“We’re so close, Rita.” Archibald commented.
“Affirmative, Sir.” Rita responded.
The mountain was not as steep as one might assume. Jagged rocks fortified themselves on the side. The passage that lied ahead of him and Rita, appeared fairly accessible due to its giant paths that carved themselves into the mountainside. Trees sprung up alongside the path as they passed, but conceded back into the dirt as if they were aware of the doctor and his concomitant robot.
The nature on this planet revealed similar traits to that of Earth’s as far as their survival methods were concerned. The trees were the height of about 4 feet, and like a Venus flytrap, they assumed their position until a certain amount of hairs were grazed by potential prey. This particular tree used a similar method by placing small hairs on its roots which crossed back and forth across the path. When disturbed, this carnivorous, perennial wood plant would extend its branches comparable to that of a human arm and wrap around its victim, constricting it to death. In this case, the tree inspected both moving targets and examined them to find that one was too large to consume and the other had no meat available for consumption.
Archibald had indeed been intrigued by the strange environment that surrounded him, yet Rita informed him that the trees were not the movement they had previously seen near the ship. Determined to discover the motion, Archibald discarded the trees existence for now, and proceeded onward. Rita recorded the creature as a carnivorous plant and named it “Vasmuscipula.”
A few miles ahead, a billowing smoke appeared; it rose transcendentally toward the sky above. An entire city, made up of what looked like rock, clay, and an unidentifiable metal, lay vastly ahead with mountains surrounding it in all directions. It reminded Dr. Zeal of a small town he had performed a book signing in long ago from a geographical stand point. Though in these structures, it was apparent the word “small” had never been implied by the architect. Each complex the doctor gazed upon suggested an equal or larger erection than its predecessor beyond it.
“Such massive buildings” Archibald thought, “must contain an enormous species.”
Just as this thought skimmed his mind, it became near-truth. Giants began to flood the passage ways underneath gigantic buttresses that were firmly connecting the building walls to their foundations. It was a sight that would have astounded even the Greek authors of ancient mythology.
The giants were massive and had evolved familiar characteristics to creatures back on Dr. Zeal's home planet. They stood upright like humans, but balanced on four, muscular legs. Their feet boasted impressive talon-like claws for grip and possibly for protection.
The creatures fur exposed itself and retracted like the claws of a cat. As a passing thought, Archibald figured that this came about to fit into an environment with rapidly changing weather climates. Their heads were wider than they were tall, and presented the same retractable hair.
Wary of how the giants may react to his alien presence, Dr. Zeal proceeded toward the city quietly and cautiously. Upon closer inspection, he could see that what had previously appeared as a billowing smoke, had in fact been a large screen-like being flying high above the metropolis. Other flying animals similar to that of birds back on Earth flew majestically through the sky. A select few of the bird-like species were caught mid-flight by the flying screen being. Once caught, the animals came into view as being stuck on the screen with some sort of adhesive; and furthermore, the flying creatures dissolved after only seconds of being captured. Rita determined that by dissolving the bodies, it absorbed the victim’s nutrients. It was unknown if it discarded the rest or consumed the parts it did not use.
Continuing onward down the trail, they traveled toward the city despite an obvious danger of the trail’s impassibility. A particular section appeared exceptionally unreliable to tread across. It was quickly apparent that the section was the only way downward toward the self-undiscovered city. Rita and Dr. Zeal slowly advanced toward the passage. Dr. Zeal took the first step as Rita followed closely behind. Just as it seemed they would make it without a hitch, the trail succumbed to gravity as it fell apart, sending Rita and the doctor descending toward the walls of the large settlement. Before the impact of the walls reached them, the two came to a rough stop. Although their fall was rough, both were fine considering the distance and possible alternate outcomes that could have occurred.
Dusting himself off and then his companion, Archibald stood upright and addressed Rita.
“Are you still functioning properly?”
“Affirmative, Dr. Archibald Zeal. My construct is not affected by the solid particles that cover me.” Rita responded.
“That’s good” Dr. Zeal commented. He then smiled as he said, “I can’t be losing my only friend on the most peculiar planet I’ve ever walked on.” His comic nature was lost upon the robotic creature, but nonetheless, humored himself. After brief consideration, Dr. Zeal decided to try his chances at meeting the locals. Tentatively, they walked along the city’s wall until they reached the main entrance to the city. Archibald took in a deep breath and exhaled as he entered the unfamiliar city.
