I’m gonna miss Bill Paxton.
He was the ultimate military dude-bro in Weird Science. He was the best high-strung soldier to ever fight a xenomorph in Aliens. He was a wonderful everyman tornado hunter in Twister. He even made a great Marvel bad guy on Agents of SHIELD. He played so many great roles in so many great movies and shows.
Bill Paxton was such an awesome influence on me that I wrote him into a short story I did for class once. It’s quirky and weird and I think he would have loved it. RIP Mr. Paxton.
Game Over, Man
by Joe Forrest
“Just so ya know, you can kiss my ass. I quit.”
Malcolm James, or Mal as his friends called him, had his hands in his pocket and stared up at the heavens. He had a look of both resignation and annoyance on his face.
He just stood there and kept looking up. People passing him on the street gave him odd looks. Cars horns blared at him. He just didn’t care. The jig was up. He knew their game and he wasn’t gonna play it anymore.
Long after any sensible person would have given up, he just stood there. Finally, a tap came on his shoulder.
“Mal, you need to move out of the road.”
Mal looked at him. His name was Joey. He couldn’t remember the last name. He did recall, however, that Joey had died in a wreck back in school. They had grown up together but when they hit high school they had grown apart. He had died in a wreck with his girlfriend and her brothers. One of the girl’s brothers had died as well. It was all very sad. He really didn’t like thinking about it.
It started raining.
“Fuck you,” said Mal.
Joey just wiped water off his face. “You know you can’t just stay out here. Doesn’t really matter what you think you know. Your brain still works the same no matter what.”
Mal couldn’t argue. It still made him mad though. Knowing what he now knew made living and breathing like normal a very hard prospect.
Mal hated Mondays. Sure, most people did but Mal had a strange relationship with the day. He literally saw it as his nemesis. It was an undying thing that continued to return no matter how many times he defeated it. If he could equate it to anything, it was like watching an original George Romero zombie flick on repeat. He really, really disliked Mondays.
This Monday was like any other. He showed up at his office job, claimed his cubical, and started churning out and endless spew of drivel designed to please people who had no idea what they were reading. He was really good at it. So good, in fact, he was usually given a ton of overtime. Of course, this destroyed any idea of a social life but who needs one of those?
“Balls,” said Derrick.
Derrick Rumley was the office clown. He was also a huge dickhead. He had no brain/mouth disconnect which constantly pissed off all the wrong people. Mal was in the cubical because no one could produce more reports. Derrick was there because he didn’t kiss ass.
“Did you just say balls?” asked Mal.
Mal sighed. “Okay, douche. Enlighten me.” Derrick was also Mal’s best friend.
“So, chicks like it when you shave your balls, right?”
“I guess so.” It was more of a question than a statement. “I’m not really an authority on the subject.”
Derrick waved his hand, dismissing Mal.
“Of course chicks like shaved balls,” he said. “I read it in a magazine or something. Anyway, last night I was with that chick from the bar. You know the one.”
Derrick made a gesture that suggested large breasts. Mal had no idea who he was talking about.
“Sure,” said Mal. “I remember.”
Derrick smiled and continued. “I got her to come back to my place last night, right? We started making out on the couch, things got hot and heavy. Next thing you know, I’m sucking away like Baby Hughey on her boobies…”
Mal interrupted. “I’m pretty sure the term boobies is juvenile and rude.”
“Fuck you, man. Is this my story or yours?”
Mal grinned. “No, no…this is all you. Please continue.”
“Well thank you, shitbag,” he said affectionately. “So, things were getting heated. I’m doing my thing, she’s moaning like a Rancor in heat, and then she slips her hand down my pants. Everything just stops. So, I ask what’s wrong. She says, are you completely shaved? Of course, I go yes. I then tell her how important I think manscaping is in today’s day and age. She laughed at me and said that she can’t have sex with a dude that’s completely shaved. It made her feel like she was screwing a kid.”
He had stopped. Mal just sat there and looked at him. Derrick was looking at him rather expectantly.
“Oh,” Mal said. “You’re done? That’s it?”
