WRITTEN BY: Murielle Telio
It all started out pretty innocent you see. In fact, at the beginning, we were all quite welcoming of it, technology. We supported it. In the land of preserving our future and furthering society, this seemed like the right step. Little did we know, it would change our lives forever.
I remember it quite clearly. It was January 3rd, 2038. The sun was getting ready to set. You know, that blissful moment where day meets night. I was driving my kids to a sleepover at their schoolmate’s house, and my husband was running late from work and had called me to tell me not to wait on him for dinner. Then, it happened, the call cut out; the car stopped working. Everything stopped working. I fumbled with the door trying to open it, as my youngest daughter, Kelsey, 6, looked up from her pastel laser learner and asked, “Mommy what’s happening?”
I looked back at her and said, “Everything is fine baby.”
As I looked around, I noticed everyone was as confused as I was. Panic struck all of our faces, as all of our electronics were rendered virtually unusable. I remember trying the door again and again, but it was electronic. We were stuck. I dug in my purse frantically, but there was nothing to get us out of the car.
My eldest daughter, Amanda, 8, peered at me calmly then said, “Mom, there’s a screwdriver in the glove compartment box. I saw dad use it a few months ago. You can use that.”
How was my daughter sharper than her own mother at saving us? I didn’t have time for that thought. I only had time to think about saving us. I nodded and reached in the glove compartment box. I pulled out the screwdriver. In a land where manual labor was virtually archaic, I had a screwdriver. Thanks to my nagging husband’s inability to part with things and hoarding tendencies, I had a screwdriver.
With all of my might, I hurled it against the window again and again and again. It took roughly about two hours, I think, but I got it open. This led to my next thought, find my husband.
I crawled out of the car and stuck the screwdriver in my pants. Then, I grabbed my children, Kelsey first because she was smaller. Once outside, I saw people pounding on their windows, desperately begging for help. But I didn’t have the strength or energy to break more windows. I had to find my husband, make sure he was okay. There’s only so long a person can go without water or air. Time was of the essence.
It was dark, only a few street lights remained illuminated, as the other ones were electrically converted into an advanced software last year in an effort to conserve energy. In fact, I voted for it. So, now it was dark, and we were traveling by foot.
The next thought didn’t occur to me until it happened. We were in danger. A flock of frantic people were running towards us from the west side. What we could offer them, I didn’t know. I wasn’t going to find out. I looked over at Amanda with just about all the calmness I had left in me and said, “Can you run?” She said yes. I put Kelsey on my back, and the three of us took off.
I have no idea how long we ran for before we lost them. When my adrenaline had kicked in, it was all a blur. I do remember snapping back into it when Amanda pulled at my leg terrified and pointed. We were hiding in an alley when she saw a black cat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was an animal sitting just a few feet from me. See, my children had never seen animals, just heard about them.
In an effort to preserve the environment and society, a bill was passed a few years back to terminate all animals. It seemed like the most humane thing to do, as technology had shown us they didn’t have much of a future in our society. Most of them were going to come down with a disease that immobilized them in the next century anyhow and suffer a lot of pain before their ultimate death. We had no way knowing which animals would be resistant, if any. They had a 50/50 chance of spreading it to us, and we wanted to stop that. So, a bill was proposed, and I voted yes on it.
I never thought I’d be the one to do so, but in the world of social media, you’d be surprised how quickly your opinion can change from one day to the next. The bill also involved removing all videos and photos from all virtual documents worldwide. Non-virtual books were illegal at this point. We voted on that stuff too. Anyhow, I got used to not having animals around, and it was fine.
But when I saw the look in my daughter’s eyes when she saw one for the first time, I realized what a huge mistake I had made. I always called the animal rioters crazy when I saw them on the news. We all thought they were lunatics. But they were just trying to preserve the world we live in. Heck, maybe we could have put more funding into animal research. Anything was possible if you tried hard enough, at least that was the thought that was going through my mind at the moment.
I took my jacket off and reached my hand out, as my daughters watched with eager eyes. The cat, nervous at first, finally approached. I gently caressed it and wrapped it in my jacket. The children followed suit, gently petting the cat, completely enamored.
My mind then went back to my husband. I covered my lips with my fingers and gesticulated for my children to remain quiet and stay put. They did so, as I peered around the corner for any oncoming threats. The coast was clear, and I signaled again for my daughters to come. Kelsey whispered, “ Mommy can we keep it?” I shook my head no, as I saw the looks of disappointment spread on my children’s faces. But I didn’t have time to worry about that. I had a plan and that was to find my husband.
