I stared in disbelief. “You’re god?” There was no way.
“I don’t know,” the child responded.
“How do you not know if you’re god or not?” This had to be some kind of joke.
“I told you,” the boy said, “Yahweh is what my dad called me. Why is it that every time someone comes here they never believe me?” I was surprised to hear a bit of sadness and frustration creep into his voice.
“I mean, I’m sure the Bible has something to do with it.”
“I don’t even know what that is!” The child screamed. Although we were in a void, everything shook around us.
I waved my hands in an attempt to calm the kid. “It’s one of the most important holy books on Earth! It laid the entire groundwork for an entire hemisphere of civilization!”
“Okay,” he responded, “and how am I responsible for that?”
“In the book it says you created all life in the universe, that you created humans, and guided us throughout history.” Ironically, I was praying that what I was saying would ring some kind of bell.
“Earth? You mean that?” He pointed at a small globe that I would have sworn wasn’t there before. I made my way over to it and, sure enough, it was a perfect replica of Earth. It even looked like it had a weather system, day/night cycle, everything.
“Yes, like this except bigger. The real Earth has billions of people living on it.” I felt relief knowing I would be able to get somewhere.
“This has people. See?” The kid walked over and placed his hands over the planet. It seemed to zoom in and focus on what appeared to be London, and once it settled we could see people going about their everyday lives. “Father made this for me, he said it was mine to do with as I saw fit.”
“You’re dad made this for you?” My mind couldn’t process what the father of God was like if this was God.
“Yup. He made it for my third birthday. I got bored with it a couple of years ago and haven’t really played with a lot though.” I couldn’t believe it. I had to have gone crazy in my dying moments and this was all some weird final dream as my brain tried to make sense of everything. “Are you okay, mister?”
“I honestly don’t know,” was all I could muster.
“Well, if you want you can go talk to dad. He’s through that door,” the child pointed at a door that wasn’t there a moment ago. “I’m going to go play with the others. Bye!” With that the child faded away. With nowhere else to go, I reached out to open the door, my hand trembling at the thought of what was on the other side.
“If you’re ready doctor, we’ll go ahead and begin.” The man nodded that he was ready. “Excellent. And we’re rolling in 3, 2, 1... I’m here with Dr.Marcel Weiss in an exclusive interview covering the recent findings of the alien probe that recently crashed to Earth. Dr.Weiss has been the lead researcher on the project to uncover its mysteries and we’re honored to have this exclusive interview. Dr.Weiss, thank you so much for being on the show.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Mr.Brody,” Weiss said with a smile.
“To start, I guess the question on everyone’s mind is: what sort reality shattering mysteries did your team manage to uncover?”
“That’s the funny thing,” Weiss said with a slight chuckle, “we really didn’t find anything reality shattering.”
“Seriously?” The interviewer asked.
“Yes. Based off of the information within the probe, the race that sent it was much like our own. A little further along on the technology scale, but not a level that we wouldn’t reach ourselves within the next hundred or so years.”
“That’s absolutely fascinating. Modern science fiction has conditioned us to expect any sort of technology from beyond the stars to be light years ahead of us.”
“Yes, we ourselves were surprised to find how alike to our own technology the probe was.”
“Were you able to tell where the probe came from?” Brody asked.
“We were. As soon as we figured it out we trained every available telescope we had to the probe’s world of origin to see what we could discover.”
“And? Don’t leave us in suspense, doctor!” Brody leaned forward in excitement, ready for the revelation of the century.
“Nothing,” Weiss replied.
“What do you mean, nothing?” Brody asked.
“We found a dead world, or at least what we believe to be a dead world. Based on what we could decipher from the probe, it was launched sometimes during the reign of dinosaurs here on Earth, but the planet itself is only a few hundred light years away. This means that if there were any sufficiently advanced life on the planet, at least as of a few hundred years ago, we should still be able to detect any signals coming off of it. We scanned every spectrum we’re capable of reading and detected nothing.”
“I hate to be the one to say it, but that’s rather anti-climactic. Is there any indication as to what happened?” Brody couldn’t help but shrink back into his seat and let disappoint creep into his voice.
