Charnel House Earth: The Death Of Humanity, Chapter 3: We Come In Peace

Snapping Larry and Mac out of their shock proved more difficult than we thought. Neither wanted to believe what they had just seen, not that I blamed them. I couldn’t.

Hell. I didn’t even want to believe it. Yet, there it was.

I knew that the problem was bigger than the four of us. It was probably bigger than all those we might find to ally ourselves to. This was because none of us had been in the military.

I had grown up in one of those religions that now flocked to the aliens in the belief that they were God returning to reclaim what was his. They had taught, until I had long since left, that we were to be pacifists. We were not to fight the “world’s” wars. We were to be witness to them and against the world itself.

We were taught a lot of bull shit. Including a running to a ‘place of safety’. A sort of religious hiding place where we would wait out the war of ‘Armageddon’–the war to end all wars. Looking back, it was all a bunch of lies based on misinterpretations meant to make a description of an internal battle into a physical event.

Now, man had lost that war. Both inwardly and outwardly. They had accepted an illusion for the truth and were about to pay for it.

Still, those of us fighting to free humanity would have need of just such a place. Some place the aliens could not find. Some place they could not survive.

But we would have to invent a way for us to survive. After all, even I knew that we would not be able to survive anything the aliens could not survive without some sort of personal life support. Yet, none of us were scientifically or imaginatively persuaded enough to dream up anything that elaborate.

“Lar,” I stated, “can you check the local university to see if the professors in the science department are still free?”

“Sh-sure, man,” He nodded, “why?”

“We need a system to get messages through to all within the science community who have still not been rounded up by the aliens,” I began, “we need to gahter them together into our own group.”

“Why?” He inquired, still clueless as to what we were really doing.

“we sure as hell can’t make personal life support systems ourselves,” I gave him a sideways look, “we need science for that. technology is a part of science.”

“Oh,” he replied dumbly, “I see.”

“Git started, man,” I implored him, “we don’t have time to waste!”

he scrambled to his feet shakily and went to complete the task I had sent him to do.

“Mac,” I shook my other friend out of his stupor, “Your cousin still in the service?”

“Yup,” he nodded.

“Go call him,” I responded, “tell him to gather all the military he can. We’ll need all we can get.”

“Right away,” he jumped up and disappeared.

“Now what?” Billy inquired.

“Now,” I smiled grimly, “we wait.”

***

“How would we get an S.O.S message out without the aliens picking up on it?” I inquired, looking at the astronomer who sat across from me.

“We don’t,” he shook his head, “at least, not with our current technology. It was, after all, a message that brought them. they will likely pick up anything we send from this point on.”

“Can we encrypt in such a way that it would sound like gibberish or somethin’?” I pressed.

“Sure,” he averred, “but it might seem that way to any we might want help from as well.”

“Is there any way to make the alien communication ship go down just long enough to get a single message through?” I asked.

“Possibly,” he nodded, “if someone could get close enough to it for a short time, just long enough to slip one message through, without getting caught.”

“True,” I frowned, “that is a problem. getting close enough without being discovered and captured.”

“Would an EMP work?” Mac inquired.

“It might,” he nodded, “if we had one.”

“We have the remnants of the military headed our way with vehicles and weapons,” Mac responded, “not sure how well our weapons will work on the aliens, though.”

“bullets might wound them,” he admitted, “and even kill them, but that is still unknown.”

“Do they have any kind of body armor?” I queried.

“The soldiers seem to have a light armor,” he stated, “though how effective it is is not known.”

“So,” Larry sat back presumptuously, “Jeff’s theory about finding a place where they cannot survive as a sort of place of safety is the only sure fire way of defeating them.”

“yes,” he replied, “and no. As far as a base is concerned, it is the only true way to stay safe, the idea of finding some place inhospitable. The only problem is that it would also be the end of us as well–unless we were to design a cross between armor and individual life support to counter the effect of our eventual base.”

“Pressure suits with oxygen filtration,” I smirked, “combined with impervious armor.”

“Precisely,” he grinned, “but we neither have the materials nor the manpower to design, let along build, such a thing.”

“So,” I looked away, “we return to the question of getting an S.O.S. out.”

“Yes,” he admitted, “we return to that question.” He paused for a few minutes, as if in thought. “We’ll attempt the EMP idea first. If it fails, we will search for another way.”

“you think they are immune to Earth’s viruses?” I looked up, an idea forming in my mind.

