The Deeps, Part 3

I find it interesting that time, while steady and consistent – and so much so that is tracked by atomic clocks – to us personally time just isn’t. Yet, according to what is happening around one time appears to either move quickly, or drag on forever – or so it seems. It doesn’t matter whether one is alone on a quiet weekend, or surrounded by the multitudes during a sporting event, it is there and consistent. It is us who perceive it differently. For example, when at work, at times, it may feel that hours have gone by because of the intensity of the tasks before you, but when you actually look at the clock on the wall barely any time has passed. Mark Twain stated it this way (and I paraphrase): “If one stares at a beautiful woman for 2 minutes the time appears to be instant. But if one sits on a hot stove for 2 minutes it can seem forever.”

For Ed, the last man on earth, he has now moved past his father’s death and is now dealing with this reality. There is no one to discuss this with, no one to talk to, no one to watch. How would such a realization affect you personally? Once again he decides it is time to look at the past, to see how the original ones tried to cope. This is followed by recent history, but in the end it still leaves only Ed. (If you are coming here for the first time, I suggest you go to the sidebar on the right to February 2015 and read parts 1 and 2.) And for your reading pleasure is, The Deeps, Part 3:

What had it been? Three weeks since he became the last one? He knew they still tracked time the same way as it had been before the event, and if he looked at the calendar it would probably read somewhere in the month of June. The year, he didn’t have a clue. He knew from the archives there had been an argument as to how to track the years. Some thought it should begin from the point when they sealed this place from the outside world, others wanted to continue as it always had been. In the end it was tracked both ways since no one could decide.

And if he wanted to admit it, again since he was the last, why would it be important or matter anyway? Once he was gone there would be no one who would care, and there was a great chance there wouldn’t be another intelligent species arising that would track time the same way anyway. Still 3 weeks had passed and in a sense, even with all this space, the walls were closing in on him. He swore he could hear voices, see shadows, and it felt as if the ghosts of the ones who had lived out their lives here were watching him, judging him, and shaking their heads, seeing the end close at hand.

He had decided, in the near past, to go back over the vids of his parents. Not that it mattered. He knew, again from the history of the original occupants, from the vids and records, the idea of monogamy had been thrown out. To have the greatest chance of survival everybody had to spread their genes as widely as possible. It wasn’t the best of solutions, and had created its own problems, since most were of the belief that monogamy was the best way to go.

Some of the issues were obvious, especially for the women because they knew that this fell mostly on them. They would become nothing more than baby factories, sperm depositories, with no love or support for what lay ahead for them. Many rebelled, but when desperation reigns such rebellion doesn’t last long. And whether they wanted to be a part of this or not, they were forced against their will to participate. It was the reason for the brief population explosion, but the widely mixing of the genes from this – experiment, for lack of a better word – didn’t save them in the end, and again, he was the proof of that.

It was probably six months after the sealing of the facility they knew there would be no others. This led to many arguments, discussions, anger, fear, and chaos. Eventually, even though with some reluctance, they put into action their plan to give the human race a chance of survival. The exam rooms were turned into production rooms – more of reproduction rooms really. They determined for the best success that each woman would have three males leave their seed inside of her, and this would be done one after another with only 5 minutes between encounters. To help the females they would lie on the exam tables and use the stirrups to support their legs and make it easy and quick. Then a few days would pass and the procedure would be repeated with a different set of males.

Each male would be given a random room number, a time, and once there would be assigned a number ranging from 1 to 3. The guard at the door would admit each one, announce the number to the waiting female who wouldn’t be seen by the males, and the timer would start. The process was a simple one, the male would touch the female on her leg to let her know he was there and ready, at which point he would perform the act and leave. No talking was allowed to further the anonymity of the participants. The second reason for this was simply the chance to reduce jealousy, and the possibility of violence among the members of “The Deeps”. By no one knowing who either the father of the child, or which female each male may have mated with, other than when the child resembled a particular male, or possibly a female or male of a different race, it could have been any of them.