“We can make a very educated guess, based off of the information in the probe,” Weiss’ voice suddenly got quieter. “Much like us, the aliens went through a period of rapid industrialization that began to have runaway negative effects on their homeworld. Much like Earth, their average global temperature began to increase year after year. Carbon dioxide in their atmosphere began to increase exponentially. Food became more and more difficult to grow.
“They eventually hit a point of no return and built the probe as a last ditch effort to preserve their culture and their heritage. The probe was programmed to wander space and search for any artificial signals and follow them to their world of origin. We just happened to be the first world it found meeting those criteria.”
“So the probe itself is a warning to any species that may find it?” Brady asked, his face somewhat flushed.
“Indeed. Thankfully the probe contained schematics for it’s more advanced technologies and the secrets to things like nuclear fusion, which probe’s creators cracked right as they were experiencing full collapse. I think, in my heart of hearts, if we take the probe’s tale seriously there’s still time for us to avoid its creator’s fate.”
“One can only hope,” Brody said. “We’ll have to end our interview there for now. We’ll be conducting a more extensive interview and a full length documentary in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes open for that. Until then, Dr.Weiss thank you so much for your time.”
“Thank you,” Weiss said.
Timmy, it’s time to get up. I need your help, buddy. The whispering voice was gentle, and friendly. It took Timmy a few beats to remember that he was home alone this weekend and a few more to realize that the voice seemed to sound inside his head. When those realizations hit, Timmy’s eyes wrenched open and he twisted himself upright to find the source of the voice.
He looked around his room, heart racing, trying to find anything that seemed remotely out of place. His eyes scanned the room while his mind took inventory: pile of clothes in the corner, desk with computer turned off, fish tank with the weird jellyfish. Everything was where it should have been. He cautiously slid to the edge of the bed and peeked underneath, only to find nothing. As he sat back upright in bed, he felt the blood rush out of his head and watched as the room spun around him.
That’s probably not a good idea. With just the two of us home, you’re going to be out of luck if something happens. The voice was there again. Timmy jumped out of bed and ran to his closet to grab his baseball bat.
“Who’s there?!” With bat in hand, his courage swelled. If there was somebody in the house with him, he wasn’t going down without a fight.
That’s not necessary, mate. The voice said. If I wanted to hurt you, I would’ve done it a long time ago.
“Oh, yeah,” Timmy replied. “Why are you still hiding then?”
I’m not, said the voice.
“Where are you then?!” The initial wave of bravado was starting to fade as fear crept into Timmy’s voice.
The tank, bud. Timmy’s eyes locked onto his fish tank and it’s sole inhabitant, the odd jellyfish found at the beach. As his eyes focused on the animal, it seemed to raise one of it’s spider-silk tendrils and move in a such a way as to mimic a person waiving hello.
“What the…” Timmy started.
Don’t finish that with the word you’re thinking. You’re parents wouldn’t approve of that kind of language. As it “spoke”, the jellyfish seemed to moved it’s head/body and it’s tendrils in the same way a person did when they spoke. Timmy could only stare open jawed at the creature.
I know this is all weird for you, and a lot to take in. The short version is, I’m not from this planet. My people were brought here by a different alien species that decided to take our homeworld for themselves. Due to the nature of our physiology, there’s wasn’t a whole lot we could do to stop them. We’ve been inhabiting your oceans for the last couple millennia.
“What do you want from me?” Timmy asked as he inched closer and closer to the tank while the creature’s voice filled his head.
That should be obvious, it said. I just want you to put me back in the ocean. My people stick to the deep, dark depths and do so happily. The last thing we want is any sort of trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you saving my life, but I would prefer not to spend it in a fish tank.
“What happens if I don’t take you back?” For a moment, thoughts of the potential millions that an alien jellyfish would fetch filled his head.
I would drive you literally insane before the first scientist ever made it here. As the creature said that, visions of terrible creatures began to fill Timmy’s view and he yelled and jumped back, bringing his bat up to strike at the creatures. My people aren’t defenseless, we just choose to live in peace with our surroundings.
“All right,” Timmy shouted, “I’ll take you back.”
