The beginning is a delicate time someone once said, and I tend to agree. The first 25 years of my life were indeed quite delicate; I spent this period under less than perfect circumstances. Brainpower had something to do with it. Depending on the test, my IQ oscillated between 70 and 160. Today, however, I know that the median of all measurements was at 75.5 and that the quality of the 80 plus tests should be regarded with suspicion. People who called me an idiot were neither friendly nor nice, but they were right.
The intelligence quotient follows a normal distribution with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Scoring 75.5 my brains, though losing the race of cunningness against more than 99 percent of my fellow human beings, nevertheless ran full steam ahead of about 0.7 percent of mankind. That equaled to around 60’000 less sharp minds alone in Germany, which back then was sufficient to fill an average county capital. Globally the count increased to 50 million: In theory enough to populate England – and perhaps even in reality.
Needless to say, the days of my youth were tough on me. Though societies back then were genuine regimes of stupidity, true dull heads like me nevertheless had a damn hard time not to go to rack and ruins. Despite the popular stereotypes of simple-minded contentedness, I was far from being the invariably cheerful nimrod of the neighborhood that is stoked about every insignificant bagatelle, only living happily for the moment. Unfortunately, I have been very well aware of my shortcomings.
The root cause of stupidity lies primarily in the cultivation of over-efficient mechanisms of repression that enable the stupid to shift cumbersome matters quickly and unedited into the merciful realms of oblivion in order to allow full attention on the pleasant negligibilities of life. The reason hindering this elegant mechanism to fully unfold in my mind rested upon the inconvenient fact that my close and distant social surroundings were well aware of my mental handicap. They could have chosen to be quietly content with that knowledge, allowing me a peaceful life, but instead decided to take their advantage of it. As a result, I was condemned to serve semi-knowledgeable wimps and poseurs as helpless doormat for their intellectual swaggering. Neither did I desire nor could I defend myself against being abused as a humble podium on which those half bright boasters could climb to appear to others a tiny bit taller than they actually were.
But even if my fellow citizens had treated me and my image with more consideration, winning a woman’s – any woman’s – favor would have been virtually impossible for me. I was not even able to fool anonymous internet acquaintances for much longer than a couple of minutes. Common disadvantages like ugliness, pimples, overweight and underdeveloped genitals are concealable for some time; my personal problem areas, however, circled more around hassles such as comprehension difficulties in simplest contexts. Those were challenging to hide and should have given me swiftly away if my poor spelling abilities would have not been quicker. Fortune, love, and glory the internet may have held for others. For me though it was all but a cookie-box.
Looking back, all those online disasters do not matter much to me anymore for the internet was a false prophet, a fancy tool that failed by the irresponsibility of its users, making it the downfall of human knowledge. One could find anything there, be it true or not, from useless recipes for how to hard-boiled eggs to the rather bewildering mathematical argument that pi in reality is slightly larger than 16. For gullible knowledge hunters it was the gateway to hell; for me it was a lost battlefield of love and the source of flattering intelligence tests.
Since the age of 16 I have been earning my wages by daily labor. Living in a single studio apartment, I possessed all conceivable sorts of multimedia toys and felt utterly satisfied with the TV program. My looks though bothered me. Despite investing remarkable amounts of money into fashionable clothing, the female population of planet Earth ignored my efforts so thoroughly that I seriously considered the option of plastic surgery.
The idea that the problem may originate in my striking lack of charms rather than in my appearance either never crossed my mind, or I shifted it unedited into the merciful realms of oblivion. I was downright unable to find a girlfriend or even only some woman for half a night or less – at least not to the standard conditions of a one-night-stand. Up until day X, my sexual experiences comprised solely from costly services provided by the world’s oldest business. Well, at least pros sugarcoat you for only an hour and are in the long run actually cheaper to maintain than concubines, girlfriends or wives. Concerning the love-aspects of human relationships the scientists were right anyway: There really is no altruism.
Day X itself was over most of its duration a quite ordinary day on planet earth as well as in my life. I worked late shift, which allowed me to spend the morning watching the replays of some TV shows of the previous day. My favorites were talk shows in which pathetic, in all likelihood from the bunch of 60’000 county capital idiots recruited media whores laid their last remaining bits of dignity to rest. Their medial presence was the only company that could inspire me to feel superior or at least equal.
