Delete - Story
by Karelle Tobias
It’s a mystery how it got on your phone, you just remember waking up and finding it there, right in between Tinder and Facebook. It’s an app called DELETE, which makes for an intriguing name, but whoever designed the app hasn’t been very creative; when you open it, all it does is turn your screen rose red. Useless. And yet some small wriggle in your brain prevents you from uninstalling it. You close the app, toss your phone aside, and get ready for school.
It’s only two days later that you think of the app again, the perfect distraction from Pythagorean theorem and quadratic equations.
Your laptop lies closed on your desk, all your textbooks covering the remaining space, but the phone in your pocket screams for you to use it, yearns for you to forget about your GCSEs. You relent, taking it out and opening the DELETE app again. As your screen turns bright red, you can’t help but wonder why its creator hasn’t bothered to supply any instructions. If they were clever enough to force it onto your phone, they should’ve been clever enough to explain how it worked. Unless it’s some sort of virus – in which you should uninstall it as soon as possible! But again, the app won’t let you. You don’t want to delete it, and before you know it, you’re double-tapping the screen.
The laptop disappears.
No flash, no sparks. One minute it’s there on your desk, and the next, gone. Like magic.
Your phone screen transforms from red to green, and you’re watching your laptop fall onto a virtual field inside your phone. Blades of grass dance along the virtual breeze, and your now cracked laptop lies abandoned in the field.
You watch your screen in stunned silence before closing the app and chewing the loose skin on your fingernail. It’s impossible. Completely ridiculous. And yet the empty space where your laptop was serves as a testament to what’s happened. When you open the app and point your phone at one of your textbooks, you double-tap again, watching the textbook vanish and reappear inside the virtual field, landing beside the laptop. And that’s that. A power beyond your understanding now rests in your hands. You can’t tell your friends because you don’t have any, and you can’t tell your mum because she’d tell you to delete it or use it for something responsible. Besides, the app doesn’t want you to tell anyone else; you can feel its need to be hidden, so you do as the app says. You switch it off and put it back in your pocket.
It takes a special kind of skill to make Greek mythology boring, and yet somehow Mr Clark does it to perfection. He drones on like a monotonous drill – no PowerPoint, no video – just him at the front of the class, shooting glares at anyone who dares interrupt him. Three of your peers have already died of boredom, the smell of their rotting corpses filling the classroom. You refuse to become a fourth. And that’s when your phone buzzes in your pocket.
You open up the app and point it at Mr Clark, oblivious to your phone usage. With a double-tap, he’s gone. Just like that. You burst into nervous laughter, half expecting it to have failed.
The class doesn’t descend into chaos like you expect, almost as if everyone has forgotten that Mr Clark existed at all. Everyone packs up their books and leaves, while you stare at the virtual field on your phone, now occupied by a very confused Mr Clark. He stares at the broken laptop, at the lonely textbook, then wanders through the field.
For the most part, school continues with its usual monotony. Danny Donovan and his gang continue to terrorise the outcasts; Britney Maddison continues her never-ending feud with Laura Branning; and the staff continue to debate about who is the rowdiest student, Mr Clark washed from their memories. All fine, apart from poor Mrs Clark. It must’ve been confusing owning a wedding ring when you weren’t married, or having everyone call you Mrs Clark when there was no Mr Clark to speak of. A few weeks later and her red locks have turned white, her brown eyes becoming wide and vacant.
It’s really a kindness when you approach her in her office and point the DELETE app at her. She lands in the virtual field, no longer just a long stretch of grass, but filled with wooden huts and a well. Mr Clark certainly has been busy! As soon as he sees her, they run to embrace each other, the beginning of their new life in their new world – Eridoss, you call it.
It’s just a shame that Billy Cartwright walks in the moment you delete Mrs Clark. You give him a look that threatens a world of pain, but Billy Cartwright is a notorious asshole with a love for torture. He gives a devilish smirk before leaving the classroom, and you’re too athletically challenged to catch him.
For the rest of the day you expect Billy to expose you, to at least make some snide remark about the app, but he does nothing. In a way, that’s even worse. You hate the unease of not knowing what’s coming. So later, when you see a string of tweets by Billy, it’s almost a relief.
He describes what he saw at length, even if he can’t remember the person you deleted, he knows you deleted someone. Your nails dig into your palm, your teeth sink into your bottom lip. You want him gone. Is it possible to delete someone just based on a picture? You click on his Twitter profile picture and point the app at it. How will the app know the distinction between deleting a person and just deleting the family laptop altogether? There’s only one way to find out. With a double-tap, Billy’s face disappears, his tweets disappear. He’s never heard of or spoken of again.
