Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
I never received the vast amounts of life science transference that others did but I know one thing; the creature that crawled out of the eight-hundred foot diameter bio-metallic ball scientists for decades had been calling a Sfärer was not of this world.
Our scientists were wrong about so many things and those that are left alive … still are. For three decades sheets of ice have moved downward from the north freezing plants animals and people. Global Warming advocates still insist it is only a brief hiatus in Earth’s perpetual warming trend as each year they accumulate thousands of petabytes of empathetic Climate Change facts. What they do with the non-supportive data is anyone’s guess. New York City will surely be under water soon … if not this century then the next. Right?
The Sfärers were not indestructible globes but eggs that took sixty-nine years to hatch. Over a quarter million people in Pittsburg and the surrounding areas jammed the electrical slot system trying to leave the city. The world population peaked in 2026 at 7.7 billion and less than two centuries later was a little over 900 million. Over half of these shivering people now lived in Brazil.
Sexual encounter simulators and 3D holographic encounter videos had become so adapt at satisfying people’s wildest desires … physical sex between humans seemed old fashioned and went out of vogue. Children, for those with enough energy credits to afford them, were designed, planned and carried to term in a glass womb in a pediatric center.
What was once a smooth-as-silk transit network that allowed super high speed self-driving cars to merge effortlessly into the first available empty space was now complete chaos. Horrified hackers overrode the transportation computer systems turning the super highways into free-for-all automotive stampedes with fanatical laser wielding ISLS-snipers cutting rails and thinning the stragglers in the name of their damned merciful God.
The alien creatures resembled spiders in that they had eight legs but their size alone would have made them the monsters the press was calling Terrors. I was one of the few who chose to stay where I was. At One-hundred twenty-one years old I was considered merely middle age and not yet past my child rearing years, easily able to travel, but I was just tired. Perhaps it had something to do with my ancient twenty-first century unmodified genes but I had lost my husband when Yellowstone blew away almost the entire Republic of California and my daughter was now living in German occupied London. I was abnormally happy most of my life and I deserved the relief that comes from being depressed.
For months hundreds of U.S. Air Force F-438 non-radiant nuclear drones blasted away at the invaders shaking apart the tectonic plates under North America and collapsing historic buildings … with no effect on the Terrors. There was no standard electrical grid although Alvin Sullenger’s self-charging Nobelium batteries were predicted to last a thousand years. The sub-zero solar panels on my building’s roof had all shattered like glass from the bombing and I broke into numerous abandoned apartments and sliced up expensive antique furniture with an Apple I-Pocket laser for firewood. Most of the rich gave their pets language or other skills and I shared what exotic meals I could scare out of Nobelium operated Kitchen Chefs with a congenial rat (Mickey), great for slipping under metal doors and finding spare keys and someone’s shy abandoned Python (King Lear) that could recite all of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
“This were to be new made … when thou art old
and see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.”
We huddled together in a dark corner at night, listened to classic music from the twentieth century on a solar-powered hippy-robot radio station KRNR in Vermont that had been broadcasting for two hundred years …
“There must be some kind of way out of here!”
… and tried to keep each other warm.
Less than a year later it was once again quiet. The military didn’t run out of missiles … they were just tired of trying to provoke a fight from the aliens. The Terrors, for the most part, ignored people the way zoo elephants would a micro ant colony. The sound, or the lack of it, nearly drove me and my new friends crazy.
It was an unusually warm day the summer of 2170 … almost fifty degrees in mid-July. I almost forgot to shiver. Damn those Chicken Little Climate Scientists; we should have been stockpiling self-heating thermal artic underwear … not building Noah’s disaster boats. We decided to venture out.
The buzzing sound could be heard from two miles away. One of the Terrors, there were a half dozen in North America, appeared to be dozing. Mickey, always adventurous, wanted to go check it out. King Lear held back not sure that the massive aliens might think him something to play with … or nibble on. Mickey bit his tail and with a wild laugh said “Tastes just like chicken!” An angry King led us toward the sound.
The giant arachnoid-like creature had been digging. It and the others seemed to double in size every few weeks. A massive hole on the southwest corner of Bedford Avenue and Crawford Street looked to be hundreds of feet deep. “I thought the terrors just stood around with their heads in the clouds looking dumb,” Mickey said.
“No one has been able to figure out exactly what these creatures eat,” King Lear began to make himself into a coil. “It could be the Terrors draw elements out of the ground and then change them into whatever they need the same as we do only using some biological function.”
“Or it could be they’re digging a hole for a huge Dutch oven,” Mickey said glancing slyly at King. “And they plan to slow-roast every snake they can capture!”
I had no opinion one way or another. Biology was just one of many subjects my parents were too poor to have loaded into my cranium. “The fact that these monstrosities appear to be docile has to be a good thing,” I told them. “I can’t figure out why all the people who left Pittsburg haven’t returned yet.”
