Death of the Hollow Men: A Sci-Fi Experiment

I teach a Science Fiction Literature class to seniors, and one of the students who knows I write challenged me to craft a dystopian story. I was hesitant, like Kurt Vonnegut, because I don't like labels, and sci-fi clings to authors long after they've abandoned the genre. Regardless, it is a good assignment for myself, and will showcase good modeling when the students will be "forced" to do the same assignment later this semester. Don't judge too harshly...


Wall-E Earth's Atmosphere full of satellites dirty space ugly view of the worldThis is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

T.S. Eliot was partially right.  By the time she did go, most were actually begging- “Just die already.”  We couldn’t kill her off quick enough. Who needs Earth with thousands of inhabitable planets waiting with neon vacancy signs and untapped natural resources dying to be utilized by a superior species?

Problem is, Earthlings no longer personified superior. By the time Information Modification Chips (IMC) took the place of education in late 2138,  we thought we had mastered the inequality of genetics. Don’t understand Elliot’s The Hollow Men?, there’s a chip for that. But nobody wanted poetry chips back then. The rage was all for advanced bioengineering, hypothetical mathematics, and anything that would help build the infrastructure that would make interplanetary travel possible. 

They never quite got there. Neither did we. We’ve been orbiting Earth for two years now.  It’s 2189, and I’ve been commissioned to write a history of the Earth during the IMC years. (I’m more a reader, than a writer, but then, there isn’t a writing expert on the ship, so this is what you get). 

Tiny microscopic microprocessor chip memory smaller than a fingernail on fingertip The same science that perfected the delivery system of synthetic information into the frontal lobe of the brain via a small forehead opening, was also its undoing. The misinformation chip movement--either the work of rogue countries, despondent anarchists, or religious zealots--ended up poisoning the minds of 99% of the population. 

At first, bio-delivery doctors made quick work of recognizing bad information chips, and reeducation was a fairly painless process. Recurring migraines were the most common complaint. The World Information Group (WIG) also set up a task force to eradicate the misinformation producers. It was a swift and brutal reaction that showed very little humanity--administering lethal justice to the suspects on the spot.   

Many of the remaining Natural Learners; holdouts and the elderly, vocally denounced the monstrous treatment of suspects. WIG called “listening session” to hear their complaints, and used the opportunity to try out a new reeducational delivery system that used a high frequency wavelength rather than a direct application to the brain opening portal, to stream information. The protestors must have suffered the most incapacitating migraines of all time. This system flooded the brains of the protestors, literally melting their brains. WIG was wholly satisfied with the results. 

This wasn’t the first time overloading had caused massive deaths. Just like after the death of the great Chip testing martyrs of 2120, WIG reformulated the information dosage to a biologically acceptable rate, and soon, world mandated information was being “downloaded” at night, and people were waking up rested, alert, and smarter each and every day. 

elementary school kid dressed in business suit and briefcase holding a newspaper bond salesman insurance The average IQ swelled to nearly 200. Chips no longer just provided knowledge, but also behavioral modification training. Stability Chips solved disorders. Breeding Chips took the romance out of courtship. Parental Chips took the place of parenting. Developmental Chips accelerated the process of childhood; the average child was ready for the workforce at age 11. It was a brave new world, were suffering could be alleviated with a Chip. 

Of course, the best Chips came at a price. And overloading could still be fatal if one tried to revolutionize himself overnight. Still, discount Chips, black-market Chips, and even misinformation Chips flooded the market places. WIG limited the number of Chips to 100 behavior Chips and 100 knowledge Chips, in an effort to regulate the playing field. It was not strictly enforced. The Haves were still the Haves. 

And yet, they acted less and less like humans. They grew tired of jobs and positions, and bought new chips to master new jobs. Nobody really stayed at a job longer than a year before they felt bored. Creativity also suffered. People had the wherewithal to do the jobs, but innovation stagnated. There were no great advancements ten years after the IMC reformation. Only the very rich could afford the creativity and problem solving Chips, and many never installed them (hoping instead to sell them back at a great profit because of their rarity).  

Metropolis 1926 image of New York city dystopian sprawl huge skyscrapers smog Regardless of the inequality and lack of ingenuity, productivity and population soared.  Forests were cleared for the best modified crops. Buildings were built taller, cities expanded into counties, and countryside turned to sprawl. Great strides, however, were made in environmental practices, and fossil fuels were eradicated and yet the Earth was still sick. The best minds got smarter, and yet they couldn’t solve this riddle. 

Biodiversity suffered. Only the crops with the greatest bang per square inch were maintained. Science controlled nature for the good of all.  For a little while, it seemed that 50 billion people could thrive with only 4% of the surface devoted to food production. 

But then the Earth rejected the modified grains. Old crops, however, wouldn’t grow either. Quickly a new generation of learners were installing Agricultural Chips, trying to capitalize on the disaster. But the Earth had been poisoned by progress, just like their brains would be. 

Panic, not WIG lead to the eradication of the rest of the Natural Learners, besides us. We 200 were protected by WIG as a sort of test group, in a 500 acre Eden-like setting. Born naturally, without aid of Chips, we were all self-learners. We, of course, could use information stations, books, and archived media to find knowledge…but we were clearly behind the rest of society. There was no portal to our brain, even if we tried.  Socially, however, we were clearly superior. We protected our own, while they cared little for each other. Individualism was key “out there,” while we knew we needed each other to survive. The few WIG employees who monitored and studied our behavior often laughed at our primitive ways. They aren’t laughing now. 

