Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Most Nihilistic 100 Word Story you're likely to read for a while...

A few months ago a sentence popped into my head for no reason: 'At the end of the Universe all that was left was a tin of peaches'. I liked it. It was a bit 'Douglas Adams' in its oddity. The idea was that a time-traveller dsicovered this and lost all hope in humanity, since despite all its endeavours it was never going to amount to anything or be remembered for anything but that tin of peaches. And then he was torn between whether to tell anyone in the past or not. I mean, how would you feel if you found out that every endeavour and dream was pointless? That your existence and the existence of everyone who would ever be was just...meaningless. And how would you feel if you were the guy who found this out. Would you tell everyone else?
Since then I've been trying to write a story based on that one sentence. I wrote about ten different versions but I liked none of them becasue they all, however long or short they were, got bogged down in the jargon of time travel and veered away from that central, nihilistic point. So tonight I tried to just capture that hopelessness in under one hundred words - and its my favourite draft (and I stress draft on purpose) so far. If nothing else, it's been a fun little exercise in getting to the core of a story. So here it is: 'The Sum of It All'...

The Sum of It All

In the far future, at the end of the Humankind, there was nothing left but a tin of peaches.

Peterson’s Peach Segments in Syrup. Best before end 1990.

Nothing else.

The Time Traveller stood in the dirt of an Earth stripped bare of everything and stared at the battered tin.

And then, because he couldn’t stand what he saw, and what it meant for the hope of humanity, and because he couldn’t face the strain of telling everyone the truth when he travelled back home...

...he shot himself right there. Next to last and only remnant of all Human endeavour.