In the early afternoon, I rode my deluxe-mountain bike down the beautiful cycle track to the next village where I worked. The nice-looking track was in glaring contrast to my not quite as nice-looking workplace. The factory was outside gross and inside ugly, or the other way around. Despite being even back then at least moderately able to appreciate beauty to some extent, I ignored the lovely track within the blooming nature to the favor of the hideous factory that enabled me to afford the ammo I needed to stand my seemingly everlasting battle of fighting boredom. My armory in this war against my own incapability to enjoy life held such exclusive weapons as a super-large high-definition plasma-television set with cable connection, pay-tv, a video player, a DVD recorder, a Blue-Ray player, the latest game consoles of all brands, a nippy computer with high-speed internet and an oversized flat-screen hooked up on it, a mobile phone whose variety of gimmicks ably compensated the lack of calls and a number of other electronic toys which I could only afford in that I chose the ugly factory over the beautiful cycle track. All those playthings cost a lot of money: A fact as solid as a wall that is impossible to circumvent, regardless of how much you ignore it. To spend eight hours a day at work appeared so utterly natural to me, that the vision of a Neanderthal man wearing a boiler suit would have seemed the most normal sight on earth.
That very evening at work passed by like all the others did before. I covered a distance of about 10 kilometers, shifting metal pieces for unknown purposes with the roll lifting cart from A to B and sometimes back and exchanged porn DVDs with colleagues during breaks. Shortly past eleven I clocked out and got on my deluxe bike to hit the cycle track back home. Until that day, it had always been a lonesome ride. Joggers tended to avoid the late and dark hours on the unlighted track and drunk and stoned youngsters only lounged around there during weekends.
Halfway between work and home the UFO levitated about 20 meters above the track. At first, I was not aware of the alien presence since the UFO hung silently in the lower skies with an activated cloaking device. During day time the camouflage was fairly efficient, the holographic projection did not quite succeed in producing an authentic facsimile of the background from any given viewing angle, yet in the faint light of dusk and dawn it managed to deceive the human eye almost perfectly. Floating over a pitch-black cycle track at eleven o’clock at night, however, this silly techno knick-knack was a mere waste of energy.
But the UFO was not done yet showing off fancy tricks. Without any visible cause, my bike came to such a sudden stop as if it wanted to demonstrate that the laws of physics only apply to those who are impressed by them. Though the laws of physics may not have impressed my bike a lot, they did impress me – at first. Thanks to Newton I was catapulted over the steering rod, from where I continued, not so much thanks to Newton, floating straight on. In stunned bewilderment, I gained some altitude and then penetrated the cloak field. Behind the holo-projection, I spotted a strangely shaped thing which, despite having no similarities with the usually pretty uninspired images of UFOs at all, I intuitively recognized as such.
Just as intuitively I knew that the invisible hand which carried me so swiftly through the air was a force field. That knowledge I had from the accounts of the media whores, who exerted themselves to convince the public of the truly silly idea that aliens would set out on a journey of many light-years to earth where they eventually find nothing better to do than making lecherous love to humans of both genders. At the time, however, that sounded quite conclusive to me, the force field as well as the alien affection for mankind, but back then I found pretty much everything that happened around me quite conclusive. Whenever some event occurred, I construed a simple-minded explanation that I least understood myself in its consequences, but declared it nevertheless indubitable truth to which, however, I would have failed to answer any kind of comprehensive question because I did not know what it really meant.
Occam’s razor states that among competing hypotheses the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Or in other words: take the obvious one. The razor is generally quite dead on target, but it only works if the hypotheses to choose from are reasonable. What I mean is that the term “force field” is a meaningless word shell. True, as a descriptive phrase it serves the purpose, after all I felt what it did, but as an explanation for what is really going on, it is about as precise as declaring the effect being caused by a swarm of invisible fairies that, just like the aliens, only intended to make love to me. “Force field” sounds more technical, but the professional touch is about all the edge it has over the lascivious fairies. Giving things a name permits the illusion of comprehension and so the label “force field” permitted me to successfully ignore my nescience and stay calm until I was anesthetized a little later.
The aliens did to me what the more medically than sexually driven fraction of the UFO fanatics loved to report on TV. Still, those nutcases invented their absurd surgery stories, for no kidnaped victim had ever survived any of the operations. Neither had they a chance to chat afterward in television about their adventures in the OP-chair, nor to publish first-hand accounts of aliens playing with cut-out guts in internet blogs. Mankind plainly did not know about the visitors from outer space and their efforts to examine their victims to-be in many more senses than only the medical. The terrifying fact that such things really occurred was utter coincidence.
The only victim not falling prey to the experiments was me, essentially because fortune favors fools. The little green men, who indeed were big purple tentacle-bushes, made the unlucky mistake to tamper with my brain. Apparently, they played here with something they did not understand too well, for there was much astonishment amongst them when I unexpectedly woke up in the middle of the procedure, slightly disoriented but suddenly equipped with an IQ of 736.
