It was at that exact same moment that I was preparing to be born. ROGER was examining the vital signs of a young man in one of the cloning units across from mine. The name on the chamber read “John D’Arby” and he was a muscular man with dark hair and square features. ROGER would monitor his heart rate and check the fluid in the dark module which held the man in utero until his body, like mine, was ready for birth. ROGER is an acronym that stands for Robotic Genetic Engineer. It was designed to monitor the vital signs, prepare the data transfer of the uploaded neural consciousness’ of the “pre-born” clones and follow the clones through to the birthing process; after which it would aide in further development until such time as the clones could once again repopulate the Earth. This was the nature of the Protogaea Experiment.
The Protogaea Enterprise was a project established by the government in advance of the impending cataclysmic destruction ending most of the life on planet Earth. It was designed as a fail-safe in the event of a meteor collision, nuclear disaster or other occurrence which would jeopardize life on planet Earth. Human DNA was catalogued and frozen for later regeneration when the Earth’s levels regained an acceptable climate for human life. ROGER was appointed custodian.
I found myself waking off and on, peering through the opaque liquid with misty unused eyes. I could make out very little from my position, floating in a dark chamber filled with some sort of dense amniotic solution, but even before the memories were implanted into my consciousness I could feel a sort of calm which could only be described as a lack of identity. I knew not that I knew nothing and that was peaceful. And if I said it was beautiful, this extension of myself into a higher consciousness – one without identity, of total connection with the universe as a whole, it would only have been a passing fancy because it was soon gone . The memories of her life came as a sudden thud against my brain. Flashes of experience, growth and disconnection from the world…utter isolation. It came as a flood and it hurt my mind to know. The biological brain of Sarah Greene was scanned and mapped then processed by a computational simulator, uploaded and copied to a neural net which housed the total population of the Protogaea Experiment. Her memories would be contained there until my brain was developed enough to accept the download, they would then be transferred via wet-wire directly into my waking consciousness. Her memories would be mine.
Singularly I began to come around. My mind filled with the visions of a childhood I had experienced centuries ago. The death of grandparents I never knew, yet somehow felt the love for as strongly as if they were my own – and they were my own, I kept thinking, kept reminding myself. Something was happening though; I could make out tiny flashes of light within the room. Light like sparks whispering in the darkness.
Cascading down and pooling onto the floor of the concrete enclosure was the sap of an inorganic tree. It could not be seen from within the structure; but the roots had made their way through the reinforced walls and over time had forced themselves into the huge open room which housed the growing bodies of more than a hundred souls who had died centuries before only to be reborn in this time and at this moment.
Unlike the oozing sap of an Earthbound Willow or Oak, the alien liquid streamed from the root extensions, a poisonous substance unfriendly to metal and concrete, the sour ichorous began dissolving everything it came into contact with. The Protogaea Enterprise, which was assigned to ROGER, was for the first time, threatened by an outside force greater than he could calculate. ROGER was concerned.
The obsidian cells containing the regenerating human clones began wailing. The sound echoed through the enormous room and forced ROGER to make an assessment. The din ruptured the air, crashing against the soft symphony music, filling the hall with panic. The liquid-filled chambers began to breach and spew their amniotic fluid angrily onto the leaden floors. The clones were in danger of birthing too soon. The tough fibrous supports of the alien’s vegetation, searching for minerals and nutrients, had burrowed low into the ground breaking into the deep compartment that contained the clones. The chambers, which were linked together by miles of cords and filaments, were damaged subsequently causing a chain reaction of destruction which led to the termination of the project before its completion. ROGER could do nothing. The housing that partially encased my chamber slowly began to shatter. As the weight of the dense liquid pressed harder on the burdened opening I could feel myself being ripped from the container. The tubes feeding my body and the cords wet-wired to my brain were torn from my organs. I crashed upon the ground in a deluge of fluid and glass. The pain was excruciating as my senses were attacked; I lost consciousness.
I awoke to the sound of sirens. Like a plangent roar splitting the air and pouring through me as waves of clamorous thunder. I was dizzy and couldn’t see. Somehow, I knew they were sirens, auditory hallucinations without visual sensations. A disembodied voice came to me and peacefully welcomed me into this strange new world, informing me that my eyesight would come with time, because I had never before used it. A faint glimmer of inner turmoil penetrated my brain suddenly. I was no longer within the confines of the iron membrane which had been my home for so long. With all the problems I was experiencing, temporary blindness, lack of acoustic recognition and nerve malfunction, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be out. I was being thrust upon the world without the wherewithal to fully understand my surroundings. I felt paralyzed.
“We must leave this place, it is unsafe for us to remain here. Whatever damaged the bio-chambers may be dangerous to you. I am aware that you are unable to see and hear clearly, but you must come with me. I will lead you out of the laboratory and to the surface of the Earth, there you will have to wait for me as I return to find other survivors.”
His voice was tranquil and honest. Without hesitation I followed him.
We traveled for several minutes through darkness. I thought I could faintly make out a man beckon “Hello” in a tone demanding of attention, but we moved too quickly and his voice was lost in the shadows. ROGER held my hand in his and led me up to the surface.
I could vaguely make out the sounds of large steel doors whirring open and felt a rush of hot air against my face. He stopped moving suddenly.
“What is it, What do you see?” I beckoned.
All I could make out was a bright yellow light that seemed to cover the horizon.
