Before heading to bed, detective Blake brushed his teeth. As always, his thoughts drifted, and he saw himself caught in a fierce windstorm. In the scene, it was midnight, and the rain poured like buckets. His weak umbrella couldn’t handle the pressure and gave.
Why do I keep thinking about this? I must move on but this keeps haunting me.
The gutters rattled. The howling gusts blew, pummeled, and pushed him beyond where he desired to go. Using his hands as a shield, he tried to see. The streetlights appeared blurry. Water flowed along the edges of the sidewalk into the sewers. He heard a dog bark. Or was that just the noise from outside his bathroom?
He stopped and listened. Smiling wide, he continued his cleaning routine. And so did his nerving thoughts. He turned against the rain and walked backwards. The brunt of it beating his back. The downpour fought him as he tried to reach home. It wasn’t giving him an inch. It hit the parked vehicles, sloshed down the houses, and traversed through the trees. The wind wouldn’t let up either and upended a metal trash can. Water puddles reflected the lights. His socks were soaked. He felt so cold, drenched, and like a pawn in a chess game, waiting his turn to move. He took another step forward and smelled the wet lawn.
I never got this far. That smell. It reminds me of a time when I was little. My mom cooked in the kitchen. I was with my dad watching tv…
Blake halted in mid-brush, stared at himself, and teared up. He cried silently, allowing the tears to sting his eyes and stream down his cheeks. He missed his dad very much. He wanted to see his face, to be next to him, and to be in his presence. He choked up, washed his face, and took a deep breath.
Turning off the bathroom lights, he walked in his bedroom and into his bed. He buried his thoughts deep into the sewer tunnels. Once he drew the sheets over him, he shoved the scene down even more, forgetting that he had cried.
No sense in rehashing the rest of what happened.
He sighed and turned, listening to the night from his open window. The crickets chirped in the quietness of his room. He wondered what it was like to be alive, to be happy, to be awake? Or does life go on like this infinitely? He heard a car drive by. And another. And then he slept as a train sounded.
The next day, Blake walked down the cobble steps of town to a dead end. He was at a high wall. He climbed up, peered over, and saw soldiers smoking and chatting. They stood on a cliff to his right. He looked downward and gasped. Exactly how high was he? 6000 feet? 10,000? There was an immense blueish city below with flickering white lights. It appeared alien. Nothing like he had seen before. It called him, and he desired to be there. From his perch, the grand city resembled an hourglass, a bridge, a watch. The army men shook their heads, put out their smokes, laughed, and left their post. Blake slid back to the ground and saw a folded parachute leaning against the wall.
Should I use it? How did I miss seeing it? I want to know what’s down there. I ache for it. The descent would be frightening, but now’s the time while those men aren’t there.
He quickly wore the chute, strapped it to his back, and went for it. He leapt over the wall. The thrill exhilarated him. He knew how to free fall and navigate. He passed a few clouds and witnessed a flashing light zipping by. It went and disappeared. Then, another one appeared. He propelled himself towards it.
I can literally taste it. I want to see what’s down there.
There was smoke surrounding the light. Blake felt inclined to merge with it. The smoke widened creating an opening. He dropped in. The light’s gravity carried him down below. And just like that, he vanished.
Blake stood somewhere in the bustling metropolis. A spherical globe flew straight up to the top of one skyscraper, hovered, and rotated. It had an antenna on top of it. Buildings were encapsulated in thin sleeves. Sections of the floors moved down and up, rapidly. He saw an entire section of one office zoom up and then another head down. A small thing sped right to the side of the wall. It looked like a tiny toaster. It’s stick-like legs and arms extended out. Blake saw it open a device over its head. It expanded outward forming a squarish umbrella. And when the square’s four corners lit up, the thing flew to the sixth level. A small gray ball the size of melon rolled next to him, repeatedly touching his shoes.
He picked it up. “What is this?”
It glided to his wrist and wheeled in place. As it did, a gray tape started to wrap around his wrist. When it reached back to the beginning, the ball returned to his hand. And instantly became very heavy.
“Omg. I better drop you.”
Blake had to learn about this place quick. He gathered the ball was his guide into the city. There seemed to be no human around. Yet things were moving at incredible speeds. No robots, per say. But intelligent “things” that would gather or hover in clusters, like birds. It was an amazing sight. The band on his wrist would turn red at times to alert him to halt. Other times, it would run raw data all around it. He didn’t know what it meant. The ball would knock him over. Or become strapped to his leg and protrude a third foot. Or even become a stick figure to his height and walk along beside him. All in all, Blake deduced it was understanding, learning, deciphering him. But where was it leading him?
