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Fritz had no idea why there were so many people at his father’s funeral.
Sure, he had to be there. So did his sister, Lotte. But what about the rest of the people?
He definitely didn’t know any of them. The grassy hill was basically crowded with tombstones and people. “Hey, who are these people?”
Lotte shrugged, looking around behind her black veil. “No clue. I’ve never seen them before. From dad’s work, maybe?”
Fritz snorted. “What work? Dad has never worked a day in all our adult lives.”
“Well, you know…” Lotte said nasally, as if trying to avoid getting her lips read.
She leaned closer. Her perfume wafted to Fritz’s nose, he had forgotten about it. It had been over eight years since they’ve met in person, or as dad would have said, two halvings. Their infrequent videocalls thankfully didn’t carry over the flowery drowsiness his sister seemed to like dousing herself with. “Bitcoiners,” she whispered, the word being anathema in their house for ages.
“Oh!” said Fritz and looked closer at the people around him. Yeah, that made sense. This was an international bunch, those guys were definitely from somewhere like Nigeria, and that couple, what? American? Probably. And some Swedish people, far too blonde to be anything else. And…
“Hello, I am Booger,” the man said with a significant amount of seriousness and shook Fritz’s hand. It was a vice grip, he was old, like seventy? More? But he had definitely been chopping wood sometime last week, that’s what his hands felt like.
Fritz needed to check for splinters. He blinked, giving a handshake. “Excuse me?”
“Booger. I’ve known your father for years now, online acquaintances. Anonymous, you see. It was a juvenile impulse of mine, so, Booger kinda stuck. That’s what everyone calls me.” His accent was rich, something like French? Swiss? His suit was smart, well worn but tailored to his body.
“Right. Nice to meet you. This is my sister, Lotte.”
“Of course,” Booger said and shook her hand too. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” the siblings said in unison, both in shock.
“Um… Do you know all these people?” Fritz asked.
Booger chuckled. “Know them? But of course! They’re all your father’s friends.”
“Dad didn’t have any friends,” Lotte said flatly. “Okay, apart from Johannes.” She nodded in his direction.
Fritz looked towards the direction of his father’s best and only friend in the world, as far he’d known till two minutes ago. For some reason Johannes stood apart and never met his eyes.
“Oh, but he did. From all over the world. We met a few times in a convention here and there,” Booger said.
“Bitcoin conventions?” Fritz asked.
“Yes, but not the popular ones. Those are shitcoins,” Booger said, in direct contrast to his serious demeanor. The man had a well-trimmed beard, for God’s sake!
Fritz glanced at Lotte. “Riiight…”
She interjected. “Thank you for attending our father’s funeral. You honor us with your presence. But how did you learn about it?”
“Oh, Nakaboto heard about it and told everyone. We just had to get on a flight and come pay our respects.” Booger pointed at a woman who looked like she grew roses for fun and profit.
“Nakaboto. Right.” Fritz nodded. He was still in shock. Honestly, he had braced himself for attending the funeral with just him, the priest and his sister. He never expected an impromptu bitcoin convention to be held on top of the grassy hill where they would put his father to rest. It was moody enough, gray skies up above, not raining but feeling like it was about to.
Proper ambiance for a funeral.
The chatting people were a contrast, though. They were far too happy to be here. Most of them were hugging each other and smiling, meeting like old friends. Fritz wanted to feel angry about that but if this was an excuse for dad’s friends to hang out, then sure, why not?
Booger clapped his massive hands together. “Oh, lovely. The service is here!”
“What service,” Lotte asked, raising her veil on top of her black hat to see better, but they both got their answer pretty quickly. A black van appeared. It had embroidered letters and designs at the side, and it read, “Afterlife Chats.”
“What? No,” Fritz said, realizing what this meant. “No, fuck no! Who’s paying for this? I heard this is ridiculously expensive.”
Booger shrugged. “Nakaboto came up with the idea. We all chipped in. See?” He showed them his phone.
“What is happening?” Lotte asked, agitated.
“The Afterlife Chats service, my dear madam, is cutting edge. It allows us to speak with the recently departed for a short amount of time. And yes, as your brother mentioned, it is quite expensive, but we all thought it was important to provide this gift for your father. Nakaboto organized a fundraiser, she was always good with automation, here are the lightning donations.” He scrolled through the list of incoming donations, there were hundreds of them. Lightning allowed them to send a short text message too, so most had such messages attached.
“Can’t believe it. Farewell.”
“No way. Say hi for me.”
“In this life or the next.”
“You will be missed.”
“But it’s ridiculously expensive!” Fritz spat out again.
Booger shrugged again. “Just a few million sats.”
“How many million?” Fritz squeaked.
“That’s a whole bitcoin!”
Booger shrugged again. “Who can put a price on grieving children having a final say with their father?”
“They can!” Fritz argued, pointing at the technicians setting up their gear. The priest was surprised, she kept stepping out of their way, even though this was supposed to be her event. “And they want a whole coin!”
Nakaboto heard it and she shrugged also. She came over. “We’re all satoshi billionaires, sweetie,” she whispered. “Shh… don’t tell anyone.” She gave both of them a lovely red rose. “Organic, none of that chemical stuff.”
Fritz stared at Lotte. They both knew what this meant. This was like having a bunch of international billionaires attend a funeral of a person, who as far as the siblings knew, never did anything with his life except rant online about conspiracy theories and inflation.
