User Error is watching the way the lights flash by as he cycles down his town’s main tunnel, Sanford Brisket rollerblading next to him while beatboxing. They’re going so fast that Sanford’s constantly getting out of breath, stopping his beat to breathe, then beatboxing again when he gets bored. He looks at User.
“Let’s listen to some jams.”
“Yeah, I’m bored. I want to hear some of the tunes you whipped up on that computer of yours.”
User Error stops his bike and pulls out a beaten and battered portable CD player from his backpack. The top of it is partially broken, but he fixed that with some duct tape and super glue. The anti-skip still kind of works. He pulls out a dusty CD case and gives Sanford his pick of about 100 discs in total, some of them ones that User scavenged in his travels and some that he made himself, chopping up MIDI files and making music out of computer error sounds, startup music, and the digitized Beethoven that came standard with every copy of Windows 95.
Sanford chooses a CD of User Error’s latest mixes. User loads the CD and hangs the headphones over his neck, if they can still be called headphones at this point. A while back, User removed the foam over-ear coverings and made some modifications. He flipped the speakers so that they were facing outward and tinkered with them until they were playing at the volume of a loud radio. That’s how he likes to listen to his jams.
The first song sounds like a synthesized choir flying through space. The beat slams, the bass is funky, and you can just tell how much fun User Error was having when he made it.
They’re getting moving again, the sound reverberating off of the tunnel walls.
“Okay, this is a bop, User.”
“Certified fresh, man. I’d give birth to this if I was a lady.”
“Yeah man. You should play this for mamas who are popping out babies. It’d make the whole experience much cooler, I bet.”
“Okay… I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Yeah man. Really good stuff.”
It goes on like that, one song bleeding into another, both of them going farther than they’ve ever gone before, beyond the lights that are still running, into the dark, until User has to switch on his bike’s headlight and Sanford has to put on his headlamp.
“Sanford, what do you think you would have done above ground? Like as a job?”
“We’ve been over this. There is no one and nothing above ground.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I mean like before everything went crazy. Before our ancestors went all ‘fuck this’ and got down into the tunnels. You know? There were jobs. You’d go somewhere and do something for like eight hours, then at the end of the day you could go to like an apartment or something and your boss would give you paper so that you could go buy food. So what would your job be?”
“How would I get food paper?”
“Shit, I’d probably just find where they kept all the food paper and take it for myself.”
“This isn’t like someone hoarding gold in a cave, San. They had like vaults and guards and stuff. They kept their money on the Inner Net.”
“Damn. Well, I don’t know then. Probably someone who tells travelling tales. You know? Like you see these guys going from tunnel to tunnel, and everyone gathers around to hear them weaving it thick, and everybody loves it. Everyone needs stories, right?”
“Plus, if the people above ground were dumb enough to destroy everything up there, I’m pretty sure I could trick them into giving me a shit ton of food paper.”
“You’re ridiculous, Sanford. You know that, right?”
“I am aware.”
The CD plays out. The tunnel makes the music sound like it’s coming from miles underwater. Sanford looks at User Error.
“Do you ever think about cycles, User?”
“No, like things happening again and again. That kind of cycle.”
“Eternal return. So basically, the theory goes that the world and the Inner Net and the universe and all of it will all one day come to an end.”
“Already seems like it has.”
“Yeah, I know. But the theory says that after all of it ends, it all starts up again. Like everything, word for word and step for step. The world happens, and people make the Inner Net, and everything blows up, and there’s us tunnel people, all of it.”
“And there’s no way to stop it?”
“Nope. It just cycles again and again, over and over. For all of eternity, you and I will be running into each other as kids, then becoming friends, then going on adventures, and then having this exact conversation.”
“What if I change it and… FUCK.”
“Nothing, sorry. I just wanted to mess with the cycle.”
“That’s the thing though, San. The theory says that you’ve always yelled out ‘fuck’ in the middle of the conversation like that, and you always will. And you’d have no way of knowing, because your memory is wiped each time you’re born again. Like a fresh hard drive.”
“No, I mean holy shit, where is this waterfall at? We’ve been going for like hours now.”
“I think we’re almost there.”
“Well yeah, I’ve never been there before. But it feels like it, right?”
Sanford thinks for a second, then smiles.
“Yeah, it does.”
User Error starts his CD from the beginning. They ride on into the darkness.