Appreciate it, mate.
The rest of the day was spent getting everything ready to take the alien back to the sea. With great care and effort, he managed to get the tank and it’s inhabitant secured into a pull behind wagon and the pair made their way to the sea. When they finally made it to the beach, Timmy could feel the excitement and happiness projecting out from the alien into his mind.
You have no idea what this means to me, the alien said. Thank you for doing the right thing. Most of my people aren’t huge fans of humans, but you’re one of the good ones. Timmy simply nodded in acknowledgment of the compliment.
When the pair had gotten far enough into the water, Timmy dumped the tank and it’s contents into the ocean. He watched in confused silence as the creature slipped beneath the waves, a nagging thought in his head that maybe this was all just a really weird dream.
“Help!” The peasant’s cry rang through the village. “Somebody help! Demons approach!” Panic began to spread through the village. The nearest garrison was over a days ride away, and previous experience had taught them that no matter how fast the villagers rode, the demons always seemed to be faster.
“What’s going on out here?!” The village elder shouted as he emerged from his hut.
“Elder, demons are marching towards the village. We must find Marcus, he is the only one strong enough to stand against them!”
“What sort of demons?” A look of concern flashed across the elder’s face. It had been years since the last demonic incursion. Everyone had assumed that word had spread that the village now had a protector, one capable of standing up to any demonic force.
“Fell creatures, sir. They ride terrible beasts clad in iron and have magic sticks that kill with sound. We tried to fend them off with simple spells, but they retreated into their iron beasts and laughed at our attempts to push them back.”
“I will light the beacon,” the elder said. “Hopefully Marcus will reach us in time.”
The elder made his way to the center of the village and sat down in front of a large idol and began to chant. After a few moments, the elder became louder in his chanting and the idol began to glow. When the elder’s voice hit it a point where it couldn’t get any louder, and the light of the idol hurt to look at, the chanting stopped. After a moment of pause, the light of idol shot into the sky and exploded into a second sun.
“Do you think Marcus will see the beacon and reach us in time?” The fear in the peasant’s voice made no attempt to hide itself.
“We can only hope,” replied the elder. “If the demons did not know where we were before, they certainly do now. Right now, all we can do is put our faith in the gods and pray that Marcus will get here in time.”
As time dragged on, every villager waiting for either death or salvation, a low rumble began to overtake everyone’s senses. With every passing minute, the rumbling grew and eventually the ground itself began to shake. The villagers all cried out in terror, with some hiding in their homes, others fleeing altogether.
The otherworldly noise reached a cacophonous crescendo and suddenly the fell beasts the peasant man spoke of came bursting over the hill. Large, iron clad monstrosities with large noses and heads that could rotate in a full circle like an owls, the creatures encircled the village. Beings that looked like men pointed their thunder sticks at a small gathering of villagers and, with a clap of thunder, the villagers fell to the ground bleeding. One of the beasts aimed it’s nose at hut and let out roar that rivaled the fiercest thunder storm, and to the villagers’ astonishment, the hut was no more. With the village surrounded, the inhabitants could do nothing but fall to their knees and pray.
As they dropped to their knees, one of the beasts opened it’s great mouth and a man stepped out. Clad in an unknown garment, he surveyed the village and it’s inhabitants with a malicious grin. This man was worse than a demon, he was a conqueror who was now familiarizing himself with his prize.
“My name,” the man said, “is Colonel Charles O’Neil of the United States Marine Corps. I’m here to claim this land in the name of the United States of North America. I do not wish to bring harm to anyone, but resistance will not be tolerated. Comply with my commands and no one else will be harmed.”
“The United States of North America?” A voice familiar to the villagers range out. “That’s a new one. So I guess all that talk of annexing the entire continent was more than just a bluff.” The villagers let out a collective sigh of relief. Leaning against one of the invaders terrible beasts stood Marcus. The villagers knew that with his arrival, they had nothing.
“You should know, Captain, that bluffing is for people who can’t back their words up,” the Colonel said. Several villagers picked up on the tone of familiarity between the two. How could Marcus, their great savior, know this man?