And if you can delete vermin like Billy Cartwright, why not the real monsters; the murderers, the rapists, the con-men? You find as many as you can on the internet and delete! Delete! Delete! The world feels a hell of a lot cleaner.
And all this time Eridoss has developed into a small city, population: one-thousand. Grassy fields are long forgotten, replaced with battlements and castles and oceans. King Gabriel Clark has enforced a new religious order called Phonos. It’s probably the first interesting thing he’s done in his entire life.
Cleaning the world is no easy feat, and soon, school is calling to ask why you haven’t been attending, and your mum is screaming at you about taking your future seriously, and she’s not going to be able to support you forever, and do you want to be one of those forty-year-olds that still lives with their mother? And just when you consider telling her to shut up, you find an easier solution. You delete the school and all its inhabitants. Problem solved. And just in case your mum gets any funny ideas about sending you to another one, you delete all the other schools too.
Unfortunately, with no schools and not enough facilities to hold them, children from three to sixteen run rampant on the streets, terrorising old ladies, graffitiing walls, destroying government property. And with the crime rate at an all-time high, more police are enforced.
It’s not your fault. You can’t control the idiocy of man. But you can delete all the children in the world - the police too, just for good measure.
By now, Eridoss has developed into an amalgamation of continents and monarchies and religions. Mr and Mrs Clark are long forgotten.
Meanwhile, the streets of the real world are riddled with even more crime, and there’s only so much time in the day to delete all the criminals. There isn’t a building in the world that hasn’t been robbed or graffitied over or blown apart. Not even your own. A group of men barge into your house, and like a coward, you freeze. You have ultimate power in your hands and you freeze.
They kill your mother, and all you do is freeze.
In a public announcement, you decree that all who corrupt your world will be deleted. North America, Russia and all of Asia threaten you with war.
You delete them.
The public announcement makes you a celebrity, the star of a show you never asked to be a part of. You don’t want paparazzi at your door, or journalists writing articles about you, so you delete them too. You don’t want people writing songs about you, so you delete all the musicians, even the good ones. The ugliness of the graffitied skyscrapers sets your teeth on edge, so those all have to go, and come to think of it, you hate rollercoasters, so – delete!
The next time you visit Eridoss, it’s almost identical to modern day Earth; filled with schools and criminals and police and musicians and paparazzi. You don’t envy a single citizen in that hellhole.
Just when the world starts to feel like a better place, a new species (Alpadorians) arrive with their cone-shaped spaceships and mystic gas. The gas rains down on the earth, killing anyone who inhales the toxic fumes. It takes two months of war before you finally delete them all.
The world is a ghost town.
When the mist clears, you leave the house to buy a Big Mac, forcing yourself to walk since every bus you come across is filled with bloated corpses, maggots feasting on their greying flesh. If only there was an animation spell, one of the corpses could’ve driven you.
When you do get to McDonalds, there’s no one to prepare your meal, so you do it yourself, devouring your burger whole before making the long trek home. And as you walk home, it’s impossible to miss that the smell has gotten worse, and if the whole world is like this, is Earth doomed to a never-ending cycle of stench? And what if the gas does more than kill people? What if the fog does have animation properties, what if the corpses rise from the dead, hungry for your flesh? You look at the corpse of a young boy resting by a lamppost – did his hand just twitch?
But what if it did?
You’re not risking it.
You double-tap the nearest corpse.
White writing flows across the screen: You Have Reached Your Limit. Every time you tap the screen: You Have Reached Your Limit. No matter which corpse you point at. You Have Reached Your Limit.
There’s nothing to do but sprint home, your heart thudding in your chest.
This isn’t your fault, none of this is your fault, the world is still better than it was before. Even if people all over the world do end up being devoured by zombies, the world is still a better place.
Even as you slam your front door shut and block it with everything you can find.
You should have deleted the Alpadorians quicker, you should have been smarter – but it’s still better, there’s no question about that, even if there are zombies climbing up your house, trying to smash through your window. It’s. Still. Better.
One last look at Eridoss reveals that the Eridossians and Alpadorians have formed a peace treaty, dividing land equally amongst them.
As the accords are being signed by President Luther and King Xorx, a young woman named Cassandra Orwell wakes up to find a new app on her phone, right in between Tinder and Facebook.