In the Atelier

“If I disappeared would anyone notice?” I asked.

He looked up from his doodling and cocked an eyebrow at me. “Depends on how you disappeared. If you vanished from sight right now, in front of me, I’d sure notice.”

I sighed. He was missing the point.

“I’m missing the point, aren’t I?” he asked with a rueful grin. I nodded. He shrugged. “Caring about your legacy is one of the many paths to madness, my friend. You won’t be around to appreciate its effect. It’s a conundrum, really. Work your ass off in this life so that future generations can reap the benefits, but what if there are no future generations? What if the sum of all of our work is leading, ultimately, toward annihilation of the species? What then? And I’m not just talking about a hundred years down the road.” He tossed his piece of charcoal onto the bench and plucked a crumpled cigarette from under the dark tangle of curls that covered his left ear. He gave it an experimental sniff and, satisfied with the thing’s odor, lit it. The air filled with the dry smell of it, the dry smell of him. “Life can end at any moment, you know. And if we’re, all of us, of one consciousness, then it follows that our collective lives are bound by the same rule, no?”

I nodded.

“Who’s to say that when your personal lights go out, all the rest of ours do as well? Who’s to say that they don’t?” he asked, preempting my counter with his own. He grinned again. “Either way, once you’re gone, you’re gone. You may leave behind something, like a stain in the bathtub of life, but it’s up to those of us who remain to interpret your meaning. And without you there to guide us through it, it mutates. It evolves, or degenerates.

“But your ego is gone, baby, gone. Dust to dust, and all that. Why spend a lifetime pushing an agenda when ultimately— futilely—it’s left in the hands of some unknowable gang of future idiots?

“Just have fun,” he said.


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