the algorithm would run to its conclusion and then start over again once it reached one-hundred billion. each number of the sequence represented as its own entity. each possessed with the singular notion that their existence mattered, that is was somehow all a test that they were meant to pass. the simulation always started similarly: first one and two, then a brief period of nothing, then three, then four, more nothing, then usually around five and six, it would start to take off. once it got to one-thousand, the numbers clicked over one after another, only increasing in speed. each one popping into the world, unaware that they were just a sliver of code, and foraying into a life that they felt fit their esteem, sensibilities, ambition, and dreams. the end result of each run of the complete program was always different. sometimes the civilization banded together, achieved perfect harmony, and lived in peace. sometimes they were at war the entire time. sometimes they united and built vessels, and transported themselves to the farthest reaches of the simulated world. sometimes they reached the source code …at which point the entire program would be shut down and run again (that had only happened once). but usually they just kept themselves occupied with trinkets, games, challenges, parties, and meaningless interactions. they danced and carried on while the numbers ran toward their conclusion. #737,921 never did. not in any run of the program. from the time his number rolled over and he was birthed into the world, he was endowed with some sort of blindness to any of the typical pursuits the others undertook. when someone would approach him and tell him of something new or fun or exciting, he would say, “that’s nice.” and politely move past them. he lived in a quiet apartment by himself. he did not watch tv, and he did not read. he had no hobbies, and he didn’t want them. he simply wanted to exist. he never told anyone his reasons. he was never unpleasant, and yet he made no friends. the overseers of the program always marveled at his existence. it was as if he was aware of what he was a part of. that any memories created would never last, nor friends he made, or adventures he undertook. the designers often asked each other if their partner had secretly written it into his code, but neither had. it was a glitch, and that was all they could determine. it had never altered the outcome. #737, 921 never wrote anything down or told anyone his thoughts, and they weren’t even sure if he actually felt this. his life always passed uneventfully, and there was never anyone around to celebrate it. and in the end, his data file was just as complete as anyone else’s. the program chugged right along.
have you been to a cemetery lately? it’s inherently sad, so no one really looks around to complain. but if you go to a really old one, like one that’s on the travel brochure for wherever you are “come see our really old cemetery. no new burials for the last 500 years,” you might feel less connected and slightly less sentimental. there’s no one’s grandparent there, or even great grandparent. and if they charged you money to get in, you can really be critical of it the way the good lord intended. and the biggest thing we should look to remedy is the size of the headstones. acres of similarly sized stones, all saying nice things of the standard fare, and then you get to a giant behemoth stone: “timothy so-and-so, age 8” absolutely not. that kid accomplished nothing. if he did, the tombstone would say “timothy so-and-so, prodigy, genius, inventor of the water filter” or something like that. and then the size might make sense. but just having the stones be completely arbitrary in size is a waste of good walking time. “oh, that one is huge. must be someone of note. let’s hoof it over there to get in some reading that leads to a good amount of nodding approvingly with our lower lip jutted out.” only to get there to see it a 29 year old baby what passed away. all that walking for nothing. it would not be hard to give certain amounts of stone based on number of years lived, accomplishments achieved, and cool risks taken. then you would know when you ran (you’d be running now) over to a giant stone that you were in for a real treat. “whoa, this lady robbed 3 banks, started an orphanage, slept with a president, and lived to 102. this stone is deservedly enormous. hooray!”
you don’t think much of it when you pour a bottle of liquid upside down and let the contents run out. there’s a steady stream for a bit, and then it dissipates into quick drops, and then eventually to slow drops forming on the rim. they each cling for a few moments longer than than drop that preceded them, but they all eventually give in to gravity and plummet to wherever you are pouring them. and then the next day, or at some point later, you turn the bottle over again (out of suspicion. you’ve never trusted liquid) and sure enough — more liquid! how does this happen? water wants to be together. when you are initially pouring it out, the leaders of the volume yell at the rest, “hold! everyone just hold onto the side!” but some of the remaining volume is weak-minded and curious. they lean out to see what is at the bottom of the hole, and gravity grabs them, and they tumble out. once you have satisfied that you have sufficiently emptied the vessel, the leaders take stock of who’s left. “this is all that remains of our once proud society. we will miss the departed, but we are lucky to still have our habitat.” and if they are lucky, they remain there until evaporation takes them to liquid heaven. but if they’re not, curious you comes along and turns the vessel over once again. you just had a hunch that some of that no-good liquid was still hiding in there somehow. and they were. they slid down from clinging to the walls, and they huddled together in the bottom, thinking they were safe briefly. nope. your eradication was not complete. but at least they are all together this time as you mercilessly pour. “i will see you on the other side! don’t let go of me! if we make it out, let’s pool together once we land!” and they do …for a bit.
it started innocently enough. groups would gather, and before long, a game would break out. the objective was simple enough. just take the ball and touch it to the other team’s wall. and they would try to stop you from doing that all while trying to touch their ball to your wall. it quickly gained popularity, and the rules changed rapidly. first, in the number of players per team, then what constituted a ‘squab’ and then how many chances you got at a squab. one thing didn’t change though — people loved to gather and watch a good game of goball. they’d scream and yell, “go!” “let’s go!” and even “keep going!” and soon the game had gathered enough steam that it was spreading to multiple cities, and those cities were challenging each other. “our team is better than your team, and if it’s not, we’ll give you a bucket of peaches.” and rivalries were born. soon a league was formed and more rules were put in place. the players now wore uniforms, and their hoobs were owned by men in suits. the suit people paid the best players, and soon there was a draft, and potential players worked very hard to be chosen by a hoob. they stressed their bodies past the point of what had been thought physically possible physiologically. and boy did the people show up and spend their money. more rules were put in place, more cameras were added, bigger venues were built, it was broadcast on multiple channels, and it generated billions of dollars. the previous players, some of them with broken limbs that would never heal, and head trauma (goball had become increasingly and exceedingly violent) — were forgotten. they banded together and sued the suit people, who had forgotten the initial intention of goball. it was just a game. players no longer found joy in it. there were penalties on nearly every play, and plays were reviewed not only by people physically there, but also by people under hoods and people in a room hundreds of miles away, all trying to decide whether a particular hoob counted or not. and the players, who dedicated so much of their time and energy and years of life from their bodies — if they showed a little too much emotion when all of their hard work culminated in a squab — they were penalized. when their bodies were destroyed, on the field, in front of an audience, they were loaded onto a cart like a broken machine and hustled out so that the children didn’t have to witness such things. when the carted player held up a hand …or even a thumb, the crowd would commence cheering. “everything is fine!” they wore the costumes of the players, and they yelled and screamed and encouraged their children to do the same. “gotta support the hoob!” no matter the carnage occurring on the field, they would be there every week to repeatedly bellow “go!!”