“There’s no telling what kind of viruses they have been exposed to,” he began, “but I am quite sure that they have not been exposed to those of our planet. We can always try a viral attack at some point. Good thinking.” He slapped my back. “I’ll make a scientist out of you yet.”

“One step at a time, Doc,” I grinned sheepishly, “one step at a time.”

Charnel House Earth: The Death Of Humanity, Chapter 2: It Came Out Of The Sky

It was dawn when the team from SETI and those from NASA witnessed the ship’s entry into the atmosphere and began settling upon the coordinates that had been sent to them by the visitors. The president, politicians from both parties, every religious leader in the country, and those who believed the visitors to be God returning to claim his ‘kingdom were also present. Millions more watched in awed horror as humanity’s fate came silently from the sky.

the scene was very much the same elsewhere in the world. Europe. Asia. Africa. The Middle East. Australia and the south Pacific.

“Yam,” the lead visitor stated without moving his humanoid lips, “That I am.”

“Yah,” Another began, “that I am. Weh be my title.”

“Jesu,” another moved to the front of the group that appeared as most envisioned Christ to be, white, long haired, bearded, thin, and very American in appearance, “That I am.”

“The end of time has arrived!” The murmur began coursing its way through the religious leaders and rapture-hopefuls. “They are here to rapture us away from this cesspool of evil!”

“We come in peace,” The one who had addressed himself as Jesu began, “and to bring peace. We come to bring you Heaven on Earth. An end to your sorrows.”

“Come,” Yam interjected, “and learn war no more. learn to serve your fellows as you serve the Lord you God.”

“become princes of men,” Yah seemed to smile at the phrase as he spoke it, “under us.”

“Let us bow and give thanks,” One of the religious leaders urged, “for the Lord has returned to put to death this world!”

A cheer rose above the religious collective present. a horrible, ignorant, blind cheer. As if they relished in an end they could not possibly know awaited them.

“We should learn from each other,” one of the scientists offered, “you could teach us of new technologies. New methods of farming. New medicines.”

“all in due time,” Yam urged, “Now, we must meet with your leaders.”

“I am leader here,” the president rudely pushed his way to the front with his cabal of criminals and the congress members who supported his corruption, “I rule this land.”

“Then,” Yam grinned darkly, “I shall start with you. Then, I will meet with those who would pray to us.”

“Shall we go to the White House?” The president demanded. “Or shall we meet on your ship?”

“We shall go to your abode,” Yah stated emotionless, “for now. Future meetings will take place upon our ships.”

“As you wish,” came the response.

The alien visitors were ushered into limos and sped away to the White House. The religious leaders, praising the lord, took their leave with their respective flocks. All who had gathered scattered until only the scientists remained.

As they studied the ship, the scientists seemed to suddenly realize that these visitors were not what they claimed. They were not gods. They weren’t saviors.

“Dear God,” One of the scientists muttered, “what have we done? What horror have we brought upon humanity?”

More aliens flooded from the ship and surrounded the scientists. A select few were lucky enough to escape, but the majority were taken captive. The subjugation of Earth had begun.

***

I watched the broadcast. I could see past the illusion being cast. I could see the aliens for what they were. Predators. Slavers.

I could not believe my eyes as I watched the scene. Though I could believe that the religious community was suddenly willing to give all in order to follow these aliens, and that our government (as corrupt as it was) was willing to meet peaceably with these monsters, I could not believe the initial response of the science community. Sure, these beings represented a chance to learn advanced technologies, but that was not why they came.

Though we had sought them out in friendship, they had come to enslave and to slaughter us. to eradicate us. Make us extinct.

Billy MOnroe, Mac Stephens, and Larry White sat on the couch watching the telecast with me. Mac was so deep in shock that he couldn’t utter a single word. Larry’s mouth had dropped open at the precise moment the scientists had been taken.

“Can you believe that shit?” Came out of Billy’s mouth every time something happened.

“Billy,” I stated grimly, “I haven’t believed much since the current administration got into office. This was something I have always feared might happen, but hoped I would never see.”

“Whadya mean?” He whipped his gaze to me, his face whits as a ghost.

“Humanity is just not as intelligent as it believes itself to be,” I sighed, rubbing my eyes, “even the scientific community isn’t as smart as it wants to believe.” I looked over at him. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re a hella smarter than most of us, just not smart enough to know better than to call out to the rest of the universe at this time. Not smart enough to realize that the other races out there might not be all that goddamn friendly.”

“so I see,” he muttered, still trying to grasp what I had just said, “whadda we do now?”

