Author : Steven Odhner
I can’t stop staring at the massive crater, watching the clouds of dust that blow out past its rim before curling down into the bowl and dissipating. For the hundredth time I wonder why the crater hasn’t filled up with water; maybe it just doesn’t rain anymore. I always forget to ask. A lack of rain would explain the dust that tints the sky red, that covers the ruins of the city and transforms them from twisted buildings into indistinct burial mounds. I had decided that some virus or pollutant had killed the plants and that, in turn, had allowed the soil to blow freely… but maybe it was just a simple lack of rain.
The robot glides noiselessly through the doorway with my lunch.
“Greetings! I have the meal you requested!” They always sound excited. I take the tray and place it on the table by the window.
The spindly metal creature does its equivalent of standing at attention and asks the same thing as always – “Is there any other service I can provide?” I tell it I have some questions and it waits eagerly. I’ve already tried asking about the crater, asking for the location of any other humans, asking to travel. I try asking about the rain this time.
“I’m sorry, weather information is not currently available!”
Of course not. Always the same answer, with the automated systems trying to access networks that no longer exist. I allow the robot to leave, and go back to staring out the window.
The landscape is hard to read with the buildings knocked over and covered in dust, but the more I think about it the more I’m sure my old apartment should be in the crater – if it even still existed by the time whatever it was happened. I leave the bland recycled food and wander downstairs, past floor after floor of empty offices and idle robots. I stop on the ground level for a moment to once again look at the electronic notice on the main doors – “Until further notice the government has implemented a mandatory lockdown for public safety reasons…” before heading to the basement where the hum of the building’s independent power plant vibrates up through the soles of my shoes. Once more I pace down the long hallway with the countless cryogenic chambers, the time capsules filled with what could be the only other humans on Earth.
I want to smash all of the electronics so that the robots are forced to revive everyone, but I know that most of them were frozen when they were already dead or about to be. I asked if others had been healthy and had set a specific date for decanting like myself, but the robot excitedly informed me that it couldn’t give out privileged client information. If I forced the robots to open them all up, thaw them all out, wouldn’t it be worth it if even one person survived? I know I won’t do it. I can’t stand the thought of killing any of them even though I know that they’ll never wake up, that someday the power will fail and they will seamlessly transition from sleep to death. Some of it is selfish too; I’m not sure how many people the robots can provide for. Better to play it safe, lonely though I am. Heading back to the stairs, I take one last look back along the endless vault of frozen humanity. Maybe tomorrow. For now, I head back upstairs to watch the sun set over the crater.