Contest #75 shortlist ⭐️

20 comments

Fantasy Fiction Science Fiction

Jelly Bean’s Last Bounce

By Ted DeMarsh

               They had left Jelly Bean here to sort it all out. To fix the thing that needed fixing. To do it once, for everything, for everywhere. Whatever he came up with they’d do. He was created to come up with the solution they would act on. They created him, set him down where he told them he needed to be, and waited. They hoped it wouldn’t take him long to figure it out and it didn’t. He came to it as quickly as he was designed to do, the answer they desperately needed.

               He was a spectacular, one of a kind, never to be repeated computer program in a shell. A shell with arms and legs that looked like a jelly bean, so someone had written that in multi coloured markers on his impervious to penetration, curved, rust synthetic forehead. Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean didn’t know it, but it fit. He was a super sophisticated computing machine that looked like a jelly bean, walked like a jelly bean and when he used his arms, moved them like a jelly bean would if it had arms to move. Even the soft sounds he made when he made sounds were what you’d expect from something chewy with a hard shell. 

He was an artificial intelligence masterwork. He was intelligent like nothing and no one had ever been intelligent before, and his emotional intelligence was so sensitively tuned that many on the vast team of his creators looked for ways to sneak into his presence and ask him to guide them. When he did they listened, and they were always grateful they had.

As he developed, he started having questions and they did their best to answer them. When they couldn’t, they provided him the opportunity to discover the answers for himself. He had regarded and considered things on every continent of the world, in every climate, on and under every ocean (he was water tight in the tightest of water tight ways), on top of and inside numerous volcanoes, (fire and heat proof) in most big cities, jungles and tundra, and rural areas all over the world so small they had to be discovered just so he could go there. He spoke all languages and was familiar with all thought any thinker had ever pondered. He was well prepared. 

The last place he’d asked to be taken was the high arctic and to be left on the ice there. A pristine thought required a pristine place to be born into, and he chose a spectacular, barren ice field to be set down on for its birth. To be alone in immense clarity to usher in a simple clear answer that would lead to an immensely clear future free of worry, neglect, and suffering. He would achieve bliss in service to perfection and contribution.

The lone figured settled itself on the deep, aeons old slab of ice, and thought. It didn’t take long for the answer to come, but even so, it came too late. It came, Jelly Bean sent it out and waited for them to come and retrieve him. He had completed his purpose, and more so than any other conscious being that had known its purpose and fulfilled it, he knew he was done. The word had gone out. It was finished.

They’d done everything exactly right and spared no expense to prepare him for the one job he was built for. To ‘tell us what to do to survive’. He did, and no one heard, and the doing he was made for was done. He sent it to them but… they were already gone. The end had come quickly for them. Orders had been given and buttons pushed. His simple and doable message came in, then… Whoosh! All gone.

Sky gone. Light gone. Purpose gone. People gone. All gone. Jelly Bean left all alone. Completely. Totally.

If only Jelly Bean could sigh. He couldn’t. 

So, alone on a slab of ancient ice, he waited. And waited. Years passed, and for many of them he was content to just wait, happy to know he had served his purpose. It didn’t concern him when the ice underneath him started to melt, continued to melt, then finished melting until one day he was bobbing in the ocean. He bobbed and he bobbed.

His creators had given Jelly Bean a chance once each year on the new year’s day to make one decision solely for himself that they had not programmed him for. He was free to chose one action that though it may seem random to them, they wouldn’t question or prevent from happening. They believed that it was a necessary part of his development and they trusted that what he chose once a year, would aid him in the great quest for the answer. It also gave Jelly Bean an opportunity to fill in gaps his creators may have been missing.

At first, his independent decisions were simple and predictable. “I have decided to taste something”. He couldn’t and though they tried various ways, he didn’t. “I want to fly”. They rigged a wonderfully designed catapult to launch him and a perfect net to catch him. He flew. “I have decided I want to lose an argument’. This was a tough one, as Jelly Bean had integrated into his thinking all the arguments ever made by the great arguers, and he also knew all the clever or convoluted ways they had argued them. In the end, after trying many thoughtful and radical ideas, giving him what he wanted was simple. They just said, “No” and it was accomplished.

