They foraged, as they did each morning, when the sun began to rise. The red light fell through the trees casting warmth through the branches shorn of their leaves by the winds from the sea.
The man followed a stream of insects to the hide where the mother was. Her meat would be enough for the group until the evening time when the sun dimmed.
The woman scratched at the skin around her eyes, her pupils red and dilated. She could see the man as a blur, his back bent into the hide, the skin across his spine cracking apart. He was coming near to the death time. The youngers remained in the shelter until the death time came, when they would become adult in his place. Her time would come soon.
The man would walk out into the sun at the time it filled the sky, the red flames almost in reach, the burning time. The death time. The others would turn their faces away as he crawled out of the shelter. Some of the youngers were blinded already, a pale white mucus in place of their eyes.
He snapped the neck of the mother as the insects swarmed over his arms. Pincers delved into his skin, rendering the creature dead in an instant, their poison spent. Some he ate, his appetite less each day. The youngers would need the food. The woman crept up to him, her hands feeling her way around his body, using the curve of his back to guide her.
The sky was falling behind the sun that rose over the sea boiling in welcome. She pulled the carcus to her, as she stepped away from him, and stumbled backwards towards the shelter deeper into the barren trees.
The wind rose, almost taking him from his feet. He dug into the sand where the mother had lain, oblivious to the insects swarming up his arms and across his face. His vision became crossed with tiny bodies stabbing at his eyes, an act of final defiance.
He wrapped his fingers around a solid shape buried deep in the sand. His mind had kept him at the set. He did not wonder why. The woman had made it back to the shelter, the youngers feeding on the carcass without thought for her. She fell in the shadows, exhausted, watching them fight over what little meat the creature offered, as the heat built around them. She would think of nothing until the sun fell again.
The man pulled the shape from the sand as the wind tore the last of the insects from his body. He tasted blood. The sun was coming close now, the world a red vision. He lifted the shape to his face, feeling it’s texture with his fingers. He pressed it to his eyes, burnt and unseeing.
His fingers traced across the smooth sides, making out shapes that meant nothing and everything. He felt 16 GB, and, again, the same on the other side. 16 GB.
It meant everything, but he would never know. The sun claimed him that time, his body left to burn until after the sun fell, and the woman came out again to forage alone.
She found the man and touched the thing folded into his fingers. She sat with him as the sun warmed the sky and set the waters crashing to speak in her ears and tell her that what had once happened would happen again, and she pressed the thing back into his fingers and lay down beside him, as the sun rose in anger once more and she came to meet her death time at last.
“Are we there yet?”
“My brother, we are. We really are.”
“Is it nearly time?”
“Nearly, brother, nearly.”
I had had a good upbringing. I had good parents who probably feared God, but feared social exclusion more. Of course we went to church every Sunday. Everybody did. They even had special services in the hospital, so nobody missed out. I’d even heard they had a priest who went into the prison to try and save the lost souls there.
I was of a generation that didn’t really have tribes. I vaguely remember the big kids wearing different sorts of outlandish clothing, acting all disenfranchised, smoking like they had style. Some came onto my radar when they thought entertainment involved me. I was skinny, no good at sports, decent with numbers. Just the sort they liked.
When he asked me, “When did you first hate?” and said, “We all hate sometime,” I said it was the sports. The big lunks running about throwing things and hitting each other. It was how pleased they were with themselves, how they seemed to think being able to throw straight somehow made them a better part of the human race.
He felt that one. He went silent for a bit. I wondered about the connection, but then he came back. “Exactly. Thank-you.” I was pleased. Grateful.
He was Erra. That was his internet name. We all had them. I don’t divulge mine. Likewise I don’t need to know who Erra really is. I am as real online as I am under the sun. I am. He is. We are. We are one. That’s what he taught.
I followed religion, or to be more honest, ‘religion’. It was the catch all phrase for people who liked to think themselves better. So much better than all the rest of us. How can one group of people in a prefabricated church think they understand the great mysteries of life better than everyone else who has ever been or ever will be?
That put me off. I didn’t think that a good guy from two thousand years ago was right for me. It wasn’t so much him, it was the way the churches took advantage of people’s insecurities about death. I felt drawn towards the old ways. Gods of the earth and sun.
Erra was of the sun. I believed in him as our ancestors believed in the sun and moon. We all did. And we became more. We were to become death.
The work I had done would be exulted.
