UNLEARNING

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“I know. I told you, I already know that. There’s no need to scream, I can hear you. I’ve got to go now. I’m working. I’ll call you later. Bye, my love.”

Edward was sitting in his cubicle, doing his 9 to 5 job, happy with his 9 to 5 life, and completely unaware of the fact that he was living the last day of his life.

He worked for the National Information Bureau, the so-called NIB, as a second-level information developer. He wasn’t sure what a first-level developer looked like, nor a third-level one, for that matter. Maybe they didn’t even exist. But he didn’t care; he was doing his job, filtering the financial market information from Wall Street.

Funnily enough, the name of the street originated from an actual wall built in the 17th century. A 12-foot wall had been built to protect the Dutch population living in New York – or what was then called New Amsterdam – from pirates and other villains who wanted to steal their valuables.

In 2089, after the Great Flood, neither the Wall nor the Street were left; everything was digitized and uploaded into the Clouds. Yes, the real Clouds. By 2074, the only way to fight pollution was to create a swarm of nanofilters – flying, solar-powered, air-filtering servers. They mimicked real clouds and had the ability to store small amounts of data.

“Hey Dan, can you help me?” Edward stretched his neck above the cubicle, searching for his colleague. “Dan, where the hell are you? I need your help. There’s something strange here.”

“What’s wrong now, Ed? Is your decaf too strong?” Dan was fumbling under his desk, trying to fix his monitor. All NIB employees were responsible for their appliances and cubicles. Without insurance, you risked paying a very high bill for any loss or damage. “Stupid monitor, it doesn’t work. I don’t wanna pay to fix that piece of crap. Did you know that back in the early 2000s, people had free appliances, free cubicles, and even free pens and paper? Crazy times!”

“Dan, get over here. I’ll help you fix that monitor later, but right now I need you over here! There’s something very strange happening.”

Dan emerged from his desk and leaned over the cubicle partition. “Show me the problem, Mr. Proctor.”

“Look at this graph. Can you see this descending line?”

“Yeah, it’s a very nice descending line. What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong? Are you nuts? This is the weekly info-rate and it’s plunging down 5% this week! And the data shows that next week will be even worse.”

“Ed, I’ve absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I know we work on the same floor, but I’m not in financial analysis. I’m in real estate, did you forget?”

“This is big, Dan! No matter what your field is. That means we are screwed. All of us!”

Edward was completely frightened, staring at that descending line. His terror was so thick and dense that Dan literally darkened.

“Look, you’re scaring the hell out of me. Can you just tell me what’s going on?”

Edward had discovered that the Bureau, the city, the nation – the whole society was about to collapse right in front of his eyes. “Dan, we are running out of information.”

The statement exploded like a grenade in Daniel’s face. “No, it can’t be. You’re wrong. You are completely wrong. Are you sure? Are you damn sure? Let me see that bloody graph again.”

“There’s nothing more to say. The weekly info-rate is -5% and it’s sinking faster and faster. By the end of the day, it will be -7%. That means that in two weeks, we will lose 50 petabytes of information. That’s roughly how much the West produces in six months.”

During the decade of 2030–40, an analyst discovered that Moore’s law was affecting the economic system as well; but instead of growing like technology did, the worldwide banking system collapsed every two and half years, bringing in a huge wave of inflation, unemployment and overwhelming poverty. The monetary system was so old and corrupt that it had spiraled into a self-destructing cycle, forcing all the banks to completely change their business models.

At the forefront of the paradigm shift was Junichi Oue, CEO of Nakamoto Ginkoo, the biggest Japanese bank. In 2045, he realized that money was obsolete in a society where 85% of labor was automated. The only thing that had value was information. Thanks to information, you could turn raw materials into transistors; thanks to information, you could spread knowledge all around the world. For the first time in the history of humanity, the world had one single currency: information. In 2045, thanks to the Oue doctrine, the human species entered the information era.