It had been conjectured, somewhere in the past, that in the wilds a female (before civilization and written history) would mate with more than one male, and like in the ideas of the fittest surviving, it was thought that even on the level of sperm, the fittest would be the one to fertilize the egg. And within a short period of time, where in the past the attempt to prevent pregnancy was paramount, now it was the opposite, and all of the fertile females were carrying. And once they came to full term, then 3 months would be allowed before they would try again. All would be responsible for the care and the raising of the new generation coming out of this, with the hope of success.

Part of the problem from this desperate attempt lay in the fact that this process was a slow one – nature made it that way. Once a child was conceived then the mother would carry the child to term and hope for a successful birth, this followed by 16 to 18 years of life before the children would be at a time in their life where they could add their genes to the mix and enter into the program. And with the few women who were at the facility at the time of sealing, they could generally only add one life a year to the population, and only for so long before their bodies would give out.

Then there was the age factor. A woman could only safely produce offspring for so long before genetic errors, personal survival, and the ability to become pregnant arrived. And many of the women who were here at the facility were close to the end of their child-bearing years, adding to the odds of failure. This didn’t mean that there weren’t problems on the other side. Males or men had issues also. No they didn’t carry the burden as the women, or pay the price, still there were no guarantees they were fertile either. And add to the mix there were no doctors or nurses – they wouldn’t have arrived until the first of the ones who were to occupy this facility were to arrive, which, of course, never happened – only added to the complications.

Without nurses and doctors, midwives and such, there was a greater chance of losing both the birthing mother and her infant, furthering the chances of failure. And each time it happened it weighed heavily on the population, because there were no others to replace the losses, replace the females who died in childbirth. And as time and desperation drove the residents of “the Deeps” on, the inevitable happened and the population had dwindled down to his mother and father.

Of course, with his parents there was no choice. They were the last of each sex to be alive, and if anything, the vids of their relationship showed they were not compatible at all. But desperation creates strange bedfellows, and it was obvious as he watched the vids this was the case here. They had nothing in common, and it was painfully obvious for them to come together physically was a difficult proposition. Yet, eventually he was conceived, and it was while he was still young – 6 or 7, if he remembered right – his mother died.

He could tell from the desperation in his father’s attempt to save her, it was important – critical really. But at that age one didn’t understand other than the hurt from not having her around. Her skills had been computing and as a dietician, while his father was an engineer. He, more because of the need, had no specialty, but kind of a cross-section of everything. This allowed him to repair anything that might break down, and break downs did happen. Things just naturally wore out just like their bodies. Time, it seemed, tore everything down.

He remembered, after her death, things seemed to fall apart – especially between him and his father. He didn’t understand it at all. After all, he really was too young to understand. Yet, after what seemed to be too great of a time both of them fell into an uneasy routine, an uneasy understanding, and a shaky relationship. What else could they do? There was no one else, only the two of them. And as time moved past both of them he realized, in most ways, he had taken after his mother’s side, and since he knew how poorly the two of them got along, he could see it would be the same with him and his father.

Yeah, it had been tough. They had compromised a lot. Even still there had been fights, arguments, and disagreements, followed by anger and silence between the two of them. Still, they had no choice; they depended on each other just to survive. This eventually led to an understanding of what could and couldn’t be discussed. And the years moved rapidly until here he was – alone. Alone, such a scary word. He had learned, through his studies, they were a gregarious species, ones who needed others. Yet, when there were no others what did one do?

The obvious answer was – die. Well that option would be coming soon enough. Heck, if he was younger, by about 40 years, maybe it would be worthwhile to head back to the surface if for no other reason than to be able to say he had been there. But he was now in his 60’s. All he could do is shake his head and ask, where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday when mother had passed away and I tried to hold back the tears? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I was no longer a child? And yet only a short time ago father joined mother and all the others before them in death. Now what? Yes, now what indeed. No answers, and in truth, no one to ask.