“Well,” I took a deep breath as I began, “we begin looking for others like ourselves. Military. Civilian. Medical personnel. The scientists who escaped…as well as those who were not there for whatever reason.

“Then we begin looking for allies beyond this planet. Anything that can combat these fuckers. Anything that can destroy them.

“Then we try to convince the rest of the world that these visitors are not our saviors. They ain’t ‘God’ or ‘Christ’. We hafta convince people that these aliens are only wanting to enslave humanity.”

“Aright,” he nodded, coming out of his shock, “how do we do that?”

“I dunno,” I shrugged, “I ain’t never done the hero thing before. Never really wanted to.”

“Guess we’ll wing it,” he stated.

“First thing we hafta do is snap Larry and Mac outta their shock,” I admitted, “we’ll need all four of us on this.”

“Let’s get started then,” He averred, “it’s gonna be a long affair.”

Charnel House Earth: The Death Of Humanity, Chapter 1: How It Began

It was so easy for them to supplant us as the dominant species of Earth. And they seemed so perfect. So godlike.

We were so busy warring over politics. Supremacy of color. Religion. Greed. Hate. Personal preferences.

They only had to read our thoughts and use them against us. They became the return of Christ to the most religious claiming to be Christian. Or the promised Messiah for those practicing Judaism. Or the returning Mohammed. Or Shiva the Destroyer. Or whichever god the people were hoping for in the region they landed.

Hell. They only had to claim to be the solution to the political corruption we suffered at the hands of our human masters. Or the solution to the world’s greed.

They could have claimed anything and humanity would have fallen in line. After all, the most desperate were the most ignorant. The most hateful were the most ignorant.

Our political systems had failed. The politicians had sold out to corporate religion and corporate slaveholders. Wages were abysmal, so low that a wage earner could not truly live without worry of starvation or eviction. Education was incomplete and obsolete, teaching the old but never remaining relevant.

The only constant in Human life was greed and hate. Those who had greedily hogged assets needed by all and hated those who worked for them. The average man greedily worked his life away and hated those he was told were taking jobs, despite the fact hat corporations had been sending jobs overseas for decades. And the poorer a man was, the more he hated those who weren’t like him because his religion and his political gods told him to hate them.

Amid this, they came. Perfect in every way, from human perception. They came neither feasting nor drinking. Their words, true and pure to the listener but meant to mislead. Meant to deceive.

And they did claim to be the promised return of the gods. The answer to all of the planet’s ills. And we did fall right in line. At first.

Well, most of us did. I did not. Nor did those who were my close associates.

Why I would be thrust into the role of hero was beyond me. I was not the hero type. In fact, I was overweight, over the age, and in ill health. I was, for all intents and purposes, ill suited for the calling.

And my friends and associates were a ragtag group of computer geeks, small business owners, and young entrepreneurs who had not yet fallen to the wiles of greed. Most were, after all, in the arts. Authors. Sculptors. Musicians. Painters. Actors.

But all ran their own businesses. Some were struggling, in the current economy, to rise from the red but all were still in business. And none had been tainted by greed.

And all saw through the illusion. We saw through the disguise the aliens used. They were not human. They were not benevolent.

Most of all, they were not the saviors they claimed to be. They wanted to subjugate. Enslave.

They wanted to use man as their new food source. All but those they felt could be used as their ‘representatives’ who would placate and lull the masses into a numbness that would hide the horrors that awaited. Of course, these ‘representatives’ would also serve as executioners of all who could see through the aliens’ lies and illusions.

***

I suppose I ought to begin at the beginning. How it happened. Where they came from. Why they came.

It was election year. America was more divided than it had ever been. insecure men ran the streets with automatic rifles on their backs, homegrown terrorist organizations had validation they had never earned through a president who did not win the election four years before, and protests were happening everywhere. Fringe religious groups had backed the worst possible candidate, falling from grace in the public eye….not that they had been in good graces with the public, they had not.

These religious groups wanted to bring on a twisted and demented version of whet they believed the ‘kingdom of God’ would be, where everyone was forced to believe in a lie. Their lie.

The political parties were so corrupt that they no longer did the will of the people. And yet, the people voted for them because they believed the political lies and half-truths. but mostly lies…just like the religiond of the world. All lies.

Science had been probing space for another earthlike planet, one that could possibly sustain human life, and had found a multitude. But one had caught their eye and they probed it with sound beams. And they had received an answer.

We are listening. We are watching. We are waiting.

That had been the answer. Short. Eerie. To the point.

