When Rick Chimmer got to work, he was a bit irritated to see that his partner for the shift was Alan Rykes. The tradeoff for a surprise night shift in Rick’s security job was typically the fact that he’d pretty much get to just sit back and have a chat with his partner, because nothing really happened during the night shifts anyway. That, and the fact that he’d get the next 24 hours off, since he wouldn’t have to stand his usual day shift the next morning. But since the day off was in the future and the night shift was in the present, Rick was currently more concerned about the chatting thing, because Alan was known to be a bit, well, unpleasant to chat with.

Since it was the night shift, nothing was really happening, so there in the guard shack it was just Rick, his energy drink, the security monitors, and Alan Rykes.

“Hey man,” said Alan, “Long time no see. How’s it been?”

“I’ve been, uh, I’ve been good,” said Rick, cracking open his energy drink, “How have, uh, how have you been?”

“Dude, I’ve been great,” said Alan, “Working night shift every day is awesome once you get used to the sleep cycle.”

Alan Rykes and his usual partner, Guy Serrick, had been moved permanently to both the night shift and to the guard shack farthest away from anything important because their coworkers didn’t like them and their bosses didn’t trust them. Not that Alan or Guy ever seemed to take that hint, though. Prior to that, Rick had occasionally stood watch with them as he’d rotated through the different posts in his morning shifts. A lot of the other guards with the company expressed a genuine hatred for Alan and Guy, and Rick really couldn’t understand caring enough to share that sentiment, but sometimes he simply did not care to listen to the shit they liked to drone on about.

Unfortunately, Guy had called in sick tonight.

“Listen, I’m glad you’re here,” said Alan, “There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk about with someone, and I mean, you know Guy; dude only ever wants to talk about his anime.”

“Oh, I know,” said Rick, “What is it you wanted to talk about?”

“All right, so I’ve been thinking, and I think,” Alan paused here to lean forward and grin, “I might be an actual genius.”

Rick spent the next couple hours staring at the security monitors, grunting in affirmation whenever he heard his partner’s speech pause, and ignoring him when his speech resumed. There was nothing Alan wouldn’t rant about. Politics, religion, history, current events. The part of all this that really irritated Rick was the fact that he didn’t even particularly disagree with any of the bits that were registering in his brain. Yet the way that Alan smugly recited basic talking points as if they demonstrated his superiority irked Rick, and he really couldn’t comprehend caring about any of the things Alan was rambling about to such an intense degree. But since there was no real point of disagreement for him to argue with all Rick could do was stare at the monitors.

The left monitor displayed the left side of the facility’s parking lot. The right monitor showed the right side of the parking lot. The center screen, of course, showed the middle of the lot. There was nothing going on in any of the monitors.


Nothing ever happened during the night shift.

Nothing ever happened ever.

Rick knew this last thought wasn’t strictly rational, but staying up late into the night with a dedicated egomaniac talking your ear off hardly left one strictly rational. Of course things, happened technically, speaking. Some war in the Middle East, some famine in Africa, some mugging in New York; things like this certainly happened, yet Rick couldn’t really imagine caring about any of them. Hell, sometimes things even happened to Rick himself. For example, getting slapped with this surprise night shift about four hours after getting off his usual morning shift. And now, as a result of that, here he was: doing nothing, looking at nothing, listening to a guy ramble on about nothing, and thinking about nothing.

Nothing ever happens.

It occurred to Rick, now, in the guard shack, at three in the morning, that this phrase could have a double meaning. He imagined Nothing as a substantive process. No matter what went on in the world, Nothing was always happening to somebody. Someone, somewhere, was experiencing Nothing in some way. Nothing is always happening. Everlasting Nothing. Nothing without end. Someone takes a day off to do Nothing all day. Someone gets a pill prescription because they figure it’s better to feel Nothing than to feel sad. Someone stays up way too late and has a bizarre internal monologue about Nothing.

Rick took a sip from his energy drink.

“Hey, Rick.”

Rick looked up and grunted.

“You ever read Nietzsche?”

“Uh, yeah,” said Rick, “Yeah, I actually did one time.”

“What did you think of it?”

“Uh,” Rick shrugged, “I don’t know. It’s all right, I guess.”

Alan scoffed, “I think Nietzsche is a fucking idiot.”

“Oh?” asked Rick, “How do you figure that?”

“The will to power is a dumb idea,” said Alan, “You can’t get actual power just by willing it.”

Rick blinked.

“Uh,” said Rick, “Did you ever actually read Nietzsche?”

“Nope,” said Alan, “And I don’t need to. You know why?”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I can tell you exactly what the ‘will to power’ got Nietzsche.”

“What’s that?”

“He died,” said Alan, “Died of a drug overdose in some whorehouse. Died totally penniless, and powerless, too.”

Rick took another sip from his energy drink.

“You realize Nietzsche died of a stroke, right?” he asked.

“Whatever,” said Alan, “My point still stands. The dude never had any actual power.”

“The will to power isn’t necessarily about political power,” said Rick, “It’s about, you know, like personal power.”

“And that’s pretty much what’s wrong with it,” said Alan, “We live in a world where nobody can have any personal power because too much of the political power is tied up in an impersonal corporate-government complex. Until some of that power is decentralized, any power you might think you have is purely imaginary.”

Rick wondered if Alan had rehearsed that.

