Science Fiction

Warning… You are approaching the barrier, do not proceed… Warning…

A hundred miles from his city centre dwelling, and several hundred yards from where he’d abandoned his one-person laser travelling pod, Enz entered the ‘no-go’ zone, setting off the alarm. The sun was already blackening, soon it would be eclipsed, and the lights which flashed and beamed before him, blue and amber from various levels on the high mirrored walls, would turn everything around him such a sickly shade of intense it would bring the city to a halt. Circuits frozen, power disconnected, pods immobile, gridlocked. Communication would be impossible, water blocked from flowing through the pipes. But only for a while. Only while he took his final steps. He’d take them slowly, he thought. Something as momentous as this deserved a countdown… Step

Ten… The speed of the traffic had slowed, he could hear the sound abating, no longer a whizz, but a hum. The drivers wouldn’t know why as yet, wouldn’t see him, or if they did, he’d be no more than a blur between the lights. A dog escaped its kennel? Inconsequential… Step

Nine… Enz looked down. His boots had changed colour absorbing the lights. He’d seen this once before when he’d fallen from the travelling pod as a boy, hearing the screams of his mother as he’d tumbled towards the mirrors, traffic brought to sudden stop. There are some doors you just don’t open, boy. Ever! She’d been fined a whole month’s pay for not securing the locks. A hundred and thirty-three years ago, and he still remembered… Step

Eight… The speed limit had been lower then and people had walked the zone’s perimeters, stopping every once in a while, to peer into the mirrors in the unlikely hope that they might find those elusive cracks that the old folks said were bound to still be there. The 2093 Mallet Attack had, if rumors were true, been a bad one. Vicious. And if this were the case, what there the chances that there was another city beyond, another ‘world’, that the authorities wished to prevent them from reaching? His grandfather had claimed he could vaguely remember when they’d put the barriers up, and according to his father, Enz’s great-grandpa, and his father before him, there had once been many different cities, smaller ones too - towns and villages, they were called. And the ‘countries’ which contained them. ‘The Continents’. Deserts, forests, rivers, seas, farmland, mountains, glaciers. It was hard to imagine what any of these might look like. Or the incredible modes of transport. Gliders, rockets, airplanes… people flying! All the way up in the sky and further, setting foot on some strange place called ‘The Moon’. Of course, these old folks’ tales were now regarded as myths, and he an eccentric for wanting to believe in them… Step

Seven… His legs were getting weary. Strange to think he was both the oldest man alive, and oldest who had ever lived. Only weeks before, when he’d reached this astounding milestone, the city had seen fit to mark the occasion with a full day of rest for all and a historically-themed champagne banquet for the elite. Not that he’d been invited, but then he didn’t have much time left, so not one thought it seemly he attend. People were only allowed to reach a hundred and forty. After that, they’d be vaporized, although this hadn’t happened yet, so no one knew quite what to expect other than the procedure itself would take place in the brand new 'Sterappropriate' Hospital, and on this occasion only, in the presence of the press. Enz the oldest man ever. Enz, the eccentric exception. Headline news… Step

Six… The mirrors towered over him, the lights beginning to blind. Warning… Warning… Harsh voices intermingled. Rage from the pods on the laser track. What are you doing, you decrepit moron? We need to be home in twelve seconds, can’t miss ‘together time’… blaring through the speakers. Don’t turn your head, he told himself, don’t pay attention… Step

Five… He craned his neck till his eyes met the sky. The great black disc, a permanent fixture, was half-way across the sun now, and well before normal shutdown time. The power would be failing. Sorry, Zany. Sorry, Blitz and Fritz. He felt bad for the children. Their games would be interrupted, and their learning. He’d left them books, written, by his grandfather years back, but they didn’t know what to do with them. They found it hard to turn a page which didn’t require a finger-scan. Besides, they could barely read the words, or understand them. Archaic fantasy, as their parents called it, was beyond them, insisting, by way of various snide asides, that this was almost certainly for the best, and even their great-great grandparents refused to assist. Enz’s daughter had always mocked him for his outlandish way of thinking, and her children had chastised him. One day soon you’ll find yourself out of work, and you’ll only have yourself to blame. Teachers are meant to teach, not tell stories and lies. He was only seventy then, far too young to retire, so he’d had no other choice but comply if he had any hope of surviving… Step