The alien astonishment did not last long though. Quite understandably I was not too delighted about the situation I found myself in, serving weird creatures from space as a guinea pig, and so I reacted accordingly. A couple of incredibly smart moves later I was the only breathing entity left aboard. Though standing knee-deep in the alien equivalent of blood, I yet managed to preserve a clear consciousness: after all I am genetically much closer related to a potato – and potatoes I even eat.
Being done with the bushes in the UFO, I worked out some more sophisticated approaches for the big strike then I set course to the mother ship stationed on the backside of the moon and cleaned up there as well. At the point where I was certain that mankind was back to being the most intelligent species in the solar system, I flew home, parked the UFO 100 meters above my apartment and went straight to bed.
I got up the next morning at around nine and started the day as usual with coffee and cigarettes. My new IQ of 736 blew the imagination of nearly anyone, even if this particular anyone’s IQ was only marginally lower than mine. That far out in the borderland of the normal distribution, even small differences turn into flock that produce more shit than all of earth’s governments in their joint efforts together. Being such a brainiac, however, my chances in finding people who wanted to make friends with me were just as slim as my chances in finding people who I wanted to make friends with. First too dumb for friendships, then too smart; it was almost funny.
With a smile on my face, a cup in my hand, and thick smoke in my lungs, I sat down in my comfortable armchair and switched on the TV in order to investigate how much my perception of the world had changed. In sudden awareness, I looked at the cigarette between my fingers and crushed it angrily in the ashtray. That nasty stuff would cost me years of my life.
Less than three minutes later I lighted the next one. One of those much-quoted differences between theory and practice is that addiction does not – despite better theoretical knowledge – stop at intelligence.
Another two minutes later I switched off the TV, seriously worried to be in acute danger of losing my new brain talent by this massive attack of medial stultification on it. I wondered how much of my former IQ I could rightfully blame on the exposure to nagging TV-idiots, who might well have turned me over the years with their constant supply of brainless bullshit into one of them. It was not even utterly unthinkable that early expeditions of the big purple tentacle-bushes may have brought mankind the gift of television in order to slowly but surely annihilate the human mind with it. Exposing us only a couple of years longer to this brain soaking treatment would have turned the whole race into mental zombies that gladly assisted their new lords in conquering silly planet earth.
Well, that was not going to happen anymore. The wannabe lords with the tentacles had made the mistake of creating me, which changed the destiny of the world considerably. Bound and determined I got up from my chair. My IQ had comfortably increased and there was a spacecraft at my hands: The situation held some potential.
With great plans taking shape in my mind, I left the house, but was intercepted by my landlord already at the doorstep. The little imp still lived in the belief to deal with an idiot and thus was not ashamed to presented me a crinkled self-written piece of paper he called this month’s power bill. Even a short dip into it showed by a rough estimate to the ninth digit after the decimal point how this dickhead had played me since years for a sucker: The invoice total sufficed to cover electricity, gas and water of the whole village and a couple of close by ones too.
Only stupidity, they say, utilizes violence. Well, this proverb does have a civilized touch to it, but I nevertheless regard it as disputable. Though ethically indeed not entirely without controversy, elaborately applied violence was since always a most efficient tool for handling uncomfortable situations or acquaintances. One day earlier, brutal force had provided the only possible key for my and mankind’s survival. Now it helped me greatly to express my anger concerning my landlord and his power bill.
Until the police arrived on site, I had already entered the UFO and seized the power over Germany. Europe fell during lunch and around tea-time I had the whole world under my thumb. The really tricky part, brewing the elixir of immortality, took until shortly after nightfall.
I spent the following centuries administrating my property. Every now and then motherships of the big purple tentacle-bushes approached Earth; they, however, were not particularly inventive and far too cautious to succeed. If they would have taken the planet by storm, we would have been at their mercy, but they made the mistake of believing that taking their time to carefully study the conditions in the solar system, locating potential perils and investigating the whereabouts of the previous missions would be a good idea. This misconception provided me with plenty of opportunities to intervene and eventually cost them each and every ship they sent into the field against us. Without ever having built any starship at all, Earth soon found itself in possession of a forceful battle fleet. And it was in utter need of one.
The Milky Way was a harsh corner of the universe. He who did not have the means for effective defense quickly found himself at the short end of the stick. It is the nature and even integral part of the definition of any living thing to reproduce at a rate higher than mortality. Most galactic residents were even more fertile than mankind – and now consider the Fermi paradox. Life capable of spreading across interstellar distances does not just pop up but takes some time to evolve. Fermi was dead right in his conclusions, but for the final result he was a tad bit too impatient: The alien flood was just about to begin.