“Ed, that’s impossible. We can’t lose information. How can that be? We’re producing information right now. People are always sending messages, videos, protocols, anything. It’s all about information. How can we have a negative info-rate?”

“I don’t know, but I must talk to the Audience. They’ll know what’s going on.”

“Then I’m coming with you.”

“You can’t, Dan! We can’t share our workflow information, you know the rules. If they find out that you know, they could sue us and put us in jail. Do you want to end up behind bars? I’ll pass, thanks.”

Edward sprang up from his chair as if he’d been electrified. He walked through the aisle between the cubicles, heading for the elevator. Nobody noticed him; everybody was immersed in their daily routine.

“Where are you going?” asked the roboguard voice from the lift speakers.

“I need to talk to the Audience,” Edward replied.

“Justify your request.”

“I’ve found some discrepancies in the financial model. I need to show it to the Audience.”

“Access guaranteed. Enjoy your ride.”

The lift smoothly rose up to the fifty-second floor. Edward wasn’t sure how he was going to explain the problem. He wasn’t even sure that they would believe him. “Maybe they’ll think I’m crazy, or some kind of junkie,” he thought. “I’ll lose my job. What am I doing?”

The Audience was formed of the most influential bureaucrats, the ones with the highest level of information and knowledge. Edward realized that he didn’t know anything about the Audience; he didn’t know how many people there would be, or whether it was just one lone bureaucrat sitting in an enormous chair.

Edward stood on the landing, waiting to be announced by the roboguard.

“Identify yourself.”

“Edward Proctor, social security number 25D82, second-level information developer, twenty-fourth floor.”

“Good morning, Mr. Proctor. You may enter.” The doors buzzed open.

Edward walked through a narrow corridor with very bright white walls; the ceiling was lower than average and the floor was lined with a soft greenish carpet. The whole space felt like it was being crushed by the building. Edward remembered an interior design article about psychology and the right use of colors and shapes. “Shapes can reshape your attitude. Yeah, that was the title of that magazine. How long is this corridor? Am I doing the right thing?” he thought.

At the end of the corridor, there was a white door with a golden plaque that read ‘Truth is Reality. Reality is Truth.’ It was the last barrier between him and the Audience. Edward knocked on the door. No response.

“Um, I’m Edward Proctor, social sec–”

“We know who you are, Mr. Proctor. Please come in.” The white door slowly opened.

The room was huge; the ceiling was 30 feet high and all the light came from the full-length windows at the other end. On both sides, there were two long, red wooden benches, like the ones from the Chamber of the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster. There were rumors that these were in fact the very same benches, saved before the explosion that destroyed the Palace back in 2045.

The Audience was composed of eight members, four on each side – seven men and one woman. Edward walked into the middle of the room, waiting for permission to speak.

“Dear Mr. Proctor, we are ready to hear you. Do you have any information that we are not aware of?” It was impossible to tell who was talking.

“Esteemed Audience, I’m sorry to bother you but I have something to say. I feel very strange because usually you are the ones who give us new information. I hope to not be disrespectful or rude, but I think you must have missed some very important information recently.”

“Go ahead, Mr. Proctor. You have permission to tell us what you think we have missed recently.”

“Well, I’ve noticed that the weekly info-rates index is going down. And, according to my analysis, it will reach -7% in the next few hours. I’ve calculated that by the end of the month, we will–”

“Lose around 50 petabytes of information. Is that correct?” the woman interrupted him.

“Yes, that’s correct!”

“You are a very bright analyst. We are happy that you are working for us. Why don’t you consider taking a vacation and spending a few weeks with your family? Marta would love that, don’t you agree?”

“Yes, that would be great, thank you.”

“Don’t be afraid of that negative trend. We are aware of the situation and it’s nothing to be concerned about. The system is not perfect and sometimes it needs to release some energy. But it’s just temporary. We won’t lose a single bit of information in the long run.”

