Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
A stadium-sized vehicle crawled along on massive tracks to my right. I hadn’t been awarded a sleep cycle for ninety-eight kilometres and was well overdue when the klaxon finally sounded. Not slowing my pace an iota I looked up and saw a half-dozen citizens lowering themselves down the nearby ladder. They moved slowly, none of them in an hurry to reach the rocky landscape below.
One by one they dropped to the surface and automatically began marching alongside the crawler. I scanned my immediate surroundings. There were at least twice as many tired walkers as recent arrivals. Some of them had been on shift almost as long as me. I waited more than a minute. Finally, frustrated, I radioed the deck officer.
“Crawler Seven deck, this is Dawkins off the port stern. Have seen six fresh arrivals. Where’s our relief whistle?” For a moment there was nothing. I almost tried again, then suddenly,
“Dawkins hold your position for the time being.”
My response was immediate. “Hold my position? I’ve been walking for,” I checked my odometer, “almost one-hundred clicks here, what’s the deal?”
There was another long pause. Then suddenly a familiar voice, “Dawkins, you and Chambers are relieved. Welcome back aboard.” I immediately caught the sight of Pavel Chambers dropping back and cutting over across my field of vision. With my own legs turning to gelatine, I followed suit and also drifted toward the crawler. I maintained radio silence as Chambers gripped the ladder and pulled himself up. And I didn’t breathe another word until I too was slowly making my way up toward the massive travelling deck full of greenhouses and livestock pens above.
Finally I broke the silence. “Deck officer. Why do six relieve only two this shift?” There was no response. Twice more I tried. Still nothing.
As I neared the deck I saw people pulling Chambers up and then as I too reached the top a hand reached out and I looked up into the familiar face of my old friend Brendan Chow. “Is there a transmitter out? Are you guys deaf?” I asked.
The friendly smile faded as I crawled forward and then stood up face to face with Chow. He sputtered, “Keep quiet. I will tell you all I can.”
An hour later I sat, legs dangling, off the edge of the machine looking out at the distant crawlers all clambering along westward with their thousands of citizens trudging alongside. Many walked. Fewer and fewer got to ride. The sun sank slowly, but not so slowly that we could ever catch it. It was said that the Earth once turned a thousand times faster than this; that people could live in one place and as day turned into night and then back into day again it never got too hot or too cold.
I looked back toward the nearby greenhouse behind me and noted that the vegetation did appear to be thinner and browner than ever. “Okay I admit it Brendan. We’re running out of energy. But what can we do about it? You know how it is. We are cursed. We must always chase the sun!”
Brendan Chow lowered his head morosely. After a time he looked up. There was a tear in his eye. “Look at them!” He suddenly motioned with his arm.
I looked back out at the dotted landscape of machines and countless tired walking humans and asked, “How did we ever get to this point?”
Chow replied solemnly. “I really don’t know. But I am sure of one thing. Our race will not survive!”