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Bury My Heart

Doomsday Diary

By Darrell WinfreyPublished 3 years ago 8 min read

Twenty years ago, descriptions of the end of the world conjured imagery of crumbling buildings and streets littered with rubble. Among heaps of dust, one might occasionally find a sun-bleached human skull or long bone. The remaining global population, only a tiny fraction of what it once was, would primarily reside underground, only braving the surface to scavenge supplies. All of this was far from the truth, except for the loss of most of the world's population.

What people didn't know was that they were already ten years into their inevitable destruction. Doomsday wasn't visually marked by the shock and awe of bombs exploding and skyscrapers collapsing. The best word to describe it was 'beautiful.' But that was only a facade. For beneath the veneer was an ugly truth that billions of people refused to acknowledge. It was this refusal that ultimately led to their demise.

Soren was a rare sort, curious about everything imaginable. His friend Jace warned him about looking in places where he was unwelcome. He might find himself sharing a fate with one of the absent. Soren's coworkers could only speculate about the absent ones. One day they would be at work socializing with everyone, and the next day they wouldn't show up. After a few days, they all knew their coworker would never return. The official word was that they had been promoted to work in another region.

Few of his coworkers questioned the nature of the work they did. They were all employed in a large factory sorting parts for some type of machinery. Soren occasionally tried to fit the pieces together, but nothing would ever match. He sometimes asked what his coworkers thought they were building. Jace told him he should be happy he was earning enough to cover food and a place to stay.

Although people did many odd jobs around town, the robots were far more efficient than any human. Soren wondered why people were needed at all. He once got a peek inside a robot factory, witnessing them assemble other robots. It was like a mechanized dance to the tune of clangs and rivets. Sparks would fly to and fro, vanishing as they hit the floor. Unfortunately, he was only able to watch for a few minutes before being pulled away by an enforcer bot.

Enforcers were special robots that corrected people when they stepped out of line. Since he was a toddler, Soren had been told that there were no rules, yet enforcers had always been around to stop him from doing this and that. It only took a few years for a whole list of regulations to form in everyone's head. Even with those ingrained rules, some found ways to undermine them.

Soren's other friend Isla knew how to skate dangerously close to breaking laws without getting caught. She had to be careful because she wasn't exactly the athletic type who could get very far running. Her weak chin and sleepy eyes gave her a tortoise-like appearance that lent credence.

What Soren liked the most was that twice a week, she would come over after dark. They weren't supposed to be outside unless they had night jobs. Very few humans worked at night. Isla and Soren would quietly walk to the park near his house. It was a relatively large park, but Isla always guided him to the same spot on a hill where she said electric eyes couldn't see. She laid out a blanket and opened a large umbrella covered with a reflective metal.

Isla would lay next to Soren, whispering into his ear. She'd tell him these incredible stories about a time before the virus wiped out most of humanity. Robots couldn't think on their own, and people had to write instructions in order for them to work. She spoke of how people were allowed to fly all over the world whenever they wanted. Some of the tales were more somber, as she told him about the imprisoning of several people who created the first intelligent machine called NIQUAN. Soren believed very little of what she said but found the stories fascinating.

One day, Isla and Jace got into a huge argument at work. Soren was in another sector at the time, so he only heard about it. The other workers were afraid to discuss details and only suggested that he talk to his friends. Jace practically denied that the argument ever happened, chalking it up to a simple misunderstanding about sorting.

Soren didn't see Isla for two days, so he feared the worse. However, Jace seemed to be in an upbeat mood. Soren pressed him again about the argument, but he still wouldn't talk. He only issued a warning that Soren should stay away from Isla. Soren no longer wanted Jace as a friend.

When Isla showed up for work on Friday, Soren could barely contain his excitement. Isla occasionally smiled but didn't talk to him the entire day. He wasn't pleased with her behavior. That night, Isla showed up at Soren's back door.

Before Soren could say anything, Isla grabbed his hand, pulling him outside. They walked along the path they regularly took to the park. After arriving at their usual spot, they lay down in the grass.

“I'm sorry for not talking to you at work today. There's something serious going on, and it was very important that we didn't involve you.” Isla whispered with an undeniable urgency.

“But you're my friend,” Soren reminded her. “You should always involve me.”

“Not with this.”

“Where's your umbrella?”

Isla twisted her mouth. “I'm honestly not sure if that thing ever worked.”

After lying there for a long time, Soren turned toward Isla and noticed that she appeared to glow under the moonlight. He could only stare at her.

