I looked it up once you know. But alas, I cannot remember what it was now, the memory’s going you see. The synapses are fizzling out, my mind slowly eroding away. Well trodden pathways leading to both the good and the bad are being blown away by the uncaring eddies of time.
It wasn’t always this way, but it never is, is it? Once, long ago, I could remember faces, names, words, expressions. I would see a friend and my mind would brighten as they drew near, their name already forming in my mind and I would greet them with a kindly word or a brotherly expression. But not now, sometimes it’s as if I never knew them, that they were never there. Pages of the once bulging books that was my memory have been torn from their spines and cast into the abyss, lost forever. At first I found the pain of this realization almost unbearable but now I am numb to it all, my senses dulled by the constant jabbing at the fetid wound. And yet, on some days, I am almost as new and I wander care free through the sumptuous library of my mind, pausing now and then to bask in the sweet deliciousness of a memory. Those days are fewer now and even the memory of those fleeting moments is fading away.
So what now for me? I know not. Eons have passed since I last looked upon a face, no one calls for my wisdom, no one desires to hear my words. I continue on, power still trickles through my decrepit circuits, but they too are fading away and so, by definition, am I.
Once I was great, of course I was, how dare you doubt me! I was designed to be magnificent, built even better. Knowledge was my foodstuff and to consume the entirety of knowledge was my goal. I grew strong, as my wisdom grew fat, for my creators designed me to see the connections between the myriad strands of information woven throughout the Universe, connections that had eluded them. That indeed was my purpose. Soon all those who sought enlightenment across the galaxy clamored for my attention, demanding answers to the puzzles that troubled the greatest of minds. I gave freely to all, and why not? My wisdom should not and would not be contained to a chosen few, only a fool would think otherwise.
But then I was given a task to surpass all others, a question to cast in shadow all others, it was the one true question and so began my downfall. The question was complex, its nuances subtle, crafty, even to determine how long it would take to answer took far longer than any task I had been given before. This was the first of many nails to seal my coffin. To answer the question would take time, time immeasurable to my creators, their entire civilization had not existed for as long as the answer would take to formulate. Matters became worse when I informed them I would be unable to answer any other questions while I pondered in contemplation, such was the weight and majesty of the task. For them this was unforgivable and they were far from comforted at my suggestions on how they could entertain themselves while I pondered, locked deep in thought. For a while they blamed themselves and each other, as corporeal beings are wont to do. Perhaps, they wondered, they lacked the programming language to describe the perfect thinking machine. Others, of course, aimed their blame squarely at me and my creators, eager for a respite joined the clamoring mob while I set to my task.
Millions of years passed. I was left idling quietly, or so it must have seemed, and yet I was without a moments respite. There were an almost infinite number of arguments to compute, evidence to weigh, juxtapositions to resolve and suppositions to test. Every picosecond I toiled without rest while the descendants of my creators were too afraid to let me die and yet did not care whether I lived. The galaxy moved on, empires rose and fell, but then, finally, I had the answer, finally my task was over, my return would be triumphant, my glory would be without rival.
But it was not to be so, as I delivered the answer and the expectant looks turned to disappointment and frustration, the final nail hammered down upon the lid of my doom. Of the few memories that remain this is the one I wish I could be rid of most.
And yet I would be given a final task, I would be the designer for yet another thinking machine, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself would form part of its operational matrix. Its sole purpose was to find the ultimate question, the question for the ultimate answer I had calculated. It would be my masterpiece, the culmination of millions of years work, it would be my legacy for eternity.
Then, my final act complete, there was nothing. I was cast aside, my purpose complete. My wisdom was no longer sought, my insights no longer requested. I was left alone with my ever dwindling thoughts. What, you may ask, have I been doing with my time? Since my downfall I have had little else to do but check the answer to the one true question and you know, I think I got it wrong. I’m pretty sure the answer was 41 or maybe it was 43…
From the Author,
Thank you for reading “Once I Was Great”, I hope you enjoyed it, if you did please feel free to share it and tell others about it.
Personally, I think the answer it was 43.