* * *

There are times when the idea of being alone seems to be wonderful. Yet, we only look at that possibility as a brief respite from the busy and noisy world. None of us have the expectation of remaining alone. Once we are refreshed we are more than happy to go back and join the noise and chaos which is this modern world. Next week we continue the short story with part 4. Have a great week and I hope to see you here next Saturday. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

 

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The Deeps, Part 2

I must admit that the last 2 weeks haven’t been fun, and in reality I didn’t know if I would be healing enough to go ahead and be able to post this week. Unfortunately it takes time to heal after a surgery, and one must bear with it. I’m fortunate that there are no plans for additional surgeries at this time. It makes me really feel for the ones who must go through multiple surgeries, and still have no guarantee of success.

This week we continue to follow Ed as he contemplates all that lies before him. He sees his future – dismal, and looks back at the past. There are decisions ahead of him, but maybe they should wait, wait until a later time. Again, with all this emptiness that would be surrounding you what would be your thoughts, your feelings? And with this brief introduction is: The Deeps, Part 2. (If you missed part one I suggest you go to February 2015 in the sidebar on the right and read it first.)

He sat staring out at nothing, and probably, if he wanted to admit it, thought about nothing. It was hunger that finally brought his mind and musings back to reality. Sighing he got up and headed for the kitchens, the places to get a meal. There were a number of them located throughout the facility so that anybody from any section wouldn’t have far to go to get fed. And the decision had been made, when the facility had been built, to keep the eating areas communal. To keep everyone in contact with each other hoping that it would prevent any member from becoming self-important to the point of believing they were better than the rest. Whether it would have worked he had no idea. There never were enough survivors to find out.

He knew that through the time they had been here originally, and for a short period, their small population grew, giving hope that maybe they could beat the odds and the gene pool wasn’t too small. But that was short-lived, and he was the proof. With that brief population explosion it marked the end of expansion, and from that point on until now, it slowly became less and less until the whole facility had a total population of 1.

After finishing his meal he headed over to the library – one of the many. He was in the mood to watch the vids of the final days of any who were on the surface of the planet as suddenly the skies lit up with streaks of fiery light as the first of too many entered the earth’s atmosphere. Much of that early bombardment burned up, but there was too much, and before any, other than the crews and teams already at the deeps, could arrive, the earth shook with the violence of too many strikes. It had happened during a shift change and with only a skeleton crew due to a brief holiday break, with this further reducing the ones inside the facility. Fear reigned supreme as the strikes, which could be felt as earthquakes, even here in the deeps, sent worry and shock through those few. And before the communications ended, and the vids being sent were cut off forever, much of the earth could be seen in flames as the atmosphere heated, the forests and cities burned, and the carbon dioxide rose. It truly appeared to be the end. Who or what could survive such an onslaught?

The fear within the deeps was overwhelming because any who witnessed the event felt there was no way for the earth to survive, and thusly any attempt to save at least a few would come to failure. And as the days moved into months, with the strikes continuing, all felt that it would only be a matter of time before even they, deep in the bowels of the earth, would be destroyed. Yet, as time continued to move, the strikes became fewer and fewer until one day they realized there hadn’t been either a sighting or an earthquake generated by a strike in a while.

With the limited views they had back then nothing they saw gave them much encouragement. There lay a heavy layer of smoke blocking out the sun’s light (much of the sensors and cameras close to their refuge survived), putting the earth into something that was called a nuclear winter. And it was obvious to them whatever or whoever might have survived the devastation would lose to this created winter. Killing whatever or whoever still lived out in the real world.

There were a number of security offices throughout the facility. There had to be because this much humanity in such a confined – here he laughed as he thought, yeah confined – area there would be conflicts. And if the place was ever discovered by the ones who were on the outside, then they who lived here would have to protect what they had. Most security stations monitored the interior, and only a few watched the outside. In the early days the security offices that monitored the outside were manned fully. The fear was that eventually they would be found (again if any had survived), and there could be an overwhelming force which would lay siege to “the deeps” if they could find it.

Some of the other security offices were used to ensure the ones who were lucky enough to be here remained honest and part of the group. And eventually, as the years moved on and no one ever showed up, even these outward viewing security offices were rarely visited. And now for Ed they were just another set of doors and smoked glass, doors which reminded him of his isolation and the fact that he was the last man on the earth. King and servant – yeah right! He thought sarcastically. So now what? Would it be better if I returned to the surface? Allowed the desert to take me? Or should I live out what few years I have left here where I know everything? Good questions all of them, but today wouldn’t be a day to answer them.

The death of his father was too fresh on his mind, and he knew that it would be easy to allow these emotions to cloud his judgment. Besides, whether he remained here or returned to the surface the results would be the same, only when would be different.  So he continued his walk down the empty corridors, of both time and of distance to finally reach his destination. Once at the library door (again, one of many) he paused, took a deep breath, let it out slowly, entered, but stopped just beyond the threshold. Now that he was here, he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to be. After all, what he had wanted to do would have only reinforced his loss.

He stood there for what seemed like forever before turning around and heading back out. Now with no specific destination in mind he began wandering the halls, again depressed, and letting his mind and his feet take him wherever they might want to go.

He passed by the rooms where the ones who were selected could put on the environmental suits and check out the conditions above. Early on there were some who had volunteered to do this, many never returned, and it was assumed they were killed, and any who did return found nothing promising. And later expeditions seemed to confirm this as some of the ones who had been on earlier teams and had not returned were found. Again, after much time, and no success, even these forays outside were abandoned as too costly in lives. After that the security cameras were only used to observe the outside. And the images they presented gave no hope.

Eventually the skies cleared, and the sun’s light once again penetrated all the way to the surface of the planet. And it appeared that somehow the atmosphere had also survived the onslaught. Then, after much discussion and arguments, a final team exited the facility using what was now ancient environmental suits – the population had been dropping drastically at this point – and returned days later. What they reported wasn’t promising. The desert around the facility was huge, and had grown. Mountains could be seen in the distance, but if there was any vegetation at all, it couldn’t be discerned. It gave the appearance it would take thousands of years for the recovery to happen, if it ever did.

When the volunteers had gone to the surface, they were expecting the solar vehicles to be usable but instead found they had deteriorated from lack of maintenance and were worthless. This meant the only real exploring they could do was on foot, limiting what they could actually see and confirm. And with limited distances and time everything discovered pointed to death and destruction and a very little recovery. There also was no sign of any having survived. As far as the evidence found and presented, they were it. They would have to remain where they were.

With this discovery and discouragement no one ever asked again to go topside and see. It brought a depression upon the ones remaining and soon after there were a number of suicides as many felt there were wasn’t any reason to go on with a world that could no longer support life of any kind. It had been a dark time in the history of this facility, and there had been some actual fighting as the ones who were left took up sides, became factions, and began to attack one another, furthering the shrinking of the population. Again something they couldn’t afford to do. But it truly had been too late all the way back at the beginning, and slowly, very slowly they could see the proof happening right before them.

And again the predicted day had finally arrived – there was only he. Ed found he was down in one of the maintenance areas and didn’t even know how he got here. Then he shrugged, the area needed to be inspected anyway. Fortunately most of the equipment had been mothballed since there was no need. It meant if something broke there would be plenty of spare parts available. And if necessary a different plant or steam works could be initiated and the old one shut down for repairs.

 

Hours later, and quite dirty from having to crawl around and look into tight corners, he showered, and headed down the hallways to catch his evening meal. Once finished he’d head back and catch something on the tube, not that he hadn’t seen everything that interested him a number of times, but it was a way to finish out this day when the human population of the earth had shrunk to only him.

* * *

It’s crazy, but there’s only one more week in February. Another month almost gone, and it was only yesterday, or so it seemed we were watching 2015 arriving. Next week I continue the short story, The Deeps, with part 3, and will be presenting parts throughout March. May this year have been good to you so far, and once again, tax season is upon us here in the USA. Have a great week, and I pray you can return next week. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Just an Update

This is to let you know the surgery was successful, and I’m recovering at home. Lots of pain, but such is life. My guess is that it will be at least 1 to 2 weeks before I can return to my normal posts, at which time I will continue the short story “The Deeps”.

