I walk through the corridors of the city we used to call earth. For decades the city grew till nothing was left. The mountains disappeared, the rivers went dry and the woods were cut down.
In the headquarters, the central core of the hive, hundreds of robots are working, maintaining the system. They have to provide for sixty billion people. Sixty billion, in theory.
A short peak into the central hive is enough. Everything in order. Defective units are replaced automatically by their brothers. Everything is running like clockwork. For ever and ever.
The recycling tanks are equipped with even more robots doing waste separation. Iron, synthetics, bio mass, bodies. Lately there are more. The old people die, the young people flee into the virtual world. Only their bodies remain, empty shells staring into nowhere, connected to their computers.
The recreation areas have been abandoned. The evergreen parks, the training facilities, the glittering casinos, the sterile labs. Once every inhabitant had the opportunity to do anything. The last generation on the other hand seems to have lost every interest in that. They only life for the machines by the machines.
The same picture in the libraries. One robot in sleep mode is standing there behind the counter. As I approach, he wakes up and is waving, quite happy it seems, at me. Rolling on his tracks next to me, he offers a book – even an ancient paper print. William Gibsons Neuromancer Trilogy. I read that book as a teenager. I turn the book several times in my hands before handing it back to the robot. He puts it back to the shelfe and rolls over to his post. Back to sleep mode.
The tree farm, a green, happy recreation area, is full of tweeting birds. They are new, a product of the modern robotic factories. An information device is repeating data and commerce for these artificial units. The voice doing that is B88, the same unit doing my audio books. I like this voice, even though it is robotic and most probably doing all voice-overs now.
At the transformers lightings are running down the semiconductors. The energy level for the robot workforce is green, so everything’s alright. The robots working here do not notice me; at best I am a disturbance to them. An old unit with burn marks is removed; dead limbs are dragged over the grids of the catwalk. Two robots take over and throw the unit into the shaft of the conveyer belt to the recycling facilities. It will be recycled, melted and then transformed to another artificial life form, maybe a bird.
The next place to visit is the children’s cradle. No one there, empty and deserted. Not a single child all over the world. A deficit of the new generation, the result of no mating will.
A near holo theatre is showing Shakespeare’s Midsommer Night Dream. All the seats are empty. Even though I am there the holos are not paying attention by restarting the play. They just continue the act, wait for the applause that will not come, and restart. A tragedy after all.
I enter the paradise garden when I suddenly spot two people. My heart is beating like a drum. But their lack of interest in me is killing all hope. Just another two holograms, guardians of the gardens, the last spot of pure nature in the middle of the city.
In the space harbour ships of all sizes are waiting for launch. Robots are maintaining them, replacing parts, painting hulls and erasing dust. But for years none of the ships have started. The new generation is stuck in the virtual world, in their heads a prison without bars. They see people like me as old, fragile creatures of a yesterday.
So I follow the cold, deserted gangways of the world back to my housing complex. My personal robot is awaiting me, prepared my pod and heating it up.
I lie down and get connected.
“Sir, your body is going to have malfunctions soon. The next return may cause serious trouble. My advice is not to return”, the robot is saying with his monotone, emotionless voice. For a moment I think about that, than nod and start the connection to the virtual world.
Countless voices surge over my mind. Some are speaking directly to me; others address the void around me. But all voices want the same: an update about the outside world.
“Nothing has changed”, I respond and float away to the stream of the whole digital population. This idea was put to reality to conserve the minds and profiles of the old – like me. But over time less and less people returned and in the end this became reality for the world. The youth is even procreating here.
“All in order, friend?” something of the flow is asking. An old friend, seems like lots of millennia ago. “I cannot go back. My body, you know.“
“Sixty-three years. Even when we were young people lived longer“, my friend responds. I laugh about that. “Smoking, drinking, no sports. That killed me. However, a world like this was science fiction by than. At least to some of us. I visited the library, you know. The robot offered my Neuromancer Trilogy, paper print. I read this book at eighteen or something. I feel I turned to Wintermute.”
„Maybe I will take a peak. Before my body dies too. See you“, my friend is saying and leaves. I go with the flow. I speak to people, think about the past. Then I think about eternity, for eternity.
My real body is surely burning already. Or has burned, who knows. Time is irrelevant now.
Because for the outside world I have never existed.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Nicolai Rosemann.
Published on e-Stories.org on 25.11.2014.