“There’s no need to,” Mickey said. “It’s too cold here and since the City of Steel rusted away centuries ago the main source of income outside of energy production of course is matter transference and assembly and they don’t need people to work on that.”
“Robots? That’s nothing new,” King Lear said. “And technology has been able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear for centuries. But the power costs have to be enormous. When you’re using energy you’re literally sinking money into your business venture.”
“Not many people know this … but it’s no big secret for my species,” Mickey said. “Follow me I want to show you something.”
We passed several other people mostly alone or in tiny groups who seemed to be in a hurry. We didn’t make eye contact and they scurried away.
Mickey led us down the street to a large plain building without any decorative flora or ornamentation. I’d passed the same building several times while foraging and always thought it was a warehouse. There was no slot-car parking or highway access ramps. Mickey slipped under a steel door in a space I thought barely large enough to insert an energy certificate and was back a minute later. The door opened. The main floor area most of it underground was massive. Row upon row of molecular printers were busy manufacturing hundreds of different items out of what looked like mountains of dirt. I was aware of the basic science of twenty-third century manufacturing technologies but was shocked by the thousands of workers.
“Ever since some greedy industrialist decided to implanted knowledge into the cerebral cortex of animals slavery has returned to the modern world.” Mickey twitched his whiskers a habit I associated with him being annoyed. “It’s against the law to own a human … but there are no such laws for animals.”
Most of the animals operating the high tech machines were raccoons, probably because of the dexterity of their human-like fingers. Large herbivores pulled bins filled with materials much the way I imagined the animals working a thousand years ago. A large breed of shaggy dogs, probably bred for the cold weather, ran between stations barking orders and stopping and starting production lines.
“They work twenty-four seven,” Mickey said. “With no pay, no vacations and only minimal rest cycles.”
“This is cruel and disgusting!” The words soiled from my mouth almost like a scream.
“People don’t get rich working their fingers to the bone,” Mickey said, “they get some other poor slob …or in this case species to do it for them. It’s not much different than the way they used to export jobs to China two hundred years ago. This isn’t the only place. Almost every manufacturing plant in the world uses the same basic production model.”
“Why doesn’t someone do something?” King Lear had risen half his body length vertically and was looking up and down the thousands of work stations with dismay.”
“Every animal in the place was genetically engineered for complete loyalty,” Mickey said. “They have no idea there is another kind of life and if they did … what are they going to do about it?”
We left the building and I felt saddened. For more than a hundred years I had enjoyed thousands of exotic food dishes prepared by a Kitchen Chef in just seconds and traveled via slot car system to any location I desired with no effort on my part with no thought to the pathetic animal slaves who were doing all the manual labor. I felt like crying.
“The manufacturers don’t want people to know,” Mickey said. “They have too much energy invested in something with too many wild isotopes that people wouldn’t understand. They don’t call this the Technetium Generation for nothing.”
The day that had started out sunny and almost fifty degrees was suddenly much colder. A gust of wind pelted our faces with icy snow as we headed back to my apartment building.
“I’ll never feel sorry for myself again,” King Lear said as he slithered past a giant holographic display offering a wild night of simulated sex with any movie star god or goddess from the last three hundred years for only two hundred energy credits. “To wake up not knowing what the day brings has to be one of the best feelings on earth.”
“I never thought about it that way,” Mickey said. “Waking up hungry and without a plan is a good thing?”
King Lear closed his eyes and resorted to his immense knowledge of Shakespeare. “In contrast to the wormlike submissiveness, and therefore the dishonor …”
The ground was shaking. We decided to take the long way home. The spider that towered above our part of the city appeared to be moving. I caught a glimpse of giant bristle covered legs moving between skyscrapers and flinging drifts of snow hundreds of feet into the air. Digging? The worst part of the alien Terrors was their seeming indifference to the world that they found themselves in. We couldn’t hurt them … and they ignored us. I wasn’t sure about the creatures drawing elements out of the ground. My thought patterns were largely un-programmed and it just didn’t seem right for some reason.
The winter of 2171 was the longest I’d ever endured in my life. The solar panels atop the building were coated with ice and no longer worked. I hadn’t heard from Juliet in months. She said Europe was becoming one giant glacier and now they had their own terrors. One of the creatures hatched right inside Buckingham Palace. The German Chancellor said nothing could be done. Her and Mitch were thinking of moving to Africa.
My non-human friends and I huddled in a corner of my apartment operating the Kitchen Chef with a Nobelium battery that Mickey stole from an abandoned Twenty-Seventh Street sexual simulator. Sometimes I punched in twentieth century twenty-pound roast turkey just so we could stick our feet, in King Lear’s case tail into the steaming cavity to keep warm.