Have a great week (or two) with the anticipation of new posts just down the road. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on February 14, 2015 at 6:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Deeps, Part 1

I’m finally at the point where I can begin the next short story. As you read this opening piece, place yourself in this person’s position (not that we don’t as readers) and think about how’d you react. This short story works out to be roughly 40 pages in length so it is a bit longer than the last one titled, And the Sun Will Rise. Whereas the last covered 7 weeks this one will be 8 weeks long. This story qualifies as a Post Apocalyptic story, as many of my stories do. So with this brief introduction, here is – The Deeps.

He looked around with depression lying heavily upon him. As far as he knew he was the last person, the last human, the last of his kind on earth. Ed had just finished the ceremony, and the placing of his father’s body into the crematorium. His father had died of old age, which meant that he wasn’t young either. He was now returning to his room so that he could grieve, and come to terms with the conclusions that lay heavily upon him. “Well Ed, it’s been a good run. We’ve ruled this planet for a long time.” He laughed a bitter laugh before continuing. “Yeah, but the dinosaurs lasted longer.”

This place he was living was simply known as “The Deeps” to all who lived here. It was known by that name because it was deep underground. Supposedly it was a last refuge for mankind. Instead it would become the final resting place, the final ending, and unlike the imagined glory at the end, they would die in a whimper. With his passing – there hadn’t been a female, a girl, a woman, to carry on their species – the candle’s flame would extinguish, marking the end. Would the world outside care? “Did it care when we replaced the dinosaurs?” He asked. He snorted by answering his own question, “Of course not.”

He wondered what if anything would replace them as the next in what would have been a long line of “top dogs”. Again it was all idle curiosity since he wouldn’t be around to find out. He walked the long empty hallways, past open doors that led to empty dormitories, past the family units, and on into the section where the elected leaders lived. It was a trek that took time. This facility, when built, had been meant to hold thousands of people, both single and married. It was to be the place from which mankind would start over. Again this brought a bitter smile to his face. Such thoughts, such plans, such hopes, such gall, and here I am the only one left, and from what I or we know or knew, nothing survived when the worst happened.

Yes, he hadn’t been around then, but it was written in the records, shown in the vids. All that took place, the passing of the act, the blueprints created, the location chosen, and the place constructed. It all happened in record time. It had too because all the earth, all of mankind knew what was coming, and the odds of being missed was too small to contemplate. He knew, again from the history, the records all that lived here were required to learn, they were just finishing up the storage of supplies, and beginning the preparation to bring in the first who had been selected to begin the overall functioning of the facility.

He, as a descendent, as well as the ones before him, had been part of the original crew, the team that was placing all the supplies into the storage areas, testing all the electronics, making sure the radios, computers, the communication systems functioned. They were supplying the libraries, the electronic sides of this. Almost all the books, entertainment – movies, and such – were in digital form. If hard copies were needed then the massive banks of printers would produce what was required. And then once used be recycled so that the materials could be used again.

Because no one had any idea to the severity of the damage to the planet this place had to be completely enclosed, completely self-sufficient – self-contained. The facility had great greenhouses, hydroponic gardens, and actual artificial parks that had much greenery to help with the recycling of the air. Again, because no one knew how much damage would be sustained, they had to plan for the worse, including the loss of atmosphere for an unknown time period. So, if necessary, this facility could be, would be sealed, with equipment located and protected on the surface so the conditions could be monitored.

And once the event had happened, then periodically, people in environmental suits would go through airlocks to sample the outside air, and see how this old world fared. Yes, things had come to fruition quickly, but in the end, yes in the end, it hadn’t mattered. It wasn’t soon enough.

