A Story by Nicolas Jao

A detective tries to find out why a man killed himself in their utopian society.


The man was very young. Slight facial hair. He liked wearing the simplest clothes. He was, if anything, average. There was nothing special about him. Why did boss choose him as a subject? He was so immensely uninteresting, the detective considered reporting only that and calling it a day. But this was his profession. Finding anomalies. It would take patience and an infinite immunity to boredom, but ignoring anomalies would never get them closer to understanding them. He would always question these strangers, but that was the point. The department aimed to understand why they existed. 

The detective and his senior sat in a surveillance room, dark and brooding. It displayed the views of the many cameras in the city. However, all of them would be used to study this one man. That was what they needed to do. And they did this, this act of scrutiny, for one reason. Ethan Edwardson, this man, was guilty of suicide. Permitted by no nation and committed on June 8th, 3542. This was not a tragedy; this was impossible. The detective needed to know--and he wanted to know--any evidence that would prove the validity of this man’s irrational decision. 

Wells “Pipe” Brockmann leaned back comfortably in his chair with a sigh. They began calling him that because of the number of pipe cigars he would light in a day. He held one now, always when he was stressed, and the cloud of smoke washed over his moustached face, concealing it from view. The detective studied him instead. Slightly overweight, however not in an unhealthy aspect. That was impossible anyway since the Age of Ennui was long past. These types of things never haunted or burdened any person today. The man was fairly old. Perhaps well into his six-hundreds? Dark hair. Accusing eyes. The detective feared he would be caught staring intently when the man suddenly leaned forward and said, “Let’s start with the basics.”

The detective nodded. He exhaled. “We’ll go over what I know so far. I’ve been studying him for weeks, sir. You don’t understand. There is fundamentally nothing about this man that would suggest he had reasoning for his manual end.”
“Well, there better damn be. He did it. He’s dead. Suicide without a logical justification? Damn nonsense. That’s impossible.”

The detective agreed. He looked back at the screens. What was the footage showing now? Oh, there he was. Doing his strange activities. The man could spend his candy in a casino in Vegas. He could go paragliding off of the cliffs of Kilimanjaro, ski down the slopes of Everest. He could spend all day divulging in the fanciest brothels with the most exquisite women. He could taste the best recreational drugs or champagne at a club party in Dubai, or eat until he vomits at a buffet, or travel the seas on a cruise, or take a vacation to Mars. These were all things that regular people did. This was normal. Excessively indulging was ordinary, and this man did not. He did not know why. Instead, and this was something the detective was so confused at, he threw the latest candy paycheck he earned in the garbage as soon as he walked out of work and went home. 

This was fine. But then the man opened the door, and the detective learned everyone was at home. His wife, his son, his daughter, his parents, his grandparents. Now, this was something! Really something! What a rarity. What an abnormality. After a bit of chatter and embracements, they gathered around a table. He had never seen this before! 

“What are they doing now?” Pipe asked, barely focused on the screens.

“I don’t know how to explain this exactly, sir. They’re sitting down at a big table, and they’re eating food. Wait, not yet. They’re closing their eyes. The man is muttering some words. He’s at the head of the table, and everyone’s listening. They’re all just silently listening. I see the children putting their hands together. To be honest, sir, it’s all kind of disturbing to me. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” 

Pipe burst out in laughter, which surprised the detective. “You didn’t tell me he was a cultist!” he said. 

“I don’t know what they’re doing. I know the man makes a decent amount of candy, yet the food doesn’t even look all that great. I don’t see any android servants in their dwelling, either. It looks as if they had prepared it themselves.” 

The senior detective’s eyes widened. His attention seemed to be focused now. He leaned forward, took his cigar out of his mouth and said, “Well, damn me. That is truly strange, boy. If you were to ask me, I don’t have an explanation either.” 

