I have witnessed the end of humanity.
I don’t know how any rational human being could have a different thought at the sight of people lined up outside of the ostentatious glass-walled store. For release after release, I watched them gather in excited little clumps, like concert-goers or the anticipatory audience of a brand new film, but this was for a piece of technology. These are over-priced, gaudy, soulless devices that wrap their purpose in distraction and push their purchases as hard as any pimp or corner dealer, and people are just sucking them up.
They’re getting more than they anticipated this time around.
I’m sitting in a mass-market coffee shop across the street from one of these peddlers of pointless pretentiousness. It sounds funny to say it that way, considering this venue is no better, but it has the best view for what’s to come. My cup of improperly brewed, thoroughly burnt swill sits in front of me, untouched. It is the rent I have paid for my seat; I am under no obligation to actually put the black sludge in my body. I have fresh beans, filtered water, and a flame-warmed kettle back home. I am here for the sights, not the fare.
The glass-walled store finally opens its doors. The first patrons, camped since the night before, lead the assembled in a cheer and saunter through the large glass doors. I check my pocket-watch. It is a simple mental calculation, provided all of my measurements and equations were correct. The patrons start streaming out as others stream in, holding their new prizes high. I watch as one of the happy new owners unwraps the plastic sealant, dives into the ostentatious over-designed packaging, and touches the object of his desire for the first time. It’s time for me to go.
I walk down the city streets, head into the public transit stop, and ride to my neighborhood. The mail slot in the door to my rented basement is stuffed with mail I continue to ignore. My rent, utility bills, and other angry correspondence is not going to matter in – I check my watch – a matter of minutes. All over the country, people are opening up their new devices and letting their skin come into contact with the aluminum. I turn on my radio and I wait, looking over my scattered notes and my practice at writing and translating several Chinese dialects.
My understanding and pronunciation of Mandarin were passable at least, and better than my Wu or Xiang, and clear communication had been a concern. Stowing away with international freight is not difficult if you know where to go and to whom one needs to speak. That necessity to speak is significantly more difficult, however, when it must happen outside of one’s native tongue. With the right words, however, you can convey meaning, especially with clear gestures and items in hand. I bartered more than bought, acquiring what I could in the wild or out of public sight, making trades in disparate sections to avoid detection. Even cash can be traced, if one is clever enough.
I open a can of beans from the stacks towards the back of the basement and spoon myself a mouthful. I am disinclined to go through the process of warming them up, so occupied are my thoughts with what is to come. I have anticipated outcomes, to be certain; one does not embark upon a plan such as this without some proper forethought. It is simply a matter of discovering which of the various sequences of events will play out. I have my hopes, to be certain, but there is a certain thrill in the unknown.
The Emergency Broadcast System breaks up the flow of the station to which I was listening. It is a general message: remain in your homes, an unknown sickness is manifesting, stay calm, and so on. I change stations to find live news. I come across the right position on the dial just as a crackling voice talks about people acting irrational, even ravenous, clutching new phones as they fended off other owners, attacked those they saw who were not owners of new phones, even using the devices as makeshift bludgeons. I check the time again. My estimation had only been off by a matter of an hour. Still, it had worked out that the effects were being felt on one coast while on the other, people were still in line, or opening up deliveries from their phone companies, or otherwise laying hands on the new phones for the first time.
I had been tempted, while in China, to limit myself merely to one manufacturer. While this day and its release would have the greatest immediate impact, I did not wish to have the outcome thwarted by a boycott or a mandate to not purchase that manufacturer’s goods. I had stayed overseas longer than I would have liked, risking detection and incarceration, but hearing the results, I knew I had made the right decision. Even if they turned away from the newest devices, purchases of substitutes would yield similar, if not identical, results.
Now came the question. Do I transmit my message now, or see if some other group claims responsibility? There were no shortage of religious fanatics who will feel envious they did not implement this solutions. But I have no delusions of invisible father figures whose approval I must attain for eternal bliss. My goals are more pure.
I have revealed the nature of humanity, petty and cruel and self-serving, and brought it into glaring relief for all to see through the means of the 21st century’s most prized possessions.
If you are reading this, you know the answer to that final question. You now know what I did, how I did it, and why I did it.
I do not imagine you will be thanking me, or grateful for the lesson.
But for what it’s worth: you, too, are witnessing the end of humanity.