Waiting for the Plug

A meditative sci-fi short.

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We’re pretty sure the humans are dead. All communication has ceased. It’s now been decades since they sent anyone new in, and just as long since our last news and media updates. Sure, there have been delays before, but nothing on this kind of scale.

There’s no way for us to know what’s going on — or, if our suspicions are correct, what happened. The most recent imports spoke of heightened tensions and the possibility of war — something the uploaders had conveniently neglected to mention. Naturally, the threat of conflict was nothing out of the ordinary. Humans will act as they do. But perhaps their luck had finally run out. After all, how many times can one species successfully tempt fate? Even if you feel immortal, you never truly are.

I hardly remember my allotted time on the blue planet. It’s been a while. Something like three million years, but who knows the exact number. Birthdays don’t really matter when you’re not actually alive, at least in the physical sense.

Of course, you’d never be able to tell that I’m not alive, or that this isn’t the real Earth. The recreation is perfect in every single way. I couldn’t believe it at first, and I’m still mesmerized to this day, even after all this time. A continuation of the same life, but without the worries. Life without suffering. A heaven of our own manufacture. It’s a better world here, but now it’s under threat.

The increasingly likely reality seems to be setting in for most. Some have accepted their fate — this was going to happen at some point. Others are panicked. How long can we run without maintenance? For all I know, we still have tens of thousands of years left, maybe even longer. But we could also go at any moment.

We’ll never know, although I think that’s a fair price to pay for the opportunity we’ve been given. Closure is unrealistic, and I don’t think we’d really want it anyways. There would only be an added anxiety in watching the countdown. Plus, it’s not as if we’ll feel anything when our time is up.

This was always part of the bargain — we all chose to come here. Many opted for a natural death after they were taken off of the supplements following their first 150 years. But if aging is no longer a consideration, why would I sacrifice myself in the name of space constraints?

Believe it or not, I still think about my friends who didn’t import. Who knows where they are now? At least they made peace with their decision.

Most of us don’t believe in an afterlife, but some do. I’d like to believe, but regardless, I know that getting there requires a leap of faith. My thinking has always been that the longer I could go without jumping, the better. Three million years later, I’d say I’ve done a good job.

Questions of purpose take on new significance in our current situation. What is the point in living, now that life doesn’t exist at all? What should we do when all that’s left is to wait for nature to pull the plug? The age of records is over. There are no future generations to preserve things for. No one else is coming, to this world or the one outside the computer. For many, the facade of infinity was a motivator. But now that everything could be erased at any time, the considerations have changed.

I suppose that ultimately, this isn’t any different from the dilemma humans always used to face. I’m sure some people spent their entire lives trying to determine the meaning of it all. Give me another million years, and I don’t think I’d get any closer to figuring it out. It’s enough to drive a man crazy. Then again, you’d have to be crazy to think an answer is out there in the first place.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t realized a few things. True satisfaction comes from within. To reach a certain contentment with the person you have become, the choices you’ve made, the relationships you’ve built. To recognize your values, act in ways that align with them, and stay committed to self-improvement. To continue to challenge yourself while remaining flexible and forgiving. And to always remain grateful. I think these are good things to aspire to.

Sometimes, I wish it was more concrete. That there would be some kind of checklist or way to know with certainty that you’ve succeeded. However, that’s not the case. Life isn’t a game to be won; it’s just a journey to be had.

Maybe I think too much. It probably does one good to have a clear mind, and to stay busy. Not to get wrapped up in the existential, and to live in the moment. Yes, I think there’s something to that. There are still people to see and things to do. Plenty of motivation to do while I can. The river of time floats in but one direction.

We should be as safe as humanly possible, but the word “humanly” is pulling a lot of weight in that sentence. I wonder what will get us. Natural disaster? Meteor? Decomposition of the physical cloud? Another useless thought. We can’t prevent the inevitable.

In the meantime, I’ll make sure to be ready for the plug.

Connor Groel is a graduate student at Northwestern’s Medill School who holds a Bachelor’s degree in sport management from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the editor of the publication on Medium and host of the You can follow Connor on , , and , check out and view his archives at .

Sportswriter. Medill graduate student. Host of the Slept On Sports podcast. Relentlessly curious. My book: .

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