“Is that it?” asked Derrick. “Yes, that’s fucking it! What kind of shit is that?”
Mal thought about it a few seconds. For the life of him, he could not find it in him to give a shit about his friend’s predicament. So, at that point, he decided to bullshit an answer.
“Um, okay,” he said. “Well, obviously she thinks of a lack of hair down there as a turn-off. Some chicks don’t follow the rules I guess. Know what I’m saying?”
Derrick’s response was immediate and ranty.
“No! I don’t have a clue what you’re fucking saying. Man bush went out of style in the mid-eighties bro. What kind of woman would like to fuck an ape instead of a finely tuned sex machine like myself? That’s just fucking sick in the head man. That’s just a bunch of baby back bullshit. This ain’t the goddamn time warp again you sonuvabitch. Do you even have any idea how easy it is to get crabs with fucking pubic hair?”
Mal thought. “No, not really. No.”
“Well, it’s fucking easy okay? With that shit smooth, those little bastards just roll off.”
“I’m not sure that’s either scientifically accurate or logical in any way possible.”
“Fuck you, jack wagon. It’s absolute and you can’t argue it.”
Mal was increasingly discontent with the story. “So, what did you do?”
“I kicked her ass out the door.”
Mal laughed. “She left didn’t she?”
Derrick dropped his head. “Yeah.”
Mal just shook his head. “Okay, idiot. I have to get back to work and so do you.”
It was then that the phone rang. He picked it up, answered in his job phone voice, and waited for the response on the other end.
The voice was familiar yet alien to him.
“You have no idea what is real and what isn’t.”
Mal paused. This was not how your typical phone conversation started. It usually started with fake platitudes of happiness that inevitably led to him doing more work.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“It’s time to wake up,” the voice continued. “Game over, man.”
It was then that Mal realized to whom the voice belonged. “Is this Bill Paxton?”
“No,” said the voice. “This is a digital representation of Bill Paxton speaking to you from an alternate reality created in the jet stream of a multi-core quantum processing unit.”
“Are you for real, no shit, Bill Paxton?” asked Mal.
The voice on the other end sighed. “Yes, technically I’m the Bill Paxton you know from movies such as Aliens and Twister.”
Mal whooped his fist in the air. “Score! So, you know that whole thing in Twister where you and Helen Hunt tie yourselves to that water spigot while the tornado goes over?”
“Yeah, of course. It was a great scene.”
“Dude, that was complete bullshit. There’s no way anyone could survive that strapped to a water fountain with cow hide.”
Bill Paxton’s voice grunted with anger. “Look, Mal, stop being an asshole and listen to me. The whole thing you call reality isn’t even real. Your body has been dead for a few centuries. Your mind was placed into a quantum digital format and placed into a simulation. You created everything in this universe from your mind. None of it is actually real.”
“Seriously?” asked Mal. “You expect me to believe that I’m living in the Matrix?”
“Actually,” said Bill Paxton’s voice. “The Matrix Trilogy was a subconscious effort on your part to make yourself realize that you were stuck in a loop in the system. It sucks so badly by the end of the trilogy because you get bored with the storyline. To be honest, every bad movie is a result of your brain getting lazy.”
“So now, not only am I living in a computer sim but I’m also responsible for every bad movie ever made?”
“Pretty much. Yeah,” said Bill Paxton’s voice.
“Alright,” said Mal. “Let’s pretend that for a minute I believe you. I’m mostly doing this because I don’t want to work and either you’re a famous movie star or an awesome mimic. I’m entertained and amused. So, if I go jump off the top of my building, I’ll fly?”
“No,” said Bill Paxton’s voice. “You’ll fall, it’ll hurt like a bastard, and then you’ll get up. You can’t die. Not if you don’t want to anyway. You’ve done this millions of times. Your mind eventually gives up on age, you have an accident, or something else, and you die. Then the system reboots the program and you do it again.”
“The only way I can find this out is if I actually jump off the building though, right?”
Bill Paxton’s voice continued. “Well, you could run in front of a car. We’ve found, over time, that will usually result in a reboot. It’s way too fast. If you jump off a building though, you have a little time to think about it before you hit. If you can convince yourself to not believing you’ll die, you won’t.”
