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by Justy Robinson 6 months ago in Horror · updated 5 months ago
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Grinder of Men

Photo by Viktor Jakovlev on Unsplash

My name is Samuel Weaver.

I am writing this because it ought to be recorded, though I must admit the more I think about it- the more pointless it becomes. I sit here on a large boat typing, hoping perhaps for an alien species or a… at least semi-aquatic subspecies of homo-sapiens, to find the technology to read the data on a (most likely) water-logged personal computer. A stretch, to say the least; but hey- isn’t it within our DNA to wish to be remembered? Death only comes after we’re forgotten, or so it goes. I think it’s fair to say, in the midst of the immense cataclysm before me, that I simply need to hold on to some glimmer of hope. Even Pandora was able to go on upon finding hers, after all.

To explain the situation is to explain cause and effect in ironies. I, a white, once rich, once christian, man, am one of the few humans left on the Earth; on a boat that wasn't designed nor built by my hands, but one history would have remembered as my idea nonetheless (that is, if we could still record history)- one I thought was going to be the salvation of our species. For you, whoever or whatever you are, who most likely hasn’t lived through this most recent apocalypse, the end of everything we’d know would come at the hands of that which created life in the first place: the oceans. We knew global warming was real long before it started to really affect us, and we learned that a heating climate would melt the ice caps not much later than that; but what we didn’t realize was the tsunamis that’d come. The hurricanes and their growing magnitudes due to water of different temperatures mingling. The earthquakes, caused by so much under our feet shifting around so rapidly. We didn’t know that we would have to fight disaster after disaster, both rising oceans and burning coasts, on empty stomachs and dehydration. Instead, what I and the men like me did realize, was what history told us; whenever it goes and gets tough, the first place the mobs go with their torches and pitchforks are to the throats of the men with all the money- and we had to do something about that.

Some colleagues of mine in different sectors; oil, cryptocurrencies, generals of several different forces, politicians, property developers- we all got together realizing something had to be done. Now I say what I’m about to say not to absolve myself of my sins, but to say my intentions were noble- but as so often was the case when nobility mingles with capitalism and the interests of people like me, benefits for one of us comes at the cost of a million others. I say that all while unable to pull my eyes from the shapes in the water below. So many of them, so… warped. More on that later.

I thought of myself in a rather high regard in those meetings. I wasn’t them, the colonizers and gentrifiers, the most overt and profitable cause of this madness, I was just a writer from a long line of writers. Sure, old money meant I could be anything I wanted and I sure was everything I wanted to be, but I wasn’t the one that pulled the trigger, I was better, than those men were. What I didn’t realize was that mentality, in and of itself, allowed them to manipulate me. At that time in my life, EVERYTHING I did was filtered through the lens of my faith. Most of my novels are retellings of the stories of David and Goliath, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and, of course, Christ's death and resurrection. I read the bible multiple times in my life; yes, in bible study and of course during prayer- but also for enjoyment. In fact, I was moderately obsessed with all the stories of Jesus in my youth. I imagined that he looked like me, flipping tables over and giving a finger to the Roman Emperors- who I always imagined looked like my father. This focus on the word didn’t change when the world was ending, and perhaps it still hasn’t, now that I’m sitting here musing on my history... but my “faith” is certainly gone- I can’t bring myself to believe in anything anymore. Anyway, in the meetings it would be my idea that we’d all agree on; the Ark, a massive, nuclear-powered cruise liner that would come to be the last hope for the human race. I filled the role of a king to a court after the majority had voted on my plan. What I mean is I become the leader, and we would be a constituency with the goal to save the human race… if my tone hasn’t betrayed it enough already, I failed. Royally.

Like men with money often did, I paid someone to build models of the ship. I got scientists to put together projections for how it’d sustain itself for twenty years, fifty years, a thousand. The head of the building of the Ark was a man named Joseph Collins. Before the fall, he was near-single handedly responsible for the gentrification of many major American cities. He was a property owner and developer. With his company, American Future Industries, he lobbied politicians, making his colonization into law- and he did it all over the country. He was chosen due to the immense resource cost necessary for the project, and he carried it out in the most American way he could’ve. To make a long story short, none of those “illegals” who built this ship are currently aboard it (to my knowledge).

Mr. Collins, though not a scientist in his own right, was able to build a working nuclear fusion reactor within months of embarking on the project. When I learned about that I was in awe; how did this nonscientific man, who knew nothing but real estate, break through barriers scientists and enthusiasts couldn’t do even before the fall? Turns out, AF industries funded many of those research initiatives, and purposefully undercut funding so research could only go so far… all while keeping the rights to that research. I didn’t know this at the time, but this was because many coal, oil, and gas men (who were also in the very room I brought people together in) were already friends with him, and he was looking to make more profit while also not undercutting theirs… Such a loyal and kind man he is. Anyway, it wasn’t long after the reactor was finished that the Ark had a body- an outer frame made of a polymer of titanium and steel coated in a hydrophobic black paint on both sides. Though marvelous to behold at the time, I never stopped to ask why they built the outside first; I certainly don’t know much about building big boats after all, but I did realize that it would define the space inside the ship before we even knew how many people would have to fit inside one. That’s another thing, the original plan wasn’t for there to be only one… more on that later as well.

