananas, like some sort of incredibly decadent banana and nut flavoured milkshake. He was here — returned from his worldwide tour of every single country on earth (for that was the extent of his appeal) — he was finally home.
He casually walks to centre stage, the audience swelling before him in anticipation, then stops at the microphone, adjusting it to his height. The noise of the crowd dies to a hush, everyone waiting for what comes next.
The crowd erupts again, unable to contain themselves. He just stands there smiling, waiting for them to settle down.
“It’s good to be back.”
Again the crowd goes wild – some people in the front starting to speak in tongues. He raises his hands and silence gradually returns.
“Now I’ve been all over the world and I can tell you that — some things? Some things never change. Take aeroplane peanuts for example.”
There’s a low murmur of laughter from the crowd as they imagine aeroplane peanuts.
“I mean, what’s the deal with them? I’m sitting at 36,000 feet, flying through the air, and the best thing they have for me is peanuts? I mean, come on!”
The crowd is in hysterics.
“Another thing that never changes is clubbing. I had a show in Dublin the other night.”
A handful of hollers emanate from the crowd.
“Yeah, shout-out to Dublin. Anyway, after the show I decided to go to a club — just a standard run-of-the-mill Dublin club. So I walk up to the door man, pretty much ready to stroll on in — and he stops me, ‘Not tonight.’ I’m like, ‘Not tonight? Then when? Can I come back in the morning?’”
The crowd laughs at the funny joke.
“He doesn’t see the funny side though, he just says, ‘You’re not getting in tonight, tomorrow, or any other day.’ So obviously I’m confused, but I can hazard a guess as to why he won’t let me in, so I take a shot in the dark, I say to him, ‘It’s because I’m black isn’t it?’ He just kind of chuckles and looks at me for a second, then he says, ‘No, it’s because you’re from Wexford.’”
The crowd is dead silent — so silent you could hear a Wexford penny drop. They stare around at each other, shell-shocked, processing the joke that they’ve just heard. Was it funny? Should they laugh anyway? The vast silence seems to stretch out for an eternity. Then, out of the nothingness, a lone clap.
The crowd strains their necks looking to the source of the sound: a woman has taken to her feet, clapping — slowly at first, but steadily, tears streaming down her face. Every time her hands connect it shakes the audience to their core, hammering at their hearts, ringing out like a church bell of truth. Suddenly a man behind her stands up and joins the rhythmic chorus. Then another, and another, until the whole audience are on their feet applauding what was now, undoubtedly, the greatest joke of all time.
Rory, having finished reading the UNIVAC’s detailed report, looks over at Ziggy: