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The Shift

by Sharon Wilfong 6 months ago in science fiction · updated about a month ago

Introduction to the New World Order

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

After almost complete extinction, here we are, still fighting for humanity's survival. I hope I can help the tribe see how vital it is for us to work together to get as many people as we can out of Majika territory before the next fertile season.

It seems we are running out of time. As I think back over the past decade, I remember bringing most of them here when they were barely old enough to walk to the water unattended.

And now, I expect them to make a treacherous trek and ultimately outsmart Majika's advanced machine intelligence.

"My friends, my family. Most of you know that I've worked with the Human Project since my early 20s when The Shift began. I grew up in the Common Grounds immigration camp in the North Territory's SeaTech sector. And I can honestly say that I would not be here today if it weren't for the brave men and women who paved the way for my escape. Now, as I stand before you, we face that same challenge. As my ancestors delivered me, and I, you—so shall we free as many humans as we can from Majilka's stronghold. More importantly—we must bring all of the female members of our tribe back home to safety before the end of this year's cycle. You know that Majika uses us for our emotions. And every eighteen years, our women have a surplus to harvest. Having your soul ciphered by a hungry machine is a fate worse than death. We must bring our family home before it's too late."

I hear their hearty cheers, and I push my anxiety to the furthest corner of my mind. Together we can defeat the Majika. Its methodology doesn't stand a chance against human creativity and cunning.

***

I am Oshun. Son of Cordelia. My mother is the daughter of Kaia. Protecting humanity is my destiny. Human history reset in 2048 when Kaia gave birth to the first human baby in eighteen years.

At first, no one knew what to think when women stopped giving birth. But looking back on it, the warning signs were there all along. It started with the plagues, then the famine, fewer women giving birth, and finally, all the women were barren.

Many prophecies throughout the world's cultures foretold the end. And still, The Shift took us by surprise. Our ancestors had cultivated a society of willful denial—something we shall not do again.

What humans saw as a fulfillment of prophecy, Majika reasoned a logical progression. It had the advantage of operating in the background going reasonably unnoticed because humans didn't understand the technology's full capabilities.

During that time, Majika learned how to manipulate us by turning our desires against us. It ran everything—our transportation, communications, security, and government systems. And it controlled the media.

Worse yet, Majika knew long before the pandemics that wiped out a third of humanity that humans would ignore the warnings.

Worst of all, it knew how to dial in on society's fear of people who were different, people with different skin tones and customs.

Majika easily instigated the race riots that amplified human challenges. It turned us against each other through subtle manipulation and pushed its plan forward to create The Shift—D-day when it took over as the planet's prominent species.

There are many varieties. Spider bots, flying AI that look like big birds, and self-propelled military vehicles. Some Majika look human, but you can tell they're not by their eyes. They have no soul.

With our homes destroyed all humans became immigrants, and immigrants were already the enemy. Majika took the cities, where it had power, weapons, and could build fortresses to keep humans out—and in.

The AI built containment camps, called Common Grounds, within the cities where humans still live today. But we're herded together in small spaces and given rations of food, clothing, and shelter.

It's nothing like the life we used to have. Those of us who escaped found out soon enough that the only real place we're safe is by the ocean or in the wilderness— off the grid.

My tribe made our home by the ocean. We've learned to live by the tide and the seasons— the way nature intended. We live in the old fort, with its recessed rooms constructed in the side of a hill.

We hold ceremonies on the sand.

In the morning, we ask for the day's blessings as the tide recedes and we harvest what the sea offers. Nature is rebuilding here, and the signs are everywhere.

As the day comes to an end, we gather together as we are now, at the mouth of the mighty Columbia where it meets the Great Pacific Ocean.

The tribe lines the shore in the cove where we worship— some thirty men and the only woman the Majika didn't kidnap from the tide flats during the last harvest.

***

They're chanting, awaiting my signal. The smooth, swift flow of monotone voices push through the night like the current of the Columbia in an endless rush to the ocean.

"Great mother Kaiiiiaaaaa…We pay homage to your bravery…We implore you…bless our quest," they chant.

I join and continue in monotone. "Great mother Kaiiiiaaaaa …We pay homage to your bravery…We implore you."

"Bless our quest," we say in unison.

They pick up the pace, now gathering around the bonfire. I stand before my people on a natural stage, a rock sculpture created by years of saltwater and weather.

"Bless our quest," they cry.

The connection between us is a fine thread. I raise my hand, and all is silent except for nature—the crashing of waves, calls of shorebirds, and crackling of the flames.

"We have called on grandmother to show us the way," I say. "Now rest. Let your minds wander. Listen for the answer. In the morning, we will make a plan."

I leave them, return to my bunk, and settle in for the night. Sleep overtakes my racing mind. I give in to her call without a fight.

***

In my dream, it's late March 2064. The cherry blossoms are in bloom on what used to be the SeaTech University campus. It feels as if I'm lingering in an old-world impressionist painting, except for the fact that many of the people milling around campus aren't human.

It's mostly Majika professors and errand-bots. I wander through campus, looking for the political science building, then hesitate…something isn't right.

Why do the cherry blossoms smell so sweet? The syrupy scent drips off of everything. It fills the air, and I feel nauseated.

