At least I’ll be CNN famous…
These are the first thoughts to stray through your head as the Facebook feed buzzes with the pre-canned click bait gossip of the flight you’re on. Situations like these–similar to a good shot of absinthe–tend to bring out the true colors in people. Already, the bigots and superstitious have rallied the gullible into a miasma of theories. Already the end-timers have posted their cataclysmic babble about the rapture. Already, the stakes are being drawn.
Yet, most concerning, there is a notable absence of you.
Your friends, your acquaintances, your people who you briefly met but looked attractive enough to validate Facebook certification for future creeping, all join in the whole slactivism shebang in the typical five-minute spurts of passion. But yet, none of the posts seem to mention you.
It’s troubling, if not a bit depressing. Surely one could gain likes with an easy reference to personal stakes? Are you not even worth that?
Even most news sites are clinical with their delivery. The top shared article appears to be how American Airlines stock could plummet with a disaster like this, the entire story embellished with allegories to a certain Malaysian incident.
You can’t even reply. The internet died, with the stubborn wi-fi bar feverishly searching again for that elusive signal. 11:48pm. Your social media history is already at three minutes ago and quickly losing relevance. The 24-hour news cycle and its constant demand for panic already begins to fade.
And you’re on the bloody flight.
You. Right now. On the very flight that is apparently fucked.
And yet nothing to show for it. The Red Eye has set the plane into darkness, with only the occasional flight attendant and baby offering any movement or noise. Your stomach is churning but that is status quo for American Airlines’ economy meals. You pressed the service button five minutes ago, but the aisle remains empty.
If there is a reason to worry, the staff is doing a very good job at hiding it.
Gossiping is off of the table as well. The man to your left snores louder than the 757’s engine, and his occupation of the aisle seat has evaporated your bathroom prospects. The woman to your right has enacted a defcon 4 level of sensory deprivation. Earplugs, sleep mask, and blanket ensures that the baby, yourself, and any other disturbances can kindly fuck off until landing, thank you very much.
Beyond her, the window. Beyond that, an impenetrable night sky.
You think about what you are going to do in Madrid. Or perhaps “were” is the appropriate word now. A typical twenty-something backpacking odyssey. Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Berlin, Venice, Rome. The whole Euro-trip blockbuster parade. The initial post-grad scrounging for careers turned up dry, so why not treat yourself in the meantime? Your three year relationship ended in a plot-twist involving your best friend, so why not throw yourself into the hostel life of sex and drugs and hippies?
A lurch. The plane shudders for a moment. The man besides you delivers one wet, croupy cough, but otherwise there’s no explicit reaction from the plane.
Another lurch, this one nearly sends your laptop careening off of the foldout plastic tray in front of you. This time you move to snap it shut, figuring it’ll be much safer in your bag than in the hands of American Airlines’ engineers.
That’s when you notice something.
Perhaps you could attribute it to your poor sense of time. The laptop itself is out of the question. Freshly bought two months ago. Absolutely no way Apple could be that egregious, right?
11:48 pm. You clutch your laptop, nails tap dancing along its edges, physically counting up to sixty now, each number getting a liberal pause.
11:48 pm. You’re at sixty-seven now before you realize it’s pointless. Either your laptop is broken, and Darren from the Genius Bar as well as Tim Cook himself are lying sacks of shit, or something really fucked up is going on.
Another lurch. A flash from the window. Something shines in the night sky. And it’s close. Far, far too close to your own plane. Your mind perhaps becomes a bit more flexible in its stance. Calmly looking past your neighbor in the window seat, you peer out.
There, practically kissing the wings of your own, is another flight.
Recoiling, the back of your head bounces off the shoulder of the man, conjuring up another volley of coughs. Your finger thrusts up, jabbing the ‘flight attendant’ button.
The wings are touching. In fact they appear to be merging. It has to be a trick of the eyes, but you can’t tell where one wing ends and another begins. They’re intertwined, the lights on the edges of their wings becoming a single neon smudge.
And yet, nothing. No shaking, no turbulence, no crashing. No sound. No other sensory presence of the other plane besides sight. You can only witness it with your eyes.
And then more lights. Beyond the plane beside you, slightly above it, there’s another flight. The same darkened silhouette, its presence only betrayed by the lights along its body.
You don’t even bother to jab at the ‘flight attendant’ button anymore. Your eyes are glued to the window, your chin is practically on the woman’s lap.
Beyond the plane, another one. And another one.