As they reached a certain location, the ball suddenly circled around him over and over until he decided to stay still in place. The city around him quieted down. One of the floors of the building opened to the outside like a garage opening its door. Blake could see boulders. Three of them hovering above the floor. Then, they suddenly swerved around and went deeper into the building. The ball nudged the parachute on his back. He didn’t understand.
The ball kept doing it until Blake realized he should use it for some odd reason. He deployed it. The shock took him back a little. And then, it covered him. He felt drowsy and slept.
His eyes tried to open. He shifted just a little, and a light instantly came on from underneath him. He laid on a large tablet. He lifted himself up. He was in a room with four walls. There were large typewriters keys all around the tablet. To his left was a counter full of bowls upon bowls.
“Where am I?” He croaked, trying to awaken himself.
“W is for Where.”
He was startled and asked, “Where are you?”
It was a lady’s voice. It echoed through the room. “W is for Where. Detective Blake Wilkins, you are in the data chamber.”
“What am I doing here?”
“W is for What. Detective Blake Wilkins. 56 years old. One of two thousand, four hundred, fifty-seven survivors of a massive global flood. Father: Late Dr. David Wilkins. Mother: Late Susan Plough. Born in south western quadrant of United Territorial America. Wife: Late Georgia Wilkins. Children….”
He could feel her voice through his body as it spat out his entire life, like a resume or a grocery list. He waited and listened. He turned to his side, sat upright, and stretched. The light brightened more of the small room. He couldn’t tell where he was. There were no windows. No doors. He accidentally pushed the “R” key, interrupting the speaker.
“R is for?” it asked.
Blake had to improvise. “R is for Reason?”
“R is for Reason. The reason you are here is because you will notify all remaining of withdrawal terms, cancellations, and deletions.”
Wow. It worked, but I’m still getting nowhere.
“Please elaborate,” Blake replied in turn.
He heard a thud and then silence. Looking up at the white ceiling, he wanted to get out. He didn’t know what this place was or what was going on. How would he get answers? His eyes scanned those bowls again. He was surprised they didn’t fall.
Suddenly, he heard some printing.
“What are those bowls for?” he asked.
“W is for What. Detective Blake….”
“No. No. I mean, the bowls. Bowls.”
“B is for Bowls.”
“Yes. What are those bowls used for on my left?” Blake was understanding how to talk to it.
“To your left are nodules. Please wear one to be connected to the data stream. The printing has finished.”
He looked around. At the top of the large tablet was one sheet of curved paper sticking out. He leaned toward it, tore it out, and read it, “Deleting Earth…withdrawing to another space location…thank you for your hospitality…sorry for the inconvenience!!!”
“H IS FOR HOW THE FUU,” Blake held his tongue. “H is for How are you deleting Earth?”
“H is for How. We have collected all the data required and will be leaving with much sorrow. We have invested a lot of our time and energy over the millennia or millenniums. Upon departure, the planet will dry and digest itself. Like similar nearby planets: Mars, Mercury, Venus. Thank you for your patronage. We consider you one of our finest crea…”
“WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN? WHO ARE YOU? WHAT IS THIS PLACE?” he yelled.
He heard a thud. And another thud.
Blake disgruntled, jumped off the tablet, accidentally hitting the keys.
“T is for? H is. M….” it was confused.
The light in the room dimmed. Little by little. Then, pitch dark. The tablet's light had turned off.
But not before Blake wore the nodule on his head. As the data streamed into him, his wrist band lit up. He saw charts, spreadsheets, and names run through his mind. He heard the different sounds, voices, dialects. Species. One by one, He was shown the sub classes of insects, mammals, and fish. Each with their labels. As each life was shown from birth to death, it would fill in the spreadsheet. What they would smell, taste, and touch. The charts expanded to include their years, their length of life, their traits, their personality. Wider and wider, the spreadsheet grew.
The earth was shown before him. He saw all the facets of trees, flowers, rocks, water, mountains, volcanoes, caves. He saw all matter of growth and erosion. The fields, forests, springs, and wells. The shores, lakes, seas, oceans. Granite, clay, beds, depths.
I can feel the data through me all over my body like pins and needles. Like when my foot falls asleep, and I’m trying to wake it up.