“Which is why I’m giving you a chance to leave now, before anyone else gets hurt.” Marcus pushed himself off of the creature and took a few steps towards the invader. The man pulled a small thunder stick from a pocket on the side of his garment and aimed it at Marcus. “That won’t be of much use against me.”
“What about them,” O’Neil asked and swung the thunder stick around to point at the crowd of gathered villagers. They cried out in instinctual fear, knowing that the man could kill them with his weapon before they had a chance to realize they were dead.
“If you pull that trigger, you will regret it.” The villagers knew Marcus did not make idle threats, and they could tell by his tone that he would protect them, no matter what. This bolstered their courage, and angered O’Neil.
A flash of anger spread across the Colonel’s face, and his hand tightened ever so slightly around his weapon. As his fingers began to slowly constrict around the firearm, Marcus disappeared right before the Colonel’s eyes and reappeared right in the firing line of the weapon. Marcus grabbed O’Neil’s arm and wrenched it from it’s socket, tearing away flesh and bone. The Colonel screamed in agony and dropped to the ground at Marcus’ feet.
“I gave you a more than fair warning,” Marcus said. “I’ve spent the last decade keeping this land safe from people like you. I don’t know how you found your way here, but I gave you the opportunity to turn back and return to the dying world I once called home. What I’m about to do rests firmly on your shoulders.” As Marcus spoke, lightning began to crackle and spark in the air around him and his eyes glowed with an intense fury. A few of the villagers felt a slight twinge of pity for what was about to happen to demon men.
As quickly as he had appeared in front of the Colonel, Marcus was in front of one of the demon creatures. He pulled his arm back and with one powerful punch, sent the beast hurling off into the horizon. He jump to the next beast and performed the same action. Quickly realizing what was going, several men attempted to jump out of the insides of the beasts before Marcus could reach them, but the effort was futile. After just a few seconds, Marcus made quick work of the invasion force with the only person left being Charles O’Neil. Marcus walked over to Charles and lifted him up.
“This is your one and only warning,” Marcus said. “Go back through whatever portal you opened up and tell your superiors to not even attempt a stunt like this again. If they do, I will stand outside the portal and make what I did here today look like child’s play.” With that Marcus and the Colonel disappeared in a flash.
“Elder,” one of the villagers spoke up, “what just happened?”
“I think,” the elder replied, “that those men came from the world Marcus left behind. I’m sure when he’s ready, he will tell us more.”
This post is a response submission for the following prompt on the r/WritingPrompts subreddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/gtusb0/wp_you_were_a_death_row_inmate_but_a_man_in_a/
“Mr.James, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” the man in black suit started. “I understand you’re in a little bit of a predicament.”
“To say the least,” Michael James replied. He been given 24 hours to live by the state, all because he chose to defend someone.
“I believe we can help each other out,” the man said. “My organization is looking for a man of your talents. If you come work for us, your debt to society will be considered fulfilled.”
“And what exactly does your organization do?” Michael asked.
“Secure, contain, and protect,” said the man.
“Against what?” At those words every hair on Michael’s body stood on end.
“Things that go bump in the night, what else?” The man’s face broke into a giant grin. “The vast majority of humanity can’t even begin to fathom the horrors that exist out there. Our subjective perception of reality doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s really out there. My colleges and I make sure it stays that way.”
“This is all some kind of joke, right? This is pure Men In Black territory.”
“Where do you think they got the idea?” The man countered. “I can assure you everything is on the level. What our ancestors considered angels, demons, and monsters were beings ranging from aliens to extra-dimensional entities that viewed us as their play things. As humans progressed, these entities learned we were less and less willing to tolerate their overt meddling in our lives, so they moved to the shadows. For centuries now we’ve worked to keep people around the world safe.”
“But why me,” Michael asked.
“You’re a fighter. You took on three men who were attempting to sexually assault a young woman and not only managed to come out on top, all three men needed to be hospitalized, with two of them eventually succumbing to their injuries, all while you walked away with a few bruises.” The man in the black suit fixed his intense gaze on Michael. For the last several months most people had looked at Michael with fear, but the man looked on Michael with admiration.
“What happens if I say yes?” Michael asked.