Fifteen minutes passed and not one of the giants noticed him or Rita; that is until Rita ran into the leg of one of the huge beings. For a second there was silence as the creature looked inquisitively at Dr. Zeal, ignoring the robot altogether. Every muscle tightened in horror as the giant stared down at him. Archibald was almost certain the brute would destroy both of them. Surprisingly though, it swatted at him and walked away.
Confused, the doctor hurried over to Rita.
“It could have crushed us, but it did not…” Archibald muttered to Rita in astonishment as his eyes returned to the giant walking away from them.
“It appeared to have responded to my exterior in a positive way despite the giant’s apparent lack of intelligence. It defined me introspectively, in its own mental processing, as non-threatening.” Rita explained.
“It’s comparable to how humans back on Earth would respond to a gnat. Still though, if they are unintelligent, then someone or something must have helped them build such super structures. If I’m right, my best guess would be that whoever governs these ogres is more than likely stationed in the building off in the distance.” Having concluded his thought, timed perfectly were Archibald’s eyes, which met with the far off building he was alluding to.
Archibald and his companion hurried into an alley way in search of a route that may be less dangerous. Unlike the depiction the doctor held of alleys back on Earth, this city’s back roads were as clean as the main roads. The ground and walls surrounding them mimicked a marble-type material in appearance, though when touched, felt soft but sturdy to the touch. This was quite different than what was displayed on the main streets.
Deciding that this path suited them, they continued forward. Every now and then, the ground beneath them would slightly shake due to the planet’s inhabitant’s size. As the view to the busy roads occasionally came into sight, Archibald could see an entirely different perspective of life in the universe, compared to his own. The giant’s walk, for example, was sluggish and almost comical. Small plants appeared to grow out of the gravel unexpectedly, blooming into magnificent objects of nature only to wither in a matter of seconds to its previous position in the ground.
In an ethical sense, no observation showed more resilience than the credible respect the creatures had for each other. Though gigantic in stature, their eyes showed contentment with their surroundings. The doctor even caught a glimpse of one of the larger giants helping to restore a barrel’s contents after it had been tipped over. After cleaning the area, the giant proceeded away indicating it was not his own to maintain and yet he helped nevertheless.
The alley passage gave off the impression that it was illimitable in length. The tower they sought-after appeared to be bobbing and weaving through the tall buildings that enclosed their present walkway as their hurried steps caused this motion in visual apperception. Nearing the end of the back street, the enormous building declared its individuality from the other structures in the city. Its enormous size set it apart, but it was not its stature Archibald noticed primordially after stepping out of the alley. The doors sat in a gigantic threshold covered in an anonymous purple weaving of plant. The organism looked to work as a lock or blockade for the door, but the doctor could not deduce such a conclusion without a closer and proper inspection.
Dr. Zeal approached cautiously, as did Rita directed by the Doctor. Luckily, the giants seemed to stay away from the building. Much like the perennial plant they observed earlier, the specimen reacted to their presence, but not in a negative way. The thick plant released its grip on the door and receded inward to the door’s border. Tentatively, they approached the entrance. A small alloy arm stretched from Rita’s robotic embodiment and met with the colossal door’s handle. The door opened without hesitation as they proceeded inside. Upon entering the unfamiliar complex, Archibald looked back toward the city and met eyes with a far off giant. The titan’s eyes seemed to insinuate a disbelief in the fact that they were able to enter the construct. Following a most peculiar moment, the doors shut slowly behind them and the purple vines of the plant returned to their original placement, effectively putting a stop to it, alternatively acting as an egress.
Dr. Zeal looked down at Rita as she powered down unexpectedly. Archibald himself began oscillating; his body was filled with a flurry of dizziness. In an instant, the doctor found himself on all fours viewing his environment in doubled vision. He could barely make out what his eyes so desperately wanted to comprehend. Alas, he was left with only the retention of the gigantic innards of a building as his vision faded to black…
Wednesday, December 5, 1917 – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Dr. Zeal awoke only to find that he could not move or make a sound, but had vision. He could smell a musty odor of age enveloping the room. In plain sight was a man who sat motionless staring out of a dusty window. His house swayed slightly, revealed by the cries of wooden panels bending to the winds encasing mercy. To Archibald, he could feel a dream-like quality hovering and filling ever atom in the room, though it was so vividly apparent in its reality of dampness in mood that he knew better. Some items in the room were blurry and indistinguishable, while other items seem to force their presence upon the space. A clear example had been the ocean waves to which the old man focused intently upon on the other side of the window; a dark storm-like sky accompanied it. The man began to speak aloud, though he was alone and had no awareness of Archibald’s presence.
“Oh my…Elizabeth. If only you could see the simplicity of the waves as I see them. The wind hurries itself along at such an unsettling rate. Your golden locks would - fly. Our time is floating on those currents of wind. Our time is washing up on that beach and consequently, drug back out to sea. What a representation of the inevitable in its most natural sense…I have never stopped loving you. I shall see you soon. The voices are making sure of that. Their grammar, although slurred, is comforting. Thursday is Hers-day, they say. Oh, how silly it sounds, and yet, means the universe to me…”
The wrinkly man became silent as he rocked steadily in an old, creaky rocking chair. The smallest smile came upon his face apace, but left just as fast. It was obvious to the doctor that happiness had not come easy to the man in his life, or at the very least, not in a long while. The rocking chair stopped, as did time itself in the reality they inhabited. Archibald’s eyes glazed over and faded to black once more.
Dr. Zeal’s sight came back in an instant. He still saw the same scene with the exception of three differences: The sky was slightly lighter than before; the ocean’s waves seemed calmer; and the man now stood queerly still, inches from the glass of the same window. A homemade wall clock seemed to slow down. The hands struck 8:40am and the numbers themselves began to glow brightly, illuminating the room ever so slightly. The man took his shirt off slowly and placed it on the ground. Having done this, he opened his arms as wide as his muscles would allow and began hysterically laughing. The laughter was not overbearingly boisterous though, but rather used as an attempt to comfort himself as tears slowly ran down his cheek bones and onto the corners of his mouth.
“I’m coming dear…” the man whispered as he wept.
Complete silence filled the room. The old man’s lips were moving, but he was inaudible to Dr. Zeal. The sky outside of the window deviated drastically as it was consumed by light. The clock dimmed but the hands proceeded onward slower and slower. Time abated, causing Archibald’s perception of the room as a whole to dim and lighten…dim and lighten…and repeat this pattern. The walls began to vibrate and wave as the ocean does, as did the glass. A snapping noise followed as the walls broke apart and the glass shattered. Shards of glass passed through the elderly man’s skin. Archibald watched the man and his surroundings diminish and disintegrate into the air; all while being accompanied by a deafening silence and an eerie smirk that remained on the man until he was no more. The doctor’s vision dimmed again and as he gained a visual back, he could only see smoke traveling softly upon the wind. Somehow he could feel a heating sensation and the scene became cloudy and incoherent to Archibald…
Dr. Zeal gradually regained consciousness, and realized he was back on the enigmatic planet with Rita. As he rose to his feet, he looked back at the high-reaching doors and the vines that enshrouded them. His eyes accompanied by the rest of his head, half-circled back to the rest of the establishment only to see a vast, internal view of the monstrously sized building. He began to walk, and as he did so, each step brought a slightly different smell, similar to those back on Earth.
A spiral of stairs, were positioned around the walls extending from the top floor of the building down to the ground level where Archibald stood. At certain heights, the stairs presented a passage to another floor and appeared to Dr. Zeal to be shifting in a mechanical fashion at varying heights. As they shifted, a creak-like sound could be heard indicating that the mechanics of this particular machine were fairly old.
“It appears there is a directory and general information unit lying dormant to your right, Dr. Archibald Zeal.” Rita expressed.
“Thank you, Rita.” Archibald responded under his breath.
Dust covered the electrical unit. It was highly similar to that of a touch screen computer device but looked as if it had been unused for some time. The mere approach Dr. Zeal took towards the machine started it up. It instantly displayed a strange symbol and then revealed a holographic note that floated effortlessly above the screen. Archibald reached for it and upon contact, it became tangible, but felt like a calm electrical static within his hands. The page explained what the building was and its purpose:
“You are a: Homo Sapien (A modern human to the Cenozoic Era on Earth.)
This means that as you entered the building, your senses were reintroduced to a certain period of time within the era your consciousness was born in. Surrounding you are holographic representations of most known artifacts, structures, and stories from your native planet, filling every room on all 237 floors of this current domicile. Upon approach to the front doors, you may have noticed the beings on this planet proffer a strange look as the vines loosened allowing you passage. This is because their only purpose is to keep this planet running which they are quite content with, whereas, this establishment was created to greet aliens to this planet and gather knowledge of all present life-forms in this universe; a museum of Earth in its entirety, in your case.”
The doctor was filled with wonderment at the prospect of having the very tools needed to know anything he desired. His first search inquiry was, “What is the status of Eart…” but before completing the sentence, he quickly deleted his question and created another, “What year am I in accordance to Earth’s time?” It responded almost immediately:
“Your Earth time line has been disrupted and therefore is in the year zero.”
“How is that possible?” Dr. Zeal inquired.
“The planet Earth was eliminated in the year 33098, by its past inhabitants.” The unit responded.
“You are referring to the people of my time? What constitutes, in this situation, a past inhabitant?” Dr. Zeal asked.
“You are incorrect with your assumption. I am referencing the race that lived before your own on Planet Xaphnu. Later, this planet became known as Earth when your species rose from the waters to inhabit it. By this time, the race of Xaphnu had packed up and left on the space carrier that had brought them to the planet originally, because it was assumed that a creature more powerful than any of their technology existed at the center of the planet. The Xaphnu did not evolve on your planet as your species had, but were space travelers whose origins before reaching Xaphnu are unknown to our records. They had arrived on your planet in the hope that they had at last found a suitable home, but after the discovery of the creature, they fled leaving behind undetectable devices to keep watch on the condition of the planet. After monitoring Earth for an extended amount of time, hoping one day they may be able to return and live in peace, they witnessed a terrifying puzzle begin to construct.”
Pun-saturated, when mirrored with the unconventional computer’s words, the doctor boasted a puzzled look upon his face.
“The evolution of humans began. Throughout Homo sapiens history, (Modern in concurrence with your time) your species became aggressively more intelligent as they furthered. It became confusing to the Xaphnu overseers; for after years of research on the planet Xaphnu, it had never been apparent that life such as a Homo sapiens race would be capable to ever adapt and evolve to such a state. After countless hours of guesstimates and assumptions to why this evolutionary process was headed in the direction it was, the theory was brought forward that the creature had inaugurated its own race, the humans, to further advance until space travel was achieved to the point that a creature the size of itself could survive while traveling through space. Only then could the creature escape the deteriorating world; considering it had unsuccessfully taken advantage of the Xaphnu’s technology of space travel before they deserted the planet. The creature’s plan however, never came to fruition.
After it was decided that this was a probability, the past inhabitants took initiative and released a toxin on Earth that eliminated all life forms capable of original thought; all humans were now extinct. The toxin did not harm or affect nature in anyway. The Xaphnu believed that if they held out long enough, the creature would meet its demise and allow re-inhabitation of the planet for their race. In concordance with your human emotion: ‘Sadly’, the creature began to drain the planet of its resources. They watched as the planet blackened and succumbed to its demise instead. In the year 33098, it was decided by the Xaphnu race to destroy the planet, thus eliminating the creature, for it had become apparent that the planet and the creature at the core existed off of each other. Earth’s time line is currently non-existent, therefore your question must be answered and be equal to: zero.”
Dr. Zeal was taken aback by this frightening realization. This was one of the few moments in his life that he could not conjure up the words needed to explain his emotions. After a few minutes of settling into the newly provided information, he asked a question he felt he had already known the answer to:
“Was it ever proven that there was, indeed, a creature at the center?”
The avant-garde computer paused briefly or at least it seemed that way to the doctor when the answer appeared on the screen.
“Although intelligent, the Xaphnu race was known for acting expeditiously upon assumptions. It appears they were not unlike the human race. The answer, accordingly, would be…unknown.”
Dr. Zeal stood amongst his thoughts. The computer purposed a question to the Doctor.
“Perhaps conversing with Alice may help you further your journey?”
“Where is Alice? Or rather, who or what is Alice?” Archibald asked inquisitively.
The computer answered thoroughly, “Alice is beneath this building and is the curator of this superstructure. Alice will be able to help you with any additional information you require. If you will cautiously step onto the symbol located ten feet to your right on the floor, you will be relocated to your desired destination.”
The computer shortly after shut itself down. Archibald listened and approached cautiously towards the symbol on the floor, which appear to be a painted pine tree with a human’s gender symbol on each side of the tree’s top. When both feet where firmly planted upon the symbol, the floor in a 10 foot circumference lowered. While in a downward motion, Archibald watched the ceiling of the room he had been in, appear farther and farther away until it was a miniscule dot above him. He was unaware of how far down he had traveled.
