Ever play that, as a kid?—“wouldn’t it be horrible, if…?”
Like, wouldn’t it be horrible if we’re deep into the black hole era? The universe is winding down, on the eve of its last fireworks show, and we—well, there is no we. We’re an I, a great noodle of agonised consciousness, spiralling into oblivion. We’re dreaming as we go, conjuring visions of a universe that might’ve existed, worlds that could’ve been and maybe were. Our civilisations are memories, or they’re fantasies. Our knowledge is an echo of some monstrous record, fuzzy and disordered with sleep. Much of it’s dissipated already, vanished into the void. We—I—there’s no getting that back. We can snatch at its tail, and even the thought of doing so takes fifty thousand years. And we’ll snatch in vain: it’s gone, and soon we will be, too. A trillion years, or a trillion trillion, and we’ll be geysers of light, and then we’ll be nothing. It’ll all be nothing. Forever, and nothing.
Or wouldn’t it be horrible if you woke up one morning and bees were pouring from your electrical outlets? That happens, you know—bees in the walls; honeylogged sockets….
You can still play as an adult, of course. You don’t have to be a kid. You just have to dig deeper. Like with that first scenario, you’d, like…you’d take it to its logical conclusion: death won’t end your suffering. You’re everyone; your pain’s all the pain that ever was. It spans a gulch of years you can’t conceive of.
Or with the bees, you’d be all…imagine the cost, to be rid of them! They’d have to go into the walls, dig out the honeycombs, probably redo your electric. And your insurance would call it an act of God. They’d never cover it. And maybe your pain wouldn’t be eternal, but it’d certainly feel that way.
Wouldn’t it be horrible if the best day of your life was already behind you?
I’ve always wanted a Nobel Prize—ideally, for peace: that’s the good one, the ultimate pat on the head. But I write genre fiction under other people’s names. They don’t hand out Nobel Prizes for that. And even if they did, even if, by some miracle…I’d get some money, I suppose, but I have enough money. I’d get…I don’t know. It really is just money, isn’t it?—bit of cash, bit of fame, but you don’t…what I want is blinding sunlight, waves in my face, salt spray and shouting children, a sense of boisterous wellbeing. I want to have fun. I want the world to stop being so resolutely on the other side of that window.
Wouldn’t it be horrible if all the dogs in the world just wound down one day, lay down to sleep and drifted into some great communal dream, never to return?
I wish I had a dog.
I wish I had a cyborg body that could carry my brain anywhere it liked. And I could have antennae, if I wanted, or a tail, or big claws. Or legs like a kangaroo. Or a willy, or two willies, or, ah…what do cassowaries have? Maybe that.
Wouldn’t it be horrible if wishes actually were horses, and the whole world filled with horses, right up to the stratosphere? And in our dying moments, we’d be wishing the horses would go away, creating even more horses….
Wouldn’t it be horrible if you read this whole thing, expecting a punchline, but I was really just playing “wouldn’t it be horrible?” with myself?