“I knew you would have everything under control! I’m so sorry for having doubted you.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Proctor. You did a very good job. Did you share this with any of your colleagues?”

“No, sharing information without permission is against the law.”

“Well done. You can leave now. There is nothing more to discuss. Everything is fine.”

“Yes, everything is fine. Have a nice day.”

Nothing was fine. Edward realized that the Audience lied all the time, and he was afraid that they knew that he lied as well. How can it be that the highest tip of the bureaucracy had to lie? What for? Everybody knew that info-rates must always rise! It’s impossible to delete information. It’s a paradox! Even the act of deleting an information is an information itself. How is it possible? Why the Audience lied? Too many questions to answer but nobody to talk with. He had to share his concerns with somebody, but who?

“Hey Ed, how was the meeting?”

“Shut up Dan, we’re in big trouble! They asked me if I had shared my information with anyone. And they told me to take a vacation. You know what that means, don’t you?”

“Oh my God, we’re fired! I told you not to get too involved around here! Everything is automated, there’s no need for human intervention. Your job’s easy, it’s just filtering information. Why did you want to analyze information? It’s not your job. You’re not even authorized to be an analyst!”

“Fired? You’re so stupid. We are dead, my friend. We are both dead men walking. I don’t know what they’re trying to hide. They lied to me the whole time and they were afraid. Especially that woman. She was scared, I know it. I felt it!”

“Look, let’s just meet later at the pub. Now it’s time you go home and relax.”

“Okay, I’ll see you there, Dan. Take care and watch your back.”

“See you, man.”

Edward packed all his stuff and rushed out of the office. His home was twenty minutes’ walk away from the Bureau. He decided not to take the bus because he had to think. He was good at thinking while walking. And he wasn’t the only one; he had read that Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, William Wordsworth and even Aristotle were also obsessive walkers.

But those great minds had the chance to walk in natural spaces, without any distractions. Edward lived in the information era, where distractions were everywhere. That was the side effect of the Oue doctrine – everybody had the opportunity to find out anything at any given moment. Silence was impossible to obtain. Even in your home, information was everywhere, stuck in your mind.

Pregnant women were forced to live in an environment full of information, so that the newborns fell right into the flow of it. Companies hired the best mind-hackers to create subliminal commercials. Advertisements were all over the place, and from the moment you woke up until you went to bed, your brain was stormed by thousands of gigabytes of information.

Information is good, they said. Thanks to information, there are no wars, no poverty, no social conflicts, they said. But they lied. What’s the point of knowing anything when you understand nothing?

Edward finally discovered the paradox: submerging people in information and engulfing their minds with useless data made it impossible to develop personal opinions. If everything was on display and easily available, there was no need for searching. Without the need to search for their own answers, human brains became lazy and people began to accept anything, like a herd of sheep. That was Edward’s final conclusion: money wasn’t perfect, but it gave people the chance to improve their circumstances.

The information era levelled everybody down; the status quo would forever be held by those who had the power to manipulate and distribute information.

“Here we are, home sweet home. Marta, Marta, where are you?!”

“Hey sweetheart, you’re back early today. Did they fire you?”

Marta Moore, the only girl that Edward ever loved. They were raised in the same orphanage. They both lost their parents in the Great Flood of 2089. In one single day, more than 300 million people had died all around the world. People knew that climate change would lead to the sea levels rising, but scientists didn’t understand the exact magnitude of what would happen. They thought that the process would be slow, moving inch by inch. They didn’t take into account that Earth is a giant bubble of lava with a very thin crust.

When the glaciers melted, the water poured into the oceans, and though the sea levels did only rise slowly, there was a sudden increase of water pressure on that thin crust. Coastal cities all around the world built barriers and dams, but they weren’t prepared for the biggest problem: the monster tsunami produced by the global eruption of underwater volcanoes. The heavy water pressure squeezed the crust like a teenager squeezes a pimple. The average tsunami was a hundred feet tall. Northern Europe was completely wiped out. Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan, the East and West coasts of the USA, Mexico – all gone.

