The Last Day
In The Days before
Sun drenched days on Fortune hill.
Sonic Hawks chasing Sylph Flies. Handlers heavy in micro-mesh cloaks.
Lovers relaxed. Red faced. Swapping synapse sex via Bio Networks.
Thermal ice cream surprising and delighting tongues unsure.
Augmented Dogs and Cats conversing with owners loving. Chip connected the flow of shapes, sounds and smells. A mix mesmerizing.
I cough Dust and realise I have not seen a real Cat for decades…Do they even still exist?
Monkey Maidens serving caffeine dynamic. Black bubbles slick.
In the distance a storm, denied by Weather Control, rumbles and complains. Schedules tweaked. 9pm tonight the slot.
I see Mother’s face. Porcelain pure and bright with health.
Before the Foul came and ate her cheeks.
Swathed in Singing Silk. I hear Bach and smell cinnamon clouds.
My wrist screen feeds the Deathmatch play offs directly to my iris. Baked Brown they were back then. The Gun Thugs are on a winning streak. Again.
I feel Amanda’s hand in mine. Soft and lightly furred. Feel Ruby mouth brush my cheek.
The Sun kisses us both in return…
Ruffled my feathers, so Black in those days. Glinting they reflect Midnight.
Now they are as brittle and grey as an icy dawn.
Chiming softly my Veil announces incoming. Messages, mail and the faces of my friends were waves upon the beach of myself.
Around us, luminance fed, the flowers shine triumphant.
virulent red. Lavender lifts me to heights unknown.
Gracious the grass. Green and cool on my young toes…were we ever so young?
Baby bonnets murmuring soft the learning curve. Young minds drinking.
Sleepy gardens awake and stretch, eager for God’s Golden Globe.
Children chasing sentient Helium globes. High pitched joy as they catch and swallow. Giddiness wafts.
Distracted I attempt to count the Butterfly Repicants. Shifting and splitting before my eyes.
But now my eyes betray me. I feel tears for the Then but they are cruel. Vacant.
Just Empty Fluid.
ReGen sustains me. Sustains and imprisons me.
Outside Ghosts both old and new parade our sickness. Our Glorious Madness.
Burning my arm. The INK delivers Sardonic Script..
“Life’s too long, as the Lemming said.”
Soon I shall leave the City and take the long walk. Soon I shall stand before the Burning, Shifting Wall at the edge of Forever and plunge these hands, these old foolish hands, into the Fire.
AND THEN…I will know.
I will know what lies Beyond.
But for now I sit.
I sit and remember.
The Days before the Fall….
The pebbles shift beneath my boots.
There's a breeze here. I don't understand how but there's a breeze, playing with the Dust, blowing tattered papers upwards and towards the wall...
The Burning, Fizzing Wall.
Amanda and I would visit here often, back before the Fall... back before the Evernight broke our world.
I have no idea how long it has taken me to get here... I lost count after 18 months. Out there in the Wastelands the time fluctuations are worse than in the City and three days into my pilgrimage my Chronometer fused and failed.
I have seen things.
I have hidden from packs of hungry, mutated Weasel Splices. I have passed settlements of creatures that are no longer Men, yet neither were they beasts. I walked through a meadow of green, where the grass still grew despite the lack of sunlight. I crossed a river of sluggish, stinking liquid that glowed purple in the night.
And I have breathed in the ever falling Dust.
This place is now just a collection of ruins. The Decay is worse here, at the Edge.
On my trek down the hill, down to where the beach once shone, I passed an old man wrapped in torn plastic sheets: his Splice no longer recognizable. Bending down I handed him my backpack. The last of my NutroPills and ReGen.
He nodded gratefully but no sound.
I don't think his voice works anymore.
I move closer to the Wall... The Burning, Popping Wall. Every now and then the Dust will drift into it. Tiny explosions of hissing flame.
I step upon a laminated sheet. It seems new? No idea how it could have gotten here. Garish colours and words.
THE EDGE OF FOREVER TOUR...
Ignore it... that's a mystery for someone else to solve.
Close now... I can feel the heat playing on my old, filthy feathers.
Over half a century of darkness and despair has brought me here. No turning back. No way home.