The technicians set up the apparatus over the open casket. Dad was lying there, better than he ever looked before in his life. He had an electronic halo around his head now, but no wires. It must have been wireless. The devices next to him looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, and if his dad was suddenly struck by lightning and came back to life, he would not be surprised in the least at this time. “We’re ready when you are, sir.”
Fritz stepped close, swallowing hard again and again. He stared at his father’s lifeless face. His pale lips, unmoving. Oh God, they weren’t about to move, were they? He tried to remember what he had read about this Afterlife Chats thing.
Miss Nakaboto stepped up next to him. Her flowery scent was discreet, earthy. A lot better than his sister’s. She must have felt his confusion. “As soon as you give us the go ahead, they’ll start the event. It’s a timelocked contract, written on the blockchain. Immutable. Eternal.” She said the last words with reverie. “The conversation your father will have with you as well as the simultaneous group chats with the rest of us will be forever chiseled on digital granite, giving your father one last bit of immortality.”
“Do you do this for all your friends?”
Miss Nakaboto bit her lip and rested her aging hand on his shoulder. “Sadly, no. But your father is worth it.”
They all looked ahead.
“One block is all you have. Ten minutes. Make it count,” Miss Nakaboto explained.
Fritz stared at his sister. “Uh… What do you want to say?”
“I don’t know! I can’t come up with something while being ambushed like that.”
“Right.” He looked ahead, trying to avoid the dead body and the upcoming conversation. He couldn’t refuse. These people, who apparently held his father to a high regard, had come here to do this, spent piles of wealth to organize this, and given him an opportunity reserved for billionaires and oligarchs. He was shocked that there were no news drones hovering around them, to be honest. There was no way they had managed to keep this event quiet. Then again, they all liked anonymity. And apparently so did his father.
He ran away.
He could hear some muttering behind him. Disapproving stares, clicks of the tongue. He didn’t care. These people didn’t know him, didn’t know his dad. They had no idea what it was like growing up with him.
The fights. The constant anger. Losing his mom.
The isolation deep in the countryside. Losing his friends. Being dragged away from the first girl he ever loved to do what?
Getting away from their control, whoever they were. The government. The elite. The people in charge, the warmongers. People who wanted to poison, us, castrate us, annihilate us, wipe us from the face of the earth.
This was how he had lived his entire childhood, being afraid, being bitter. Any shred of enjoyment tainted with the impending doom of the world, like a Sword of Damocles dangling over their head, but it was dripping black oil on his face and even though it never fell to cut him in half, it dirtied his every waking moment on Earth.
The fiat world, all around him.
Oh, he could see his dad’s point of view. Years later, after he ran away from home, after going to work as a corporate wageslave, the exact same kind of prison his father had been trying to shield him from.
He had to see it for himself, he had to give it a shot. It’s not enough for someone to tell you that there’s a hole right in front of you, you have to trip and fall into it in order to learn your lesson.
He did. Coming back, divorced, in debt, controlled by the CBDC that offered no escape hatch even if you lived five lifetimes, he had seen what his father had been ranting about all his life.
The conspiracies. The lies. The corruption.
Lotte came up to him. “I knew I’d find you behind a tree.” She was crying, her makeup was a mess but her veil was up. He was crying too.
“Yeah. Sorry, I just needed a minute to breathe.”
“Oh, I get it. Don’t worry. That rose lady started telling me about how she uses her own livestock for fertilizer. So you might want to wash your hands to get all the poop out before you wipe away those tears.”
Fritz laughed, and then his sister joined him. They laughed, waving their roses at each other, giggling like they used to years ago.
Out of breath, they shook their heads, tearing up. “Oh, Lotte. Why did we stop hanging out?”
“Because you’re a poopyhead.”
“That I am. I’m sorry.”
She bit her lip, like she used to do when they were kids and she was about to do something naughty. “I know what I want to ask dad.”
“What is it?”
She crossed her arms under her breasts. “I want to know if he’s okay with me dating Johannes.”
Fritz turned to face her. “What?” he snapped. “But he’s dad’s age!”
Lotte turned her chin up, not budging. “I don’t give a shit, Fritz. He’s funny and he’s kind and he has been there for me ever since you left.”
“B-But he could literally be your father!”
She poked him in the chest. “Hey, moron. Look around. Life is short and then you die.”
Fritz ran his fingers through his hair. He nodded, thinking about it. “Yeah. Yes, I’m sorry. You’re right. It just came as a shock to me, that’s all.” He opened his arms to hug her.
She felt tight, wound up for an argument, but then she melted into his embrace. He lifted her hat and kissed her on the head, ignoring her perfume. “Maybe Johannes has lost all sense of smell, the poor guy.”
She slapped him on the hand.
He smiled at her.
“What are you gonna ask?”
Fritz took in a deep breath. “Oh, no questions, really. I’m just going to say one thing.”
“I’m gonna tell dad that I’m sorry, and that he had been right all along.”
Lotte’s eyes went wide. She didn’t say anything, didn’t have to, she just nodded with a bitter smile.
They walked back towards the funeral, holding hands for emotional support. The anonymous bitcoiners waited, all staring at them. They held their blackphones in their hands. Fritz could recognize from his dad the modified smartphones running open source software that couldn’t be traced.
Apparently, as soon as he gave the technicians a go, they’d all be chatting with his deceased father for ten whole minutes.
He still couldn’t quite believe it, maybe it was a prank, this entire thing. An elaborate prank.
His sister gripped his arm, digging her nails in.
He took in a deep breath.
“I’m ready to say goodbye to my father.”
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