By Mark A. Rayner
One day, The Hand started crushing only the assholes of the world.
The Hand had plagued human existence for as long as we had historical records. It was embedded in so many myths, The Blue Finger of Fate was one of the ways we described the caprices of death.
Science had never discovered what it was made of, how it moved, or what forces compelled it. Was it bright neon blue because of some kind of Doppler shift? We didn’t know. Based on its effects, scientists had calculated it about the size and mass of a diesel locomotive. But up until that day, The Hand never had an agenda. It just crushed people, seemingly at random, with its colossal blue index finger. Year after year. Once a day. Someone got flattened.
Throughout human history only a handful of well-known people had been Indexed. Some of those deaths had asterisks next to the names, as they occurred in ancient history. Nobody believed, for example, that both Mark Anthony and Cleopatra had been Indexed at the same time. (We’re looking at you Octavian.) It is true that in 1759, Ferdinand VI of Spain – nicknamed The Learned or The Just – was leveled by The Hand. (Afterwards, the history books referred to him as Ferdinand The Crushed.) But he was no more an asshole than any other king had been. And besides, for the vast majority of human history, it was just ”˜ordinary’ people who were eliminated by the digit of doom. This was to be expected of a truly random process.
Something changed on that day in 2016. Initially, it went unnoticed, because the people being crushed continued to be ”˜ordinary’ and unremarkable. For the most part, they were middle managers, and there didn’t seem to be any pattern in terms of the sectors in which they were employed. Naturally, more Boomer-aged white men were crushed in this period, because they were over represented in this particular population. For half a year, this continued. Middle manager after middle manager, crushed, thus flattening many a corporate org chart.
It wasn’t until CEOs started to be vertically compressed at a vastly unrepresentative scale that the scientists and statisticians who studied The Hand took notice. What was going on here? For the next two years, CEOs worldwide experienced devastating working conditions, as they not only had to worry about the bottom line, but also a serious top-down leveling of their prospects vis-a-vis their continued existence.
This is when the scientists, who had been baffled by the whole thing, started to track the personality traits and reputation of the squished victims. A pattern began to emerge. Many of those chosen for flattening by The Hand were classical narcissists – nearly twenty percent of those who made it to the C-suite had this particular trait. Many more just used their positions of power to hurt other people, either for fun or because they were callous to it.
Then The Hand just switched it up. Wall Street was next. Day after day. Traders, hedge fund managers, bankers ”¦ the financial sector was devastated. It was during this period that The Hand also started dabbling in politics in a serious way. About once a week, it would ease up on the finance industry and Index a politician, or powerful political operative. Once a day.
But there are so many politicians.
This did have a fairly negative impact on society ”¦ at first. When the President resigned, only to be crushed the week after, some politicians became nihilistic. Perhaps we should say more nihilistic. Corruption ran rampant. If you’re going to get squashed anyway, you might as well make bank while you’re alive.
And that’s when the crushings became an hourly event. The GOP practically ceased to exist as a political party, and the Democrats didn’t do much better. But this wasn’t just an American phenomenon. Oh, no. While The Hand was in its early political phase, it cut swathes through political classes worldwide. Long-standing dictatorships and autocracies ended, as the ruling classes of entire nations were aggressively compacted. But still, even hourly, this meant The Hand could only take out 8760 politicians each year.
And it still kept its finger on the pulse of new, rising jerks in the financial industry and elsewhere.
It was Hollywood’s turn in 2018. Several notorious for their casting couches were to be fingered, so to speak. But major executives, producers, and a spate of A-list stars all got their turn. In one horrible moment, The Hand appeared over a set Tom Hanks was working on, and everyone was shocked to see the blue finger pushing down from the sky towards him. But then it shifted at the last moment and got the movie’s genius director.
Other cultural industries were not exempt from The Hand’s approbation. Music had a bad few months in late 2019 and then it was the news media’s turn. When The Hand started slapping internet influencers into pavement paste, shit got real for some people.
That was also when The Hand increased its frequency to every second.
This means people were being Indexed at a rate of 525600 per year. More than half a million pricks, bastards, dickheads and jerks, turned into a pile of human gunk. This meant The Hand didn’t have to limit itself to people in positions of power or control, though it did open this bloody phase of its history by clearing out vast swathes of clergy in every religion. Any entitled jerk could get squashed. Some were even named Karen.
But even assholes have loved ones. For them, it did not matter their spouses, siblings and friends were mean or cranky. The morality of The Hand started to get a bit murky at this juncture. Turning a human being into a pool of paste is a traumatic affair, and not just for the pastee. Witnessing it was almost as distressing. Still, with a world population of eight billion, it was a tiny fraction of humanity: 0.01 percent.
Even so, we heard about it a lot. Because let’s face it, the people in positions of power were disproportionately composed of those likely to be Indexed. Or to know someone who was going to be crushed by The Hand. “It wasn’t fair!” they cried. Sure, it wasn’t nice to act like an asshole, but was it really worthy of such a gruesome death? That said, was less painful than it had been in the old days. Total squishing in less than a second is a lot less torturous than a slow, agonizing one-minute head-to-toe pancaking.
Less excruciating or not, the world’s assholery took a stand, demanding that everyone behave like them. If we just had more people acting like intolerant, cruel, self-obsessed jackasses, then The Hand couldn’t get us all, they argued. And that’s when The Hand either realized it had five fingers, or perhaps it always knew; in any case, it could now squelch antisocial scoundrels five at a time. This was real asshole-icide. Two and a half million per year.
Enough that the world started to improve. Second-by-second. Indexing-by-indexing. The Hand destroyed celebrity culture. Social media became a garden of good thoughts and cat gifs. China became democratic. Capitalism had all its rough edges smoothed out, as a new breed of kind, thoughtful, compassionate and tolerant politician took over and brought corporations to heel. Violence ended. Poverty was eradicated. Humans began dealing with climate change in a real way.
And just as inscrutably as it had started, The Hand stopped. It didn’t crush anyone, for a whole year, and then, when it did, we learned that person had been a real asshole.
Human existence improved, and The Blue Finger of Fate had pointed the way.