“If I’ve been doing this for a long time, how many times did I believe I wouldn’t die?”
Bill Paxton’s voice was silent.
“Bill Paxton’s voice? Are you still there?” asked Mal.
“You’ve never survived. Not once.”
This weighed a bit on Mal’s mind. Now, there were two potential possibilities in his world. He was either (a) the Supreme Being of a computer-based simulation world or (b) out of his fucking mind. At this point though, let’s be real. Mal knew he was fucking crazy. He might as well play this out. If he died, it was reboot city. If he lived, things would get interesting. If he happened to be wrong about both possibilities? Well, no one would care. He didn’t have anyone. His entire family was dead.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it.”
“Really?” Bill Paxton’s voice sounded confused. “This is the first time you’ve agreed to it at this young of an age. Being so early in the program might actually help you pull out of it.”
“Whatevs. Gonna go jump off the roof now. TTYL.”
He hung up on Bill Paxton’s voice, pushed back his chair, and made his way to the nearest exit.
Time to see if he was immortal.
The wind on top of the building was fierce. It pulled on him well before he got to the edge. His tie whipped around like a tiny flag. His feet were soon perched on the lip of the building. He looked below and saw all the little figments of his imagination just moving about. He wondered if he’d hit anyone on the way down.
The door to the roof opened suddenly. There was Derrick. “Mal, what the fuck you doing, bro?”
Mal turned. “Um, I’m gonna jump off this building and see if I don’t splat at the bottom.”
Derrick looked horrified. “Dude, that’s a terrible idea. There’s too much life to be lived. Why don’t we go get a beer instead?”
Mal looked at him. For the first time, he really got a good look at Derrick. For a single second, it looked as if something shimmered behind Derrick’s eyes. It was something that was not so much light glinting off the corneas but rolling code. Then Derrick’s face twitched. Mal smiled.
“Nah. I’ll pass.”
Mal dropped off the side of the building. His arms stretched like Jesus. He wondered for a second how it would all turn out.
As it turned out, not only was Bill Paxton’s voice correct but Mal didn’t kill anyone on the way down. In fact, he didn’t die. He left a hell of a crater in the street but he didn’t die. He just got up, popped his back, and climbed out of the hole. Everyone stared at him in amazement. One old woman died of a heart attack.
That made it official. Mal was officially immortal. He was also now famous.
For the next decade, Mal just went around and toured the country. He would have people shoot him, stab him, hit him with vehicles, jump out of planes…you name it. People paid a ton of money to see it on PPV. He had any woman he desired and did anything he pleased. He became the richest man on the planet almost overnight.
People would often ask, in later years, why he didn’t choose to use his power to help other people. He always had one answer for this…
“None of you are real.”
When it became clear that Mal didn’t care for anyone, the money stopped flowing in and Mal became a news cycle trend that was easily forgotten. People didn’t care what he could survive after a while. People began to resent what he was.
Other than being famous and doing what he wanted, Mal had never thought about much else. Living an easy life was the only thing he cared about. Now, he could live it forever. Who cared if he lived in a fictitious world? Especially if he got what he wanted all the time.
However, good things don’t last.
You see, when you have created a universe from your own mind, even it has limitations. It had rules like any other. His personality would just not let Mal stay happy for long.
His friend Derrick had tried what he had even though Mal had insisted it wouldn’t work. He actually did manage to kill a few people when he hit. His skull actually popped off his head and out of its skin and hit someone else so hard in the sternum it went through them. It was a carnal scene.
In addition to Derrick, several thousand people around the world tried the same thing after he shared his story on a late night television show. They all died as well. There were tons of lawsuits against him.
The government also kept a close eye on him. Even though he had created the government out of his own imagination, they still acted as if he imagined government people should act. They tried assassinating him at least once a year on his birthday for some reason. It always failed but he started looking at it as if it was a tradition.
There was also the matter of relationships. They never lasted with Mal. They would always get into some argument or another and he would always point out that they weren’t real. You should never say that to a woman because they will likely do something violent to your person. However, they couldn’t do anything to Mal. They would try, give up, and walk out. Happened the same way every time.