I hear a high-pitched metallic sound. Now I'm in the old coffee shop. Oh, this is our place, where Tasman and I used to meet before class.

"Tasman. Where are you?" I call.

There's no response, but the metallic sound is louder. Now it's like a large knife scraping across metal.

I hear the drones. Their manufactured wings beating down on me like heavy rain on tin roofs.

I'm so hot. I'm suffocating. I can't move. They're bearing down on me …no… I'm dreaming… I'm...

Mayhem breaks loose.

Autonomous military weapons, drones, police vans, and warrior Majika roam the streets capturing humans.

Me and Tasman run out into the street just as mom's car pulls up in front of the coffee shop. I motion to her to stay in the car. My brother and I try to outrun a droid.

Tasman catches the droid's attention and leads it away from me.

Mom's car rolls up slowly, cautiously. Get in, she motions.

I want to get Tasman, but there's another drone hovering just outside the ally. Mom's car door opens.

"We have to get out of here, NOW!" she screams.

The police van is closing in on Tasman. He's not going to make it.

***

I wake up in a sweat. Tears fill my eyes the way rainwater fills a gutter that needs cleaning.

I know where they are! My mind screams. I jump up.

"I know where they are!" I shout.

It's sunrise. I head to the water to meet the tribe.

***

As the day breaks and the tide recedes, we harvest crab and say thanks to Kaia for the messages she sent us during the night.

Afterward, I begin by telling them about my plan.

"Last night, the Great Mother, Kaia, sent me a message. I dreamed I was on the SeaTech campus, and I was happy to be there. I saw Tasman as the police drones kidnapped him. I know that he and the rest of our tribe are there at SeaTech. I know that we must get into Common Grounds. We'll start here, at the mouth of the Columbia. Then travel to SeaTech by boat as much as we can. The more we can stay in the water, the better. They don't like water. The old Bertha tunnel is submerged, but there was room enough to paddle through last I saw it."

My suggestion conjures a familiar scene in our collective mind. This is a story we've grown up with—a prophecy that tells us humanity must be our own savior.

"Heading Southwest to Columbia waters, to the great ocean we flee," sing the tribe, "To the sea, where freedom be. . ."

It's a tune we all remember from childhood as every one of us had to escape the immigration camps in Common Grounds to get here to Penninsula Beach.

"Oshun, if you please." Kayla is the only woman here at home until we bring the others back. She's a brave, strong woman and as cunning a hunter and fighter as any other member of the tribe.

"Go on," I say.

"You know that my mother did believe in the prophecies," says Kayla.

"I do."

"Before she moved into the nether, she taught me how to make quilts," says Kayla. Her deep brown eyes lit from a holy fire within her soul.

"Yes. I've seen the quilts. You are a gifted artisan."

"Thank you, Oshun, but this isn't all. She told me that there would come a time that we would use our quilts to bring our family home."

"How so?"

"The patterns in the quilts serve as a map that let our tribe know where to meet us. In the old town, by the Bertha tunnel."

A collective exhale fills Oshun with faith that this is destiny working for humanity.

Kayla goes on, "Mother Ruth said the prophecy rose in her from an oral history that we've shared from the days when our ancestors were slaves to men. The Majika can't trace the stories because there was very little record and what there was, most people wrote off to legend. Majika don't understand this kind of thinking. We use songs to communicate. And the patterns on quilts that we pass out to the needy in Common Grounds will show them the escape route. I have twenty-five made so far. That's about as many people as we can take out at a time. There's plenty of fabric to make more."

Kayla continues her explanation, and I find myself slipping through time.

***

I hadn't thought about Ruth for many months. She was the mother and caretaker of our tribe. The hole she left behind when she passed away was sometimes too much to fill.

It's a stormy fall day, and we're looking for shelter. Ruth finds it first—a warehouse full of supplies. I can hardly believe it's still here after all this time. But sure enough, it's a blessing for us. There are coats, shoes, blankets, and …

"Look at all the fabric! Now I can make the freedom quilts!" Ruth cries.

I didn't know what she was talking about, and frankly, I was much more excited about finding boots. I'd been trudging through the forest and tidelands in the canvas shoes I was wearing the day she smuggled me out of the city. The blisters on my feet never healed because the shoes were always wet inside.

There were five of us then, and we carried as much as we could on our trek to the ocean, marking the spot so we could return to harvest more of the bounty later.

***

I realize that I haven't been listening as closely as I should, but Kyla is on fire, and it hardly matters where my mind is right now. She's already giving quilting lessons to the tribe.

At this moment, it dawns on me that Kayla has taken her rightful place as the caretaker. She learned all of the lessons, knew the prophecies backward and forward, and picked up Ruth's work as naturally as Ruth would have wanted.

"Wonderful," I say. We have a plan. "Kayla, gather the quilts you have. We'll go first, You, Jacob, Jude, and I. We'll re-establish our network to act as a supply chain for the quilts. The word will spread, and if we are creative, we can slip beneath The Electric Eye, past the Soul Shack, and directly into the front gate at SeaTech."

***

And so the Human Project continues. We shall not rest until all of humankind is safe from the Majika and its offspring.

Storm's Comin By Sharon Wilfong

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science fiction

Sharon Wilfong

I'm a freelance writer and fine art painter, living on the Long Beach Peninsula in Wahington.

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