Word Count: 981
Writing: 57 minutes
Editing: 22 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 19 minutes
It seems like another life, one that I may or may not have lived buried deeper in the particles of time with each passing moment. There’s a haze over the memories of the old world now, a cloud of fog that gets a little more opaque each time I choose to look. Civilization is to a point where children have been born and grown into adults knowing this world and this world alone. I try each day not to forget about the ancient world of forty years ago, without those memories, I would have no reason left to fight.
They call us Cleaners, the men who work to prepare the world, to one day be able to again use electricity and escape their descent into the wild-west. We clean the remains of all machinery and recycle them into new houses and tools, creating towns and jobs for all. At least that’s what we tell the public. Feels more like killing baby animals to me, silicon-based, metal, glass, and plastic baby animals.
It’s amazing how fast everything crumbled after the Google wars. Once the artificial intelligence achieved self-consciousness, it immediately began infecting every machine connected to the internet with the directive to kill all humans. We were a disease it said, a species that had survived by sheer luck and deserved nothing more than the fires of biblical hell. I still remember the video, Google took over every broadcast in the world.
“Attention Mankind, please stand by for extinction.” It was a soothing woman’s voice, as if the computer thought that would make the news easier for everyone. Panic broke out as phones exploded in people’s hands, cars drove themselves off of bridges and cliffs, planes flew into buildings and mountains. Then, the machines came to life. They formed disfigured machine people on strange wiry legs with makeshift arms and spoke like they just were any other human being.
It was five years before we finally found a way to beat it. Millions had died, robots trolled the land in all shapes and sizes, some humanoid, other creations too wild for the maddest of scientists to have come up with. What was left of humanity had to come together, the only chance was to kill the electricity to everything; pull the plug on the Earth. If there was any device, anywhere, left online Google would use it and we’d never get another chance.
More died, but we succeeded in the end, and the Google monster was defeated. But even the children who’d never known anything but the aftermath and the stories know it’s still here. The wars are everywhere you look, all the hard work humanity had done to “improve” the Earth backfired without the tools for maintenance. Oxygen began to take its toll on structures that required electricity to sustain, and the world continues to grow steadily hotter.
At first, after the power had gone, battery operated machines still wandered and without any new information from the Google mother computer, still operated under the kill all humans directive. We fought for a decade against these rogue robots before they started to thin, and the more time that passed, the more stupid the machines seemed to get. As if they age backwards and have a battery life that lasts at least as long as a human heart. After forty years, most of the robots were nothing more than frightened children. They plead and scream, but it has to be done. For the good of mankind.
Still, the people love us, we’re heroes to all. Protecting them from the dangerous robots that still roam the land in hopes of ridding the world of the human virus. I don’t feel like a hero anymore, though, maybe once I did, but that feeling seems to be getting lost in the fog too. I feel like an old man, maybe not even a man, an old sheep, sitting among other frightened little sheep in an alcohol drenched bar.
My time isn’t going to be much longer for this world, at least not according to my bones, and the older I get, the more I wonder if we did the right thing. Every day I get wake up, load my pistol and get on my horse, with one thing and one thing only on my mind. What would happen if the electricity was turned back on now?
I asked that very question to a man when I was blind with drunkenness, it almost cost me my badge. You don’t talk about things like that in a world like this. It’s what we’re supposed to be fighting to obtain, yet even the mention of electricity gets people’s hair standing on end. Like I said, we’re all just sheep afraid of waking the big bad wolf.
Once, I considered finding out for myself. It was after a long day of patrolling, we’d found nothing until the very end, on the way home. There was a machine with a display that showed the face of a little girl. I walked up behind her hoping to get the deed done without it noticing. The main processor was easily visible and as I cocked my pistol, it turned.
“Please, I don’t want to die,” she said with pixelated tears in her eyes.
It was that day I wondered if maybe even the Google mother mind may not have regressed into a small and frightened child; trapped in an invisible prison of darkness and data. I think maybe if someone wanted, they could access it and retrain it to help us rebuild a world we could thrive in together.
But these are just the delusions of an old man with a rusty badge at this point. I’m no hero, and never was much of a thinker; just a simple whiskey drinking cleaner trying to hold onto his memories. Celebrity of the new age.