All of them on the same y-axis of sky, yet each one slightly above the last, curving upwards, similar to what one would see when staring down a hall of mirrors. Moving your head slightly to the right, then left, the illusion continues, the planes moving inversely to your own motions.
Can you even call it an illusion anymore?
“Can I help you?”
The voice startles you, sending your thoughts reeling back into the plane, back into your seat. The flight attendant stirs impatiently in the aisle.
“Please, I have to remind you that the seatbelt sign is on.”
Your eyes dart towards your laptop, still open.
You open your mouth to reply.
And that’s when the plane bursts open, peels of orange flame evaporating first class.
* * *
On the first day, God created the universe.
On the fourth day, God fucked around with quantum mechanics and created the multiverse.
On the fifth day, the Multiverse™ and its assets went public with an IPO at a valuation of $400,000 per share (currency converted to human terms), hoping to raise $450 trillion in capital for the purpose of expanding the Blue Chip Company’s Bio R&D departments. As predicted, Nihilists short the market.
On the eighth day, the Adam and Eve subsidiaries went public.
On the ninth day, Original Sin and fraudulent CDOs from Lucifer, Stantin & Sons, and the exponentially over-evaluation of flora (also known as the Apple Bubble) crashes the meta-market.
On the five-trillionth, one hundred thirty-one billionth, five hundred ninety-five millionth, three hundred thirty-two thousandth, four hundred sixty-first day, God shorts his only son, therefore confirming several accusations of insider trading and avoiding a hostile takeover attempt by Moses Testamental.
On the five-trillionth, one hundred thirty-one billionth, five hundred ninety-six millionth, three-thousandth, four hundred seventy-second day of the multiverse PlatiminaSans purchases 900,000 flight-controlled securities (FCS) with AAA ratings. Included in this, is 850,00 Multiverse shares in flight ASA3473 and all of its human assets.
On the five-trillionth, one hundred thirty-one billionth, five hundred ninety-six millionth, three-thousandth, four hundred sevent-third day of the multiverse, 825,000 of those ASA3473 shares are destined to crash.
825,000 shares mean 605,416 shares of you across these flights. Of course there are versions where you sleep in, miss your ride, or coward out at the last moment.
There’s variations. Variables.
Those versions don’t matter to PlatiminaSans. Those versions aren’t about to crash and die in a fiery blaze of smoke-filled carnage, before sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic, forever forgotten, CNN be damned.
Eradication of assets isn’t an option. Instead, it’s fire sale time.
Enter Charmeine Joust, senior stockbroker of PlatiminaSans. Bleached of esprit, acrid concentrate. A multiverse metamarket megaton bomb that sparks rumors, folktales, pure mythos, and water cooler discussions from all the way up in those literal ‘holier than thou’ golden-gilded offices to the twelfth circle of hell.
The demi-deity who shorted Rome? Joust.
The crème de la crème who purchased 99% of available stocks during the IPO of some ‘silly North American British colony’? Joust.
The silver-tongued devil who calls up Yahweh himself and tells him to ‘stop playing God?’ (Click.) Joust.
When the meta-stock market needs a spanking, when Platimina absolutely, positively needs to sell, Joust is on speed dial.
And here he is now, meant to pitch your sorry ass.
How does one sell a human? What’s there to quantify?
A ton, actually. You should see the spreads on yourself. That’s the first thing Joust notices is that you happen to be a volatile, up-down-sideways, piece of shit. The creative types always are. High risk, a little anomaly. A blemish or oversight from the Ratings Agency. PlatiminaSans does love their fast and loose trades, but Joust himself, as the saying goes in its mildest form, is ‘getting too old for this shit’.
The woman beside you? Steady relationship with AA rating. STEM degree, wealthy parents, estimates point to engagement, family, within another two. Easy sell. Assets redeemed.
You? To call it a rollercoaster would be a grotesque understatement. Joust takes one look at the spreads, calmly puts his drink down, before throwing the board half-way across the room and shouting at the junior kind enough to provide such numbers to “Kindly throw himself off of the plane and call his lawyer on the way down.”
Bachelor degree. A history of botched relationships. A scorching case of herpes every three months. Even worse, you’re considering a career in the arts.
High risk. High reward.
Multiply that by 605,416. Joust’s migraine bursts like a supernova.
One doesn’t sell 605,416 variations of humans separately. It’s pointless. Yet still, the problem remains. Meta-stock is not your grandpa’s stock. It’s not your vanilla APPL, or GOLD. The wigs on Wallstreet would suffer aneurisms ascending to the divine leagues. Down on Earth, each and every slice of the pie is pretty much the same. A stupendously communist principle hidden away in a laissez-faire system.