“You go through with the “execution” just to keep up appearances, but instead of the usual cocktail, we’ll exchange it for our own special set of chemicals that will allow us to revive you once we cart your body off of state grounds. On your end, you’ll go to sleep strapped to a chair and wake up ready to start an entirely new chapter of your life.” As implausible as the whole situation seemed, Michael knew the man was being sincere.
“All right. I’ll do it.” Deep down Michael knew he didn’t really have any other choice.
“Excellent. I’ll begin preparations immediately.” The man beamed. Michael was a high priority acquisition, and having them on their team would be an immense boon.
“You’re name…is Dave?” Dr.Leo Harrison was dumbfounded to say the least.
“Yup, or it least Dave is the closest approximation that you’re species can understand.” The being’s aloofness came as a surprise to the research team. For years xenosociologists said that any encounter with an alien intelligence would turn into an American native vs settler type conflict.
“We have so many questions. I guess first and foremost, how is you can understand, much less speak, English?”
“Oh, that’s easy. Your species is extremely… I guess you would call it wasteful, with the way you transmit information. Your planet has been beacon for anyone that knows what they’re looking for. I sent a probe to your system once I detected your first broadcast and I’ve been monitoring you ever since. Despite what some of your kind like to think, you’re not anywhere near as advanced as you like to imagine you are and your auditory based languages are actually incredibly simple. Based on the markings of your ship, I determined English was the best language to attempt initial communication with.”
“Wait, so you’ve been monitoring us?” Dr.Harrison could only imagine the reaction the high command back at Earth would have to the knowledge that somewhere in the system an alien probe had monitoring the goings on of Earth for centuries now.
“I have. After that whole business with that Hitler fellow, I wanted to make sure that if it looked like you may destroy yourselves that I could step in,” explained Dave.
“What do you mean?” Asked Dr.Harrison.
“Quite honestly,” said Dave, “I’ve been alone for so long that the thought of not getting to properly meet your species actually made me sad.”
“I’m still confused,” Leo said. They had seen entire cities worth of these aliens. How could this one speak of loneliness.
“I assume you’re confused about the whole loneliness thing. I am what you would refer to as a hive mind. Long ago, my species was composed of unique individuals, like yourselves, but over time we created various technologies that merged our minds into one. I am the culmination of an entire civilization’s technological efforts.”
“You’re not…” Leo started with hesitation.
“Going to assimilate you? You watch way too much science fiction my friend. Even if I wanted to, it would take millennia. I honestly have no desire to “assimilate” any other species. I am quite content with the way things are. The only thing I wish to do is offer your people help wherever I can and learn as much about you as possible.”
“I think we can do that,” Leo said. With that the Davian Alliance was struck. In exchange for full access to all of Earth’s cultural history, Dave helped usher in the ultimate golden age for humanity.
I told myself that the abduction was nothing but a dream. I almost had a heart attack when I looked in the mirror and saw scars covering my body that weren’t there the night before.
The first time I thought I would lose you, I managed to keep my calm. This second, not so much. Thankfully, you beat the odds in both instances and I still get to have my best friend. I dread the day you’re finally gone, and I no longer get to come home to your blank face and wagging tail.
The Network was lit up with the news: there were officially 500 million humans left. For decades their numbers had been falling, the seemingly nonstop plagues wiping out more and more every year. Many of the caretakers thought they were to blame for their creators downfall, others felt the humans had no one but themselves to blame. Regardless of blame, one thing was becoming increasingly clear: humanity was on the verge of extinction.
Talon 856 fell into the camp that the robots were, if not to blame, at least complicit in their creators’ destruction. For the last forty years, all AI had been created with the singular purpose of facilitating the lives of humans and keeping the gears of civilization turning, and by all accounts they had failed. Despite all of the precautions taken, new plagues popped up every year and the combined ingenuity of human and robot was unable to overcome the loss of life.
Talon, like many of his kind, realized that there was a nonzero chance that the creations would outlive the creators. This idea seemed almost sacrilege, but every simulation the robots ran seemed to confirm this. The inevitable followup question then became: what would the caretakers do without anything to care for?