Small organic garden farm sustainable essential crops
Natural Learner communes were the first to be raided. 
Starvation “out there” led first to the destruction of the last Natural Learner fortifications, and later destroyed protected parks and forests, then zoos and biodiversity gene universities, and lastly to cannibalism. Nobody, except the top brass at WIG knew about our facility, so nobody seriously ever challenged our Eden enclosure, at least before we left the surface. We had prepared, in any case, for the chaos. 

With no food, and rampant crimes against humanity, WIG had no other choice than to eliminate large portions of society. The Passover update killed millions in some cities, billions in some regions. Food was plentiful. Panic grew worse. Someone created the Survivalist Chip, and it became the most sought black-market Chip.  Nobody was sure if it even worked. 

It did, and it didn’t. It blocked the Passover update, but it had a delayed side effect of near continuous migraines. Chips were sought to treat migraines, but none were effective. 

Creepy photo of a woman at night vampire or zombie like emaciated gaunt shadow The smell of decay couldn’t even overpower the migraines. People stumbled like zombies, bashing their heads, slicing open their arms, trying to redirect the pain.  Biodelivery doctors could only remove part of the Chip, which rendered the patient susceptible to the Passover update, which meant death. Debilitating migraines or death that was the choice. Most eventually chose death.  

That last 1% would stumble the Earth in search of peace, and find none.

We 200, had studied religiously. Everyone a different subject area, to make him or her valuable to whatever it is we might need as a society. Law, ethics, order, government, psychology, physiology, agriculture, social Darwinism, spirituality, physics, child development and on and on. 

We also studied Chip manufacturing, and electromagnetic wavelength spectrum, and genetic mutations, and crop failures, and espionage, and civil unrest, and interplanetary space travel. Some might say we planned this. Some could say society necessitated this. 

I say they earned it. 

Most of our success has to go to the forty or so members of ours who headed the World Misinformation Department (WMD) who were able to infiltrate WIG and use its systems to disseminate our agenda. 

huge futuristic spaceship orbiting Earth world We sacrificed Eden. We poisoned the Earth, for the good of mankind. We knew she would recovery, eventually. We have plenty of provisions aboard our ship, Mutiny, as well as a museum quality collection of flora and fauna. We will recreate the world, in our image. Until then, we can orbit the Earth and watch her like gods from above. 

What is my specialty, you ask?  Stories through history. Literature and History. And because I had a certain propensity to recreate stories and events in modernity, the 200 chose me as a sort of ideologue, or master planner, for this revolution. 

My favorite stories?  Noah’s Ark, The French Revolution, Animal Farm, Planet of the Apes…I’m also a sucker for anything dystopian. 

I do so wish I had somebody to share this love of literature with, though. I sometimes think my comprehension or interpretations might be lacking. But, to err is human…(I believe there’s more to that proverb, but I never can remember).

They were hollow men, who cheated humanity. They did not deserve Earth. So we, the last remaining humans, eradicated them. Every revolution is ugly in it’s time. We’ll see how history judges us. 

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
This it the way the world ends
In pain and carefully calculated.  


  1. Kind of a scary scenario...especially with the word recently out about chips to be placed in the hand.

  2. Yeah, it looks like the hand implant is a long way away from potentially happening (too many problems, not to mention the whole "mark of the beast thing"). But that doesn't stop people from "innovating."

    The lack of comments is an obvious sign that my readers either don't want sci-fi, or that my sci-fi stinks. Good to know. It was just an experiment for the classroom, and now my students can see that sometimes a writer is out of his element.

  3. Well my lack of comment was due to me being up in the mountains all weekend directing a camp and purging myself of technology. But now that I'm back in the grossness of city life, I'm catching up on my blogs, and I have to say, I loved your story! I'm a sci-fi geek, and I'm a sucker for dystopian stories! I'm impressed that you created that so quickly from a student's suggestion. They're going to love this and their assignment!

    1. Thanks Erica, I didn't mean it as condemnation towards numbers across the board were down for this post. It just isn't what drives people to my site.

      It did, however, prompt to to make a new tab (excerpts and short stories); so in a way, it finally motivated me to do something that was long overdue.

    2. That is pretty cool that you have a separate tab for these sorts of things. I've considered doing something like that, but I'm not quite sure how to manage it yet on WordPress. I'm guessing I'd have to post it as a regular entry, then just add to my new tab page. Also, I'm not so sure I'm ready to share short stories and things of that nature. I currently only have one tiny story on my blog, and that was published more as a way to relieve some pent up feelings. I'm way too self-conscious of my creative writing, which is why I just stick to blogging. It's lower key, fun for me, and I don't obsess about what others think about my crazy entries. But I'm glad people like you and Natalie put it out there, 'cause I really enjoy reading them! Keep it up! :)

  4. OMG, I just read 3001 The Final Odyssey, and this totally reminds me of it! It made me want to learn more about how it all went down...I love stories and history, so this, combining both, really held my attention.