“Look, I’m not, like, a hardcore Nietzsche fan or anything,” said Rick, “But again, that’s not really what it’s about. The will to power is just a psychological principle. Everyone has it, and everyone indulges it in some way. Ideally it’s channeled into, uh, you know, overcoming yourself. Freeing your mind from conventional morality.”

“And what does that entail?” asked Alan.

Rick realized that he really didn’t care enough to explain principles from some old books he’d read during what he now considered his ‘edgy phase’ in high school. He turned his gaze back to the monitors and hoped Alan would take the hint.

“I don’t know,” he said, “You tell me.”

“All right, I’ll tell you what I think,” said Alan, “I think the problem with a lot of writers, not just Nietzsche, is that they reduce concepts like ‘power’ or ‘freedom’ into useless abstracts. You read these guys, you jack yourself off over how ‘liberated’ your mind is, and in the meanwhile, the system continues to enslave your body. I mean, look at you; do you feel particularly powerful or free, sitting here working this shit job?”

“Uh huh,” said Rick, taking an interest in a stray cat that had appeared on the left monitor.

“I don’t know how much, ah, dissident literature you read,” said Alan.

“Oh, geez,” muttered Rick.

“But one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of these would-be-revolutionaries absorb Nietzsche’s idea that the ‘Overman’ is coming any day now and take it as a sign that they can just sit on their asses and the system will collapse on its own, and then a hero for their ‘glorious cause’ will suddenly rise up and be able to take power at last. But it never happens, and things just keep getting worse.”

The cat slinked into the distance and disappeared from the monitor.

“That’s why,” continued Alan, “That’s why I say that the will to power is not enough. Anyone who wants to really make a difference in the world needs to practice action to power.”

“Uh huh,” said Rick.

“And that’s why I’m a genius,” said Alan, “Look at you. You don’t even want to think about important shit like this, do you?”

“No, Alan,” said Rick, “I don’t.”

“All right, fine,” said Alan, “Have fun watching blacktop dry for four hours.”

Alan successfully kept his mouth shut for about 15 minutes.

“Listen,” he said, breaking the temporary respite of silence, “I’ve got a principle of my own. I call it the revolt against Nothing.”

That made Rick look up.


“Think about the world we’re living in,” said Alan, “Any power people like you or me think we might have, it all amounts to nothing. Thousands of people can gather for a protest to influence one politician or CEO, but if the media chooses to ignore it, it accomplishes nothing. We don’t even really have power over ourselves. You can’t travel at your own pace due to traffic laws. You can’t raise your own kids your own way due to education laws. You can’t spend your days doing what you want because the system is designed to feed the economy an endless supply of wage slaves like you and me. You never asked to get hit with this night shift, did you?”

“Eh, it’s not that bad,” said Rick, “I get the day off tomorrow.”

“That’s not what I asked,” said Alan, “Whatever. The point is, there’s a great big nothingness imposed on all of us. And who imposes this nothingness on us? Who has the real power? It can’t be any individual politicians or CEOs. They’re all beholden to voters and consumers and procedures and shit themselves.”

Rick realized he was getting sucked back into Alan’s insanity and tried looking at the monitors again.

“The real power,” said Alan, “is all wrapped up in laws and regulations and market forces. We’re ruled by words on paper, lines on graphs, and numbers on screens. Not only are we ruled by things that aren’t human, we’re ruled by things that aren’t even real. We’re ruled by nothing, and that nothing is imposing more and more nothingness on us every single day.”

“Well that’s, uh,” said Rick, “That’s an interesting take.”

“You know, I was talking about this with Guy the other night, and he gets it,” said Alan, his voice shifting to a whisper for some reason, “He got me in touch with some friends of his. You wanna know why he’s not here tonight—”

The hairs on the back of Rick’s neck stood up.

“Alan,” he said, “Stop talking.”

To Rick’s surprise, Alan really did stop talking. The next spent hours were spent in the blessed sound of nothing. Eventually, the sun began to rise, and the door to the guard shack opened. The supervisor walked in along with Rick’s usual partner.

“Hey, Rick,” said the supervisor, “How are you holding up?”

“Good, boss,” said Rick, “Real good.”

“Good to know,” said the supervisor, “I’m taking your morning shift today. Go home and get some sleep.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

Rick stood up, grabbed his empty energy drink can, and stretched.

Alan stood up too, and stood still for a moment. Then, Alan walked up to the supervisor, hauled back, and punched him square in the jaw.

“What the hell?” demanded the supervisor.

Alan turned around and looked at Rick.

“And that,” he said, “is what real power looks like.”

Alan stalked out of the shack, leaving the three remaining guards frozen in shock for a few minutes.

When Rick got home that morning, he was pretty quick to put the previous shift out of mind. He took a shower, collapsed on his bed, and, according to the clock, slept for a little under eight hours. With nothing that needed doing, Rick figured he’d hop into his car and take a drive to nowhere in particular. When he turned on his car radio, this is what he heard:

“And more on the foiled terrorist attack earlier today. At noon today, an attempt to bomb the local federal building was stopped in its tracks by law enforcement officials, and suspect Alan Rykes was confirmed to be dead after a subsequent shootout with police. The attempt was apparently first detected by an undercover agent from the FBI who had posed as a coworker of the suspect for months—”

He turned off the car radio. Alan and Guy never showed up to work again. Regarding the whole matter, Rick felt Nothing.