The next thought then occurred to me, what if he was looking for us? Shit, no I couldn’t let my mind go there. I had to keep going. I quickly put that thought out of my head and mapped out the safest way to his office. That was the last place he was; that’s where he’ll probably be trapped. That’s what I told myself.
I pointed right, and we trailed off, walking for an hour. We walked about three miles after that before Kelsey’s legs gave out. Hell, mine did too. We were exhausted. There was nothing more our bodies could do. We needed rest. I looked around and found a spot right under a car, at the edge of the street. It was our best bet. We crawled under and fell asleep in each other’s arms.
When I woke up, I had no idea how long we had been asleep, but it must have been a while, since the sun was up. I gently woke my daughters, but the heat was overwhelming. I had forgotten how bad it was without controlled global temperature. It had been a couple years.
See, global warming had made daytime temperatures upwards of 40 degrees Celsius all year long. And we were given the option to preserve the earth and halt some forms of technology for a moment, or figure out a way to regulate different parts of the earth’s temperature. A bill was proposed. I voted on the latter. Never in a million years did I think it would bite me in the butt. But here I was, desperately dehydrated, and my children’s lives were at stake.
I crawled out from underneath the car and grabbed my two children. Where the hell were we going to get food or water I thought? We only had one option, since convenient stores and grocery stores no longer existed. We had to break into a house, which isn’t the easiest thing to do since everything is on technological lockdown and operated by your electronic device. Plus, houses were on the other side of town. It could take too long to get there. I could barely think I was so thirsty.
When I saw a young boy, 6 or so, wandering by himself, with a backpack, it hit me. Those people last night, they were probably hungry and dehydrated, and we maybe had water, water which was inaccessible due to technology.
Before I had the time to think, I saw my legs running towards the boy. My children ran by my side as we followed him frantically to a corner alley. He was trapped. My daughters looked at me, disappointment in their eyes, as the boy stood shaking. “Mommy what are we doing?” they said.
“Turn around and face the wall,” I answered. The conviction in my voice surprised even myself. They turned. I then walked towards this poor defenseless
child and his backpack. “Hand it over,” I said. He didn’t. “Hand it over son, and no one gets hurt,” I continued.
Then, with tears in his eyes, he handed me the backpack. I hated myself, but it was our lives or his. “ Turn around,” I said. He turned. I then ripped through his belongings to find two canteens of water and a biodegradable pack of crackers. I violently slurped down a half a canteen and two crackers. It took everything in me not to finish it. I handed the other canteen to my daughters and told them to split it with two crackers.
“But it’s not ours mommy,” one of them said.
I was too distraught to listen. “Drink,” I said. They did. But my eyes landed on this poor defenseless child. I was a monster I thought, looking down at the rest of the canteen. I slowly made my way towards him, placing a few crackers atop the half drank canteen. “I’m sorry,” I said, tears in my eyes.
I then walked back towards my daughters, and we took off. That should last us an hour or two, I thought, but we’re not going to last without a better plan. I heard footsteps behind us. I abruptly turned around to see the little boy, the one whose death sentence I had written by drinking his only means survival and leaving him alone. I was given a second chance. I signaled for him to come closer, and with much hesitation, he did. “I’m Christine,” I said, “What’s your name?” He didn’t respond. “Are your parent’s around?” I asked. He shook his head no. The look on his face told me they were gone for good. I nodded. “ You’re safe now,” I said, “ I’m sorry about earlier.”
“I understand,” He said. I smiled, and we walked forward.
My mind went back to the issue at hand. Where was I going to get us enough food and drinking water to get us to my husband? You could only get drinkable water through electronic vending machines at every block, but they were operated by a chip in our arms.
You see, in a request to preserve drinking water and stop wasteful consumption, a bill was proposed and passed to make water only accessible through a machine, with reusable canteens. I voted for it. Each person was granted access through a small chip, which was inserted in our arms. The amount we received was based on our weight.
Shit I thought; we’re fresh out of luck. The boy tugged at my pants breaking me out of the thought. Yes, I nodded. “More water?” he asked.
I shook my head, “No, we don’t have anymore.” He pointed at the machine at the end of the block. “It doesn’t work,” I said. But, he continued nagging. Fine, I
thought; then we walked towards the machine. And then, it dawned on me, I had a screwdriver in my pants. My husband’s inability to conform might save my life again, if I could get that thing open of course.
I grabbed it and started unscrewing the bottom of the machine, desperate to get whatever water was left. I told the children to stay quiet and watch guard. It took me a while, but I managed to get it open. One by one, I allowed each child to drink. I then drank myself. There wasn’t much left after, but we managed to fill those two canteens. This would last us the trip, I thought. We were starving, but we could manage that.
