What follows is a short story I wrote that I will probably end up adapting into something longer like a novel or screenplay. I cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time but I’m proud of it, so I’m sharing it. Let me know if anything does / doesn’t work for you! I’m feeling a little self-conscious if you can’t tell lol
Once he said it, he couldn’t unsay it. And nobody else in the room could unhear it. It was out, and now the only thing that remained was whether anybody would do anything about it.
The room fell silent. Ten minds at once began pondering the possibilities. The man who had spoken the idea into reality scanned the room. Saying something like this was potentially dangerous. Of course he trusted everyone in the room, or else he wouldn’t have invited them here, but could he trust the people that they trusted?
He’d spent months working through the permutations and possibilities in his mind before deciding to entrust anyone with it. He made list after list of names, people he thought he could trust, people he thought would know what to do with the idea once it was presented to them, lists of names that he looked up to, some of the greatest minds the world had ever known. Even once he had finalized the list, even after he’d sent out the invitations, he questioned whether he should bail at the last moment. It would be easy enough to find some other excuse to bring these people together.
But one nagging thought kept him going. One persistent phrase, repeated over and over in his mind, forced him to go through with his plan. The fate of the world is at stake.
Once the words were out of his mouth, he prepared for death. Even in this group, with these people, he feared he might have miscalculated. Everyone understood the magnitude of what he was suggesting.
Everyone looked at one another. He could see them struggling with the same thoughts that had plagued him for months—who can I trust? How do I react? Who is monitoring my expression? Have I been quiet for too long?
Finally, one of them spoke up. “It would take a lot of planning,” she said.
“Of course,” he said. “Years and years of it.”
“It would have to remain completely secret until it was ready,” a third voice said.
“Not completely,” he said. “We build slow. We keep it out of the wrong hands.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” said a fourth voice. It was starting to feel like people were on board with the plan, despite some logistical doubts & quibbles.
“If there’s one thing our generation is better at than any before,” he started, “it’s keeping secrets from people older than us.”
“That’s true,” said a fifth voice. “We have an entire department dedicated to making sure nobody over the age of 40 can understanding how the app works. If we can do that, I’m sure we could trust people with this.”
The man who called them here cleared his throat. “No one is allowed to hear about this unless everyone in this room approves. And everyone we tell has to agree ahead of time to follow that same rule. No one else finds out until everyone who already knows agrees. Non-Disclosures out the ass.”
“That’s going to be incredibly difficult to enforce.”
“No, it won’t,” came a sixth voice, followed by a brief chuckle. “That’s why I’m here, right?” she said. “We just have to combine the original Facebook logistics, where you weren’t allowed to join unless someone invited you, with the app I’ve been developing to allow people to vote in government elections from their phones. Someone sends out an invitation, everyone has to vote to clear it.”
“Eventually we’re going to be at millions of votes per day,” came a sixth voice. “How are all of us supposed to keep up with it?”
“I wrote a code that rates the trustworthiness of friend requests based on friends in common and mutual interests. If we spend a little more time developing it, which I assume we have, I can make it so you’re voting on people based on how many others vouch for them. We can let people in in chunks, based on friend groups.”
“Honestly, if we’ve gotten that big, we’ve kind of already won.”
And the room went silent again.
This could work. This would work. They were sure of it.
Eleven people exited the room that evening. Six months later, eleven had become 100. Six months later, 100 had become 15,000. Word was spreading.
The plan was constantly adjusted as new minds entered with new ideas. Most of them were additive. Once in a while, two ideas would conflict, but the collective minds of the initiated would quickly come up with a solution. Everyone was permitted to suggest changes to any part of the plan they didn’t agree with, but on the whole, suggestions were rarely made. After the first few hundred minds had taken a look at the system, it was nearly perfect.
One of the greatest benefits of the new system eradicating the need for money was that everyone who joined happily poured their capital into it. Right in front of the entire world’s eyes, the founding members built a new world. They did it without ever admitting to anyone their true intentions. They built headquarters in every country on the globe. They funded and built facilities that produced a constant and infinite amount of renewable energy. They perfected a type of genetically modified food that provided a day’s worth of nutrients in one small package. They cleaned the oceans. They built housing. They brought all of life’s needs to every life on the planet, and they did it while paying the elders so much cash that they didn’t question where it was all coming from. They were so busy trying to hide their new riches from the world’s governments, they never saw the writing on the wall.
The last step was waiting for everyone who didn’t (or wouldn’t) agree, to die.
“We don’t have to kill anyone,” he said, in his initial pitch. “Everyone is so concerned with violent overthrows, with population control, with rigging the system, no one ever stopped to consider just… waiting them all out. If we can get every young person on board with a vision of utopia, with a world that feeds and houses everyone, for free, forever… why would we need to kill anyone?”
And one day, in the early 2030s, despite nearly constant predictions of world-ending events, the world did not end. It just stopped.
Zhao Chenglei, the last person on Earth who hadn’t found out about or agreed to the plan, died on March 4th, 2032. The day was forever celebrated worldwide as Chenglei Day, the day the new world was born. Her family did not mourn, because her passing brought forth a world without violence, without hatred, without poverty, without any of the trademarks of colonialism or a mindset of dominance. Everyone agreed—all humans are just that: human. And humans, by their nature, are animals.
Bank records were deleted. Churches closed their doors. Governments shut down. Everything that was a symbol of the old world simply ceased to function. People, knowing that their basic needs were met and would always be met, were free to do whatever they wanted.
And whatever they wanted turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. People would gather together to tell stories, to cook food, to play games. Mostly, they relaxed. People who wanted to create art did so. Many people were still driven to express themselves, and they did so in whatever way spoke to them. Monogamy was all but eradicated. People who wanted a traditional 2-person relationships were welcome to do so, but it was mainly for the novelty of the thing. Something people tried for a few months before agreeing that the new way was better. People who wanted to have sex were able to, and they were able to do so with anyone who gave consent. Some humans volunteered to be sex workers. For everyone else, sex robots would be built to whatever specifications the user wanted.
People didn’t raise their own children: if you wanted to be a parent, you volunteered to do so and worked at the nearest facility where human babies were prepared and socialized for the world. There, children were taught how to handle their emotions, social cues, and the meaning of consent. They were taught everything they needed to know to exist in the world—how to read, how to write, the buttons on a keyboard, how to navigate a VR landscape, where to pick up your daily energy requirements, and the types of animals to avoid when going outside.
No historical records were deleted. The originator of the plan felt it was important to always remember the way things had once been, so that no one would ever try to bring the old ways back. Every system of government that had ever been tried had ultimately failed. Every law that had ever been written had somehow limited the freedoms of a sub-group of humanity. Now, everyone was free and equal.
There was only one rule: Never do anything to anyone that they have not given you permission to do.
Because consent was a part of everyone’s basic education, and because no one needed anything from anyone else, and because there was no way to use power dynamics to manipulate anyone, everyone followed the rule. There was nothing to be gained from breaking the rule apart from public humiliation and social rejection.
“Did you see this working?” someone had asked him. “Did you see all of this, when you first imagined it?”
“Honestly, no. If anyone with anything to lose had found out about the plan before it was ready, they’d have found a way to kill me legally.”
“Then why’d you do it?”
“I trusted that enough people were tired of being taken advantage of to get behind the plan. And because someone had to.”
“How’d you pull it off?”
“I invited the ten smartest people I knew into a room and gave them permission to believe that they could.”
This story was originally written for my writing podcast “SuggeStory” on the @millennialmissionmedia podcast network.