Two characters, Fear and Laziness, sit on the beach after dusk. They pass a two litre bottle of beer in green glass, one to the other.
Fear: You know the worst thing of all?
Laziness: What? What’s the worst thing of all?
Fear: It’s my absolute certainty that I’m going to die alone. I don’t know why I have it. All indications are actually to the contrary. I’m most likely to die surrounded by nursing staff, in a chaotic hospital ward for those on the near edge of being.
Laziness: I’m pretty sure that would be worse. I’d rather die alone than die like that. What kind of people would take care of you? That’s the question. I don’t want to be taken care of by anyone paid to do it. That seems so sad to me.
Fear: That’s not a fair approach. You’d be lucky to have a death like that. We don’t live in a world where people get taken care of any more, remember? We paid for that with the ability to move and the ability to work anywhere in the world. We paid for it with advanced educations! You have a fancy degree because of that.
Laziness: It’s not one that I worked for. I don’t think I even went to class.
Fear: So maybe it was a bad trade.
Laziness: It was.
Fear: Would you give it back for a family?
Laziness: I most certainly would!
Fear: Well maybe it’s too late for that.
The water starts to lick their feet, as the sand is slowly swallowed by the sea.
Fear: Tide is coming in.
Laziness: Let’s not leave just yet. I want to sit and enjoy the cool on my feet.
Fear: Do you ever want to get married?
Laziness: To you?
Fear: No, why would I ask that?
Laziness: I’m pretty close to it already.
The reader can’t discern the gender of either character, and ultimately, the author is unconcerned with putting it in the story.
Fear: You have a good partner?
Laziness: Yes I do. Every day, I thank whatever God I can justify a belief in that I have what I have. I’m an incredibly lucky person. I just don’t know what I did to deserve it.
Fear: So you think you won’t die alone?
Laziness: I am awfully lucky.
Fear: But imagine this: what if one day your partner gets sick of you? It’s so easy to trade for whatever you want these days. Some times I miss scarcity. I never lived in a time of real scarcity, so I couldn’t tell you what it was really like. I don’t know… can you be nostalgic for a time that never existed? For a time you never saw?
Laziness: I think you probably can be.
Fear: Well, that’s how I feel. I can always be left, because I’m always replaceable. Because life is about choice now. It’s about maximizing the value you can squeeze out of being. We are all so free, but what are we free to be?
Laziness: We’re certainly free to be free.
Fear: I think that’s what we afford ourselves, for sure. But is declaring ourselves to be free sufficient for freedom?
Laziness: I’m not sure I know what you mean.
Fear: Well, humans might be fleshy robots. That’s one extreme. We might be so ruled by our instincts that pretending we’re free to choose is a mistake. But in a milder sort of way, what choice is actually something that could make us miserable? Imagine a world where you always knew you had done your best. That you could never have done any better.
Laziness: What kind of world would that have to be? I have the feeling you’re about to describe a tough and uncomfortable world.
Fear: Well, it might have be to be in order to restrict us. It would definitely bring people together, too.
Laziness: Yeah. Out of necessity. Out of a need to band together or die alone.
Fear: Exactly! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Would it really be so bad? I think it would be good.
Laziness: Yes! God, that would be awful. Can you imagine? No showers. No toast.
Fear: Laziness, come on now. Don’t be stupid. We could have showers and toast. We would just need to be close to people to have them. Doesn’t something seem wrong? I can sit in my room, code and write emails all day, and then somehow make a living. Isn’t that surreal? That people can live without meeting someone for days at a time? I heard a story once of a woman who spent a year without ever seeing a human face. She did it as a freelance remote worker, smoking weed in her fancy New York apartment. You can have food delivered to my house, and you don’t even have to look at the person who does it. You are completely alienated from the whole world, in that instance.
Laziness: It’s not like I’m going to live that life.
Fear: Yeah, but you could, if you wanted to. That’s what seems so odd to me. There are people out there who are naturally inclined to live that way, even if that would make them horribly depressed. The lady I heard about wasn’t happy. She did it out of anxiety. I think she might have died that way.
Laziness: Fear, freedom is freedom. We can’t deny people the freedom to do that if that’s what they want to do.
Fear: Can’t we? We section people in mental hospitals all the time.
Laziness: Only if they’re going to hurt someone or themselves.
Fear: I think you’re missing my point.
Laziness: I think I might be. But that isn’t the point. I don’t really want to talk about this any more. It’s stressing me out.
Fear: Alright. Sorry. I didn’t mean to stress you out.
Laziness: It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean to. It just gives me a stomach ache. I don’t like thinking about lonely people.
Fear: Neither do I. Do you think there’s anything we can do to make it better?
Laziness: We could probably stop drinking.
Laziness hucks the empty glass bottle into the sea.
Fear: Dude what the hell.
Laziness: I didn’t know what else to do with it.
Fear: Ugh. Do you think I’ll ever be able to get married?
Laziness: I guess so. You should just try getting out more. You can’t meet anyone if you’re never outside.
Fear: Sure you can. That’s what the internet is for.
Laziness: I’m pretty sure you were just complaining about that.
Fear: Maybe I was. I still would rather use the internet.
Laziness: How’s that working out for you?
Fear looks at the floor, which is now almost completely submerged under the rising tide.
Fear: Not great. I think I’m not exactly trying because I’d rather be alone. Can you imagine if I got married, had a kid, and then the world ended, like we’re all worrying it will? I’d rather risk dying alone or in a hospital than risk condemning some poor unborn soul — who, worse, is my own flesh and blood — to having to see the end of the world.
Laziness: Yeah, you’re right. That would be somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t want to see the world end.
Fear: You’re still going to have a kid though, aren’t you?
Laziness: Yep! I try not to get too worried about things. I think it will be fine.
The water is now up to their knees.
Fear: That wouldn’t be bad… Dying in a hospital or a care home, I mean. At least I’d be surrounded by people who wanted to spend their lives caring for others. That would be a nice environment, right?
Laziness: Caring for others, or unemployable in other areas, that is.
Fear: I don’t want to believe that. Maybe you think I’m idealistic —
Laziness: I do think you’re idealistic.
Fear: Okay, whatever. As I was saying, maybe you think I’m idealistic, but I think you can still have a beautiful death in a care home. Maybe by being there, I might be able to subsidize the workers and their own families.
Laziness: What if the world is ending?
Fear: Well, I guess it doesn’t matter how I die if the world is ending.
The water is now up to their chins.
Laziness: Do you think it really is?
Fear: I do think it really is.
Laziness: I’m glad we were friends, for our short time here.
Fear: It wasn’t the worst. I can admit that. Would you really call us friends?
Laziness: I would say so, yeah.
The water swallows them. Shortly thereafter, it consumes the whole world. In a few decades, something new occurs. In that new world, Fear and Laziness are not present.