I am not saying that mankind has more claim on living space than other creatures – that opinion I leave to some of those mental wackos of the human past who tyrannized the world with excuses like best intentions for their own people, an unfortunate childhood or worse nonsense instead of getting their self-confidence straight – but after all I am human and, therefore, biased. Watching my own race getting’ wiped out was even less an option than wiping out others instead. This dilemma cost me some efforts; after 500 years of reign, however, I had managed to equip my people with a genetically built-in birth control and made them sufficiently fit for defense to get on with their interstellar neighbors by themselves.
Having fulfilled my duty for mankind, I finally arrived at a position that allowed me to quit the emperor’s job and turn towards the more interesting things in life. The will to power, even if it is put into action in a smart way, indicates almost always a blunt compensation for dumb lack of self-esteem.
Back in my days of idiotism I would have loved being king of the world, respected and most of all feared by all others, but the tide of events that took place during day X neither allowed me to ignore the real motivations behind that wish, nor disregard the embarrassment of obeying orders from such a lowly incitement. All in all I was bothered from the very start about this unasked for duty of leading my race to survival against aliens and even themselves, but the stupidity of mankind and its governments, miserably failing to protect earth from either, had left me no choice but to guide them far enough to handle the future on their own.
When I finally entered my tuned private spacecraft in order to set out for my personal playtime, Earth was safe from both the alien threats and the human talent for self-destruction. Words like money, racism and crime remained known only by historians – and even they had to consult their books first.
In the airlock, I turned around to speak to my people for the last time. It was touching to feel how my subjects would truly miss me, but I had plans. My last favor to mankind was to appear surprised about the farewell fireworks they burned into the skies to my honor. Good hearts and souls they were, but also as predictable as a right-angled triangle. My emotions were nevertheless genuine. I wiped a single tear away and waved them a happy goodbye then I entered the cabin, closed the lock and launched the ship.
My species did not spare efforts with the fireworks. The colorful pyrotechnics accompanied all my way out of the solar system and did not cease right until I entered the Kuiper belt – only then did I feel alone and finally ready to set out on my sole mission to single-handedly cruise the universe.
Back in my idiotic days I seemed utterly incapable of leaving a party midway through. I always had to stay until the end. This, I suppose, was my way of getting most out of each invitation, as I was not asked out for parties all too often. Though my life had changed considerably since then, the urge to outstay everybody else was still a part of me. To wait billions of years, during which I was likely to fall victim to a silly accident, was beyond all question. Instead, I decided in favor of Einstein’s shortcut.
The tuning of my spacecraft contained a couple of powerful inventions I had reserved for my personal use. All of those were integral parts of the afterburner and turned my little vehicle into the probably fastest spacecraft in the galaxy. Cheerfully I accelerated close to the speed of light and amused myself with the relativistic sight of a universe in fast motion. Going at such speeds converts even simple bulb light into gamma rays, so every now and then I slowed down to watch the universe with my own eyes instead of gazing at the monitors.
Going where no man had gone before, I steered my little ship out of the fast swirling Milky Way, speeded right through the heart of the Large Magellan Cloud and then set course on Andromeda, only to pass the galaxy and head further out into space. Behind me the Local Group fused with the Virgo Cluster then both together joined the Great Wall. I dipped into the intergalactic void, but soon turned around to the Great Wall and circled in a vast curve around this largest structure in the universe, watching breathlessly the flickering of countless stars as they lightened up and extinguished as if they were mere campfire sparks.
It did not take long until the universal hydrogen was consumed. The formation of new stars burning heavier elements gradually slowed down until it finally came to a halt at iron. The last few stars went out. For a time, the maelstroms around gigantic black holes illuminated space then darkness fell for the last time.
The cabin light in my spacecraft could be the last remaining photon source in the universe; I am, however, convinced that there are still others out there who, just like me, insisted on staying until the end. It may sound silly to throw out this message in a bottle, hoping that any of those lonely souls drifting through dead space will ever find it, but I had nothing much better to do anyway than to write down my memoirs. Besides, if the timeline is only long enough, the occurrence of the unlikely becomes probable. Since the universe is dead and done and will remain so for eternity, the chances of someone stumbling over this message might indeed be quite considerable.
The party is over.
The lights are out.
I made it.
Only one last mystery remains to be solved. I never managed to find out what is behind a black hole. Supposedly it is only death, but I am going to check it out anyway.
Florian Heller was born in 1974 in Germany. His professional careers range from tool making over engineering to data science. He spent some time in Mexico, more time in the United States, a lot of time in China and a really long time in New Zealand. After having spent a decade abroad, he returned to Europe and settled down in Switzerland. His writing led to over 30 short story publications, which include two nominations for the major German science fiction award, Deutscher Science Fiction Preis, in 2011 and 2012 as well as publications and translations in Austria, Germany, China, Poland and the USA.