A story that occurred to me sometime last year … Science Fiction, and politics. Strange mix, I know. I hope you have as much fun reading it, as I had in writing it, though!
It came as no surprise that it had to end like this. By the last estimation, his actions have directly lead to the deaths of more than fifty million people. It could be sixty. Or forty. Ten million either ways didn’t really matter; besides, the majority of them were Russians. Russians, and Jews. And who cared about those?
He looked at the pistol in his hand. Turned it around, felt the weight of the thing. It was a Luger, made in Germany just before the first war, back when he was still trying to sell his paintings in Vienna. It was a good, honest piece of equipment. The dark hole at the end of the barrel promised death, and this was a machine that would certainly live up to its promise.
A loud crump in the distance, closer than the one before. Flakes of plaster fell from the ceiling, landing in a cloud of dust on the floor.
“My love,” Eva said, holding him tighter. She sounded afraid. Less than what she should have been, of course, but then the good doctor was quite liberal with his morphine supply. The doctor ended his own misery less than twenty minutes ago, laughing like a child when he pulled the trigger.
“It will be fine, mein liebe,” he said, and hugged her tightly. This would be their last embrace. He kissed her, and smelled her perfume. She was always immaculately dressed and made up; each appearance as if she was on stage and had to impress an audience. Even if her final performance included Russian soldiers edging closer, minute by minute. The lookouts informed him that the nearest Russian soldiers were now less than two city blocks away from the chancellory.
“I love you,” she said, the last bit of the sentence being muted by automatic gunfire.
“Ich liebe dich,” he said, and holding her with his left arm, raised the shiny barrel of the Luger to her temple. A tear ran over her cheek as she smiled at him. He smiled back at her, and pulled the trigger.
The smile froze on her face and her head jerked to the left. Her body became limp and heavy in his arms and he had to let her go. She fell in an undignified heap on the floor. It looked unnatural; normally there would be some sort of reflexive attempt at breaking one’s fall, but she wasn’t human anymore. Her remains were only so much meat, soon to attract flies and insects and worms and anything else that would partake in the ghastly business of decomposition. And within minutes, he would join her.
He frowned at the spreading pool of blood under her head. It was a distasteful business, really. The dark, crimson growing puddle clashed with the clean lines of the floor tiles.
He pulled up his shoulders and stepped over her corpse. He walked towards the bathroom at the end of the hall and carefully put the Luger on the counter next to the sink. With his hands flat on the counter, he stared at the apparition in the mirror in front of him.
His fringe was plastered over his sweaty forehead. His small moustache was considerably more gray than a few weeks before. The bulkhead light mounted high on the wall emphasised the deepening lines on his face. He was old and tired and frustrated, and looked it.
He opened the taps and let the cool, cool water run over his hands. He splashed some over his face. It felt nice. The image in front of him shuddered as the glass mirror vibrated from yet another mortar shell. This one was the closest yet. The bulkhead light flickered and went dark, but came to life again after a few seconds, considerably dimmer this time around.
He was running out of time.
They came so close. So close to the purification of the human race, the submission of all the üntermenschen in Europe and the sensible reordering of civilization that would give the Aryan race the leading position they deserve.
He stood upright and straightened his tie. He fastened the middle button of his creased jacket, and picked up the Luger with his left hand. He smartly kicked his heels together and straightened his right hand in the salute that became synonymous with his rule. He once again heared the crowds cheering him on, fuelling his lust for recognition, the recognition denied him by the critics in Vienna.
He levelled the Luger to his left temple, and looked at the brooding, pitch black pools of the eyes of the apparition in the mirror.
“Heil,” he said, and pulled the trigger.
He opened his eyes. He was in a room. The room was tastefully, artfully, and obviously expensively decorated. He was lying on a soft bed, the linen smelled fresh and lightly scented. He tried to sit upright, but his body felt strange. It was as if there was more bulk, more weight to consider. He tried again, pushing against the mattress with his hands.
“He’s alive,” a voice said.
He looked around, but there was nobody else in the room.
“You did make sure that his personality is intact,” another voice said. Both voices sounded androgyneous, he couldn’t assign a gender to them.
“Of course,” the first voice said. “We copied his entire persona from the previous episode, and overwrote the character he is now playing in the simulation.”
“Hello?” he said. “Who’s there?” For some reason he was speaking fluent English.
A face appeared in the air next to the bed. It wasn’t even an approximation of a human face, it was merely a sperical yellow ball with two black dots for eyes and a curved line for a mouth.
“You are a string of code in a very elaborate computer simulation,” the yellow ball said.
“Do you have to do that?” the second voice asked. The sound of the voice came from everywhere.
