Saw this yesterday on ArtStation and was immediately inspired to do a flash piece. This one comes in at just over 1k words. I also want to give a special thank you and shout-out to Pablo Dominguez over at ArtStation, who graciously gave me permission to post his art. He created this as part of an ArtStation Challenge called Beyond Human.
My lungs scream for air and my legs quiver like they’re made of jelly. The click-clack of metal android legs filters to my ears, so I push myself deeper into the alcove. I can’t let them see me.
Every inch of my skin burns with searing pins and needles. Harsh odors of grease, ozone, and antiseptic scorch my sinuses. The transparent plastic hospital gown does little to hide my dignity, but I don’t really care. I just need to find Hera.
I want to yell her name. I tried earlier, but my voice grated in my throat like shredding glass. Where is she? She has to be here somewhere.
In my mind I get flashes of the docbots working on me. What were they doing? Was I taken captive? Am I some kind of experiment for the Martian Colonial Republic?
Have to focus. The last thing I remember is Hera and I leaving the holocinema. We were running a late, so we started running. I always thought the curfew fines were silly. Sure, we were at war with Mars, but it wasn’t like real people were involved. Bots and drones did all the fighting. Last I’d heard, Mars wasn’t doing so well, we were supposed to have troops on the planet’s surface within the week.
That was yesterday.
We ran through the rain, Hera laughing. There was a bright light in front of us. At first, I thought it was an explosion, but the light shifted and swerved. Hera screamed. Tires screeched.
The next thing I know, I woke up on that cold, metal table and every nerve in my body is on fire. Two docbots—must be Martian bots, I’ve never seen anything like them—were leaning over me making some chirping sound. One of them prodded me with something sharp. I freaked and bolted out of the room. Now I’ve been running through this maze for the last twenty minutes. I have no idea where I’m going. I just have to get out of here.
Hera probably thinks I’m dead.
Right around the corner is a set of sliding glass doors leading out to the street. It takes a few minutes, but finally I can breathe without my chest heaving, so it’s time to go. I shove off the wall and sprint like my life depends on it.
Just a few meters left. The doors slide open. I can see the street outside, people walking, cars driving by. But something’s wrong.
I clear the doors and I see it. The people… All the people walking by, they’re not actually people. They’re all robots and androids. I scan every single face, but there’s not a single human to be seen. Then there are the cars. Not one of them has wheels. They’re just floating over the ground, like some Hollywood scifi holovid.
All the bots walking down the street turn and stare at me… like they’re people. Their visual ports open wider. Their chirping raises in pitch and speeds up. They rear back. Almost like… are they afraid? Of me?
A ring of blue light appears around me on the ground and a low hum fills the air. I turn to run but I can’t. My arms and legs are frozen. My feet lift off the ground and I rotate until I’m face-to-face with the doors I just ran through. An android strolls out, like actually casually strolls out of the building. The bot looks roughly human-shaped, with two legs and two arms. Its head is topped with a stainless steel dome and a red barcode is painted on its temples.
It looks up at me with its hands on its hips. “Mister Spicari.” It actually speaks, with an articulated mouth and everything.
“Mister Spicari. I am Chief Biological Research Unit Targian47. I know this is a shock for you, waking up like this, but we really need you to calm down.”
“Wha-Where am I? Why have you taken me? Where’s Hera?” I can’t keep my voice from shaking with fear. Or is it anger? I can’t tell anymore.
“Hera?” Targian47 tilts its head for a second. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear its visual ports lost focus for a second. He focuses back on me. “Ah, yes. Your mate, Hela Spicari. Born December 19th, 2176. Died October 3rd, 2201 as a result of the Purge Virus.”
Targian47’s words sink in. Everything in my mind goes numb and my body gives up. If what he says is true, I have nothing left.
“We brought you back as a part of the Planetary Historical Society’s Ancient History Restoration Project.”
Ancient…what? I open my eyes and look around, fighting through my fog of grief. “I don’t understand. What do you mean ancient history?”
“By your human calendar, today is, March 23rd, 2518.”
Three. Hundred. Years? “But, where is everyone?”
“Mr. Spicari, you are the first human in more than three hundred years. All others perished as a result of the Purge Virus in 2201.”
“All…others?” Thoughts of the mythical fear of the machine uprising or the violent AI singularity flood my mind. “My gods. You killed us all.”
“Us?” Targian47 shakes its head. “No, no, no. We did nothing of the sort. The Purge Virus was a result of your war with your Martian Colonists. They created a virus to retake the Earth. However, an accident released the biological weapon into their own air ventilation systems as well.”
My mind can’t wrap itself around what this bot has just said. There’s no way. Humanity? Extinct? That didn’t make sense. There’s just no way.
My body lowers back down to the ground. Targian47 steps forward, its robotic mouth smiling. “But don’t worry. We’ve built a whole preserve for you and the other fifteen human resurectants, where we’ll care for you and make sure you have everything you need. We’ll be sure to keep the tourism down to a minimum to avoid contamination, but as I’m sure you’ll understand, without the tourism, there’s no funding!”