After what seemed to him as a lengthy amount of time, he at last touched down on the lower level. The lower area was only one room, slightly foggy and in the shape of a pentagon. Four of the walls were black but interrupted by one off-white colored wall. The ground had a soft rubbery feel to each step Archibald took. Although the doctor was enclosed by the room, a small breeze could be felt with no vents in sight. A voice spoke in the direction of the singled out wall and shortly after a shadowy figure appeared on the wall; not blurry, but a literal shadow that rose from the wall.
“You-you-you are Archibald Zeal, correct?”
“Yes. May I ask who you are?” Archibald asked.
“I am-am the true guardian of this planet, or rather, I mean, um…I am an imitation of the guardian. The guardian died some time ago. She created me to carry on-on-on her legacy with the task of guarding this planet, though I-I don’t get very many visitors. It’s nice to be in the presence of life again…and since visitors are a rarity, I mostly just curate here now.” She said in a shy and at times, stumbling way.
“It is nice to meet you, Alice.”
“You know my name? The-the…Aton must have told you. He is a blabber mouth when it comes to facts. I love to greet new visitors because they always reboot me with a new way to speak and formulate my-my words. The guardian’s programming is strange, huh? I-I sometimes repeat words. Stuttering…hmm…” Alice trailed off.
“I think you speak fine.” Dr. Zeal said with a smile. “I have traveled extremely far, Alice. So far in fact, I’m not even sure of the distance or time frame that I have been gone. Not that it matters; my home planet is gone. I am not sure if you will be able to answer my next question, but in your opinion, if you were designed with one, which I assume you were since you referred to the computer upstairs as having a ‘blabbering mouth’, what would you suggest I do to acquire the information concerning whether or not there are any of my species left?” Archibald asked with hope in his eyes.
“Well…I hate to break this to-to you, but you-you-you are the last known human in existence…anywhere. We could however…propagate.”
Dr. Zeal’s eyes lit up with confusion, “Is that possible? How could I repopulate if I am alone in the universe?”
“Artificially, of course; I could create an artificial egg which-ch could hatch a female of your own design. We have the know-how, and when she’s old enough, the two of you could mate to create a hybrid species: half human, half robotic organism. Furthermore, with enough time to play-play around with your DNA, we could eventually cr-create pure humans for your offspring to mate with, but it would take time.” Alice proposed.
Archibald was thrown off by this idea, but nonetheless was considering it for the sake of humanity’s future. He began thinking about his late wife and pondered if he could recreate her. “Hypothetically speaking, if I went through with this, could I in some way dictate her future personality? Better yet, would she need to be separated from me in the growing process so that she does not attach to me as a father figure and my relationship vice versa towards her?”
“Indeed, you would need to be-be separated from her during the first 20 years of her life, though everything in those 20 years will be simulated and delivered into her cortex directly via a connection to the Consciousness Blanket. We can manipulate her entire ‘world’ and implant memories and stories that you remember her telling you, otherwise though…we can only fill the gaps with variables you believe would best imitate and spawn her natural personality and emotions at the time of her death; excluding the knowledge of believing her own death is near of course.”
“That sounds amazing…what would I do in the meantime though as I wait for her to grow?” The Doctor pondered aloud.
Picking up the cue almost immediately, Alice responded, “Sleep…” as she pointed toward a rising coffin in the floor. “The coffin will keep you in a suspended state as if time were irrelevant. I will-ill extract the memories and necessary DNA that I need while you sleep. In your comatose state, at points in time, you will be able to loosely communicate with me via your brain waves. This will only-only be needed-ed if I need information your memories themselves are not providing me with.”
A bit hesitant, Archibald asked, “How can I trust you? I ask that in a respectful manner of course. I mean, this all sounds perfect, but seeing as I am on a new planet, I would rather explore and collect data for a personal reference.”
Alice was quick to answer again, “There is no need to collect data. All that you seek educationally about this planet resides with me. When you awake, you may-may ask me any question you please. I need you to sleep though, because I need to extract all of the memories of your wife to transfer them and prepare them for insertion and programming. You are safe-safe here, Doctor.”
Archibald still had hesitations, but he agreed. He slowly stepped into the coffin and the lid above him closed. A light gas filled the coffin leaving Archibald unconscious within seconds. A timer began to count down on the top of the encasing.