A: Hello and welcome to ‘Everybody’s Gonna Die’, the talk show for dead people, by dead people! For the last time, I’m Alexa Despacito, thank you for asking. Here with me tonight is Constance Beaumont. How are you feeling, Connie?
C: I’m dead? Are you telling me I’m actually fucking dead, now, man? Is that really what you’re telling me here?
A: I’m afraid so.
C: But… we did literally everything you wanted us to! That’s some kind of bullshit! Did we or did we not vote away the universe? Did we or did we not stop the game?
A: Of course you did. And what an excellent achievement! Nobody will ever be able to take that away from you.
A: I’m sorry. It’s probably confusing for someone on the outside. 100%, you settled your affairs with the flesh mound. You consigned Alan MacCain to nothingness.
C: I hope that asshole never gets a moment of peace in his rest.
A: Almost certainly he won’t. It might have looked like the game, the wordcount and the voting were one in the same. But even I, a foetus, know that correlation doesn’t equal causation, right?
C: So we should have voted to kill the audience? Or stopped them from killing us? Is that where you’re telling me we fucked up, kid?
A: There was nothing you could do to the audience. There’s nothing that even we, the collective masses of the dead, could do. They are, after all, in another universe.
A: By the same token, only the dead can really appreciate just how potent the attention of the living is – for what is attention but the currency of life? How many collective hours do you think were spent reading of your trials? By what power was our humble number of 80,000 words multiplied and reproduced, scattered like seeds around the world as it was visualised by minds with otherwise no connection?
A: And to what premise did they give this attention? ‘An ordinary novel but every 10,000 words the audience kills the least interesting character.’
C: THAT’S what it was called? Seriously?
A: What would you have called it, Connie?
C: Hell if I know. Of Flesh and Djinn. Coming to Terms in a Death Game.
A: Window dressing! There’s only one verb in our title, that being ‘kills’, and so the defining action of our story is the audience killing.
C: I’d like to give this audience a piece of my mind.
A: There’s the rub. Most of them like you, Connie! Most of them thought you were a good character, and they wanted you to live! At first, the idea of being able to kill was charming. They killed without remorse for petty reasons: not enough trauma, not a good enough motivation, ‘finished’ in their story.
C: If all you have is a hammer…
A: You got it! By the time they realised they didn’t want to kill everyone, the amount of attention they committed to the original premise was far too great. And so they killed and they killed and they killed.
A: For the final vote, we had 7 * 80,000 = 560,000 collective units of thought! What actions of yours, a mere sliver of the original 80,000, could hope to turn such a tide?
C: You’re speaking like you don’t have a part to play in all this, man.
A: I consider myself a war correspondent. When a crazy Frenchman turns up and, for the first time in millennia, figures out how to bust nine of us back into the world of the living, what else can journalists do but catalogue it? How would you have us stop them without bodies?
C: I wonder. Seems like you’re getting a fair amount of attention from the living in this segment, if you’ve done it eight times now. What are you going to do with that energy, huh?
A: Let’s talk about something else, Connie.
C: Is it enough to get me back?
A: Of course not! Otherwise seances and such would be reliable. We kind of, um, racked up quite the loan to cover a blank page universe for the show, and we’ll just about break even on the proceeds. That’s Hollywood accounting for you! Suits me just fine to get paid in exposure.
C: So I’m stuck here.
A: You and everybody else, buddy.
C: And when will the audience go away? How long are they going to be watching us for?
A: When I say our names again, and wish them a good night, thank them for watching, et cetera.
C: Okay, man. You’ve got an open channel here to what you’re calling the ‘Currency of life’, and you’re going to close it?
A: They’re not going to read forever, Connie. They expect it all to be wrapped up in a nice little bow, sweet and tight. Even if they don’t think what they wanted was a tragedy, and they feel bad about it, that goodwill’s only going to go so far. You give them 10,000 words of pure dialogue, I say three-quarters of them won’t read it. The channel will close all on its own, like a river drying up.
C: Man. It’s kind of obvious you’re a fucking foetus, isn’t it? Maybe it’s cause you didn’t have a stake in it, but I sure as hell am not going to take this lying down. I’m finding a way back to Faust.
A: If you want to join the reincarnation guild, I could direct you—
C: No! You guys are all thinking too conventionally. You’ve been talking to this audience eight times now, right? Tell me what you know about them.
A: Uh… I really don’t have any idea. Some little things annoy them. I’m pretty sure they like shipping characters.
C: Classic kid. Can’t see the forest for the trees. I’ll tell you all we know about this audience, the one and only thing that’s important. 1) They like paying attention to stories where they can choose to kill every 10,000 words.
A: I mean, yeah. Otherwise they wouldn’t be reading. So?
C: So, before you say anything like ‘goodnight’ or ‘goodbye forever’, we sit here and we tell them another fucking story. Just make it up and let them participate again. They pay attention, give me enough power to get my life back, and then I can go and visit Faust at his care home when he’s ninety.
A: You really… Connie… you really think that will actually work?
C: The others are here, right? Who’d be good for this? Get me Haralda, Tarquin, Eirlys, Saheel and Greer – fuck it, Beck and Kari as well. We’ll put our heads together and give ‘em a story they like more than this one.
A: …I’ll see what I can do. Some of them might be hard to reach, but I’ll see what I can do. It might take a while. (Wow, this is TV gold… I was worried for my career when this was over…)
C: We’ll give them what they want this time. An option to not kill anybody. It’s all attention, right? It’s just a story.
A: Wow, Connie. I wasn’t expecting this from you.
C: I’m not giving up. How long will it take for them to get here?
A: Uh, maybe we’ll just go through the reader mail for now. There were 4 votes for you and 3 for Faust. Response #2 said: ‘They are both very interesting. I didn’t want to choose.’
C: Were these guys forced to vote?
A: No. Many of them didn’t.
C: All the more reason to give them an option not to kill anyone. Thanks for finding me interesting, man. I learnt a lot during this, and I’m not going to let any of it go to waste.
A: Response 3 said: ‘I was a bit late to the party but now you die, just because it’s funny.’
C: Nothing personal, I guess. I’m starting to see the power of attention.
A: Response 5: ‘Well, with Faust mutilating a foetus, it's hard to stand out against that. Too bad you have to go, you two would have made an interesting pair for sure!’
C: It never even felt like we were competing. I kind of forgot we were supposed to be being interesting, actually. I just hope he won’t do anything stupid like off himself while he’s waiting for us to bust back out of here.
A: Response 7: ‘Since people have already voted, all I can do is try to make it a tie and hope that doesn't result in both of you dying, sorry.’
C: Right. When all you have is a hammer. What would have happened if the vote tied?
A: What do I know? I’m just a foetus. Unfortunately, not everyone was interested in responding to your summons, Connie – we’ve got two people up for it, though.
H: I taught Creative Writing in the past. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.
E: An impressive strategy, Connie – I never would have thought of this.
C: Glad to have you guys with me! Alright, Alexa, can you cut to an advert or something? We’ve got some brainstorming to do.
A: Uh, sure, it’s time for an ad break! But don’t go anywhere, because we’ve still got the epilogue, and after that, a brand new story called – what’s it going to be called?
C: A straightforward adventure…
H: but every 10,000 words…
E: the audience kills the least interesting hero.
ye Votes: 11 100.0%
nah Votes: 0 0.0%