I am a great fan of Sci-fi and this was a piece I wrote for a competition inspired by the line ‘Quick, before we come to our senses’.
How peaceful a society is comes down all to often to small factors that stop violence occurring every single day. Remove these and the tensions build until they grow too strong and then….
I can feel Ruth’s fear despite the state we are both in. I reach out to her in the other room where she is preparing dinner and simultaneously call her name. A month ago there would have been no need to use words but that was then. I offer the universal platitude of those with nothing to say
‘How’s it going?’
‘Food will be ready in five’ comes the reply.
I sense her mind refocus on the task in front of her and I raise the binoculars to my eyes once more. We are on the ninth floor of a revivalist block of apartments in the artist’s quarter; purpose built with a small set of living quarters grafted onto a large airy studio. It’s from there that I am currently charting the progress of Retro factions through what was once my home.
I don’t know why. There’s nothing I can do about it.
My gaze focuses on the central park district where a pitched battle is taking place between two raggedy groups of Retro, in tattered clothes bearing improvised weapons of every sort. I see a man in working overalls cutting a bloody path through the opposition with an industrial chainsaw. His success is his undoing as he attracts too much attention and is surrounded and clubbed to the ground by his opponents. One side unleashes a series of vehicles, mainly four by fours with crude armour bolted onto them. Men and women ride in the backs brandishing hunting bows and even one or two firearms, shooting into the crowds. I had only ever seen pictures of these in history books and, with a sinking feeling, I realise that they must have started to produce them from captured factories. I turn away, unable to watch any more. I can’t actually comprehend what would bring people to do these things to each other.
I walk through to the cramped kitchen where Ruth is cooking a stew from the rehydrated foods we have managed to scavenge in the last week. The automation that provides light, energy and water to the block of flats is functioning perfectly, not surprising since it is designed to withstand everything up to and including a full scale earthquake. Ironic to think that the technology we produced will outlast our civilization and benefit its successors. The stew smells good, spiced just the way I like it and Ruth can feel strongly my all too rare feelings of pleasure and reciprocates in turn. I move closer to her, with each step connecting deeper and deeper, her emotions becoming clearer and more defined until I curl my arms around her from behind in a deep embrace.
I nuzzle the back of Ruth’s neck and she presses herself into me. My lips find the scar tissue around her Chi and I kiss it even though the skin is inflamed and red. She shudders, both in pain and the ecstasy of touch to such an intimate place. Instinctively, she raises her hand to stroke the back of my neck and the physical contact between our two Chi causes us to meld, our minds becoming as one.
Ruth and I are both doctors. We met at high school and bonded within days, passing together through the medical facility in New Town and specializing in Meldscience, those diseases affecting the connection between the leech like Chi and their human hosts. We studied everything from tissue compatibility in infants when their Chi larvae are first implanted all the way through to the treatment of degenerative senility within elders through youth bonding. We thought we knew everything about the symbiotic relationship we share with these benign parasites that allow our race to see inside each other’s souls.
It has been an article of faith for thousands of years that the bond between Chi and host is so strong that one cannot survive without the other. However, when Joshua Green came into the Central Infirmary complaining of a pain in his neck he was watched first in puzzlement and then horror as the infection around his Chi grew worse whilst he remained in robust good health. Ruth and I were on holiday at the time and I remember the attending physician Jacob phoning me in a panic on the day Joshua’s Chi died. ‘He’s still alive’ he yelled down the phone ‘and I can’t feel anything coming off him’.
No member of our race has been cut off from others’ minds in over three thousand years. The affliction drove Joshua completely insane, killing thirty hospital workers before throwing himself from the top of the building. If only that had been the end, but the Plague was highly contagious and within a month had spread all over the planet. The death of the Chi gave birth to the Retros, humans incapable of connection. A world that had not seen violence in millennia went mad.
Ruth and I are infected. We can both feel our Chi getting weaker and weaker, it’s why we need to be closer to sense each other’s thoughts. It’s why we have made the decision that we came to today, it’s why the stew is so heavily spiced to cover up the flavour of the narcoleptic Ruth just stirred into the food. Together we each carry a bowl through to the table that we have laid up for our last supper.
You see, we aren’t really human; we’re the last vestiges of a dream that somehow graced our race for so long. The Retro are humans, that’s truly our natural state and we’d rather die with our paradise than awaken in the hell nature intended for us.
We both stare at our food before Ruth smiles at me in the way I love so much and lifting her spoon to her lips, winks and says
‘Quick, before we come to our senses.’