... Please Blackball Himself?
|"I decline to belong to any club that would accept me as a member. Or in this case," The Entity Known for the Moment as Number Nine added, "any species."
Xe would have to repeat it, though, for a bell rang just then and The Entity Known for the Moment as Number One yelled, "Change places!" which sent the last members of the human race scrambling about the table for new chairs. They acquired new signifiers as well, so that when they were all settled again, the entity who had spoken had become The Entity Known for the Moment as Number Six.
There was nothing more particular to be said about xe. Nor was there was anything particular that could be said about anyone at the table.
"What were you saying?" asked The Entity Known for the Moment as Number Three.
"I was saying that I've decided to resign from the club."
"You can't resign from the club," objected The Entity [Now] Known for the Moment as Number One. "There is only the club!"
Indeed that was all there was. Hundreds of years of careful smoothing and culling had brought the human race finally to a place of perfect peace and justice, and it resided now in this room in the character of these ten undifferentiated entities.
Difference, it had been decided a long time ago, was the source of all strife and inequality. Early attempts to compensate by handicapping those falling outside a certain degree of acceptable differentiation were ultimately deemed unacceptable because they only called further attention to the existence of differentiation; and besides, the very concept of a "degree of acceptable differentiation" collapsed under rigorous—not to say, at the end, physically violent—interrogation.
So more radical measures were introduced.
Class and race distinctions were the first to be obliterated, first by definition and then through the removal of oxygen from the premises of those possessing problematic characteristics. For awhile it was thought that the erasure of gender would signal the revolution's culmination. But it was found that concepts formerly associated with gender simply migrated to biological sex, at which point an intense bout of interrogation determined that biological sex would also have to be eradicated. As a dividend, it was realized that the elimination of biological sex would bring with it the elimination of reproduction, so that within twenty years the concept of "childhood" as a further marker of differentiation could also be eliminated.
In the purge that followed, the shorter-lived insects were the first to go extinct, followed by most birds and mammals. Certain of the longer-lived species might yet have survived the biological holocaust, but in a surfeit of caution those plants with sexually related biological traits had also been interrogated out of existence.
The human race might have followed at that point—ascending to a kind of perfection as an abstraction only—but medical breakthroughs had essentially left those that remained as immortal and un-aging.
Not that there were very many left by that point, for their numbers had continued to dwindle—sometimes through accident, more often as relentless interrogation laid bare ever-more forms of problematic differentiation, necessitating the elimination of embodied injustices, sometimes in ways that left it very hard to scrub the blood off the walls.
And now there were only ten. Although proper names had long ago been discarded, the need for some kind of particular address was still necessary—a thorn in the side of these very idealistic philosophers. They had hit finally on the idea of using numbers, but as numbers could be ordered and hence utilized to establish unconscious hierarchies, the particular numbers assigned to particular entities were periodically and randomly reassigned. It is true that this made it difficult for the last ten members of the human race to consistently identify and address each other. In practice the issue was dealt with by staring or pointing very hard at whoever was meant and addressing them as "You there."
"If xe wants to resign the human race, let xe resign the human race," said The Entity Known for the Moment as Number Seven. "Xe has lately been betraying problematic attitudes."
"Chronological prejudice!" shrieked The Entity Known for the Moment as Number Eight. "Tense is bigotry!"
"Shut up," said The Entity Known for the Moment as Number Four. The concepts of past and future had remained stubbornly ineradicable, so the human race preferred for the Moment to ignore the issue.
"And this," the Entity Known for the Moment as Number Six, "is why I've been lately thinking the world needs fewer humans and more newts."
"I contemplated hypnosis as the solution at first," the Entity [Now, Rather Later] Known for the Moment as Number Ten explained when they were in a laboratory. "If one— Not you," he hastened to assure the Entity [Now] Known for the Moment as Number One. "If an entity thought of xeself as a newt, I thought, the entity could be excised from humanity. Ultimately, though, I settled on transmogrification as athe solution."
Xe indicated the device. It was a tall metal box, about the size of a coffin, with a door in the front.
"So you just step into it, and you come out as a newt?" the Entity [Now, Rather Later] Known for the Moment as Number Four asked. (Xe was being very careful of tenses, for the Entity [Now, Rather Later] Known for the Moment as Number Two was standing nearby.
"Something like that," the Entity [Now, Rather Later] Known for the Moment as Number Ten replied. Before anyone could speak, xe stepped into the box.
There was a flash of bright light.
The Entity [Now, Rather Later] Known for the Moment as Number Ten stepped back out and rubbed xe hands. Nine newts blinked back up at xe.
"Notice I didn't say where the transmogrication would occur," said the last human.
And now, as the last human, there were no other humans xe could be problematically differentiated from.