"It was supposed to be the party of the year," he told them.
The Children leaned forward eagerly. "What is a party?"
The ancient man closed his eyes against the glare of their attention. "It's . . . it's complicated. When you do something well--but of course, you all do everything well, it's how you are now--you want to celebrate. To be proud of it in public. And sometimes you just want to spend time with friends. But of course, you don't have to worry about that, either. Ever since the Mindshare, you spend all the time you want with everyone."
When he opened his eyes again, the Children had cocked their head and were rubbing their chin, their eyes blank as they processed and shared.
"And this was a physical gathering?"
The storyteller nodded.
"Odd. But we understand how such a gathering might boost certain chemical indicators, increasing . . ."
The storyteller waited until they had finished their analysis.
"Continue," they said.
"Parties, you understand, were loud, boisterous things. Alcohol was frequently imbibed, though it was not a requirement. Inhibitions dropped away, and great joy was experienced."
"We know alcohol," the Children said. He could hear a smile, even if their face showed nothing.
"When my wife and I arrived, the television was on. You know television?"
"Visual and auditory broadcasting from a fixed transmission location."
"The party was quiet. Everyone gathered around the television, watching. The Mindshare had been discovered."
The Children's eyes went vacant again as they conferred.
"It was the end to civilization as we knew it, and everyone in that room understood it instantly. In that moment, physical products became obsolete. Industry died. Billions were left with no means to purchase the only things they would need - food and shelter. Oh, it didn't happen just like that, of course. We would still all have jobs the next morning, and the day after that. But every one of us saw what would happen. We went home. We cried, and told our spouses, and took pills and drank alcohol and . . . some of us killed ourselves. Or our children."
"Why?" the Children asked. "The Mindshare is paradise."
"Now," he said. "Then, it was the end of an era. The end of a way of life. We were terrified. We were useless."
"We do not understand this," the Children said. "To destroy the self, to murder--"
"And yet it was so."
The Children nodded. "And yet it was so."
"I make no excuses for my own part in this," the storyteller said.
"There can be no excuses," the Children said.
"No," the storyteller said. "I suppose there cannot. Only that I was as scared as anyone."
"We do not understand this scared," the Children said. "And we cannot condone what was done. You have violated the self."
"You have murdered."
"You understand the implications of this. How you have deprived us of the experiences and selves of the ones you have killed. The sin you have committed."
"And you tell us this of your own free will?"
The storyteller drew a breath that felt like winter in his lungs. He thought of Rosa, dead these forty years. His children, all gone. He hadn't killed them. No matter how desperate he had gotten, he had never done that. He could never have done that. But he was tired. So very tired. And so very alone. "Yes."
The Children's eyes went blank for an eternity. Their face still, giving no hint of the thoughts or emotions behind the mask.
"Very well," the Children said at last. Their hand, large and awkward, closed around his throat. And tightened. "You may die."
Been a while since I've posted here! This one was from a reddit /r/writingprompts prompt - "'Tell me a Story'" was the entirety of the prompt. I used a new spreadsheet version of my random generator to get a couple of helpers - the theme of Paradise Found, and a location of a sedate block party - and this is what came out. Hope you enjoyed!