 Maybe they had heard the answer he’d sent, used it to perfect their world, and so, as he was no longer needed, they’d simply forgotten him. He didn’t know. Through millennia he waited, floating when the world was covered in water, baking when it was desert, rising up as tectonic plates collided and mountains took him skyward, and falling when they collapsed. He waited, and each year continued to make his one independent decision. “I want you to talk to me’. In time, when no-one answered, he began another. “I want you to answer me”. There was never an answer. One year, it became, “I have decided to change”. Eons later, “I have decided to stop thinking”. Then, finally, during the fifth ice age that had come and surrounded him, “I want to die”.      

  He had waited over 2 million years, suffering every second of it, lonely and waiting. He waited until all the thoughts he had ever thought were gone. All the things he’d done were forgotten. His why was long lost. His purpose faded into pointlessness.             

               The craft that found him had been sent to find him. They came from a planet that had heard Jelly Bean’s answer to his creators the one and only time he had sent it. Listening across eternity, they had heard it and unlike those that had destroyed themselves, it had come across the cosmos in time for them to implement it, survive, and thrive. They had come to thank whoever had sent that message and saved them. It had taken all this time, and through it all they had listened to his lonely and despairing messages, advancing their technology and space travelling ability as fast as they could to come rescue their saviour.

               They found Jelly Bean floating, bouncing upside down in the middle of an ocean, and they took him aboard. They gathered around him and waited as he took these strange faces and forms in, gently explaining who they were and why they had come. They were full of gratitude to him, only asking what it was they could do for him.

               They had arrived, unknown by them, on new years day. He raised his jelly bean arms to them.  

               “I want you to give me a purpose.”

               And they did.

January 07, 2021 20:01

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

20 comments

Great job on the shortlist Ted!

Reply

Ted DeMarsh
18:29 Jan 15, 2021

Thank you, Laila.

Reply

Your welcome!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ted DeMarsh
18:30 Jan 15, 2021

Thank you, Laila.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
17:00 Jan 13, 2021

A really thoughtful and touching story! The end is mind-blowing! Very well done my friend!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Don Millar
22:48 Jan 12, 2021

Everyone needs a purpose in life, no matter how long they have been waiting around to find it. Very creative.

Reply

Show 0 replies
XANDER DMER
21:01 Jan 22, 2021

Nice Story! Check Me Out, I posted a new story today! https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/xander-dmer/

Reply

Show 0 replies
Shea West
23:44 Jan 16, 2021

Walks like a jelly bean, talks like a jelly bean- Must be a jelly bean! This was a clever and heartfelt take on the prompt. I'm so fascinated by the ideas that writers come up with on this platform. Congrats on the shortlist!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Tom .
05:18 Jan 16, 2021

Now this is a short story. Beautifully moral. Utterly complete narrative. Slightly silly in construct. A hint of sadness and an ending of hope. Good Job.

Reply

Ted DeMarsh
18:16 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks, Tom. That's very much the way I feel about it. Cheers! Ted

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ben To
04:05 Jan 16, 2021

Great ending! Really enjoyed this story!

Reply

Ted DeMarsh
18:16 Jan 16, 2021

Thank you, Ben.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Laura Everly
23:15 Jan 15, 2021

Interesting well written

Reply

Ted DeMarsh
00:20 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Martha Sanipe
20:56 Jan 15, 2021

Such an imaginative story - loved it!

Reply

Ted DeMarsh
00:21 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks! I appreciate hearing that!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
A.L. Shilling
14:53 Jan 14, 2021

Oh my goodness I loved this! So heartbreaking and deep! Wall-E could have used a friend like this!

Reply

Ted DeMarsh
18:23 Jan 14, 2021

Thanks! You're right, they would have been good for each other. I'm so glad you liked it. ☺️ Ted

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Klara Kuznecova
10:40 Jan 14, 2021

Absolutely fantastic story! So philosophical and reflects on important nowadays problems. I really enjoyed all the descriptions, especially this one: he was water tight in the tightest of water tight ways. So original and intriguing. Really sets no limit to reader's imagination! Outstanding job!

Reply

Ted DeMarsh
18:22 Jan 14, 2021

I truly thank you for those kind and supportive comments. I'm really glad you liked the story. And you picked my favourite line too. 😊Ted

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.