“Fire me? No, but they will. Or worse.”

“What are you talking about, baby? Silly Eddie. Stop joking and tell me what’s wrong with you. You’re acting really strange today.”

“Marta, I know something that could change our lives forever. I mean the lives of everybody, everywhere.”

“Honey, you’re scaring me. Please just tell me what’s going on.”

“Do you trust me, Marta?”

“Of course I do! I love you.”

“I found out that we all live in a dream. Nothing is real. We don’t actually know what’s going on because we are numbed by information. When was the last time you discovered something all by yourself? Without asking for information or data? Do you know the difference between knowing and understanding? Do you understand what’s going on here?”

“Baby, I do love you but I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Are you sure you didn’t take any drugs?”

“Yeah, I took a very powerful one that showed me the reality. The REAL reality.”

“Oh my God! My Eddie is a junkie? I don’t believe it!”

“Marta, listen to me. I’ll try to explain it better, but you have to try to understand and not just listen to the words I’m saying.”

“I really don’t know what’s going on, Eddie. But okay, go ahead.”

“Today I discovered that the info-rates are going down. And I mean down for real, about -7% daily. Do you know what that means?”

“Down? How is that possible? We know that only three things are certain in life: death, taxes and growing info-rates. We’ve been told all our lives that information can’t be destroyed. The Hawking experiment proved that even a black hole can’t destroy information. So, who’s behind this? How? And why?”

“I don’t know, but I can’t be wrong. The graphs were as clear as pure water. The info-rates are plummeting.”

“That’s impossible. I can’t believe it. Did you tell the Audience?”

“Yes I did, and that’s the weirdest part. They already knew about the issue and they lied. They LIED! They told me that it was normal, that the system isn’t perfect. They even asked me if I had shared the information with other people.”

“They’re afraid of something. Am I the only one you’ve told?”

“No, Dan knows too.”

“Daniel Finnegan? Oh my Lord, he’s the dumbest guy ever. Why him?”

“He’s a good guy, I can trust him. I’m meeting him later at the pub. We’re in the same boat now, we have to paddle together.”

Later that evening, Edward was walking to the pub. “What’s the plan now?” he wondered. He didn’t yet understand how his discovery could be useful, but he knew that it was once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something great in his average life.

“Evening, Chris. How are you? I feel like a pint tonight.”

“Hey Ed, I’m fine. Where’s Marta?”

“She’s doing yoga at home. You know what she’s like.”

“Yeah. Here’s your pint.”

The pub was quiet. There were some guys at the bar chattering about the nothingness of their normal lives. A young couple was making out, hidden in the corner of the bar by a table full of empty bottles.

“Hi Eddie, sorry I’m late.”

“It’s okay Dan, better late than never. Chris, he’ll have a pint too, on me.”

“Thanks, Eddie.”

“Let’s sit over there, we need some privacy. I don’t like how those guys are looking at me.”

Edward was becoming more and more suspicious as he was about to discover the most inconvenient truth. He wasn’t going to like it. Not at all.

“Okay Eddie, please tell me what’s going on in that secret black box?” asked Daniel, prodding Edward’s forehead with his index finger.

“Stop touching me, you fool! We must keep a low profile. We have some very dangerous information that could save or kill us.”

“Edward, I’m your friend, you know that. But I don’t understand you anymore. You’re getting paranoid.”

“I know why they lied. I’ve got their plan figured out. But we need help to make it through. We need some real help. You know what I mean, don’t you?”

“No, I don’t. Have some beer, breathe in and out, then please explain what’s going on because I’m totally lost!”

Edward took a good sip before he started. “We are all junkies! We are all addicted to information. We’ve been trained all our lives to live inside a society where data is everywhere. We can’t live without the instant gratification of knowing things. Do you know the average speed of cars in a traffic jam?”

“3.45 miles per hour?”

“Yeah, you’re right! And you know why I know you’re right?”

