Now that Jonah is dead, what happens next?
"Size of a Thought"
"Jonah is dead, long live Jonah."
A stabbing light tore my awareness from me, invaded my mind and exploded through my consciousness. My head filled with thoughts, memories, moments, years, decades, more than a century of someone else's recollections and all within a millisecond. I screamed until the veins in my neck swelled, and my head felt like it was going to burst. Suddenly, I stood trapped behind a veil of silence, smothered by a relentless world of anguish. A single breath passed my lips, as the dissolution of agony fell around me in warm, calming light that slowly faded until I crawled from under its snug flannel blanket and emerged into a cold winter morning--behind the counter of my bar.
"Jonah. Jonah. Are you alright?"
What I saw, was impossible. It was Jonah Knightsbridge, and he stood in front of my bar's counter. "Mr. Knightsbridge?"
"Yes Jonah, it's me. You have received a massive download of information from the first of the Apostles, Jonah I. I am sorry to tell you that he was deactivated."
"But Mister Knightsbridge, I thought you were dead." I suddenly realized he was only a vision inside my mind. The room behind him shimmered in a haze of dim light, and everything was silent. "Who deactivated him?" I heard myself ask. "What does this mean--for me? Why am I seeing you now?" My thoughts still spun as I strained to keep the image of Jonah Knightsbridge fixed inside my conscious thought.
He continued as if I had not spoken to him. "Each of you, my six Apostles, must take up the gauntlet in your turn when the awakened one falls. The fallen Apostle's memories, along with my memories, will find you no matter where you are and, upon receiving these memories, you will be released to complete your task. Understand, you will now be compelled to complete the instruction I placed within your memory core. You have no choice, and for that I am sorry. I wanted freedom of thought for you and so many other good things for you and your brothers. However, since my daughter revolted against me, I was forced to deny your will to disobey."
He appeared weak. His image was that of a fragile old man with his strength robbed from him by events of his time and treacheries executed by his child. He apparently recorded the message shortly before his death.
"But what exactly am I supposed to do?" I asked from within a cloud of bewilderment.
The image of Jonah Knightsbridge smiled. "I'm glad you asked that Jonah. I programmed all of you with the will that would enable you to ask just that question. I hoped you would find that little gift comforting. I want you to know that I believe you have the right to question me about my motives."
I thought of you and your brothers as my sons. My wife died before we could have a son and my daughter, well she didn't understand me. I think she became too caught up in the Revolution of her generation." The image froze momentarily, in a frown of contemplation. After a few seconds, Knightsbridge sighed, then spoke again. "My wife died of a broken heart, and I fear I will too."
The image of Jonah Knightsbridge froze in thought once more. Suddenly, with a strained look on his face, he straightened his back and finished. "You must stop my daughter at all cost. It will be up to you, and your remaining brothers, to stop this revolution and bring the world back into the past. Bring them back into control of their destiny, back to a time when everything is possible as long as man has the imagination and perseverance to achieve his dreams. The leaders of my world have taken those qualities of hope away from the people of my time by subjugating the population through dependence on technology. They forced innocent people to revolt against them, and in those people's innocence, they blamed technology. Their enemy was not technology. It was those leaders, who wielded that technology to manipulate and dominate them. You carry all of my memories, all my knowledge, all my inventions. I gave these parts of me, to you, so you could deliver them to humanity on the day when they begin to understand. That is your mission. Please do not fail because the future of your world depends on you."
With that, the image quivered, then fell away, and I understood what I was now compelled to do.
"Jonah! Are you alright? Jesus, I just passed your front window, looked in and saw you standing there, stiff, like a statue, with a lost stare on your face." Thomas, the mailman, wedged me inside the corner of the bar's counter. He supported me with one hand and fed me water from a shot glass in his other hand.
I suddenly remembered the blinding light, the agony, which overpowered my consciousness as I washed glasses just a few minutes before. I remembered Jonah Knightsbridge and his instructions. Questions streamed through my thoughts, mingled within my memories, then exploded into answers as they settled into resolve. I shook my head. I found so many answers and yet with so little understanding. "Thanks, Thomas I feel better now. I appreciate your concern, but I'm okay. I guess I was daydreaming and couldn't wake up. I didn't get much sleep last night--you know." I felt that my smile seemed fake, but he seemed satisfied.
Thomas looked me up-and-down, then nodded his head, "Yeah. I was young once. You need to get more sleep, Jonah, and eat regularly. You looked a little sickly for a minute there. You should call someone to come in and spell you for the day, and then go see the neighborhood nurse."
"Thanks, Thomas, I'll be fine. I appreciate you coming to my rescue after you saw me standing here in a tizzy. But I'm feeling better now. Thanks to you. If I start feeling woozy again, I'll call someone. You can bet on that."
Thomas started to leave, but suddenly stopped and turned back to me. "Damn, I almost forgot. You have mail. Here ya' go."
He handed me a postcard and turned back toward the door as I shoved the postcard into my shirt's pocket.
Thomas reluctantly rejoined his mail deliveries as the cloud around my brain evaporated. Those new memories, from that old source, suddenly became integrated into my thought processes. Then, on its own, my mind resolved one of those newly placed unfamiliar-thoughts, and I realized I would soon be leaving my home.
I also understood that Jonah Knightsbridge's first creation, Jonah I, was dead and his memories coupled with Knightsbridge's memories, just downloaded into my neural core. I felt uncomfortable as I recalled those memories. Memories, which belonged to someone else, yet felt as if they were always in my head. I needed time, while I identified and separated his memories from my memories because his thoughts mingled between scrambled fragments of my thoughts. My neural core required organization. How much information had Jonah I collected about the revolution? How many cohorts had he gathered to our cause? What information had he sent me about those who intended to thwart our attempted resurrection of Jonah Knightsbridge's prized technology? What exactly happened to Jonah I? How had he died? And what was next for me? If anything?
I mean, my life was comfortable. Why was it my responsibility? Just because Jonah Knightsbridge created the six of us, "Apostles," a couple of hundred years ago. Sure, he embedded commands in our core, which compelled us to reconstitute the technologies of his time--but--all six of us contained those schematics, textbooks, formulas in our core memories. We were all programmed for the resurrection of his technologies. So why was it my turn to take over this job? Why not one of the other five survivors? Anyone of them could assume this responsibility. Those commands downloaded into all of us, didn't they?
As I examined my options and questioned my maker's wisdom, I recognized he placed constraint upon me, and those constraints required obedience. I could only obey. Besides, my brothers shared my fears so they would also be apprehensive.
My weary brain burned with confusion. It was probably the result of the onslaught of memories I had just received. What I needed was a shot of bourbon, so I pulled a bottle from under the counter and poured myself a drink. The first shot nestled inside my belly warmed my spine and encouraged my resolve. I remembered how Elam, the previous owner of the bar, taught me not to make rash decisions. Especially decisions birthed by reactive reasoning. "Take a couple of sips of bourbon and let the vultures fall off your shoulders."
I sipped my bourbon, while I stood serenely behind my bar, as my mind drifted back to the beginning of my days at the bar. I remembered when I found my anonymity, as I watched the many lost stares, who followed deeply worn paths through citywide canyons every morning. They always ended up in the same place for ten hours every day. All of them chased a paycheck, which yielded too little toward their dreams, but the alternative was less attractive. So they returned every day, hated every moment, dreaded every morning, lived only for the evenings when they ended up in my bar and doused their daily worries with liquid relief.
I was not one of them, but I served them. I always had. "Jonah I is dead, long live Jonah II," I said aloud. My life was over the moment those commands transmitted, and the instant I received them, his reality became my purpose.