“What?” Isla asked.

Soren only shrugged.

Isla turned on her side, placing her lips extra close to Soren's ear. He felt something tingle inside of himself and pulled away. Isla moved in closer. “There's something I need to tell you, and it's not a story. It's very real, and it's important that you believe what I tell you.”

Soren's heart raced for reasons that he could not fathom.

Isla continued without pause. “There are aspects of the world we live in that are not quite right. I know you notice because you ask a lot of questions. Sometimes silly questions, but even those can be just as important.” Isla placed a hand on his chest. “You're a nice guy, and your heart is in the right place.”

“Where else would it be? In my foot?”

Isla chuckled silently. “Anyway, I need to tell you that I have to go away.”

“You're going absent?”

“I'm making myself absent so that they don't do it for me.”

“So you are promoting yourself? I didn't know people could do that.”

“No. No. No.” Isla's voice rose, prompting her to glance around the park. “People who go absent aren't being promoted. That's a lie.”

“I don't understand.”

Isla sighed. “I have to leave because I have a baby... a baby growing inside of me.”

Soren immediately sat up on his elbows, staring at Isla with a look of terror and confusion.

“It's not a bad thing. It's something wonderful.”

“Doesn't sound wonderful. So, you're going somewhere to get it taken out?”

Isla smiled serenely while rubbing her belly, “Well, yes. I suppose that will eventually happen.”

“Who put a whole person inside you?” Soren asked, fearful of the answer.

“Jace did.”

Soren's confusion went visibly off the charts. Isla explained how people really come into the world. It didn't seem to ease Soren's distress, only made it worse.

“I don't believe that,” Soren sat all the way up as he gazed at her in disbelief. “I can't believe that. My mother bots took perfect care of me. They said they made me in a special room where I was protected from the outside world. They took good care of me. They wouldn't lie to me. They protected me. They protected us. Why would you tell me all these crazy stories?” Soren got a little too loud.

Isla sat up and hugged him tightly. Soren tried to pull away, but she wouldn't let him. He felt his heart racing again. There was a funny feeling in his pants.

Isla let go and reached behind her neck to unhook her necklace. “This is something my mother gave me. My real mother, not the maternal bots. She came back here to find me, and it cost her her life. You were not made in a lab. You were born just like me and everybody else.”

Soren shook his head.

Isla opened the heart-shaped locket. “Inside of this is a story, an important story that you can only read with a special glass. There's also a unique code that only the robots can read. My mother told me that I needed to go to the Forbidden Zone and show it to one of the cameras marked with the red stripes. For a very long time, I was too afraid. Then, when I found out I had a child, something changed. I knew I would do anything to protect this baby. So, I took that trip to the Forbidden Zone.”

“That doesn't sound very protective to me. So, what happened?” Soren asked.

Isla stifled a laugh. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I guess I was expecting red lights to start flashing or the sky to open up. Have you noticed anything different with the sentinels and enforcers?”

“No. Nothing.”

“Apparently, there are four other items with different codes that have to be shown. My mother is the daughter of one of the original NIQUAN system creators. They took issue with creating such a powerful AI without a fail-safe. Once all of the codes are read in, something is supposed to awaken within the AI.”

“What is it?”

“I... I don't know. We'll have to see.” Isla looked around nervously. “Jace and I are leaving tonight. You're probably not going to see me again. So, I guess this is my goodbye” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek before giving him another hug. “You've been a wonderful friend. My best friend. I'll never, ever forget you.”

The last time Soren felt sad tears well up in his eyes was when he had to leave his guardian bots. None of the people who disappeared from work were his friends. Now his two closest friends were going away forever.

“I didn't get a chance to say bye to Jace.”

“We thought about that. Jace has been under close surveillance for a while. It might place suspicion on you if you two are on camera saying your farewells. It's better this way.”

Isla closed the locket and placed it in Soren's hand before extracting a black jeweler's loupe from her pocket. “Find a safe place away from the cameras before you read this. Where we are now is probably the safest.” She made one of the ugliest grimaces Soren had ever seen. “Let me get out of here before I start crying.” She got up and quickly exited the same way they came.

The weight of what just happened only hit him after the darkness swallowed Isla completely. He desperately tried to read the locket, but a wall of tears distorted his vision.

Series

About the Creator

Darrell Winfrey

I was born long ago in Houston, Texas. I spent many years publishing web content for others. Now I spend most of my time promoting my art without injecting much of myself into the mix. Most people will find me within the art anyway.

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