“Uhh, because we do know stuff?”

“Exactly, because we damn well do know stuff. When we were at the bar earlier, the TV was on and there was a commercial about public transport. Did you notice?”

“Of course not. I hate TV.”

“But your subconscious loves it. That’s why you know the average speed of the damn cars during the damn traffic. Because we are trained to absorb random information, even if we don’t care at all. We are sponges that are thrown into a bucket full of dirty water. We don’t like it, but we keep absorbing liquid until we are full of it and we drown.”

“Maybe you’re right, but I still don’t get your point.”

“My point is that we are addicted to information. Our brains are tuned to receive as much as we can, and we need more and more. We look for information even if we don’t want to. I don’t want to fill my brain with stupid facts like the average speed of a car in traffic. But I can’t help it. And this is nothing, this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Okay, but I can’t see the connection between your crazy ideas and the fact that information is disappearing.”

“It’s not disappearing. We have never had that information. Think about it. The NIB controls the information, our currency. That means that the Audience, who controls the NIB, has the power to control the currency and its value. They know in advance where the economy will go because they have first-hand information. They can even produce new information, new currency. But what happens when there is too much currency? Its value drops, there is deflation – in simple words, advertising companies will pay less for their services. And who controls the advertising?”

“The NIB, of course.”

“That’s right! The NIB controls all the main aspects of our economy. They decide if we’re going to be in a bull market or a bear market. They sell information to the biggest companies and that’s it. The whole system is rigged.”

“So, what about the missing information?”

“They created fake information on purpose in order to make us even more addicted. But too much information means deflation of currency, which means less profit. So, they need to balance the economy, by reducing the amount of information available.”

“Wait a second. Don’t we have that AI system that automatically detects fake information and blocks the origin of the signal? So, how could we still be full of fake news?”

“You mean Project Veritas? Yes, it’s one of the most wonderful and powerful uses of strong AI that we’ve had so far. But there’s a trick.”

“What trick?”

“Do you remember the Referendum for the Freedom Acts?”

“Yeah, I voted no, of course. I don’t want an AI controlling another AI. I want humans to keep total control. AI is our tool, not our master!”

“And I voted no for the same reason. But what happens if a corrupt organization controls the AI?”

“Oh… I get it! Those bastards have shut down Veritas! We thought we were safe from fake news, so we believed everything we heard. But we were full of shit.”

“You got it, Dan. And now Veritas is on, ready to do its job: erasing fake news. Less news, higher prices, higher profits. But it’s not over yet. We’ve been over-intoxicated by so much data that now we just can’t get enough. We search for more information, but the cost – not the value – is skyrocketing. Are you ready to pay more for something with no value at all?”

“Eddie, you are a frickin’ genius. We have to tell people, we have to stop the Audience!”

“It’s not that easy. We can’t just shout it out in the streets or go leafleting around.”

“Do you still have that pirate broadcaster that we built in the basement? We could record a message and start sending it out right now!”

“It won’t work. The antenna and fuse got fried during the last solar eruption.”

“Leave it to me, I’ve got some spare parts. It’s time to change history, my friend. Let’s get out of here. I’ll be at your place in half an hour.”

Daniel chugged his last drop of beer and ran out of the bar. Edward finally felt relieved. Now he knew he wasn’t a loony conspiracist. Or at least he had a friend as loony as him. The TV was still buzzing with random news about useless topics, but everything was perfect in that moment.

“Hey Marta, I’m back! Still doing yoga?”

“Baby, I’m upstairs brushing my teeth. Let’s go to bed already, I’m tired.”

“There’s no time to sleep. We need your help in the basement.”

“We?”

“Yeah, Dan’s coming over. We’re doing a pirate broadcast. We uncovered the NIB’s real plan and we’re going to expose them tonight!”

“Are you crazy? That’s illegal! Are you drunk?”

“Shut up and come here, we need you!”

