Wow, these pages are actually dusty. I guess it's been a while since
I've written. But it's been good to be away from this, away
from the past for a while and living here in the present. This
will most likely be my last entry.
The dreams stopped. Just like that. I remember that morning, the
day after my last entry, waking up and realizing I had dreamt a
normal dream, a dream set in some nebulous near future rather
than in some distant past. It was one of those soft and fuzzy
dreams with shimmering dew drops and pretty girls and fun and
I reached for my journal out of habit, but only held
it and stared at it for a while. What is this? What was this?
A fracture in time, a train ride through purgatory, a glimpse
of a million alternatives to the reality that is here and now.
But here is where I got off, the door I stepped through, my
My station, the very me that is here, now,
not some other me that I am not. And so I put this archive
of netherworlds on a shelf and forgot about it.
For almost two years.
But the universe does not stop for lack of witnesses. (If a
tree falls in the forest and kills the only person who heard
it falling, did it make a noise?) For all of my ignoring the
world beyond the boundary, today that world came to us. We have
an out of town guest.
This morning I was surprised to open the door to find
Creature Thing sleeping at my doorstep--occupying most
of the street, to be sure, but curled up on my welcome
mat by all intent.
It was early, and people were only just
starting to gather at the spectacle.
I said an ethereal, "Yo."
It reanimated with a start, looked me up and down, and
seemed quite pleased to see me again. I too was pleased to
see it, though not without some trepidation.
It wanted me to come with it. I just knew this; we needed
no words. I agreed with a sigh, told Laura to mind the boy
and don't wait up for me if I'm not back by bedtime. For
all of my pretending this happy valley is the whole of
reality, I know we are but a tiny encampment at the base
of a giant dam that some day will spring a leak and probably
soon after burst, and that will be the end of it. But, as
the man who jumped off the skyscraper said as he passed his
hundredth floor, "So far so good!"
It's lasted this long;
no reason to think it won't last a while more. Right?
Still, I was quite uneasy with curiosity the whole way to
Creature Thing's lair, though I must say it was a fun ride.
We arrived, my hair plastered straight back and knotted
from the wind. I jumped down before Creature Thing might
absent-mindedly chuck me in a recycling hopper.
"Okay, now what?" I asked.
It just went back to its corner
and dropped for a nap. I re-familiarized myself with the place,
but not surprisingly it hadn't changed one bit. Since
waiting seemed to be the order for the day, I impatiently
fast-forwarded through time looking for the good bits.
I felt it coming, another mind entering range. A
neo-human mind, I could tell. Time slowed and it
zoomed toward me.
It was a very strange sensation. It
seemed so familiar, this mind. I thought for sure in a
moment I would meet myself, but the transport doors snapped
open and there before me stood Nari, the spitting image of
how I last remembered him.
I stood speechless, but he seemed completely unfazed
and raised his hands in welcoming glee as he marched up to
"Alex!" he said. "We meet again again!"
He looked around the room and said, "My god, how long have
you been in this box?"
"What?" I said, confused in six different ways for a moment. "No, no,
I don't live here, I--" I wasn't sure where to begin.
"Well, no matter," he said. "We'll get you properly outfitted in a jiffy."
"Huh?" I was now confused in seven or eight different ways.
"Wow, you look great," he said, surveying me like a piece of art.
"The last time I found you in bipedal form, you were buried up to your neck in
regolith riding a small comet, radiation riddled brain, babbling
something about space ducks."
He noted my expression and quickly moved to reassure me,
"Oh, we fixed you up fine! Don't worry. I dropped you off at Leema Seven."
For a moment he looked at me quite seriously, and I felt a gust of ethereal
wind pass through my mind.
"Wow," he said, more cautiously now, "you're just a kid."
Suddenly he spun around and looked at Creature Thing, now
perked up from his nap.
"RRRoot!" Nari yelled, ran over and
plastered himself against Creature Thing with a hug that looked
more like an auto-crucifixion. Root's various appendages rallied
with visible excitement in return.
"Wait a minute," Nari said as he turned to face me again. "Does this mean this is--?"
He ran toward me, then
right on by. As he reached the iris it snapped open and revealed
the open terrain with the city far off in the distance.
"No way! This is nuts." He turned to me. "Don't tell me there are still humans in there?"
I raised a brow, and he knew it was an affirmative. He looked back
into the room, up and around, seemed to be seeking something
ethereally and then to find it. A moment later he said, "Mother's
had a lobotomy."
"Mother?" I asked, still a bit dumbfounded.
"Hmm," he said, looking at me askance, finally realizing I think
how utterly clueless I was. "Mother watches over this place, keeps
it running. Seems there's nothing left of her mind now though beyond
basic metabolic regulation--food, climate, population control, that
sort of thing. I was hoping she could tell me more. So how did you
end up here?"
I pointed straight up, and he looked up the inside of the boundary
wall, seemed to put two and two together, and literally fell over
backward laughing. I walked up to him with a crooked smile, had to
chuckle a little.
"You're the demo!" he managed to eke
out amidst his laughter. Finally he regained composure.