“Something is terribly wrong.” he uttered faintly.
I stood there for a moment holding his cold hand in mine.
“Get down as low as you can,” he whispered, “and begin moving backward quickly.”
I had no idea what was wrong, but whatever it was I could tell it frightened him. I lost his grip and was suddenly alone. I knelt on the ground and began to make out images that appeared first as polygons of blue and red, large fuzzy shapes terminating just beyond my eyesight. I struggled to make sense of the babble around me. I thought I could make out grunting or snorting, the clanging of chains and the flapping of wings, but the sounds came in bits amidst the noise of my own mind. Objects slowly came into view, but they were distorted and lacked meaning. Auditory and visual hallucinations fed my psychosis as I attempted to wrangle their meaning in brief bursts of logical reasoning. Colors began to form into shapes and solidify. I used her memories, the memories implanted into my brain to determine similarities between what I was seeing and what she had seen before. The shapes became objects and quickly I began to determine which sounds were being made by what objects. It was difficult, almost as if I was re-wiring my brain. I started to realize the grunting was coming closer to me.
I held my hand up to shield my blurred vision from a sun-baked skyline. I squinted to see what was merely a few feet ahead of me. The noise was becoming louder and I thought I could make out the sound of feet crunching the ground. My senses were attacked simultaneously and a horrid smell filled my nostrils. Something cold and hard poked the side of my head and I batted it away with my hand, then lost consciousness.
When I awoke my head felt as if it had been split open end to end. There was a thumping noise that increased in intensity every time I tried to move. I could hear a constant dripping and murmur of tiny voices crying out. I still had trouble focusing, but found it a bit easier to hear and smell. I was terrified, but said not a word. Afraid my captors would hear my movements, I remained still and waited. As I lay there my visual acuity began to sharpen. I could see that I was in some sort of iron prison. The room was large and damp; it reeked of mold and feces. I put my hand to my head and felt a sticky substance; my hair had become matted with blood. I heard a thumping of some kind, like that of a large heavy beast. As it came closer my blood went cold with fear. The door burst open and it let out a terrible howl. My immediate reaction was to scream and I did so.
I began shuffling backwards with my feet and hands until I hit the wall behind me. I was terrified. The creature towered over me, its body was enormous. It reached toward me with a taloned hand which I scrambled to avoid. My senses were still unrefined, but my movements were automatic; instinctive. I was quickly subdued and fitted with a heavy chain around my neck. I was tossed into another room filled with people who were also bound with chains and shackles. There I lay completely nude while I watched in silence as the others around me drifted in and out of consciousness. Their skin was filthy and leathery and covered with sores. They were marked by exhaustion and their bodies bore the images of wounds that would never heal. I began to sob uncontrollably.
I curled into a ball on the floor and remained there for some time until a withered looking man shuffled over and knelt beside me. He reached out to me with bony hands and gently placed a blanket around me as I shivered.
I uttered a small “Thank you,” through damp eyes and he moved back away.
Who were these people? Why were they here? Questions rolled around in my head until I drifted off to an uncomfortable sleep.
I awoke to the sound of dripping, a constant flow of liquid that seemed to sit in puddles all around us. The walls appeared to sweat and the structure of the prison was moist almost as if it was leaking from all sides. I felt a hunger in my body unlike anything I had experienced. I realized immediately that I had never before eaten solid food. Suddenly lights filled the cell and everyone moved toward the door. Huge pails of thick yellow mush were slopped into metal bowls and the people began devouring it hungrily. They would scoop up generous portions into their hands and slurp it up into their mouths, spilling some of it onto themselves carelessly. The glop trickled down the sides of their faces staining their hands and the rags they wore. I was horrified and saddened. I lost control and vomited openly.
I sat alone for many moments staring at my own hands and wondering how long this horrific nightmare would last.
After some time I dragged myself over to one of the pails and placed my hand deep into it. The sludge I pulled up was vile and grotesque, but the alternative was unconscionable. I didn’t have a “plan B,” this was it. Either I consume the hideous substance and satiate my deepening hunger or I starve. I ate.
I think it was morning.
The creatures who held us prisoner came for us one by one and linked the chains which bound us. We were taken outside and led to a field where the sun baked our skin and the soil blackened our hands. We worked throughout the day plowing and tilling and ripping the ground. Miles of farm stood before us and we planted the seeds of the creatures design.
We were changing the Earth with our hands. It was long, back breaking work. The sun’s radiation bleached our hair and left penetrating wrinkles carved into everyone’s skin. Most of us wore rags or nothing at all. When the day was over we were brought back into the iron prison, a maze of inter-locking tunnels and passageways that led to enormous cells which held the survivors of the forgotten Earth. We were worked until we had no use left – many died.
I couldn’t believe the wretched apathy that infected the lifeless souls who surrounded me. It was as if they had given up completely. This was not the human race that Sarah remembered. The thoughts that filled my head, the memories of a strong dynamic spirit which refused to submit, were not witnessed here. They had become broken and ruined. I sat against the wall holding my knees tight against me and watched them. One of the men here stared far away with lifeless eyes and muttered to himself, “Every morning we win the battle to leave this place, and every night they conquer and put us back.” he sat in a murky liquid that seemed to stretch to him from all directions. Fittingly, I thought of Prometheus. The lights went out suddenly and all was pitch black save for a dim red glow. I still didn’t know where I was or when I would leave.