‘Bitcoin and nihilism’: 2020 Ubyssey sci-fi contest runner-up

I let the cigarette smoke billow away. I can’t stop it at all, of course I can’t.

I let the cigarette smoke billow away. I can’t stop it at all, of course I can’t. And I don’t even mean this in some storybook way. Literally the air is just so bad, there’s no point in trying to make it better now. We gave up...

I tap it, letting the ash fly off, doesn’t matter where it lands or goes, not anymore. The duties they put on traditional cigarettes in ’23 were just for show. $100 for a pack now? Pfft, that’s nothing on my salary. They thought the heavy taxation of little things like this was going to amount to a lot. A lot of nothing, that’s what.

And everyone is smoking those vapes now. They’re the de facto mandatory accessory. Some say that there’s some filter mechanism that boils the air, blah blah blah, and “purified flavoured air” comes out. What a load of shit. People say they can feel it, like it’s a high. It still doesn’t change anything.

It doesn’t change the feeling of getting off an airplane and going through the doors... that first hit of fresh air was one of the most incredible things that would happen. It’s only a little moment, but goddamn, it was like heroin. And then of course you’d light up and drag one away before the luggage came spilling down from the ceiling.

I’m almost done. This world’s almost done. I’m so sorry, I couldn’t do more. I tried. I told people to do this and do that. I followed along as best as I could and others did too. But beyond my trying, there was ignorance and there was malice. I went from an optimist to a nihilist. None of it matters anymore.

I flick the butt off into the distance. It’s just past 2 a.m. and I can see it smash against the ground, spraying its burning detritus like a solar flare.

They say that what I’m doing now is just making everything worse. They say I’m working at a giant ‘Earth oven,’ purposefully burning the land and boiling the ocean. That’s ridiculous.

I turn around after one last deep breath, hoping to get that ‘fresh’ rush, even though it doesn’t come — and probably does more damage than good. I slide my mask up over my face and enter the building through the front doors because they care about their ‘security.’ Empty my pockets, through the scanners, etc... etc... etc... A whole bunch of bullshit that’s going to make me late getting back to my shift. And what sucks most is that I got the worst job today. It’s my turn to use the canned air to blow the dust out of the Bitcoin machines.