Stefan took another tiring step. He was about 200 meters above the land surface. He found a rock that seemed sturdy enough and sat down on it. All the information in the world could not have prepared himself for this journey. And he did have it – right from the day he spoke his first word. All the information about every part of the world, except for this hill.
He sipped his flask of water. He chuckled. All the innovations in the world, and humans still depended on water for survival. With time and science, humans had needed lesser and lesser water, but they still needed it. Children would have considered themselves totally self-sufficient if pure information was anything to go by, but that was what schools were for – to teach young children with all the information in the world, on how to use it, themselves and how to interact with everything around them. Emotions and basic human nature would continue to be a mystery to science, and still had to be taught.
He inspected his almost disintegrated shoes. It wasn’t built for this terrain, or terrain at all in fact. Over the years, human had seen it necessary to flatten the world, and they were now successful. The implications were simple, yet huge – movement was easy. People could travel across the connected world in seconds, transporting materials across continents did not require heavy lifting and weather phenomenon weren’t controlled by mountains anymore.
He swapped for a new pair of boots and continued upwards. Only 150 meters to go.
A small hut stood at the summit. It was mostly made of wood, but some of the rotted wood had revealed an underlying metallic structure. This was the place his people had been looking for for centuries. The Center of the Purge. He had seen a hut like this in the simulations he saw growing up. The same simulations where he had seen gigantic mountains, tsunamis, and natural forests. This structure had been around for a lot longer than any human alive had been.
As he walked up to the door, he saw the pathway, now overgrown with grass, littered with bits of pottery, small paintings, attempts at sculptures of different materials, and even remnants of electronic circuits. He reached the front door, took out his gun and held it at the ready, and knocked – an action that his people had passed on for centuries, one that wasn’t required in modern civilization.
The wooden door creaked open. A bearded man opened the door. He did not seem to be anymore than 40 years old. He glanced at Stefan and then at the gun. He chuckled. “It’s time now eh? Well come on in. You won’t need that fancy… gun, I presume. Haven’t kept up with weaponry of the times I’m afraid. How much did that thing cost?”
Stefan trusted the man. Surely he had no need to fool him. He kept his gun aside, but the man’s words had puzzled him. “Cost? What do you mean?” he inquired. The bearded man responded, “Cost. As in, you give something to get this in return?”.
He had entered the hut. It was cozy. There were plenty of windows on the right side of the hut, from which the view stretched for miles because of the height and the flatness of the ground. He had a few wooden chairs and a couch set up near them. On a stool sat a bottle containing a liquid Stefan had never seen. Further away, Stefan saw an easel, and some paints, the marks of which were still flecked up on the wall. To the left, at the center of the wall, was a huge wooden cabinet.
“Oh we don’t do that anymore”, Stefan said. “Everyone gets everything. My people passed down legend of a time when tokens had to be exchanged for goods, and to ensure living. But since we were able to replace all jobs with the computers and the mechanized humans, there was nothing for people to do. No jobs to do, and no tokens to give anyone. No one was worth more than anyone else. So, they just give away things as they make them.”
“There’s no economy down there anymore?” the old man wondered aloud as he sat down on a chair and beckoned for Stefan to do the same. “Well people must have a lot to do then I assume – art, music, enjoying life. Oh what about politicians? Please tell me they’ve been replaced too.”
Stefan took a moment to understand what some of the words the man had used were. Finally comprehending them he said, “Well governance is also totally automated, and systems require no more monitoring. The law as well, enforced by the mechanized humans, and since information is shared, the justice delivered has been impartial.”
“But what has been the need for crime? There is surely no material gain anymore?”
“We still haven’t been able to address the basic nature of the human condition – emotions, our need for a difference, our need for acceptance. Someone will always break, or want to break through – to stand out, or not stand at all”
“What do you mean by not stand at all?”
“Children spend the first 13 years of their life learning about themselves, how to interact with other humans, humans’ own limitations. They are given all the information in the world right from the day they can speak.
“Everyone is equal in terms of skills – they have all the knowledge, and the additional capacity to use that knowledge efficiently. Further, computers can do it much better, without the interference of human emotions. No one needs to work. No one needs to stand out.
“And now the art, and enjoyment you had mentioned. Food requirements of humans have been reduced to almost nothing, and there exist ways where one can stimulate their taste buds in ways impossible through food alone. Art was pursued by many in the initial few years of the unemployment boom, but soon they realized, the computers could do it – no slips of a brush, no incorrect perspectives, no incorrect color choices. The mind can be stimulated in more ways than ever before, through pure electricity.
“Humans now find someone, and are able to procreate. But more often than not, the old emotions of love for offspring do not exist as they used to – the validation of guiding a child through growth is cut out entirely, and thus, a seemingly necessary ingredient for love. They just exist through a love for their partners, who in turn must seek it in them, or in others.
“Humans, have nothing to do. They run out of things to try and things to experience before they hit 40. And when there’s nothing else left to do, they just, don’t stand anymore.”
The bearded man, slowly got up and walked to the cabinet after picking up the bottle. “Who are you then? You talk of a people, who are they?”. He downed the remnants of the bottle.
"We are just those who believe that old ways must return. We were formed hundreds of years ago, after the death of a man’s loved one – to the same boredom I just described. And we have looked for all this time to change things to the old ways. To give human’s skill and will a chance again. And that’s why I am here.”
“To give them a chance eh? That’s a noble cause” The old man had begun to open up the cabinet. “They put me here nearly 500 years ago. Every now and then a delivery just shows up with parts for me. Just a stray line of code ensuring that the harbinger of its end remains alive.
“They put me here knowing that humanity’s own invention, it’s drive for perfection would be the one to cause its end. Though, to be honest, it was the plot of every science fiction book I read growing up. We just never realized it would the perfection itself that caused our end.”
The cabinet had opened entirely. It had revealed a simple wall with a human shaped niche in it. The bearded man walked up to it. “Well kid, I hope it’s worth it. Mayne you’ll live longer.” The man walked backwards into the niche, never dropping his eyes. “500 years, it’ll be nice to close these eyes forever.” As he settled into the niche, his eyes shot open – now glowing with a blue light, and a second later they darkened, and so did his entire body. The lights in the hut flickered. Stefan felt the hill shake. The Purge had begun. He walked up to the window and gazed across the flat land. In the distance. Smoke was rising.