I had no idea what time it was, but we continued walking. We finally reached the halfway point before the sun was getting ready to set. The lack of food was slowing us down. There has to be something we can eat, I thought.
Food was an interesting thing these days because all food was produced at a lab in China, then transported via a company called Jet Way. A bill was proposed giving us an allotted amount of food in an effort to control wasteful consumption and the obesity epidemic. I voted in favor of it. It passed.
Within six months, everyone was in relatively good shape. Heart disease went down drastically, but people grew more unhappy, and it took a toll on mental health. We proposed a bill to fix that too. Anyone exhibiting signs or familial signs of depression were to be sent to happiness camps, if they didn’t seek treatment. It made sense at the time. The chip in our arms alerted our leaders when dopamine levels were dangerously low, and we had the option to join support groups. If they remained low, those people were sent to happiness camps, where they would not return. It was away to force people to try to be happy and stop the spread of sadness. They also weren’t given the option to reproduce.
Half of the earth’s population disappeared to these camps. Once they reached the ten-year mark, they were given the option of termination. It was our little gift to them for their hard work. As you could imagine, many people were given carte blanche in self-appointed suicides. This did help with the overcrowding and lack of natural resources that grew rampant in earlier times. All in all, it wasn’t a bad thing, because they weren’t happy to begin with. And, we tried our hardest before putting them out of their misery. But, it did get me thinking. What if the implanted chips were still reading our dopamine levels? If technology turned back on, my lives and my children’s lives were at stake.
I forced us to laugh, hysterically, all like cackling hyenas into the sunset. “Do we have to keep going?” Amanda asked. I nodded, and we continued. Fake it till you make it, I thought. My grumbling stomach shook my mind back to thinking about food, and I lightly nibbled on my tongue, salivating at the thoughts of the dinner that would have been waiting for me at home. One by one, my children’s laughter died off into the night.
When we awoke the next day, I noticed both the boy and Amanda by my side. But where was Kelsey? I crawled out from underneath the car, panic stricken. Where was my daughter?! I told the other two children to stay where they were, as I ran around like a mad woman, draining the very little energy I had recovered. Now, I had two things to worry about, finding my daughter and finding my husband. I ran around for another few blocks, until I decided it was time to return to the children and search with them.
When I arrived, I saw what I had been hoping for, Kelsey. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ran towards her and dropped to my knees. I opened my arms to embrace her, as she ran towards me. I hugged her, asking where she had been, telling her to never run off again. And then, she looked into my eyes with hesitation and said, “They’re coming.”
“Who? Who’s coming baby?” I asked. She stared into the distance bewildered. I braced myself and looked behind me to see a group of agitated polars, about three of them. Shit, I said to myself, as I tried to figure out the best plan of action. I didn’t have anything, so I decided for us to run, which was completely futile because polars were the name we gave to genetically modified human beings.
You see in an attempt to better a future society and further the evolution of technology, a bill was proposed to manufacture people with three genetic makeups, pulling only the most significant aspects of each parent and excluding variables that would make them less palatial. I voted for it on the basis of furthering genetic immunity and creating super vaccines, hoping the costs would eventually drop low enough to fix the remaining future population.
They had the legs of an Olympian and the mind of Edison, as well as killer looks and wit. And by the time they reached age ten, they could outsmart even our most seasoned mathematicians. By age twelve, our scientists realized they were a risk to humanity, when two male polars had communicated to one another through sound waves and staged a takeover of the labs. No humans survived the labs, and a massive evacuation of the city was underway.
It took the entire military and our world’s sharpest and smartest to take down these twelve year olds. Most died, but the tens of dozens that remained were placed in a high security titanium lab and underwent what was called the Brain Reduction Therapy and Cell Regression Program. Essentially, we were making them more stupid and physically less effective. We were trying to turn them back into us. But, it didn’t work, and they continued to progress. They were a risk to society once their intellect would peak.
So, another bill was proposed to terminate them, and I voted in favor of that as well. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I had to do it because my children’s lives were at stake. One by one, they were executed, and we assumed that was the end of them. But here they were staring back at us, with their purple eyes.
Before I could take another step, they grabbed all of us. We struggled to break free, but the struggle was only reactionary. There was no way we could evade them. Suddenly, it all faded to black, my eyesight, everything.
When I opened my eyes, all I could see was bright florescent lights above my head. The room was completely white, nauseatingly, hygienically, white. It was unsettling. It took a second for my mind to catch up to my eyes, and I realized I was tied down to industrial trundle. I struggled to break free, but the restraints were unyielding.