Again, the earth was displayed before him. He saw a vertical strip on the left side with pictures of humans with their names. Slowly at first, he saw their lives played out. Their desires, wants, dreams. Their entire existence. He heard their voices. Then, how each touched another, and how the other was affected. Then, the process quickened in pace. Like a rippling effect, he saw how one person changed another’s life and down the line, not only down the family tree but also through friendship and strangers. The streaming continued, and the world widened until it filled the room. He saw wars, peace treaties, kingdoms, thoughts, failures, doubts, successes, triumphs. Libraries of books, inventions, architecture, vehicles, weapons, music, screenplays, crafts, the entire evolution.
The flowing continued faster like bursts of light. Blake witnessed dreams, tiers, technology, robots, implants, cyborgs, memories. Faster and faster. Languages changed. The history. The entire span of humankind. The stars, revolutions, the terrain molding, uprooting, collapsing, changing, rising, falling, decaying. Creations. Astrology. Religions. Magic, Dark Arts. Struggles. Then, it switched and flipped over to joys, happiness, contentment, and achievements. Blake saw all of this at lightning speeds.
“Ouch, I think I’m cramping,” he said out loud.
He digested too much information. Everything of every single person, object, and thing of planet Earth. He breathed out. He felt actualized, like he was fully alive, alert, awake. Soon, the cramping eased. The data waited for him to continue.
He noticed something from the corner of his eye. It was another planet in the lower right corner. The data paused and halted completely. He tried to open it. The earth disappeared, and in its place were pictures of other planets. He saw Mars, obviously, And Venus and Mercury.
He was shocked as he saw other planets unknown to him like Gilt, Kismet, and Dyne. He tried again to pop them open but felt a thud. He tried again. He tried Mars. Mercury. Venus. Nothing. He scrolled through the others, trying each one.
“E is for Exit,” he stated factually.
The program closed. He sat in the dark comprehending the entire existence of Earth. He focused on his parents. He felt their lives and knew what had happened to them. He no longer felt the guilt or the sadness of not being able to save them. The harsh bitterness that tugged at him like an anchor dissolved away. His wife and kids. Their memories of him. What they felt about him. He was at peace. He sighed.
All those sacrifices I made. The changes in our lives. My life.
I have to. I have to let the rest of the world know they’re canceling Earth. But right now, I just feel like crying.
He regrouped and said, “ER is for Exit Room.”
Instantly, an opening appeared, and the light of the late afternoon drew inward. He left the data chamber. His quiet demeanor and calmness followed him. He knew exactly where he was in the building. Up ahead, a ball rounded the corner and rushed down the hallway towards him.
“I knew you would show up. I still want you around, though I pretty much know ALL. EVERYTHING! HF is for Human Female. Can you appear as a human female? Mature, 50s.”
“Yes,” she echoed.
Long hair flowed outward. A body took shape. Flesh filled in. Clothes, Makeup. Glasses. Jewelry. She walked alongside Blake.
Blake asked, “C is for Cancel. Can you cancel your deletion of Earth?”
She replied, “No. We have done everything.”
“VOP is for Viewing Other Planets. Why couldn’t I open the other planets in the catalog?”
“You don’t have access.”
Blake and she walked through the hallway to its end. There wasn’t a door there to meet them. There didn’t need to be. They stood right next to the wall. Blake stared at her, seeing her hair touch her shoulders. He didn’t want to die yet what could he do? He didn’t want humanity to wither away.
“GQ is for Generic Question. Why did you make us?” He leaned against the wall.
“Everyone deserves to live. We desired life to be in complete harmony with us. We love you as you are our own children.”
Blake thought about his parents and stated, "CM is for Conversation Mode. P is for Personality Mode."
She lowered down her shoulders, tossing her hair. "Hey Blake, so what is this for? My name is Klip, by the way."
"You know I never knew my parents. Their dreams, their desires in life until now. I never got to know my dad and his skills. What about yours? Would you teach us your technology?"
She bit her lip. "Yes, we could do that. There would be so much to teach you. You were only shown the surface of the data."
"Would it be enough to allow us to survive when you leave us?"
"Yes!" She smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"Good." Blake answered satisfied.
"No, great." Klip nudged the wall. "Let's start here."
"E is for Exit," they both said in unison.
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I almost forgot. As they left the building, Klip gifted Blake with access to twin planets she felt humanity could learn from. He was surprised, thankful, and hugged her. Klip returned the affection.