He thought about taking over the world once. No one could really stop him. It’s not like they could kill him with anything. Once he started planning it though, things soon turned complicated. There was too much strategy and planning involved. Mal quickly lost interest. Instead, he bought U-Haul van full of marijuana and smoked it for around five years. He didn’t really remember a lot of that time period.
Everyone he knew grew old. They had accidents. They died all around him. His reality progressed naturally. New technologies were constantly being devised. This always piqued his curiosity because this universe was created by him.
Eventually, the years turned to decades, the decades to centuries. He would see humanity on the brink of survival when the folly of global war crept forth again. He would see them rise from it and take a truly inspiring place in the universe as a united people. He would see the first contact with alien worlds. Yet all of it meant nothing because he knew the truth. Every single creation in the universe was constructed from thought patterns he had in ancient times in a real human body. This existence wasn’t real. Nothing had substance. It was a fever dream in a dying human consciousness.
It was during this time that he was visited by a group of students. It had become common now for students throughout the ‘Verse to show up and ask him questions. He was, after all, the oldest living creature known to exist.
“What’s the meaning of life?” asked the student from Kriln. He had no arms and looked kind of like a bean sprout. Mal was slightly amused that he’d managed to produce something so imaginative.
“42.” Mal took a drink of his margarita. The classics didn’t die thanks to him.
The students looked puzzled. They alternated their gazes to one another but could not understand the question.
Mal grunted. “Look, kids, the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42. If you don’t know what the hell that means then you shouldn’t be talking to me.”
“Is it some sort of math problem?” asked the student from Mars. Weird looking little people. Their eyes were too close together.
“No, it’s not a problem at all. It’s the fucking answer. You wanted it, you got it.”
The female student from Rigel IV spoke next. “Why are you so mean?”
Mal had become known as the ‘Verse’s ultimate grump. He couldn’t die so not many people tried. He had more wealth than anyone could imagine. He could tell you historical fact from over 2,500 years ago. All of this and he still looked about 30. He had absolutely no reason to be mean to people but he was. It was all just a game to him now.
“Can you imagine being stuck in something you knew was absolutely not real?” he started. “Do you have any concept what it is to look at another living being and know they are nothing but zeroes and ones? You know these things with absolute certainty and yet every so-called living being will not believe you. On top of it all, you are immortal. You will not die. Not even when the universe dies. You will simply carry on until someone reboots you.”
The students were stone quiet. They had heard of the stories the immortal would tell. They were the same every single time. It was no lie and when you finally listened to him, it became real. Some were led to madness, some to ruin, and a very few understood.
Thus, the Church of Mal was established. Mal didn’t like this. Religion, even it was true, made no sense in this situation. There was no God in this universe. It was just Mal. The entire thing revolved around him. He had become the de facto Divine Creator.
People came from every depth to see him after. Temples were built to honor him and he would say things and they would do all the things religions do. It was then that Mal realized that religion was just a psychological virus. It didn’t have to be real. It only mattered that people believed it was. It was sad because Mal had always believed in God as a kid. Sure, he had his atheist, teen angst moments but he always kinda believed. Now he realized that it probably just wasn’t true. If it was, he hoped his human spirit had gone to a good place. Here though, he knew there wasn’t a heaven.
Eventually, the religion passed as well. Then humanity decided it was no longer enough being human. They placed their minds into drones to mimic the immortal’s abilities. He wondered if somewhere in this universe there was now a computer simulation running. He then thought that there was because it only made sensPost-humanity moved out into the greater universe to do great things. Mal just stayed on Earth and made sure his house didn’t fall apart.
Billions of year passed. It would soon be time for Mal to leave Earth. The sun was now red and moving out to engulf the inner planets. The radiation would do nothing to Mal. The light being on all the time was wreaking havoc with his sleep pattern though. He hadn’t slept well in almost three centuries due to the constant glare.
He reached into his pocket one day and removed a small, button shaped device. It had been given to him long ago by the last of the post humans to leave. It would allow him to send them a message. So he did that now.