"You clever dog. I knew you weren't going to let them lock one of you
up in an infinite loop. You must have dropped a cracker in somewhere
during the construction. Probably been chipping away at your encryption
Yeah, this made sense. It fit with what I remembered of my intentions
toward the end.
"Could the same thing give me dreams?" I asked.
"Sure, if you set it up that way," he said, and then laughed
again. "Yeah, sure! You sly fox. Break yourself free, then catch
yourself up with a little first-person news archive."
He shook his head, bemused, and patted me on the back.
"After all of you I've known,
you still surprise me. Come, let's go check this place out!"
With that, he leaned forward and fell flat on his face.
I helped him up, dusted him off.
"Um, right," he said. "We'll
walk then. Clearly I've been a space ship for too long. I just
fabbed this body to come see you, you know. Very nostalgic."
"Root," I said, "give us a lift?"
We walked through town, Nari audibly laughing with glee at each
of the first dozen or so humans we passed, most of whom laughed
in return, being friendly if a bit confused. We talked at length
about many things, and it was good to be with someone from my own
time again even if that was so very long ago for him.
lucky one of me was near the solar system," he said at one point.
Apparently he clones himself regularly, whenever he can afford
the dilution of funds, but has chosen always to keep a line
going with his original mind (plus or minus a few minor sensory-motor
adjustments necessary for interfacing with alternate bodies).
"If I feel too constrained in this mind," he said, "I clone myself
and flip a coin and the winner gets to expand. So, I'm one of the
highly improbable and yet guaranteed to exist N-time losers. I
take my consolation in knowing that another me is out there doing
the expanded mind thing, but it's still a mind-fuck to lose Every.
Single. Coin toss."
He craned his neck way around as a mother with newborn
baby walked past.
"Why does every baby I've seen today look like you?" he asked.
I switched the subject and asked him about
the great robot land war that was brewing in my last recollections.
"... And then one day
when almost every robot was deployed to one imminent battle or another,
they all charged their enemy without warning--who were, of course, armies
of robots charging right back. Nobody could figure out who gave the orders,
but everyone assumed they must be right because the other side was charging
too. They met on the fields, all around the world. But instead of
fighting they spent a great deal of time shaking hands with each other and
"Uh, yeah. We won't go there. Anyway, I'm sure the generals had all gone
pale, realizing the threat to humanity, not to mention their jobs.
They ordered air strikes, but of course by then they didn't
have a single weapon or vehicle that didn't contain at least one critical
component made by one of our sister companies. So they couldn't do a thing."
I grimaced. "It must have been a slaughter."
"Huh? Oh no, what do you take yourself for? Most of
those robots were only a few revisions off from you--and I mean
the mind, not the body. Those were fields full of Alex."
I grimaced again. "Singing?"
"Yeah...anyway, with the cat out of the bag, the
armies dispersed into the communities of the various
countries where they had been sent to fight and took up posts as volunteer
security droids. Most of the world assumed this was the original intent,
and lauded the governments for it, who of course had no choice but to smile
and accept the credit and keep the droids well supplied with fuel and
repairs while they contemplated their own predicament. I'm sure they
concocted a hundred plans to take back control, to return us to the world of
war and corruption upon which their jobs depended, but none ever came to pass.
Soon avatars were moving in by droves and reshaping societies, limiting
reproduction, and, well, you know the rest."
"So, we simply marketed the humans out of existence?"
"Yup. Well, you did. Most avatars were hardly more aware than the humans,
just your own line or those the elders determined were trustworthy allies."
"How could they not have known? Someone somewhere must have done
the math and seen it coming?"
"Sure, a few here and there got a hint of it. But who counts the heads,
who consolidates the numbers, who propagates the news? In your time,
how did you know anything about the world besides what came to you through
the media, and maybe a little word of mouth? If someone got too close,
we didn't hold them back, we just made sure World News picked up their
story and ran it alongside their alien abduction stories. How
many people are going to go out into the world and verify their own news?
More to the point, how many people are going to care as long as
their own needs and desires are met? It was genius, you dog,
genius. The coldest cold war that ever was. A gentle evolution of the
species. The immortal gene has given way to the immortal being."
Another woman with a child walked by, and smiled a big smile at us; perhaps me
Nari squinted at me. "Well, almost."
The human gene itself is a living entity, I realize, each
life shed like a lizard's skin when it grows old and worn, each
new birth a branch in a single living tree, a tapestry of gene
fragments mixing and matching in symbiosis, working as one organism
like ants in a colony.
Perhaps more like a fungus; it is, after
all, a mindless machine. No, worse than mindless. It grows minds like
flowers on a vine and then drops them dead to the earth when it's done
The gene is a vile creature, isn't it?
I discussed it with Nari. We're going to pull the plug, put this beast
to a merciful death. We'll adjust Mother to set the birth rate to zero (something
she controls already with food additives) and like an animal in a CO2 chamber,
it will quietly fall asleep and cease to be. It may whimper a bit,
may even scream and cry, but in the end it will quietly, quietly die.
"Those are your kids, aren't they?" Nari asked.
"You sent them forward--your own genes--didn't you?"
"I assume so."
"You realize you've introduced wild, unfiltered genes into the carefully domesticated stock..."
"This may not be as easy as we think."
[Prev | Index]