Then, I heard footsteps edging towards the door. Slowly, the door opened, and the footsteps walked closer, gaining intensity until they reached me. I looked up to see a pair of purple eyes staring down at me. “ Do you know why you’re here?” A voice asked.
“Where are my children?! Take me to my children!” I screamed, but the polar just ignored me. “I need to find my husband. Please!” I begged. It was no use. The polar didn’t engage.
The polar was a female. She walked towards a laser projection device and turned it on. I looked at the projection curiously. “Do you know who this is?” she asked, as she pressed a button on a remote. Then, a hologram of my husband popped up on the screen.
“Yes!” I exclaimed, “That’s my husband. Where is he?!”
The Polar just jotted some information down. “Can I see him?! Please?!” I begged. She didn’t respond. Instead, she pressed another button on her remote.
A hologram of my children appeared. Tears ran down my face as I looked, longing for them. “Do you know who this is?” she asked.
“Please, those are my children. Where are they? Please can you tell me if they’re safe?” I begged. She looked at me with coldness. “Why am I here? Please let me go! Let us go!” I howled, “I’m sorry for my vote. Is that what this is about?”
“What vote?” She answered. Then, into an earpiece she said, “Very good. She remembers.”
“Remembers what?! What’s going on?” I said. But she just exited the room, leaving me with my thoughts. I struggled for what seemed like hours before someone entered the room, a male polar from the sound of his shoes. He walked closer until he reached me.
When I looked up, I couldn’t believe who was looking down at me. It was my husband Landon. But his eyes, they were purple. I don’t remember them being purple. I didn’t care. “Landon! There you are! You have to get me out of this place now! And the kids! They’re here too!” I said, agitated.
Then, it dawned on me, as I looked at his composure. Why was he so calm? Why wasn’t he untying me? Why didn’t he care the children were missing? “Landon!” I shouted, “Untie me and let’s find the kids and get out of here!” But he just looked at me for what seemed like an eternity then simply stroked my cheek.
“There are no children.” he said.
“What?!” I uttered, trying to distance myself from this stranger who bore an identical appearance to my husband.
“Are you ready to know what’s going on?” he asked.
“Please,” I muttered. He then turned and walked toward the back of the room. I listened to his footsteps, as I heard the sound of a cabinet open. He took something out and shut the cabinet. I counted his footsteps again as a way to ease my growing anxiety. Ten, he took ten steps.
When he reached me, he took something out of his pocket, a screwdriver, my screwdriver, technically his if he was actually my husband. He then reached for my leg. “What are you doing?! Get off!!” I screamed, desperately trying to break free of him, but it was no use. He removed my shoe, and stuck the screwdriver into my foot. How was that possible, I thought? I just stared, completely dumbfounded, as my foot opened into several intricate glass and metal cylinders. What the hell was I? Tears started streaming down my face.
He looked at me tenderly and said, “A bill was proposed last month by in an effort to advance technology and reduce our geo footprint. It was simple, people with a high propensity to vote yes were no longer as effective in advancing society, because they were the most dangerous. Therefore, in an effort to have them play an equal part in our future, we had to make use of them essentially by turning then into a hybrid between the conscious mind and the artificial one. It was the only way we could learn what the future would hold for us. We let you keep implanted memories, and set up a virtual situation where you would be held accountable for the actions you voted for in your theoretical past. The whole point was to see what would trigger in your brain activity if you saw the repercussions of your actions. And then, if your mind would connect anything after seeing us.”
I looked at him trying to process this. “But I’m…”
“You’re a polar, well, you were.” He said. “We all are. You see, as a society, we voted for everything. And through the progression of our technology and votes, we became genetically modified human beings, with three parents. We thought ourselves Gods, but we wanted to take it a step further, hybrids, half- human, half robotic. We wanted to see if we could still have real empathy in the back of our subconscious. It was a way to test evolution.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.
“This is the last phase of the trial,” he answered.
“What happens to me after?” I asked.
“We wipe this part of your memory, and then we set you back in your theoretical life, and we start again,” he said.
I nodded, trying to control the gut wrenching panic that ran rampantly through my body. “The feelings you had, your past will be engrained in your subconscious brain the same way homo sapiens evolved from millions of years ago with the will to better the colony versus oneself. This became the difference between right and wrong and the foundation for intelligent life.”
“What now?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“I turn you off,” he said.
“Can I have a hug before?” I asked.
He smiled and nodded. “Yes you can,” he said. And that was….