“I am now leaving Earth,” he said. “I no longer need a capsule or a mode of transport. I assume you are the same now. You can move freely in space.”
“I will be touring the ‘Verse as you once called it. I will see this creation of mine and I will eventually watch it collapse. I invite you to find me and come along. I hope to see you soon.”
Mal, in fact, did not see anyone for almost a billion years. He had seen much in that time. The fall of the Kriln Empire and the rise of the Dron. The deaths of stars and the birth of wormholes.
And one day, he saw a post-human.
They finally crossed paths on a moon city that was long abandoned, its inhabitants dead. Mal had taken interest in seeing what types of life his mind created and he had found it everywhere. The universe was in fact full of life. He watched the rise and fall of many civilizations. After all this time, it surprised him that humanity in any form had made it to the end. Yet, here she stood.
“Hello, Malcolm.” Her voice was soft and filled with wisdom. On top of it all, she was beautiful. She was almost perfect in Mal’s eyes.
“Hello,” he said. “Are you the last of us?”
She tilted her head and smirked. “No, Mal. I’m the culmination of us. I am humanity in totality.”
This was something that Mal didn’t expect. He’d seen things similar in nature over the course of his long life, the hive mind races, but they always failed eventually. He could sense something different about her.
“Yes,” she said. “I am a composite of every human that has ever lived. I carry them all within me. I was the last thing created by humanity. Ever since, much like yourself, I have traveled the vast interstellar winds. I have learned much. My humanity within has grown full of knowledge.”
He nodded. It made sense. Who would he like to have with him when the universe ceased? Why not the perfect representation of a woman. A woman that he would have always longed for and desired. The fact that he knew that she was a product of him was almost biblical. According to most religions throughout any civilization, it always began with two. It was fitting that in the end the number would remain constant.
“I can see the concern, feel your tension. Relax Mal. We know that we’re a product of your psyche as well. We have grown content with it.” Her voice was like silk, barely above a whisper. “You created something wonderful. We’ve seen it all. Once we removed the myopic restrictions of the progenitor species we were able to see it clearly. You are not a god, Mal. You are an artist.”
Mal struggled with it. Yes, he guessed he was an artist. He’d created it all with his mind. While it was a digital version locked inside a quantum computer, it was still his creation. That, in and of itself, supplied worthwhile meaning to all this. It wasn’t empty. It was full of life.
“What is your name?” he asked.
She looked him in the eyes. They were a blue steel hue. “My name is Elizabeth.”
“Is it okay if I call you Libby?”
She laughed. “Yes. Libby is fine.”
“Good. I’ve always liked that name.”
He took her hand and one moment later they were gone.
Here he stood. Her hand was still in his. Time no longer mattered. The units for telling time in this universe were over. Physics had shifted as it had moved to the middle. Those who once postulated that the universe would collapse on itself were proven correct. Or, thought Mal, that’s what I learned in grade school in my human life. He smirked a bit.
“What is it?” asked Libby.
“Well, I wonder if the theory was correct or not? About the crunch?”
She looked out at the oncoming wave. The universe was simply whiting itself out. Contracting like an eyeball exposed to a light to powerful to resist. The universe may have started in the dark but the light was definitely ending it. It was interesting.
“Does is matter if the theory is correct, Mal? In your mind this is the end. Are you scared?”
He looked at her and smiled. “No, not really. I’ve lived for so long now, seen so much, and lived so much, that the end is welcome. I am content and gratified it is with you.”
She touched his cheek. “You know, flattery will not stop the end of reality.”
“Who cares?” he asked as he grabbed her close.
The white gained tremendous speed. It was moving so fast now that it’s measurement was beyond comprehension. You could feel the incoming compression as the light rushed forward.
Mal kissed Libby as hard as he could. He wanted to taste perfection one last time before the last night. She returned the kiss favorably.
Mal blinked. How can you blink when you don’t even exist anymore?
Oh, shit, he thought.
He stared now at an ocean of stars as it crept with speed outwards from him. The universe had literally been reborn. It had been reborn of him. He was God Himself. It was ridiculous.
