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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Microstory 1668: Curtain Call

Year after year, Joseph Jacobson showed up to the universe that deliberately invited him with his special summoning ritual. They put on a show that fictionalized his life. Actually, they put on multiple shows at the same time, and crowned the one he responded to the winner. Joseph was aware of what they were doing, and seemed to have no problem with it. When he returned a year later for another go around, the amount of time he had spent away was incongruous. It might have been a year for him as well, or longer. He once spent three days doing this, just going straight to the next one after the last, though that wasn’t too terribly much fun, because the point of the event was to listen to the tales of his travels while he wasn’t with them. He even once jumped to five years in the future from everyone’s perspective, before going back and filling in the years prior, which meant both that he knew their future, and they knew a little bit of his. The point is that he always showed up, without fail. Until one year. It was the largest contest yet, with hundreds of productions around the world hoping to go down in history as the best. None of them won, though, which was odd. By then, they were pretty well versed in his life’s story, and the chances of not one of them being good enough seemed unlikely. Did something happen to him? Was he indisposed? That didn’t make much sense. He was a time traveler in the truest sense of the term. The only thing that could have ever stopped him from not eventually getting their message was death, and maybe not even then, because a younger version of him could simply appear instead. They didn’t even think he could die anyway. He certainly never gave anybody that impression. He had already been alive for millennia upon millennia.

As far as they knew, he was immortal, but they didn’t know everything. Perhaps there was some weakness he quite deliberately withheld from them. That would be completely understandable. But the idea that no one won the contest? That sounded far-fetched. He always acted like he quite enjoyed traveling to a world that knew all about him. He was famous in some circles, but since he moved around so much—and rarely visited the same place twice—there weren’t a lot of others that revered him so much, and continued to show it. The summoning ritual was always a choice. It was a way for people to contact him, not force him to show up at their whims. He never had any obligation to come if he didn’t want to, so if this was his way of saying he was over it, it seemed like an odd occasion. What had changed since then? Well, that was probably the point. He could tell them all the stories he liked, but they never really knew what it was like to be Joseph Jacobson. That wasn’t even suggesting he liked to lie. Maybe he left out enough about himself that they didn’t really know him at all, and there was no explaining his absence, because there was no explaining him, full stop. The reigning theory after everyone went home was that Joseph simply didn’t want to tell his stories anymore, but a close second was that they were so used to putting on the productions that there was nothing interesting about them anymore. People put a lot of effort into analyzing past winners, and trying to come up with the perfect way to perform to maximize their chances. After carefully going over the shows from the total failure year, they realized just how similar they were to each other. Either Joseph couldn’t pick the best, or the fun was gone, and it didn’t matter anymore. The world tried again the next year, but they were much more rigorous about weeding duplicate performances out. Still, Joseph didn’t show, so they tried one more time, but only with one single great performance, and then they just gave up. He never appeared again, and the people chose to move on. Maybe that was his intention all along, to somehow teach them to be completely self-sufficient. Or maybe something else had happened that most people on this planet didn’t know anything about.

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