Edwardson was fully aware of the rejection of his candy. Almost as if he was smug about it. Once, his boss was impressed with his work and opted him for a promotion. He said no. The strangest thing in the detective’s opinion was that he also never bought lottery tickets. Looking at past records, he had never bought one in his life. Who could pass up the chance to win tons of candy? Perhaps this man was not functional. Perhaps he needed to be taken to the mental hospital to be checked. Certainly, this wasn’t normal, yet the man did not contain a shred of a sign that he was insane. Clearly, he was perfectly in control of his actions. 

Pipe seemed he was contemplating heavily as well. Then he said, “Let’s focus on the case here. The man developed a condition only possible during the Age of Ennui, an archaic term called, “depression.” We need to find out why. When did it start and what caused it. First of all, his pain or emotion nanites should have stopped this. Intel on that, please.”

“He turned them off long ago. At around two years old, he made the conscious decision to live without them. This contradicts the recommended government procedure, but under the New World Act, it is believed that any human creature is entitled and allowed to whatever they want. We stripped this planet of pain, destruction, disease, irrational emotions, and death. Then this man, Edwardson, comes along and rejects all of it. Without his nanites repairing his cells, he is expected to have a traditional Age of Ennui life expectancy. He’s quite young, sir. He’s only a mere forty-five years old. He will die of old age in approximately thirty years, give or take.” 

Pipe, once again, showcased his ability to have an outburst of true laughter. “Thirty damn years? That’s ridiculous!” 

“I believe so too. The man is not mad, you see. He regularly accepts his healthcare, but only at a level that will not grant him immortality. He gives his candy to the doctors, too. I’ve questioned a few of them, wondering if it was some sort of payment as part of a secret plan. All interviews ended without a conviction. The doctors were completely clueless as to why he paid them his candy. Their confused reactions in the surveillance tapes prove so. I’ve come up with a few hypotheses. For one, perhaps the man believes the healthcare isn’t free. Of course, it is, for everyone in the world. But this man acts as if his candy is not important to him, as if he doesn’t need it, and gives it to the doctors. That suggests a total madman if you ask me.” 

“Alright. But what we need to get to the bottom of is his criminal act itself.” 

Pipe shuffled a few case documents on the desk, analyzing each of them. Pictures the detective had taken of the crime scene. The blood, the splatter, the murder weapons. But they had been looked at endlessly already, by the detective himself. There was nothing to be found in them. It was clearly a manual end, and the countless surveillance systems in the city supported it. This was why the detective believed they had to go further into the case, into the life of the man himself, to find something. Hence the two occupying the room now, looking at monitors for hours. 

Edwardson knew what he was doing. He had started with a blade, which was why all the blood around the alleyway he performed his suicide existed. But he realized it was pointless. A medical team would carry him to a revival centre and immediately begin the process of rejuvenation. He did not want to come back, no. The only way was to incinerate his cells. They would go through a chemical change that would turn them into ashes, unable to be revived. Even better was to perform this on his brain, as the neurological team would not be able to preserve his mind. In a violent, brutal act, he poured gasoline all over his forehead and brought a lighter’s flame to it. He screamed all night as his head burst in flames. No one had heard him. 

The detective gazed at the monitors again. There would be no more questioning. It was pointless, getting them nowhere. He wanted to find out why the man would do such a thing in such a flawless world once and for all. He gathered up all the evidence. Ethan Edwardson. The man who would periodically throw away his candy, unimportant to him. The man that would decline any offer of more candy with a distinguished certainty. Rather than indulging in the world’s delights, he would go home. His family would be there as well, all participating in their dismissal of Earth’s offered pleasures. Unlike the superior majority, the man was monogamous (the detective could not imagine his own life without the hundred concubines and mistresses whom he’d have intercourse with every day). The man never drank or tasted pills, never injected or sniffed. The man had never even left his country! 

