It’s All About That Bass
Yesterday, I was invited to be the featured reader at the Not-So-Silent Planet, a speculative fiction open mic presented by Wordsprout. I was flattered and, of course, incredibly nervous because I didn’t know what I was going to write and, as always, I had no idea if it was the least bit funny.
The inspiration for this particular story came from the phrase “I just wish there weren’t so many bass players.” I don’t know why as I have no particular hatred for bass players. The phrase just struck me as funny. Over the course of the day, I managed to find a bunch of words to wrap around that phrase and this is the story that emerged. Honestly, I think it works better read aloud.
But I liked it. And I think it worked well. So I’m putting it out on the internet for people to enjoy or ignore. Warning: this story does not contain any cats.
Nobody sets out to cause the end of the world.
When I say “end of the world,” of course, I mean “the end of humanity.” Because that’s all any of us really care about. The end of our species’ perception of the world as a thing. The end of our existence as sentient beings.
The world itself will end one day but we were never going to be there to see it happen. I do think most of us thought we were going to get a little closer. Things change.
For the reader, though, let me just say that when I say “the end of the world,” what I really mean is “the end of human life.” I hope that clears up any confusion.
James Bond villains aside, nobody has ever wanted to cause the extinction of the human race. They just wanted to get rid of the parts of the human race they didn’t particularly like. Not to suggest that was OK. I’m not saying Hitler wasn’t a bad guy. I’m just saying he wasn’t trying to destroy humanity. He just wanted to get rid of – you know – part of humanity.
The end of the world, then, had to be something that happened by accident.
I bring this up because I want everyone to know that what happened to me could have happened to anyone. I was just the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m just a janitor.
Well, I was a janitor. I could still be a janitor. The world is pretty much a shithole right now. It could use a few janitors.
I will grant that I wasn’t a very good janitor. I was clumsy. I knocked things over a lot. Everyone at the lab knew that. I mean, Jesus. They all knew.
Which is why this isn’t my fault. I mean, what kind of stupid fucking scientist leaves a highly lethal, airborne flesh-eating virus in a glass vial just sitting on their desk? Who does that?
And maybe you should have labelled the thing, Dr. who-cares-what-your-name-is-because-you’re-probably-dead-now. Maybe something like DANGEROUS VIRUS THAT WILL DESTROY MANKIND! IF RELEASED, LOCK DOWN THE LAB AND CALL THE CDC IMMEDIATELY!
I’m sure “Sample Number 326” is a perfectly fine label for something else but in this particular case, it was just a bit understated.
So, as you might have guessed, I didn’t call the CDC. I just cleaned up the mess and left a note of apology. I don’t even know if he had a chance to read it. The virus works pretty fast. Unless you’re immune.
Ironic, right? The guy who effectively wiped out humanity is immune to the damned virus?
That’s irony, right? I’ve never completely understood irony.
You know the thing none of movies about Armageddon prepare you for? Irony. That and all the corpses.
It’s just math, really. If only one out of every thousand people survives, the result is a hell of a lot of dead people without enough living people to get rid of them. They’re all over the place. The entire planet smells like rotting flesh and, for some reason, pickles.
I used to love pickles. Right now, I could walk into any supermarket and eat as many pickles as I wanted. But dear God I don’t want pickles.
As a whole, the rest of the survivors are a pretty decent lot. I just wish there weren’t so many bass players.
I don’t know what it is about playing the bass that gives someone a genetic immunity to flesh-eating viruses. Since all the scientists are dead, we’ll probably never know.
Civilization has fallen and most of the survivors are people completely uninterested in fixing the problem. They just want to find a lead singer.
What bugs me the most is the way they are all so shocked. Every time I hear someone excitedly proclaim “you play the bass? So do I,” I want to scream “everyone plays the bass! EVERYONE PLAYS THE BASS!”
Why are they so surprised? It’s been three years and no-one has found someone who can play lead guitar or even a drummer. At this point, most have given up. They roam the streets in bands – I shouldn’t call them bands – there is no such thing as a band composed entirely of bass players – I’m going to call them groups – groups looking for generators and discarded amps.
Every night, the sound of a hundred sad bass solos echo through the city, each more boring than the last.
For those of us who don’t play the bass, we wait until they go to sleep around three or four in the morning. Then we have until at least noon to find where they live and destroy them. The survival of the species depends on it.
That sounds cold, right? Killing a someone just because they know how to play the bass?
I want to be clear: we aren’t killing them because they know how to play the bass. We are killing them because they won’t fucking stop playing the bass.
That’s all they have to do. Just stop playing the bass.
I try to have sympathy for them. I realize this is a psychologically challenging situation. Most of their friends and loved ones have died. They have spent three years surviving on spam and increasingly stale bags of Doritos. And they can’t even form a real band.
It sucks. I understand that it sucks.
But the rest of us have to deal with the same problems. My girlfriend used to be on a reality television film crew. She could be filming everything right now but she realizes there would be nobody to watch. I let her interview me on camera every now and again just to help her feel a little bit more normal.
I haven’t told her this is all my fault. We have a good thing going and I don’t want to ruin it. I’ll tell her eventually.
I know I’m rambling a lot. I’m sorry about that. There’s a lot to get through. I’m not even sure if anyone will ever read my story. By the time someone finds this, humans may well have lost the ability to speak or read. Or understand irony.
If, however, you are able to read this, I want you to know that I’m sorry. It was an accident. I wasn’t trying to end the world.
Whoever you are, I hope we got the last of the bassists. Or at least we put in them in a preserve or something. Like in Escape from New York. Not that you’re likely to get that reference. You probably didn’t understand the James Bond thing either, did you? Or Hitler.
God. Whoever is reading this probably won’t have heard of Adolf Hitler. But they will probably worship Geddy Lee. How fucked up is that?
Shit. Look, I do have a point. I’m writing all of this down for one reason. It’s not to tell you about my girlfriend or about the bass players or even to explain James Bond. I just wanted to give you one piece of advice.
If you develop another world killing virus, label the fucking bottle, OK? Jesus – is that so fucking hard?