Four… Obligations. Responsibilities. He’d been free from those for a while now. A good long while, come to think of it. He’d received his city pension at a hundred, just shy of the government upping the age to a hundred and ten. The authorities weren’t happy when he’d then defied the lifespan expectation odds, and they’d had to pay him ‘more than he’d ever been worth’ for almost four times the number of years on which they’d figured. It had been a quiet four decades on the whole. He’d spent his time reading, not only his grandfather’s words, but other ancient literature kept in his apartment behind a panel in the flexible mind-metal wall. He’d taken a plethora of notes and gradually pieced together a plausible version of what might have gone before, and what indeed might still exist in some way, shape or form, outside the mirrors. He’d made a book of his findings, and on the day of the celebrations when her parents, members of the elite, had returned home oddly and adversely affected by the hitherto unknown effects of this new champagne commodity, he’d entrusted his papers to Zany. She was by far the most open-minded of the children. Clever too, she’d worked out how to turn the pages the moment he’d seized the chance to show her. Grandpa, Ezra! I didn’t know people could do that! This is – wow - amazing! …Step

Three… If only he had enough time left to teach her the words, or to show her what he’d captured on his 21st century smartphone. Antique technology, a relic for sure. A family heirloom, but considered ugly and useless by all, there was no point trying to sell it. It had fallen into his hands when his grandfather died, and eventually, after a great deal of trial and error, he had discovered that not only did it work as a simple notepad, but that it could also be used in ‘video mode’. The powers that be had, on two separate occasions, arrested him when they’d spotted it attached to the side of his travelling pod as he’d zoomed around the outskirts of the city, but both times they’d been forced to release him without charge. After all, as his rolling-eyed solicitor had said when he’d tossed the phone onto the interrogation room table for the second time in as many months, what was this thing, but an old piece of junk? Little did anyone know that it was on said ‘piece of junk’ that Enz had just captured his most precious footage. And how long he had spent replaying and examining it all. He’d almost given up finding anything, then he’d discovered ‘slow motion’ and ‘still’, and there it was. The crack in the mirror! The only one which remained from his grandfather’s time, when, according to his writings, his great-grandpa and a like-minded gang of his friends had staged the legendary Mallet Attack, a crime for which they’d spent the remainder of their days in jail. So much for it being some far-fetched story, his grandfather’s words forever dismissed as the ramblings of a fool. Just like the disc which blocked out the sun, when the books that Enz had read so clearly described the moon… Step

Two… All was dark and silent now, traffic at a standstill. Only the warning voice remained and those glaring, searching lights. In a moment he’d be vaporized. And perhaps the pain would be worse than any he might have felt had he kept his 'Sterappropriate' appointment. But he’d plucked up the courage to send his pod off track en route, so too late now! Besides, he had to know what was out there, if only for a second… Step

One… He reached towards the glass, felt for the crack and pressed. Nothing. He tried again. Harder. Not a cut on his hand. Not even so much as a scrape. Amber and blue, amber and blue. Neon bursts. Warning, warning, warning… And then he saw his own reflection, except his face didn’t look quite right. He moved a little closer. Eyes duller, he thought, but at the same time, brighter, more expressive. The lights perhaps, but then – the rest of it! Oh, how heavily lined his mirror self was! And the mouth was moving! So, that’s old Granpa Enz, then? A chuckle. When had he ever sounded like that? And why were the children behind him when he knew they weren’t there? Zany, Blitz and Fritz, all crowding round, smiling and laughing too, their movements not in any way stiff or restricted. So unusual. There had been a word he’d read in his grandfather’s book which described this. Natural? Yes, that’s what it was. And how beautiful! How wonderful to hear little Zany chattering on. Good job you arrived when you did, Gramps. Won’t be long before he’s gone. A hundred and forty, can’t exceed that, but he’s stuck holding on at the side there, and I think that’s what’s causing the glitch. ‘Course we could make another just like him and start all over again… Step Zero.

April 24, 2024 16:18

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Renate Buchner
19:49 May 02, 2024

Interesting writing style and the idea of vanishing at the age of 140 is quite original. It also emphasizes the value of life and that, even at 140, it is still far too short.


Carol Stewart
20:41 May 02, 2024

Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughts. Agree, life is definitely too short!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.