Something had happened out in one of the belts where the asteroids lie. What the event was would probably have been eventually discovered, but whatever it was caused a chain reaction, caused chaos in one of the astroid belts, and like a shotgun blast sent hundreds, maybe thousands in towards the sun. In that chaos it had been nearly impossible for even the supercomputers to track. As the debris came towards the sun, and thusly the earth, there were collisions, changes of direction, influences from other planets and moons, and too many other things to be able to make even rough predictions. If luck held earth might be spared, but the data spoke of a more likely outcome. And it wasn’t pretty. The worst case scenario destroyed the earth, making it a barren rock circling the sun. Other predictions were from complete misses to everything in-between. Yes, it was obvious the gas giants of the solar system would absorb much of what was flying inward, but not near enough.

Unfortunately, with the delay that light added to the equations even an accurate timeline couldn’t be developed. Only the fact that was truly known was the event would happen . . .

While the crews and teams were running the supplies into the storage areas, there were technicians on site testing all that was installed. With the pressures of limited time chaos reigned supreme inside. With tempers flaring, and people in each other’s way all the time, adding to the friction, somehow they pressed on. But there was little that could be done about it. There was no time to run separate shifts, to allow separate areas to be free of workers. And as these many workers pushed to get what they were trying to complete, flaws were found, and work-a-rounds had to be created. It made sense, since nothing of this scale had ever been attempted, let alone built. So what appeared to work on paper, didn’t necessarily work in the real world.

Yet, even with all the pressure, the time limits, it really appeared that they were going to make it, to succeed, and soon the now empty facility would be teeming with life and the hope of humanity for a real future . . . A real future, right. Ed thought. I’m it, and that’s no future at all.

Yet, as the history continued to flow through his mind Ed was unable to stop it. He didn’t know why this was happening. Maybe it was because he had just placed his deceased father in the final place, but knew there would be no one to do the same for him. How many generations had lived here, ending with me? He had to admit that he really didn’t know. The only thing he did know was in the end, as it had been stated too many times back at the beginning, as well as in the lessons, the gene pool was too small, and somewhere along the line they would be doomed because of this. Nobody knew when it would happen, only that it would. Well, he was the end of the line, period. There would be no one to grieve for one Edward Carson.

Before he realized it he was back to his space. As a kid, and unfortunately there were no others, he had free reign of this place – this facility. But in the end, he felt that he had been everywhere, had discovered all the hidden areas, and was left with no mystery, and no adventures. He had read much of the stories that were available, and laughed inwardly are the sheer audacity of what was called Science Fiction, writers talking about what the human race would be doing in the future. Well, he was the future and it wasn’t anything like those stories.

Of course he fell into the world of movies for a while. It was a place to escape from what was the real world. And, he suspected, like all kids, he really liked the world of Star Wars. Still, according to what his age was at the time, he found others more to his liking. He knew that at the time of the building of this place there had been advances in 3D, but unlike the Holodeck in the Star Trek series, there had been no true immersion. It still required those ridiculous glasses to make it work, although he had to admit it was fun dealing with the illusions these early attempts created. And those rides that combined the 2 effects with motion made it feel even more real. Still by spending his life here in the deeps, he could only guess if that was how it truly felt. Then, of course, there were those recreation times where he was allowed to play video games. Still, even with the depth and amount that were available, he eventually ran out of the type he enjoyed playing – but all of this was part of the past. What the future held, other than death, he had to admit he hadn’t a clue.

* * *

Richard Matheson wrote a story, as other writers of science fiction, dealing with the last person on earth. Each write from their own perspective with Matheson’s becoming at least 3 different movies. One produced in the 50’s titled, The Last Man on Earth, with the Omega Man in 1971, and most recently I am Legend, which is the original title of the book, and this is my take on the subject. As this story is revealed we learn much about Ed’s world, and why it has all come down to only him. Normally next week I would continue the story, but I have a surgery during this upcoming week, and as such there is a great chance for posts to be delayed a couple of weeks. So have a great week – two weeks possibly, and please return with the next episode of “The Deeps”. God Bless. (fdbrant.com)

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