I MUST know...
Raise a hand.
Change my mind. That's not the way. Not slowly.
Take one last look at that old bloated Moon. One last breath.
I don't say goodbye.
Into the fire...
There is a burning heat on my chest and head... my legs are cold.
Cold and wet?
Noise. Deafening noise. I feel the need to vomit. Open my eyes and white pain burns to the back of my skull.
Is this death?
Stumble backwards and slam into something cold and smooth... It feels like glass. Frozen glass.
Still the noise... separating now... the whine of tortured engines... the roar of water, striking something again and again.
The cry of birds?
Louder... A voice... Amplified.
"STAY WHERE YOU ARE... DO NOT MOVE... YOU ARE IN DANGER. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN YOUR EYES... STAY WHERE YOU ARE... WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU...”
Wind upon my face... hot and full of electrical sparks...
A smell I remember... salty...
Hands grabbing me... attaching cords... calming words... something jammed upon my face. The snap of locks and straps.
I'm being lifted high into the air... the engines are closer. Hands grab me and pull me sideways... a floor beneath me... a chair... the zip of a closing door and the noise is muffled.
A man's voice.
"Give it a moment... catch your breath... try to relax."
There's the faint sound of electrical chatter...
"......... Theta is now closed......Flight paths Omega and Beta are currently passable........Jersey Globe is fluctuating......Reports of a manifestation in Quadrant Fourteen..."
Heavy smell of oil and polish. Sweat and fear.
A hand on my arm.
"Ok... open your eyes slowly... it will sting for a while but the VizShades are turned up to max... slowly....."
Slowly images appear... colours... objects.
A windscreen... I'm in an old GyroPod... the pilot is watching me... old battered flightsuit... a Hawk Splice... he's wearing Shades too...
Blue... the bluest sky that even my imagination could not conceive... I can see birds wheeling in flight... the softest of white clouds and there, above us... above me... a brightly shining orb of yellow...
I'm gazing at the Sun.
Below me, encroaching into the ocean and stretching back as far as I can see is what seems to be a mountain range of black reflective glass... jagged and uneven... cruelly cutting into the sky. To my left I can see what looks like the fuselage of an old style SpaceCruiser, protruding from the base of this strange black mass.
"We call it the Wound," mutters the pilot.”It covers approximately 400 square miles... It's hard to be sure, the readings change with each measurement. That, my friend is where you've been living...”
I want to speak but confusion and dryness are upon me. He continues.
"It's calmer out here by the sea... inland? Heh... not so much. We've tried every way possible to break into it... no joy. Seems it's a one way ticket only...”
He's looking at me now. Quizzical. I turn towards him, questions in my mouth but then...
Then I am blind again and I feel the Pod shudder. Hear the pilot.
Feel us swing to the right... rapidly rise... as my vision returns I'm looking at the Sun. Still there but now surrounded by a yellow halo... a ring. As I watch it seems to inch further and further away from that old star...
"Thirty two minutes...” calls a voice behind me. A woman's voice.
"I'm on it... take 500 here into the back and fill him in... I'll try and find us a flightpath...”
Hands on my shoulders, leading me into the rear cabin. Another seat. Strapped in.
A girl. Fox Splice. Bright Red fur. Black shades. Torn flight suit. Her name tag reads Emily.
She smiles at me.
"500?" I hear myself say.
"You're the 500th Returnee... we give you numbers until you've been debriefed. Listen... You have questions. I know. But right now you need to listen to me. Time is short and what I can tell you may just save your life... With any luck it may save all our lives."
I nod. Rub my arms. They're beginning to sting. Itch.
She notices and carries on speaking.
"Burning, Yeah? That's why we have to get you to one of the Facilities as soon as possible. You've been away too long and the sun is too strong. A few more hours and your skin will blister and peel. Soon it will become cancerous. After that you will be dead. Take your shades off? Your eyes will melt in less than fifteen minutes...”
A weary voice she has. Weary yet musical.
"The first we knew about it," she says,”Was what felt like a shockwave, travelling the planet. Seconds later we lost all offworld communications and the Veil collapsed in upon itself. Much of the Planetary feed went down shortly after... It took us around twelve minutes to realize the Moon had vanished...”
