Wednesday, August 05, 2009

As It Seems

~ Jeffrey Adams crawled out of the crater that he’d been using as a foxhole and peered around at the desolation; surprisingly even more nightmarish in the stark light of day. Not a thing stirred and as he let the ruined shards of his armor fall away from his body they clattered to the stony, decimated earth like gunshots. It was the only sound to be heard and Jeffrey winced.

He started to step away, but paused to look back. In his shocked state Jeffrey found in himself an almost crippling reticence to leave the bits of armor and the burrow that had shielded and protected his life through the long and terrible night. He dragged his gaze away from the ground and scanned the horizon for movement.


Scorched blisters marred the vast expanse of earth everywhere between the few mutilated skeletons of ancient trees that had somehow remained standing. They were gone now. It was all gone now.

“War ruins everything,” Jeffrey thought with surreal clarity. He finally pulled himself together as best he could, and moved off in a westerly direction. He had no reason for choosing to go west. He had no reason not to go west.

Deep within his body a handful of miniscule bots worked hard to control and repair organ and tissue damage, but it was a battle that was being slowly and inevitably lost. His armor had successfully shielded him from the first dozen hits before breaches began to occur. Tiny fissures and cracks grew with every subsequent blast, leaving his vulnerable body bare to the insidious waves of radiation. Particles too small and too fast to at first be noticed by the bots ripped through Jeffrey’s body, leaving paths of torn and shredded cells in their wake. This is what the bots noticed, and by extrapolation came to the conclusion that the body was under attack. They rushed to secure the function of the brain and other critical organs, but even as they did, heavily damaged cells were dying or mutating everywhere.

Mercifully, Jeffrey couldn’t feel any pain yet, and he continued to walk, staggering through the erstwhile battlefield, vacantly looking for other survivors on the way. The bots continually triggered the systems in his body to release enormous amounts of endorphins, attempting to keep his stress levels down. The hormones coursing through his body, added to the traumatic shock and lack of food, water, and sleep combined to leave Jeffrey disconnected and slightly giddy. He stumbled over an arm lying at the edge of a blast site and he inexplicably giggled.

“You’re a horrible person,” he told himself.

“I’m sorry, but I was ‘disarmed’ for a moment!” he responded in his mind. He snorted again and moved on, stepping over the body that corresponded to the arm, some eight feet away. There wasn’t much left of it. Jeffrey suddenly doubled over and began retching violently, his entire abdomen heaving. The bots had finally lost their hold on subduing his stomach and wave after wave of nausea and dizziness washed over him. Thick stomach acid, tinged red with blood, seared his throat as it was forced up from his otherwise empty belly.

After several minutes the nausea subsided just enough for Jeffrey to stand back up. It was integral that he find water, food, and medical help immediately but none of those things entered his delusional mind, so he simply continued to walk. All around him was vast, desolate emptiness and hours later, when he finally could walk no more, Jeffrey collapsed with his back against the still smoldering side of an unearthed boulder. His arms and legs trembled with false chills while his core temperature soared far beyond dangerously high. His hands were clammy and numb and bloody lesions had begun opening up on his skin.

Beyond his consciousness the bots prepared for their last stand. His body was fading fast. No one must capture the secrets of the state. Each bot, mindlessly triggered by the dying processes in Jeffrey’s body, prepared a tiny, but incredibly powerful detonating reaction within themselves. In perfect synchronization the microscopic bombs ignited. For a moment, just the briefest of moments, Jeffrey did feel pain. Inexplicable pain. But that subsided into nothingness soon enough. The bots were gone, taking with them every last thread of hope and leaving a surprisingly large amount of damage in the delicate body they had been charged with.

Jeffrey’s body slumped to the side, a single chilling groan escaping through parted lips as the weight of his dead mass forced the air in his lungs past his larynx. The secrets of the state were safe. There was no one left to try to capture them anyway. ~


Paul Kuliniewicz said...

Fun fact, in case you dislike the thought of nanomachines swimming around in your bloodstream ready to kill you at a moment's notice: your cells already have a mechanism by which they can be triggered to commit suicide. Granted, in that case it's for the benefit of your overall self and not to protect some shadowy state secrets, but I'm sure we'll close that gap some day.

Renee L. said...

I did know about that actually! I remember reading about it in a 'Reader's Digest' as a kid and thinking that it was awesome. Way to know about that.
Side note: "Blebbing" is a fantastic verb.

Jamie said...

...loss of membrane asymmetry...

My dead cells are buried in asymmetry! :)