Author: Irene Monaner
Matthew had never heard of the Association of Friends of Planet Earth until he was invited to their NYE Gala Dinner. Having no better plans for the last evening of the year, he had donned a tuxedo and now shared a table with a couple of herpetologists, an astrophysicist researching wormholes, a social scientist investigating the shortcomings of communism and a few spokespersons of NGOs he had never heard of. Matthew felt weird among so many accomplished people. He felt even weirder when they called him MagicMat, his nickname for his hacking mischiefs, and had spent most of the evening wondering what he was doing there. But that hadn’t stopped him from enjoying himself. The food was exquisite and the conversation interesting, if surrealist at times.
At 11’30 pm, the chair of AFPE’s Preservation Committee stood up and shushed everyone. All eyes were on the metallic helmet crisscrossed by cables he was wearing. “We have clearly failed,” he said and everyone nodded. “Global warming, wars, famines. We have been unable to solve any of the problems that threaten our existence on this planet. Until now. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the solution.” He pointed at the device on his head and pressed some buttons on its side. Silence became deafening as he vanished from the scene.
“A time machine!” screamed someone as the committee chair reappeared an inch left to where he stood only seconds ago. People oohed and aahed as he took off the helmet.
“We can now travel back in time and changed things for the future. Go back till the moment the first monkey stepped down a tree and kill that monkey,” said the chairman.
“It won’t do, evolution will always find its way,” replied a man.
“True. We could go back and talk Gutenberg out of inventing the moveable press,” continued the chairman.
“Meh, someone else would. We cannot really influence individual choices,” replied a woman.
“Right. We could then go back and blow all the steam engines that pushed the Industrial Revolution forward.”
“There would always be more machines somewhere,” said the same woman.
“Right again. It’s delightful to be sharing this evening with such smart comrades.” He paused for applause. “ We need to think big. The Millennium bug.”
“Almost a hoax,” Matthew heard himself saying. And he suddenly realised why he had been invited to this dysfunctional party.
“A hoax it was. But you’ll make it real the second time around, MagicMat.” The committee chair gestured him to join him on stage. Matthew wanted to disappear but he obliged, encouraged by a roar of clapping hands. His vision blurred as he felt the weight of the misshapen helmet on his head. “Five minutes, maybe less. That’s all the time you’ll have to hack their – our – systems and make this filthy capitalist society implode. You’re our last hope!”
The chair’s last words blended with the funky millennial beats from Jennifer Rodríguez, N’Sing, and Brittany Sears. Matthew was lost amid hordes of women wearing strapless dresses and men in tight, shiny shirts. He really was back in 1999. He had to get away. Move, run, find a quiet spot to get out his laptop and code something quickly. He had to make all systems crash and end the world he had once known.
A few lines were enough to change humanity’s fate. The countdown had already started. Five, four, three, two, one. Happy 2000! Time had run out. Matthew smiled as people panicked while the city blacked out and he vanished to the uncertain future he had just created.