The work wasn’t started by me, I just refined it. Some say I am a genius. I can’t catch a ball to save my life, but who the fuck cares. Really. It had been going on for years, ever since the Internet was unleashed by the military. Their scientists had been working on the technology that had come from the stars. The MSM talk of cranks and conspiracies is just reverse psychology.
It worked though didn’t it?
They had control of the internet for as long as it took the new breed to grow and develop. That’s us, by the way. Us.
Everyone has their price. Some of the best brains worked on influencing elections, controlling the powerful, sucking resources like the vermin they are. Our price is death.
Erra praised my work. I felt joy. Only Erra could see what I could see. We shared our joy with the others. We are all connected. The old books told us that. The stories passed down generations told us that. The internet tells us. Erra tells us. Most of all, Erra tells us.
We became legion. Every person took my work and waited. A memory stick for each of us. 16GB. There were others who had a role. Upon the anointed hour, each would go among the lost and stand in praise. They would stand in silence, and stare into the full yellow sun that brought life to the earth.
Ok, so this is what happened. Not that anyone will ever read this.
I’ll put it in simple terms. Just in case.
The old people made the systems. The old people made the systems to protect the systems.
With me so far?
They believed their own myth.
We came from the stars.
Every system in the world. I opened every door. Every system.
Not bad? Not bad.
And when the anointed time came, Erra appeared on every screen, his face a white mask, his palm raised in peace. With this signal, all of us, every single one of us, slid our memory sticks into the appointed systems and took over the world.
We really did. This isn’t bluster. We really did.
You know what? We started a nuclear war. The nuclear war. That destroyed the world.
By inserting a memory stick.
A fucking memory stick. 16GB.
The priest watched the Chairman on the screens projected across the altar in the Hidden Place. The Chairman spoke on the one hundredth anniversary of the raising of the sky screens, raising a fist in salute to the jubilation of the crowds that gathered before him, lifting his face to the screens above him that sheltered his people from the burning red sun that filled the sky beyond.
The Chairman bowed his head and offered praise to the scientists that had raised their society above the pagan Sun God worshipers who had been driven from this place into the boiling sea. The crowd rose in ecstasy as the Board of Scientists stepped to the fore, indulging in the applause, each stepping forward to acknowledge the chants of, ‘Saviours!’ that rang around the square.
The Priest watched the screen in silence. He did not move as the youngers gathered at his side, their faces without emotion. As the chanting rose, the Priest took hands, and told the youngers of the time that would come, when they would go from the Hidden Place into the light of the Sun God. The anointed hour would come when they would go before the Sun God and raise their faces to His divine light.
It was the time of the robots. They worked in the day when the humans sheltered. They drove forward the work of the government, programmed to the Chairman. Their minds were set by the scientists, the men and women who had made them from dust. They created the robots with bright white faces, in contrast to the blackness of their masters.
The new robot was there. A creation as near to humanity as the scientists dared. They had the power of creation in their minds, and halted their ambition only in deference to the Chairman. They had been brought up with the Sun God, and most still believed. Some had doubts, but felt more able to suppress their thoughts.
The new robot had been given the gift of creation. He had a mind not shared with his peers, the other robots who mechanically went about their tasks without question. His creator was one man. He was known as a genius among geniuses, a man exalted in a society that valued science above all. He was physically weak, but his power lay in the innovation of his brain. The new robot had been created in genius, and shared with his master that genius. Unlike the other robot creatures, he took a name, like the human beings who stood as his overlords. His name was Erra.
And as the sun grew high in the sky, Erra went to the dig at the furthest corner of the site, where worker robots dug into thickening sand, removing fossilized trees which would be disregarded as of no interest to the archaeologists.
He found himself secluded, some distance from the workers, many miles from where the humans slept. The sky filled with the red anger of the sun as he began to dig. His mind, created in the image of humanity, rose above humanity, as the Sun warmed his shape and spoke to him. He felt his fingers touch something buried, something hard and different to the organic matter surrounding it. He heard the Sun in anger, a Sun who the people of the darkness had tried to destroy and he raised his face to the huge red globe above him.
The Priest took the youngers by the hand and left the Hidden Place, their faces turning to the Sun God above that melted their eyes and took their minds in praise of Him.
The Sun God radiated a heat never before known, a heat which only the most advanced of creations could withstand. Erra watched as the other robots screamed into death and fell across the sand. He watched the sky screens melt in the distance, and thought of his creator. His hands gripped around the thing, a thing which he knew was a ‘memory stick,’ etched with 16GB.
As his hand rose, the palm open in a gesture of peace, he inserted the memory stick into his body and turned his face to the Sun God as the world reached the final end place.