From then on, the progress of the ship was a closely-guarded secret. In meetings of “the court,” Mr. Collins kept information close to his chest, even when pressed, but assured progress was moving forward and we believed him. How could we not? We all heard the power tools, saw the overworked laborers hammering, and cutting, and stressing out about the most ambitious project humanity can remember- progress was certainly being made, but to what end? The ship is a beastly thing, dwarfing the previously largest ship on Earth by at least a factor of 3 or 4- I assumed then that it had to have so much space in it! I mean, it was National Geographic that concluded that all of us could fit within the 500 miles squared of Los Angeles if we stood shoulder to shoulder, so there had to be enough room for us all in this behemoth!

It was do or die time; the tsunami’s were coming and my old home, New York, was leveled. The ship was completed three months or so before- a fact that abhorred me at the time. Somehow, Mr. Collins and those he hired wasted almost two years on this one Ark- “tweaking and perfecting,” as he called it. The second and third ship started after that, and now they’re submerged under water; perhaps 1% finished. As some of the higher ranking members of our conglomerate loaded in, from the top of the ship, I could swear I heard something somewhere in front of the ship. Granted with the enormity of the beast, it was all too far or too quiet to carry all the way to us. I moved on. I got to my room and was shocked to find a King-size bed, all the square footage of the master bedrooms in my now-demolished old mansions; gold fringe and gilding on any and all fabric, a full bathroom, a walk-in closet lined with Gucci, Armani, Versace… a statue of Robert E. Lee above the massive, twenty-four karat gold-lined vanity. I couldn’t have imagined how much time they had spent crafting all of this, just for me to find it all so disgusting. I’ve changed the room since then, less gold and racism; now it’s white sheets, white comforter, white carpet... white marble typewriter. All of it is white. Perhaps not better than gold, but different.

I hate myself now for not even realizing it then… when it was right in front of me. The servants in the ballroom are all people of color. Worse off, a while ago, I recognized a specific man- Ruckus Fortinbras. He was once the mayor of Denver, Colorado. I remember the people of Denver were particularly fed-up with Ruckus’ performance in office. During his three terms, the cost of living there apparently octupled while the minimum wage stayed nearly the same. He, apparently, was also good friends with Mr. Collins. Fortinbras’ tenure was defined by luxury apartments no one could afford to live in. He served me dinner on more than one occasion. I tried talking to him about his experience thus far over and over again, but he’d always redirect… until one day. The day my faith died. It was a Wednesday, somewhere between a month and two months on the Ark. Fortinbras served me food, as he had several times before. I asked him about his wife, a Nobel Prize winner, before he had the chance to leave my room. He dropped the plate on the floor and fell to his knees. He shook there, holding back vomit, saying “I’m sorry.”

I don’t know what compelled me to do so save for the horror I experienced in that moment, but after that I flew out of the room. I knocked on every door. In retrospect, I think I was searching for her. What I found was the fact that my huge room isn’t even the biggest one- I learned that some personal rooms even feature whole tennis courts. I barged in one, and two and three- all of the personal quarters on the top level of the ship eventually. I counted them all- barely fifty rooms. She wasn’t there. I went below the main floor. I was expecting two or three more floors of similar size to those above, but what I found was nothing. The equivalent of a massive cargo hold- barely even a bathroom. The servants, all once low level politicians, business owners, and culture makers- found laying space on the cold, metal floor between huge pens of cows, pigs, and chickens. Blood and excrement lined the walls, thinly disguised on the hydrophobic coating. There were (certainly, for I doubt the conditions below my feet right now could sustain life for very long) more of them below then all of us above, but if I had to put a figure to how many people are on the Ark at all- I’d say no more than five-hundred. A fraction of a fraction of the whole of humanity. I went above and vomited off the side of the ship. Right onto something- a rotund, gray mass, floating on the water's surface. It distracted me so much that I nearly forgot why tears ran down my face. It had lumps on it’s frontal area, four protrusions in a similar comparative position to my own arms and legs… flowing, black hair. It was the water-logged body of a human being. Discolored, bloated, inhuman. The more moments I sat and examined, the more and more of them I saw- broken bodies of person after person, fathers, mothers, children… All gray, all like balloons crashing into the side of the savior that I devised, only differentiated in size and slightly in shape. Their humanity robbed by the sea. It was this moment that made me realize the only people I managed to save, with all the money and all the knowledge of those that bore me, were the leeches who’d gotten us here in the first place. The featureless heads of those I left to die dance around in mine, lives and dreams all crushed by a deluge of OUR design; falling into the ocean, tumbling down, tumbling down, tumbling down. Pressurized forms swinging in our Mother Earth’s winds like blades of grass, dying the seas red and black with their prophecies… OUR prophecies. In the end, we all turn gray.


About the author

Justy Robinson

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