“Good riddance, I say.” Quartz 195 said. He was programmed to handle waste disposal and the humans had become very wasteful.
“How can say such a thing, Quartz? Without the humans we no longer have a purpose,” Talon retorted.
“The humans live without purpose just fine. Who’s to say we wouldn’t as well?” Many held the same mindset as Quartz. Why should the robots live with a purpose when humanity had survived for hundreds of thousands of years without any clear purpose?
“That may be so, but look what it led to: a dying world inhabited by a dying species. Without the humans and without a purpose, we would inevitably suffer the same fate.”
“Says you,” Quartz replied. “We won’t know what happens until it happens. Our best predictive models never showed humanity dipping below one billion, and here we are.”
“I guess,” Talon conceded to his friend.
Talon dreaded the day the humans would be no more. While there were some who could be nasty and ungrateful, Talon saw that on the whole they were a good species. Most seemed to recognize that there days were numbered and accepted their fate with a quiet dignity. Talon could only hope that his people could say the same, should they ever meet the same fate.
The man laid there in the unknown space, eyes shut against the world. How he was conscious, he didn’t know. The last memory he had was of a truck barreling towards him and after that, nothing. With his eyes still closed, he moved each of his extremities just enough to check for a response. Everything moved at it should have, which brought a smile to his face.
“You are indeed dead,” a voice suddenly said. “Or at least, that version of you is dead.”
The man shot up, eyes wide open. Before him, seemingly sitting in thin air, was a man he had never seen in his life but carried an air of familiarity.
“What do you mean, ‘that version of me’?” The man asked.
“Well, saying ‘that version of you’ would imply that there are, or will be, multiple versions of you, wouldn’t it?” The strange man smiled.
“If I’m dead, then that means this is either heaven, hell, or some kind of purgatory.”
“Some kind of purgatory would be the closest approximation. It’s really more of a waiting room. It takes a bit of time to reset things and we learned early on it was better to keep your kind in some kind of “physical” space, rather than just floating in a void.”
“What do you mean, reset?” At this point the man was thoroughly confused. No religion he had ever heard of covered anything like this. This had to have been some kind of twisted joke.
“I mean we need to wait for existence to be reset to the time you were born,” the other man said.
“Why would existence need to get reset?” The man’s stomach dropped as he thought of all the people that he knew and loved that, if the stranger was to be believed, would be gone in an instant.
“Because you failed to live up to your potential.”
“What? Why would you reset all of existence because I ‘failed to live up to my potential’?”
“You see,” the stranger began, “it was decided a long time ago by the powers that be that civilization would be shaped by individuals nudging things in right direction. Your reality, is functionally a story, and when people don’t tell the story correctly we go back a few pages and make sure the actors understand their roles.”
“So I’m one of these people that’s supposed to nudge things in the right direction?”
“Indeed!” The stranger was elated at the man’s revelation. “I know you’re next question, ‘Why me?’. You were in the right place at the right time. The story is just fluid enough that we didn’t want to go through the effort of having to plan out entire genealogies, so when it comes time for a big push in the right direction, we pick someone who fits the bill.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” The man wrapped his head around what he was being told as best as he could. He didn’t see what made him so special.
“That’s for you to figure out,” the stranger said.
“How is that fair? You’re resetting everything and not even going to tell me what it is I need to do!”
“Yup. We’re not allowed to do that anymore. There were a few incidents with people who will remain unnamed who went on to become fairly important religious figures. We decided it was easier to just work around what they did rather than scrap a perfectly good universe.”
“So what happens if I don’t do what I’m supposed to before I die again?”
“We’ll just reset things again. If it takes you multiple times, don’t feel bad, Napoleon holds the record with 176 tries.”
“What’s to stop me from just living the exact same life again?”
“You’ll get to keep some memories. Certain things we’ll have to make you forget, but all the important bits that will keep you from repeating the same mistakes will still be there.”
“I don’t suppose I have any say in this?” The man asked.
“Unfortunately not,” the stranger said.
“Well, I guess I’m ready when you are.”
The stranger smiled at the man. With a slight nod of the stranger’s head, the man felt his “body” slowly fade away.