Marta descended the stairs with a strange frown on her face. “Eddie, I don’t like this.”

“Hey guys, it’s me. Can I come in?” Daniel was nervously knocking on the front door.

“Shut up, you fool! Do you want to wake the whole block? Get in already.” Edward pulled in Daniel by his jacket and shut the door behind him. “Did you get the spare parts?”

“Sir, yes sir! I’ve got everything we need. We are ready to subvert the status quo, right here, right now. I’m so excited, folks!”

“Guys, I don’t understand what’s going on. Are you drunk or what? Can you please tell me why you’re broadcasting in the middle of the night?”

“My love, let’s go downstairs and I’ll tell you everything. But we’ve got to hurry.”

The three of them rushed downstairs and started searching for the old broadcasting machine, which Edward and Daniel had assembled years ago just for fun. Pirate broadcasting was a very big deal when they were younger, since you could be accused of subversion and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“That’s it, I’ve found it! Dan, come here and help me fix this piece of junk.”

“Are you guys sure it’s going to work? It’s been a decade since you’ve used it.”

“Don’t worry, my love, it’s a Chinese machine. The best quality that you can have.” Edward was as high as a kite. He was like a kid unboxing his Christmas gifts.

“Ed, this machine is a piece of crap. I hope the antenna and fuse are the only broken bits. I don’t have any other spare parts.”

“Look, I trust you. You’ve got the magic touch. Be our wizard, just for tonight!”

“I’ll do my best. Now shut up and get me a beer, I’m thirsty.”

Edward and Marta were sitting on the steps, drinking beer and watching Dan meddle with fuses, cables, screwdrivers and pliers.

“Baby, are you sure we’re doing the right thing? I’m so scared. If they’re scanning the area, they’ll find us and that will be the end. I don’t want to go to jail!”

“Neither do I. That’s why we need to be quick.”

“I did it! I hope it works. Let’s turn on this old rusty scrapheap.” Daniel passed the extension cord to Edward.

“Marta, it’s your turn. Plug in this cable and cross your fingers.” Marta pushed the plug into the socket and the machine woke up, making a strange monotone buzz.

“Is it working? Is this normal? If it explodes right in your faces, I’m not calling the hospital!”

“Marta, it’s working fine. We’re on air!” Dan grinned.

“Yes, my love, we are ready to broadcast our message to the world.”

“Oh right, your message. So, what is it then? Can you tell me about this message that’s going to send me to jail, please?”

“Marta, your Eddie has found out that NIB is messing with our society in order to squeeze out the maximum profit. Eddie, it’s time to record.”

“Record? Aren’t we supposed to broadcast live?”

“No, my friend, this machine can only handle one task at a time. We’ll record the message first and then send it.”

“Okay, I’m ready. Marta, just listen to what I’m going to say because tonight we are changing our lives forever. Dan, let’s do it!”

Daniel pushed the record button. The machine buzzed for few seconds and then fell silent.

“Dear citizens, dear friends, my name is Edward Proctor, social security number 25D82, second-level information developer for the National Information Bureau. I’ve got something to share with you tonight, so please sit down, relax, and try to understand what I’m saying. This isn’t a commercial, or a test. This is real. I’ve been lied to for so many years by the NIB that I wasn’t able to recognize the reality. But now I can. I’ve discovered the truth behind the thick curtains of lies that the Bureau has set up so far. They are hiding the truth. They don’t work to protect us. They are spoiling our minds; they create fake news just for profit. They don’t care about our security, our wealth or our prosperity. They just want to abuse their power so they can control the economy and society. They are the Audience, the supreme controller of our information. They say ‘Truth is Reality. Reality is Truth.’ But I’m exposing them now. Their lies are our truth, their dream is our reality. They have been flooding us with fake news, and now they are erasing information because they went too far and their share prices dropped too much. They shut down Project Veritas to cover their tracks, then just a week ago they turned it on again. If you don’t believe me, just look at the info-rates graph, you’ll see how much it’s dropping. In the next two weeks, we will lose up to 50 petabytes of information. That will cause massive inflation for us, but a huge profit for them. Please take action. Stop listening to useless information and start choosing between what you need to know and what is just background noise. We are smarter than this, we are stronger than them. Please stop them. Our time is now. Please stop them.”