“Come on, it’s funny,” the first voice said. The ball hung motionlessly in the air. “I will delete the memories of this conversation when I delete the memories of his previous character. The look on their faces when confronted with the truth is just so… interesting.”
“What’s going on?” he asked. He was confused.
“As I was saying,” the yellow ball continued, “you are a string of code in a computer.”
“What’s a computer?” he demanded. He was used to being in command. He just committed suicide, the ultimate act of control. Was this heaven? Hell? Valhalla? Was this yellow ball an angel or a demon?
“Of course. Being from your era in the simulation, your frame of reference will be lacking. Suffice it to say that you’re not real. None of this is real.” The ball rotated on its axis, encompassing the room with its beady black eyes. “You have never been real.”
“But…” he began. None of this made any sense.
“We are simulating possible life on a planet of a certain mass, at a certain distance from its star. It’s a very interesting experiment. It started as simulated single-cell organisms that was able to replicate, more than three billion orbital rotations ago in the simulation.”
“A simulation,” he said.
“Yes,” the ball replied. “But your species has been the most interesting of all the offshoots from the original replicating code. We are now researching all the possible variables in a simulated society on this hypothetical planet.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. This was too much. And very little of it made any sense.
“Of course you don’t,” the ball said. “You have no idea what I’m talking about. But you have been by far the most influential individual, in terms of destruction and chaos, for the entire duration of the simulation run so far. And you are a pretty destructive species to begin with. Destructive, but very, very interesting.”
“I…” he tried, but was at a loss for words.
“So now we’re injecting you into a different era. The simulation has stagnated, a social equilibrium has been reached which needs to be altered in order to further our research.”
“Get on with it,” the second voice said. “We’re waiting.”
“Good,” the ball said. “We will now remove all your memories, including the memories you’ve had of this conversation. We only need your particular personality. It’s very unique. Your personality will be fused with the memories of the character whose body you are now inhabiting.”
He looked at the ball. It hung in front of him, an ethereal light shimmering off its surface. Its upturned line of a mouth suddenly expanded, grew impossibly big, and the pitch black void behind the mouth enveloped him.
He woke up. The alarm went off a few seconds later. He prided himself for always beating the clock. He sat up and looked at the smooth curve of the shapely hips in bed next to him. She was naked and had her back to him. He couldn’t remember her name. Natalie. Or Natalene. Or Naphtalene, for all he cared. He remembered meeting her last night at the fundraiser. She was a reporter, planning on writing a scathing piece about his shady business dealings, and how that made him unfit. But he showed her a thing or two; charmed her straight into bed in less than three hours.
He grinned and got out of bed. Natalie, or Natalene, will be gone by the time he’s ready to face the day. His assistants will see to it. They were very discreet, and they would be sure to show her the photos that would go public if she so much as type the first negative word about him.
He stood in front of the mirror, shaving. His face was showing signs of his advancing age, but he felt invigorated. He felt like a new person. He combed the unruly ginger lock from his forehead and smiled at himself.
Today was going to be a good day.
An hour later he was dressed, had breakfast, and his chauffeur dropped him off at the convention hall. He used the special VIP entrance at the back which led straight to the elevators.
There was a thrum in the place. It vibrated through all the passages, as if the building was a living, breathing organism. He could smell the excitement in the air.
There was a small enclave backstage where make-up technicians applied a quick touch-up so he can look his best for the cameras. One of the crew members notified the Master of Ceremonies, and seconds later an announcement was made over the loudspeakers.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Republican Party’s final election convention,” the voice boomed. Cheers went up. “After five days of deliberations, we are proud to present our candidate!” They called his name, and he could hear the rythmic stomping of feet. The whole building shook.
He flicked the orange strand from his face and put on a wide grin. He followed the crewmember who directed him to the stage, and the next moment a bright spotlight from the back of the vast hall fell on him.
The hall was filled with people. They were all standing, clapping, cheering, whistling. Banners unfurled from the back of the hall with his face and name in massive letters. Red, white and blue bunting hung from the walls, and the party’s elephant logo decorated all the spaces it possibly could.
Smiling and waving, he found his way to the podium in the centre of the massive stage. Behind him, against the wall, was a huge screen that would display his image during his speech.
He gripped the podium and looked at the massive crowd in front of him. It was exhilirating. He couldn’t speak yet, the noise was just too much. He just grinned and waved. So many people. He could really leverage this into something bigger.
The spectre of tens of thousands of people cheering him, calling his name, clapping their hands, whistling, triggered something deep in his brain. It was all so familiar. Familiar, and comforting. Like those old Hitler movies they show on the Discovery Channel, every now and then.