Thursday, March 7, 2019

49

In 2133, Doc Finnegan had been dead for one hundred and thirteen years. In 2133, he published his forty-ninth posthumous short story.

Doc could have been called a prolific writer. He wrote until his death, at the ripe age of 92, while seated at his computer. What he had been writing has been lost to the sands of time. Literally.  Whatever he was working on, if it had been finished would be released god knows when; if it hadn't been finished, it was sitting in the drafts, locked away in his account where nobody could reach it.

He used online publishing platforms to release his stories, and that was where his audience found him. The most generous of estimates suggested he might have written several stories in the time between posting two, as they went out every Sunday morning, scheduled in advance. But how far in advance was a matter of rumor alone.

In 2021, as Doc's most devout fans were mourning the one year anniversary of his passing, a new story appeared on his website. It was a few days before anyone noticed, but the release rocked the community. Doc's estate released a statement that it had no access to his online accounts, but there was no evidence that they had been breached. The only thing they found was a small bank account quietly continuing to pay the hosting fees; it had several more years of funds, and was continuing to receive deposits from advertising revenue. Language specialists were brought in to evaluate the work, and came to the conclusion that it was genuine.

Five more stories were released that year, then four in the following year, and three in each '23 and '24. The rate continued to slow until 2080, when the web domain went up for renewal, and the small account had insufficient funds. Shortly after the domain went back out to the open market, a bold fan bought it for a considerable sum and donated it back to the estate, but it was too late. As the estate had no access to the accounts, and neither did anyone else, it sat empty.

In late 2097, a web crawler discovered 12 stories on a gauche URL; it was the blogging platform's default and free domain, and it had automatically switched over when it lost Doc's DNS in 2080.

In 2098, a petition to the host platform swept the world, to restore the DNS settings. That petition was logged into the world records books for most verifiable signatures. But they said no. It was a paltry effort to forward visitors of the domain to the gauche URL, but the settings were locked to those without the passwords.

In 2120 brought no new posts, despite fans watching fervently during the months surrounding the one hundredth anniversary of Doc's death, but another one posted the following year.

In 2133, one story was posted, and like the others, it showed up on a Sunday quite unexpectedly. After forty-nine posthumous releases, no one yet had been able to successfully predict the pattern, ascertain with any degree of confidence, when the next would come, and no one knew how many might remain.

And so the world watched, and waited.

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