“Do you ever wonder where this is all going?” King Lear said one morning as we were deciding what to have for breakfast.
“I live for the day,” Mickey told him as he appeared from beneath a mountain of thermal reflective blankets.
“I mean every few days I go outside just to feel the sun on my scales and there are fewer and fewer humans about. I’d be surprised if there were a hundred people left in this entire city and hardly any pets.”
“If the slot system wasn’t jammed I’d be leaving too,” Mickey said. “I hear Florida is nice! Some days it gets up to sixty degrees and you can go outside without thermal wraps.”
“I hear there are swamps in Brazil,” King Lear mused. “I wonder what it feels like to swim in water that isn’t frozen on the surface?”
“I’ve wondered about that too,” I told them. “The world’s population has been declining for centuries ever since people decided that they could have the pleasures of sex without a human partner. But lately the loss of total life on Earth seems to be accelerating.”
“It’s the Terrors digging holes all over the city,” Mickey said. “That and the cold. People just don’t care anymore. It used to be that you had to work to eat but with Kitchen Chefs making any kind of food out of smoggy air that doesn’t happen.”
After eating European white truffles with a white wine sauce that made my toes curl we decided to listen to the radio. KRNR was playing music from the 1960’s. King Lear surprised us with a perfect pitch voice as he sang along with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Mickey had been suggesting for weeks that we immerse ourselves in embryotic fluid and go into hibernation until spring. He had been scavenging and knew where we could find three chambers that still operated. I spent half the morning staring out the window. The snow was still coming down in blankets. I couldn’t see the Allegheny River only three blocks away. I said yes … and King Lear didn’t want to be alone so he came with us.
The embryotic chambers were in an underground complex on Mason Street. The machines were powered by sixteen massive self-charging Nobelium power plants guaranteed to keep a person in deep sleep for thousands of years. The time dial on the operation console went from one hour to infinity. I set all three for six months and climbed inside. The fluid was surprisingly warm. I heard King Lear hiss with delight and with his eyes closed I’m sure he imagined swimming in a swamp. Mickey kicked his legs a few times and then was still … like a cold mouse drowning in a bucket of hot water.
It seemed like I’d slept for centuries … and I had.
I was aware of the sound of rushing water and something reminded me of seeing Old Faithful erupting many years before with my husband Rod. It had to be just another in an endless series of dreams. I didn’t realize how many. Something was wrong and my eyes opened. I pressed the controls which allowed the chamber to drain opened the hatch and stepped outside. I was standing in water up to my ankles before I fell. A cool-air fan blew me dry and a vacuum sucked off the fluid residue. A post-hibernation transfusion began to regenerate my muscle tissue. After two sequences I could stand.
The chamber where Mickey had slept was empty. I could see where he’d tried to gnaw open the lock on my tube … he never was good at computer overrides. King Lear was still inside his chamber … but he was long dead. I never thought I’d cry for a snake but he was more than that. “The valiant never taste of death but once.”
A sequence readout on the operation console showed the embryotic chambers had reset themselves more than nine-thousand times over two thousand years before finally correcting. The huge Nobelium batteries that took up most of the floor space looked swollen and melted. I hadn’t eaten for two centuries and my bio medical wrist band still said I was 6.3 pounds overweight. Damn! I could hear a large pump running somewhere.
It only took a few hours to find my way out of the basement building but it felt like forever. I was a good swimmer … I had to be. Pittsburg was an ocean with the tops of structures sticking out of the water like iron and cement Islands. It was warm. I hoped to find Mickey … but it was impossible. The air felt like the medical center laundry rings that washed and dried your clothes when you walked through them. The terrors were everywhere and surely in the thousands … more like millions … billions … wading through the water with the upper parts of their bodies lost in the clouds. I was so small I’m sure they didn’t even know I was there.
I finally understood. The holes they were digging were for eggs. Our world now belonged to them and without a fight. I wondered about my daughter Juliet and also about Mickey … but two centuries had passed … It was impossible and I felt so alone. The Climate Scientists were right about global warming … they just had the time all wrong.
It was harder swimming underwater to the embryotic chambers but I made it - through the force of will. This had to be the end. I spent most of the day with my hand on King Lear’s scale-covered head. The pumps sounded like a heartbeat. He felt warm … almost as if he could still be alive. Let’s not go there.
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind …”
After carefully setting the controls … I had to be sure. I climbed inside with my last friend. I tried to smile as the chamber filled with warm fluid but it was too hard. We as a species had too much life and lived too long. They say ideas and feelings are forever … moving forward and backward in the space-continuum like the pendulum on a universe-sized clock. If you are receiving this thought transmission from one Naomi Lyn Medford who was never really a part of the madness … then it must be true.
Eternity is a very long time.
THE END ?