The detective formed an idea. He had done his research. He knew that the Age of Ennui condition known as depression was caused by a lack of happiness. In fact, ennui itself was a major role at the beginning of its manifestation. Pipe watched as with a mind-command, the determined detective moved his hover seat to the computer. He searched all surveillance systems for every single time a man named Ethan Edwardson had a frown. If any other person, there would be one or two results. However, for his client, there were countless. 

The detective and his senior’s eyes both widened in unison at the light glowing on their faces as it played all the tapes at once. The man, looking at androids walking in the street doing labour and jobs. Frowning. The man, walking past busy bars, brothels and clubs, and the number of people they had in them. Frowning. The man, seeing a group of people in a restaurant celebrating someone’s one-thousandth birthday, all while looking as attractive as a model. Frowning. Watching his son and daughter finish university and spending all their candy on excessive pleasures, as well as the arguments that came along about their decisions in spending it (broken plates and shattered windows). Frowning. Seeing product advertisements that altered your face structure to be flawless, ones that gave your bones and muscles more strength to gain a muscular appearance, ones that injected hormones that would make you biologically irresistible to men or women. Frowning. Seeing the masses of ordinary citizens in their luxurious mansions with gardens, plazas, verandas, and pools, having intercourse in their sports cars and drowning in golden jewelry. Frowning. 

Until finally, everything stopped and one clip played. It was the night of his suicide. Alone in their house, the man and his wife climbed into bed, saying good night. Everything was fine. The air was cool, dark, and peaceful. A normal night. But the man did not feel that way. He knew something was wrong with his wife, who was not smiling as usual, and who turned away from him on the bed with more diligence than usual. He put an arm around her and asked what was wrong, not thinking much of it. But what she said must have spooked him, especially since she was beginning to weep. She said: “Why did we choose this life, Ethan? Why do we not live lavishly like everyone else?” 

A still moment passed between them, which seemed an eternity. Finally, the man answered by getting up and speaking a few words. They were so quiet that the detective and Pipe could not hear, but the expert detective read his lips: “I love you.” What on earth could the words mean? He had no clue.

The wife must have thought he was simply going to get a snack downstairs or look at the artificial stars of the skydome in the balcony. The man did none of those things. He put on his jacket, grabbed a lighter and a knife, and left the house. 

And the whole time, he was frowning.

At this point, the detective and his senior knew the subsequent events. Gradually, they both relaxed. None of them wanted to speak first. However, they both also knew that they still had no concrete evidence. This man was unhappy, which in the first place was impossible, only possible in the Age of Ennui, and there was also no reason why. Their shift was over soon. They would have to tell boss tomorrow that they had another unsolved anomaly. 

Pipe chose to break the tension when he sighed and got off his chair, putting on his coat. “Well detective, I’ll tell you one thing. This man disregards his candy and his opportunities. All the extravagant pleasures the world offers him, and he doesn’t seem to care. It seems to me that--very clearly as well--it seems to me that this man doesn’t know how to appreciate what’s been given to him.” Then he left.

The detective thought about that for a long while, wondering if he was right. He looked at the monitors, now playing random clips. Once again he saw the one of the man sitting with his family around a table. Smiling, as if he was the happiest man in the world. It seems to me that this man doesn’t know how to appreciate what’s been given to him. It took ages before silently, he agreed. Rather than use his candy and time for anything he wanted, the man chose this nonsense. One by one, he shut off the monitors, grabbed his coat, and followed Pipe out the door.


© 2020 Nicolas Jao

Author's Note

Nicolas Jao
This story won a short story contest at my high school. At first I wanted it to be about money and how it corrupts, but as I added more to it, I realized I could make it something more. The first draft was very different than this, it was a monologue of a character at first.

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This is a cool story. I liked her.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago

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Added on June 12, 2020
Last Updated on June 16, 2020
Tags: utopian, depression, generalfiction, literary, literature


Nicolas Jao
Nicolas Jao

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

It's the cliche story. I've been writing since I was six, and it's a passion. I like to read, listen to music, watch the NBA, learn science and programming, and eat food. My favourite book is The Hous.. more..

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