A pause. The sound of engines.
"The earthquakes and tsunamis were almost instantaneous... most of what you will remember as the Asiatic Conglomerate no longer exists. Later that day The Global Initiative seized control of all remaining New Dawn property worldwide. Arrests were made. There are rumours of executions and beheadings in some States. By that evening we had deployed the GravGlobes and the situation stabilized a little. Days Two and Three were spent in questions and half formed plans... much of the modern technologies were failing... global communications were shot to hell.
On Day Four there was a Thermal Magnetic exchange in the Middle East. At least twelve weapons were involved.
On Day Five the Droids deactivated themselves... they're just sitting there in Standby... we can't wake them up...”
I hear electronic chatter from the cockpit... a curse. The pilot calls back.
"The Jersey Globe has burnt out... we're gonna have to go inland... Control are feeding me a new path...”
The Pod turns and speeds along the coast... alongside this strange black mountain range... soon it veers away to our right and dry land appears... we race over it... going inland...
To my left, far in the distance, I can see plumes of smoke and angry red fire thrusting into the sky...
"The geologists call it Mount Improbable." She says.”It erupted on the Ninth Day and has not stopped since...
On the Tenth Day we lost all communication with The Unified States of Permissive America and the Federation of The Great Old Bear... we're not sure what happened but background radiation levels have risen by 32%..."
"INCOMING!!" Shouts the pilot. I turn my head. In front of us is a cloud of white and black particles... as we get closer I can see individual shapes...
And then they are upon us. Striking the Pod. Banging. Screeching. Pecking.
Gulls and Crows.
Thick green mucus encrusts the beaks.
The eyesockets are empty.
"They're attracted to the sound." She says.”It seems to anger them...”
The Pod does a barrel roll and the birds are flung away as we plummet towards the ground. As we level out I see figures below us. Thousands. Tens of thousands? Shuffling slowly. Torn clothing. Some seem to be naked.
Some are missing limbs.
"Yeah." She says.”On the Thirteenth Day the dead decided they didn't want to be dead any more... they left the towns and cities... headed out here, into the countryside. They seem to be heading towards old historic sites... we let them. They haven't bothered us so we leave them be...”
More electric chatter. More cursing.
"We've gotta detour." The pilot informs us.”There's a Howling forming in our flightpath."
"Howling?" I hear myself say: I have a memory of a recurring nightmare involving a young girl and a sky full of monsters...
"Imagine a tornado formed of fire and ice... that's a Howling... it would tear our ship apart."
Nowhere else to go now and we skim over the strange black glass.
Over the Wound...
Suddenly it is as if the craft has been knocked high into the air. I hear the engines whine. My head strikes the side of the compartment. The girl falls forward and her Shades go flying.
She has Optic Units.
One glows a fierce purple.
"The Sun Wave." She explains.”Just the outer rim... If we don't make landfall soon we will be destroyed...”
She turns to face me and where the other Optic lens should sit there is only a chunk of metal, rimmed by crusted, congealed blood.
She smiles ruefully.
"On the Nineteenth Day the ReGen stopped working...”
Then... as if she has become possessed, she grabs my hand tight and hisses at me...
"The Wolf? Tell me the Wolf still lives?"
Confusion. I shake my head and the moment has passed. Back to business.
She shows me an InfoPad... a Map of the City. An area is highlighted.
"Do you know this place? Tell me... what is there?"
It's at the base of Primrose Hill... oh Amanda, how I mourn our days of innocence...
"A ruin...” I say.”Just an old ruin...”
Her shoulders drop...
"All we know... all we have traced back is that seconds before the world went to shit there was a massive Magnetic Pulse from this place... a single Audio message from here... an Old Victorian Asylum...”
Another Sun Wave hits us... there is a cracking noise from one of the windows.
"How long has it been for you?" She's gazing directly at me.
"50... maybe 60 years..." Dry throat.
"Today is the morning of the TwentyThird Day." She says.”And if we don't find an answer I fear it will be the last day for us all...”
I feel myself weep for those lost, dark, wasted days.
I'm still weeping when the main wave hits our ship and everything