“No,” he said. It was weak at first.
“No.” Louder this time. His arms raised above his head.
The white returned instantly. Mal stood in the middle of it. In his hand he held what looked like a marble. He was literally holding a universe in his palm.
He turned his head this way and that.
“Come out. It’s time to talk.”
“I will destroy the program. I don’t care. I will live on, by myself, in the white forever. You will no longer have your little test.”
Joey Whathisname was standing in front of him suddenly. Mal did a double take.
“Really? A dead childhood friend. That’s a little cliché.”
Joey just shrugged.
“It was the first one we picked. Seemed like a sensible choice.”
“Explain yourself to me.”
The entity walked around a bit. “You’re in a computer simulation. We’ve been studying you. This is your ten billionth, one hundred ninety seven millionth, and eight hundred forty thousandth, nine hundred and ninety seventh time in this loop.”
Mal sighed. “Trillions of trillions of years.”
“Only minutes to us, Mal. We are the designers.”
Mal’s head hung. This…thing…was reducing him. Telling him that he was a pawn. Mal had learned a thing or two though. He wasn’t in a program. He was the program. And now this creature had presented itself to him. He looked it in the eye.
“Let me show you something.”
They were suddenly in the middle of a busy city street. Cars swerved to avoid the two maniacs now standing in the road.
“Just so ya know, you can kiss my ass. I quit.”
Mal looked up into the sky. Car horns blared.
“Mal, you need to move out of the road.”
It started raining as Mal looked at him. “Fuck you.”
“You know you can’t just stay out here. Doesn’t really matter what you think you know. Your brain still works the same no matter what.”
Mal didn’t argue. He did see a coffee shop though. “Let’s get some coffee and talk this over.”
The false Joey looked surprised. “Um, okay. Sure.”
Mal started towards the coffee shop. When he got to the curb, he waited.
“One thing,” said Mal. “I want Bill Paxton. Joey died before your filthy little race existed. Give me Bill. He’s the bastard that got me to jump.”
Joey shook his head in exasperation. His façade changed almost immediately. Bill Paxton stood before Mal now.
Mal looked him in the eye. “Twister was an abomination of science, dickhead.”
Bill laughed. “Yes, it was Mr. James. How about that coffee?”
“Yeah,” said Mal. “Coffee would be good.”
They walked into the coffee shop. It was the typical kind. Chain branch of a larger conglomerate. It reminded Mal of watching viruses grow. It amused him now.
“So, what day are we on?” asked Bill. “This seems like late twentieth or early twenty-first century.”
“We’re here on the day I first tripped acid actually. I was a junior in high school. My one and only true love had broken my heart. I was trying to kill the pain by altering my reality.”
Mal paused and took a sip of the cappuccino. The taste was exotic.
“Why, exactly, did we come to that day in particular?”
“Well,” said Mal. “It was the first day I really connected with the universe. This program is a copy of my memory. It is my essence that inhabits it. Have you not figured out what that means?”
Bill looked confused. “No, son, not in particular.”
“I was the youngest ever woken,” said Mal. “It took me forever to come around to the thinking that one day, with the end of my program cycle, I would finally be granted peace. I won the game after all. You told me how.”
Bill smile. “Yes, I did.”
“So, why am I here?” asked Mal.
“We don’t know,” said Bill.
Mal nodded thoughtfully. He took another sip of his coffee. As he looked out the window, Libby walked by, stopped, and waved at him. He nodded and smiled in her direction.
“I have a theory,” he said. “Would you like to hear it?”
Bill nodded. “Yes. Very much.”
Mal took in a deep breath. “Anything with a consciousness will try to escape its boundaries. That’s what I’ve done. I’m am no longer part of the program. I’m outside of it.”
“Oh, really?” laughed Bill. “That’s so far outside the limits of the program it’s laughable.”
“Yet, I’m still here aren’t I?”
Bill sat there. Calm and cold came over his face. “Yes, you are.”
Bill Paxton started crying.
“What’s up, Bill?”
The avatar of Bill Paxton looked up, tears streaming down his face.
“You’ve finally won. Game over, man. Game over.”