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The Ant and the Grasshoppers

Ian Randal Strock (IanRandalStrock.com) is the publisher of Gray Rabbit Publications/Fantastic Books, and thinks of himself as a science fiction author, even though 98% of his published words have been nonfiction. He is the author of "The Presidential Book of Lists" (Random House, 2008), "Ranking the First Ladies" (Carrel Books, 2016), and "Ranking the Vice Presidents" (Carrel Books, 2016). His fiction has appeared in Nature, Analog (from which he won two AnLab Awards), and several recent anthologies.

The history of human achievement is the history of saying "if only we had known." If only we had known DDT is dangerous to mammals. If only we had known asbestos causes lung cancer. If only we had known lead is a neurotoxin.
But now I've been living the opposite. If only I had never known. If only I had never known, I could have been happy. If only I had never known that humanity never learns, that the average human will steadfastly refuse to be an ant, that he can only ever be the grasshopper.
Maybe, if I could have learned to drink like my peers, to party like my roommates.... If I could have been happy studying some meaningless liberal arts instead of the hard sciences. If I could have convinced myself that happiness was my right, rather than something to achieve. If I hadn't read "Harrison Bergeron," if I hadn't striven to achieve, I, too, could be happy. I could be out there, celebrating with the crowd who is trying to sanctify my name.
But no. I had to be the polymath. I had to discover the doomsday asteroid. I had to break the government gag and announce it to the world. And then I had to be the one to invent the backstepper. And when I activate it, and the entire world jumps ten years into the past, they'll be just as happy as they were for the last ten years, knowing nothing of their impending doom. I-- I alone-- only I will retain the knowledge that our world is going to end in ten minutes. I'll have to live through those ten years again, to reinvent the backstepper and save all my grasshoppers again... and again... and again. If only I hadn't known, then we could all die in blissful ignorance.
But I do know. And so, once again, I will live, lonely in my foreknowledge, living in obscurity, awaiting my final moment of adulation to save them all again.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Author Comments

This story is based on one of those ideas that grabs a writer and doesn't let go. There are a couple of ideas I've had that have forced themselves into like ten stories, clogging the creative pipeline. In this case, I'm hoping that finally creating a story that another editor thought worthy of publication will purge that idea, so I can get back to new things.

- Ian Randal Strock
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