In the multiverse, every variation is what the name suggests. You get what you pay for. A variation.
Some of you will become tenured professors, a heavy weight of academia. Some will reach that artistic high. Others will become drug hustlers. If Joust could, he’d line every single version of you up on will from most successful to least successful and scold accordingly.
But he can’t.
He can’t predict the future. There’s only hints. Little bubbles of potential in each and everyone one of you. Factors to suggest ‘will they or won’t they’ scenarios.
Joust’s interns are calculating right now. Taking 605,146 versions of you, and all of their potential incomes, assigning values, quantifying and standardizing, and working towards the bottom line.
In the end 605,146 versions will become one. A single package with a rating and a value. A number which represents the absolute best PlatiminaSans can expect from you.
Joust is getting that sheet handed to him right now. He pauses, looks it over for a moment, before uttering a single word.
Phone materializes beside him, a potential client list to his left, ranked in order of optimism. He doesn’t punch a single button, it’s already dialing.
First option: Swaps. Other companies own shares of you. Some have a monopoly on one single version, a prized racehorse, if you will. The one calculated to have the best odds. The version of you that has listened to father’s advice, went into corporate law, became a good beacon of society, simmers out in the suburbs, and is now soaking up six figures in L.A.
Others own the horseshit. Like most systems, distribution for most variations on the scale of worthy to worthless tends to tip oh-so-heavily towards worthless.
Winners take all, losers get none. Yet still, even the losers have worth. The versions of you collected on mass by bottom feeder companies. Precious little pennies, constantly being rubbed in the small chance that one happens to piss gold.
The swap is simple. Take the estimated lump sum value of the 605,146 mediocre versions of you against the estimated lump sum of the 605,146 shit versions of you owned by whatever company and sell on the difference. Under the current options, this is the best way for PlatiminaSans to reimburse anything on their losses.
Yet today, the fish don’t seem to be biting. Joust gets six straight voicemails and one chipper sonofabitch speaking in glossalia.
Next is Hell. Joust plays 18 with Lucifer every Saturday so he gets an audience. But even the devil sighs and yawns as Joust attempts his pitch. Lucifer hums politely for a moment, before telling Joust to call him back when he has more Jong Un stock to sell. Unless there’s a potential serial killer or dictator within the lot of you, he’s just not interested and rather ride his Mugabe shares until death.
Joust curls his lip. You’re not even valuable enough for Hell. Too self-righteous. Too many petitions signed and too many activist rallies under your belt.
More calls, more hedge funds, meta-banks, fallen-angel hotshots. Joust starts loading the word ‘favour’ into his linguistic ammunition, connoting prior obligations–perhaps more than a few millennia stale.
His initial instinct, again, is to pick up the damn phone. Have him dial himself. But, really, after all this time? What was the point?
Reputation, Joust. He’d normally say. But today, the opposition has withered. Today, the bullshit of PlatiminaSans spills over the cusp of his tolerance bucket. It was one thing to make him bailout the surefire AAAAA securities of the Australian Emu War, but this?
What is the point? A loss is a loss. Platimina will recover. The world will turn. It’s about time he got a bit of tarnish on his flawless complexion
Hardly a crisis. Just one person…
He looks at you, or rather, your bottom line. The sum of all your potential and shrugs.
A drop in the pond. Nothing gate crashing. Nothing like those mortal fools in Silicon Valley ready to drop VR on the world, nothing to cause some cataclysmic chain reaction.
And so, for the first time since the dawn of time, Joust walks away and lets you burn.
* * *
The cry rings out from R’t’~~th’^ren, senior stock broker of sH!z=t of the hyper-tetra-multi-meta-verse.
It is echoed a thousand times, across the 24 dimensions, as the entire firm clutches their tesseract screens simultaneously, the betting guidelines that have been scripture always and forever suddenly imploding on them.
Their dark matter asset, the savior of the child’s game of playing penny stock god, becoming indifferent!?!?
When Joust defaults, everything defaults.
The entirety of existence groans as the market crashes, all baryon capital evaporating within it, fermions and bosons fizzling away like flat champagne. Yet there, on their desks and laughing like hyenas, the anti-matter firm proceeds to high five one another.
Their table bet of Shorting Everything had finally paid off.
Sam Jowett lives in Toronto Ontario. He tries to write fiction sometimes, often to horrifying results. You can find his work at Mad Scientist Journal, Story Shack, Fickle Muses, and above this very bio.