Edward pushed the button to stop the recording. The buzz of the antenna filled the silence in the basement. The message was recorded and now they just needed to press one button to send it off. They were scared. They knew that their lives wouldn’t be the same.

“Was that all real? Are you really sure that you’re right? I do trust you, sweetheart – but if you’re wrong, we are going to spend our lives running away from the NIB. I can’t imagine living like that. Maybe it was just a little mistake and they’re already fixing it. How else does everything make sense?” Marta’s hands were shaking, she was shocked. All of a sudden, her reality had collapsed and now she had to figure out how to live the rest of her new life.

“I need to lay down for a second, honey. I’ll go upstairs. Don’t push that button until I’m back, I want to be here when it happens.” Marta walked away and went upstairs.

“She’s not prepared for this, Ed. Too much pressure for her, she can’t handle it. She’s so naïve and young. I don’t know if she’ll manage. I really don’t know.”

“Dan, she’s okay. I trust her, she’s a tough girl. I’ll take care of her, you just take care of yourself, my friend.”

Edward and Daniel were sitting on the stairs staring at the antenna. It was still buzzing, waiting to send the message all over the world. They were exhausted, but still excited. They sat in silence, but their minds were full of images and ideas, sounds and thoughts. For the very first time, they were enjoying the pleasure of silence, the nothingness of the void. No information, no noise, nothing.

“She’s coming back, I can hear her steps. Let’s do it, Eddie.”

Marta came back with a bottle of Champagne and three glasses.

“Sorry for being weird. I was just scared, but I’m fine now. We need to toast to our success. Who’s with me?”

“I knew she’d be okay! What did I tell you, Dan? Come here, my love – what a wonderful idea. Let’s toast to the first day of our new lives.”

“Oh damn, I forgot the corkscrew. Dan, could you please go upstairs and get it? It’s in the kitchen, I forgot it by the sink.”

“You’re so rude, I’m meant to be the guest!” Daniel replied, laughing while he climbed the stairs.

“Eddie, I’m so sorry.”

“Stop being sorry, it’s okay. This has been difficult for everybody, no need to apologize.”

“I’m really sorry, but I had to.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Sweetheart, I can’t let you do this. You’re wrong. The NIB work for us, they do everything so that we can have good lives. Information is real and we need as much as we can get. I can’t let you do this.”

“Marta, what the hell are you talking about?” Edward instinctively grabbed the bottle of Champagne out of her hand. “Tell me what’s going on!”

“It’s over, honey. It’s all over. I called the NIB and they’re coming for you. You’re crazy, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“CRAZY? Oh my God, you stupid little rat! You’ve sold me out to the NIB!”

“Please Eddie, you don’t understand! We need information. If we had the NIB earlier, maybe our scientists could have been able to predict the tsunami and our parents could have been saved. Think about that! The Great Flood was just a side effect of our ignorance. We didn’t have enough information to prevent it. We needed the data. I don’t want ignorance to drive my life. Why can’t you understand?”

“I hate you! You betrayed us! You–”

Suddenly, the Special Squad slammed through the door. One of them rushed into the kitchen. Dan didn’t have time to realize that he was already dead. Two agents went downstairs in a neat row, pointing their weapons without any hesitation; they were professional killers. The first agent aimed at Edward’s head, Marta’s face was covered by his brain and blood. Their guns were lethal and silent. Marta was about to scream, but no sound came from her throat. The second agent leaned forward and, with a single shot, hit her in the middle of the neck. The blood spilled like a fountain from her carotid. They killed all the witnesses. No more buzz, no more sound, the basement was finally silenced.

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar