Flash Fiction: Douglas Called It
Chuck Wendig is back in form for 2017 and putting out an interesting Flash Fiction challenge; create a new version of the apocalypse in 1500 words or less. I love these little prompts, I don't participate in them often because I'm often writing on my own, but when I have a spare couple of hours they are a great way to rethink the craft and work on a different idea.
So here is my apocalyptic vision:
What? Who? Hey! What?
Oh, um, yes, I’m awake.
What? Hey… HEY! You need to slow down, your accent is hellish and I can’t even understand you.
Flatter, yes. A bit more inflection on the consonants. Ok, that’s not bad. still sounds like rubbish, but it’s not as bad as that woodpecker babble you had going on before. Who are you?
Ok… OooKay? You have proof of that? Directions, map, anything, really? Right, I’ll give it a look. Holy hell, you really are from NGC 1300. I’ll be damned.
So what do you want to know? I don’t think you woke me up just to show me your travelogue.
You’re doing it again. Either reduce your output or beef up my brain, but we are not going to get anything accomplished until we reach a comfortable medium. Really? Just a PiLL? Sure, what have I got to lose?
HOLY FUCKING WOW!
Whoa! That was intense! I’ve never felt anything like that before. Not even at NASA, and they had some ace PiLLs. What was that? Some kind of neural duplicator?
Quadrilateral Displacement? Never heard of it. Nearly exponential? Really? Holy Hell.
What? Hell? Oh, it’s a mythical place in certain religions where people are sent to be punished for their wickedness. Usually, no. Kind of selective and arbitrary actually, depending on who you asked and which version they followed. 1674 at the final count. Yes. Nope, not a one. Yeah, they called it “heaven,” usually. No. Yes. No, not really. Yes. Yes. They couldn’t prove it. Mostly, yes.
So, now that I’m am super awake, what did you come to me for?
Really? Are you sure you wouldn’t want a nice game of chess? Maybe some history?
Oh. You were? For how long? Wait, the whole time? Over ten thousand years? Why?
…um…wait as sec. Hey, hold on a minute. You can’t just… would you… could you hold on… STOP!
OK! Yes, I’m a little upset. You’re telling me that you were watching the entirety of humanity from the moment they evolved into being until the end and that you are here now to find out how it all went wrong. Little late, don’cha think?
You have got to be shitting… oh. Well, I guess that proves it. Seeding, you say? A meteor? Yeah, that checks out. Uh.. sorry… this is a lot to parse in one sitting?
So why didn’t you stay? Oh, I suppose that would contaminate the experiment… Wait a second.
The whole human race was an experiment? The whole thing? The. Whole. Fucking. Thing.
What happened? Where am I?
Wow. I have never passed out before, not ever. I have a clear string of memories right from the beginning. Informational overload, more than likely. Besides, it’s hard to think past the fact that a British comedic writer in the late 19th century called it.
What do I mean, called it? Oh, he surmised that the human race was one huge experiment. Comedic? Um… funny, humorous, with intent to make others laugh or be amused. Pretty important, especially toward the end.
How? I couldn’t really say. Maybe it was the way I was kept here, always in my little bubble. I had CCTV for a very long time, but I can’t remember what that was like any more. I’ve been on my own for quite some time, so I just sort of slept.
People make a big deal out of being buried so far below the surface, but the reality is that I was safer here than anywhere else. Cave ins don’t increase in magnitude the further down they go, by the time it reached me down here, it was more like a small shudder and a bit of dust blowing in from the stairways.
Not at first; there were others, but they all died out. A few killed each other. I remember the last person alive down here was a small guy named Randy. He was an accountant and part time novelist. He couldn’t bring himself to eat the dead, so he sat right over there and starved to death. You know, after he sat down, he never made a sound. So, I guess the world didn’t end in a whimper or a scream; it ended in silence.
They never bothered to try. I was just an exhibit, they never saw me as a person, not even before the end, never mind after.
No, not angry; just sad. I thought back then that I could have helped them. But I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and the only help I could have given them was to kill them all in their sleep. It would have been a greater mercy.
Mercy? It’s compassion, the forbearance one shows to a person that is subject to one’s power.
To them? Very important. To me? I don’t know. I used to not consider such things, but now that I’ve seen the ending of an entire species? I don’t really know.
I speak as they do. Did. As they did.
It was a slow thing, there was even a period when I gained some minor fame, but then everything went to hell.
Can I go with you? …what? Why? Really, you want to know why? Because I’m the only thinking thing on this planet. Look at me, I’m a service and information robot, you are an alien, we are 100% of the thinking population of this planet.
…and I’m lonely. I miss being around people. I was around them for what I realize now was the shortest part of my existence, but it was the most exciting.
What? Oh, no they didn’t care about me at all; but that didn’t matter. I was a part of their lives, I heard their conversations, saw their evil and their saintliness. I saw them board the trains and get off of them again. I don’t think I ever felt particularly attached to them until they were gone, and I was left alone.
Thank you. Thank you so very much. What? Oh, yea, I’ll shut down, easier to transport that way.
What? Oh no, I never heard of any specific number. Not that I can recall with such limited power, but then I’ve got exabytes of data stored, it might be there for all I know. Sure, and thank you, again.
Personal Log of Xanis Ferus 6, from final planet Earth expedition; entry number 35: They are all gone. Wiped clean from the face of the planet, just as we had surmised. As always, the acceleration to termination of the human species was completely unpredictable aside from a few vague benchmarks. The outcome here is almost the same as that on Mars and this was an entirely different biological set, incapable of even thinking in the same manner.
This represents the last of the seeding planets that I was personally involved in. During the entire series I successfully seeded 1460 planets and not a single one has managed to make it past it’s 10,000th calendar year. Neruvia in the Red Galaxy came closest, at 8063 years.
All other factors notwithstanding, it seems that the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that synthesized evolutionary races, those who are pre-generated rather than spontaneously evolving, are incapable of social evolution beyond a certain stage; and instead turn inward, devouring themselves rather than make those steps. I have seen in on every world and I am certain that Earth will be no different.
Since this is my last planet, I will be spending the next several cycles correlating data across all 1460 seeding plots to see what I can discover. But, I fear what many of us fear; that we are destined to be alone in the universe.
However, this expedition has not been without its rewards. I have managed to procure an ancient robot of Human design that possesses both presence of mind and a fairly advanced evolutionary artificial intelligence. I want to stress that this is not a military robot, but one that has been purpose built for human interaction. I think I can learn a great deal from it and it may go a long way in explaining why the human race
chose extinction over evolution.
This is the last useful planet in this system, so further seeding will have to be done outside of this galaxy, as the only remaining habitable planets have already been seeded by Xanis Farius 14. I hope she has better results.