Hold your breath, pinch your nose and dive head first into the absurd world of Thomas Howarth’s Uni Confessions.
In the future when all is hell…
Nancy and I were walking by the river, watching a man without a degree throwing tins at a swan. We turned a corner and, judging by the physical sensation (like getting a foot massage from Stanley Kubrick), I could tell that we’d slipped through a doorway in time and space.
A dented motorway sign informed us that we’d arrived at the end of the world, 2099AD, planet Earth having been obliterated by a jock-off nuclear war. We found ourselves standing on a rock, floating apathetically in the vacuum of space. A basic atmosphere kept our lungs from turning into accordions.
We sat on the edge, feet dangling into blackness, and gazed out across the solar ocean.
Nancy spoke some minutes later, looking down at the white rock beneath our legs. ‘This is Beachy Head.’
‘So it is.’
‘And I recognise that,’ she added, pointing at a wedge of rock. ‘That’s Hull.’
As the once-proud northeast city passed us by, flanked by the Sun’s glowing tendrils, I considered tarmac. How long is tarmac intended to last, as a concept?
‘How long are museum artefacts supposed to last, do you think?’ Nancy asked. That was more interesting than mine.
‘I mean, what’s the long-term plan for the Mona Lisa? Is it supposed to just hang there for a while and then succumb to this?’ She gestured towards the debris. ‘Is that the official plan? What about statues? Or listed buildings?’
She gave me a funny look.
‘It’s all just been a tiny speck in the universe. Not just spatially, temporally too.’
I nodded at whatever these words meant, and wondered what flavour the last crisp ever eaten had been.
‘I mean, people argue about cutlery,’ she said. This seemed reasonable to me, though – there’s nothing worse than a restaurant where all the items on your table are spoons. I had to eat steak off a ladle once, using another ladle.
‘Yeah, well, you know, it all mattered at the time,’ I offered. ‘Stuff’s temporary, but it mattered at the time.’
‘I had to read a 3,000 word linguistic study of all the verbs in Humpty Dumpty last week, and then I had to write a 4,000 word analysis of the study.’
‘I’m sure it was valuable in some way.’
Nancy gestured once again at the debris ahead of us. A bent fork drifted by.
‘Well, value’s subjective,’ I added.
‘The human race really wasted its time, didn’t it? After 14 billion years the universe develops a consciousness, and then the consciousness kills itself.’
‘Let’s not forget, though, that same consciousness invented Gladiators. Eight years on ITV, that’s got to count for something.’
‘Beethoven’s gone,’ Nancy noted.
‘We never spent a lot of time with him anyway.’
‘I mean his music. Destroyed in a second, and there’s no one around to remember it anyway. If the history of the human race was a book, it’d write itself for a few increasingly complex chapters and then burn to ashes halfway through a sentence. Nobody would get to read it.’
‘Perhaps it’d be better as a flick book. Or a YouTube vlog.’
‘What if this was always going to happen? Are you familiar with determinism?’
‘I think I met him at a foam party last year.’
‘Perhaps the tiny role our species plays within the universe has been scripted since the very beginning. Quantum Shakespeare. All the trajectories of the future were solidified by the precise tuning of the Big Bang. Debris runs its course along them.’
‘So that woman putting that cat in a bin was always going to happen?’
Nancy sat in silence. It was a difficult thought, I admit.
‘Come on, let’s go back,’ I suggested. ‘The air conditioning here is rubbish.’
We arrived back at our flat in time to catch the end of Storage Hunters.
‘Do you mind if I go on Grand Theft Auto?’ I asked.
‘Mm.’ Nancy was gazing out of the window.
‘It’s the biggest map yet, you know. Still got loads to explore. I’ll be on this forever.’
She didn’t reply. Obviously multi-character gameplay and a host of side missions aren’t fulfilling enough for some people.