But the team passed it off as a practical joke. They believed it to be a hack. And yet, they could not explain why the source had been located on the planet they had sent the message to.

A few days later, the message was followed by another.

We are ready. We are coming. We will be arriving.

We are here.

***

five billion light years from Earth lay a planet under siege. The aliens had come, they said, in peace. To bring peace and unity to the planet. They had brought war and more death instead.

The inhabitants of the planet realized, a bit too late, that the aliens intended to use them for food and as slave labor. These aliens had no homeworld. No point of origin that could be pointed to on any map of the known universe.

They had destroyed their own planet through war and overuse. Leaving, they became predatory scavengers. What they couldn’t scavenge, they got through preying on other races.

Once their planet had been destroyed by a supernova, they were forced into interstellar migration. Planet to planet. Galaxy to galaxy. Until they reached the planet Earth’s scientists had sent a transmission to.

There, they had waged a war for over a billion years against a resistance greater than any they had ever experienced. Then opportunity, in the form of a probe message from Earth, knocked. After all, they had always followed what they saw as distress signals from young planets where the occupants sought out intelligent life.

Distress, in the form of a probe. Distress that was not always distress. Distress in the form of curiosity. Deadly curiosity.

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 7

7.

 

“We are very pleased with you, Billy,” the head elder praised, “you have restored water to our planet of origin and possibly life.”

“Sirs,” he fidgeted uncomfortably, “if I may be permitted to speak.”

“Go ahead,” the elder nodded.

“I hesitate to agree with your desire to recolonize the planet,” he responded, “as the risk of there being a repeat of all that came to pass there is too great.”

“Oh?” The elder was now intrigued. “Is there evidence of the incident not being unique?”

“In many ways,” he nodded, “yes. Not that I have definite proof, but…”

“But you saw something that made you believe,” the elder finished for him.

“Yes,” he nodded again, “there is a massive wall like structure, something that looks man made, that stretches the length of the ocean basin we were first in.”

“An interesting anomaly,” the elder agreed, “one that makes me inclined to agree that mass resettlement may not be a viable option.” the elder peered at him. “So what is your solution?”

“We make Earth an animal sanctuary where wildlife can roam free,” he voiced, “and place a small scientific crew to oversee the sanctuary.”

“Interesting idea,” the elder smiled, “and is there more to this?”

“Yes,” he admitted, “we can clean up the lunar colony, tear down the original as it would be…unusable….then build a hostel or resort in its place where visitors who go to view animals in the wild can stay while there.”

“This is your project, Billy,” the elder announced, “we grant you permission to do all that you have suggested. But you must wait for at least eight days.”

“That is eighty Earth years,” he beamed, “correct?”

“Well,” the elder chuckled, “close enough to. It is about 400 Earth years. Long enough for the forests you planted to grow. Long enough for the climate to return to as close to normal as possible.”

“Thank you, sirs,” he bowed.

“You’re welcome, Billy,” the elder answered, then bent closer, “and you will be placed as management of this new sanctuary.”

***

“So what did they say?” His mother asked.

“They loved the sanctuary suggestion,” he bubbled happily, “and I am to be manager!”

“I am proud of you, son,” she smiled, “you have finally become an adult. Being given a charge is a sign that the elders see you as an adult. I believe the mission you were given was their test for you.”

“So I am to pick the science team?” He looked at her.

“Yes, son,” she nodded, a tear coming to her eye, “choose well.”

“What about those who have been caring for the animals in the preservation zoo?” He inquired.

“You will have to ask them if they would be interested,” she suggested, “but they would do as a starting point.”

“And you?” He pressed.

“I can only offer technical support,” she responded, “nothing more.”

“But we work so well together,” he objected.

“Yes,” she nodded, “but you need to find others you can work with. Others not of family.”

“Very well,” he was disappointed, “I shall. Wish you could go.”

“Son,” she began, “I have had my fill of Earth. It was a beautiful planet, but I do not want to live there. This is your destiny. Your opportunity to shine. Go. take hold of it and do not let go.”

“I will miss you,” he sniffed.

“And I, you,” she smiled sadly, “but I always knew that this day would come.”

“You always knew that I would leave?” He was surprised.

“We all must leave at some time,” she nodded, “and I knew that you were marked for greatness. Greatness that would not include me.”

“But,” he objected, “this was never the way I intended it to be!”

“It never is,” she shrugged, “especially when fate takes a hand in things.” She looked at him. “You were always destined to go back. From the first trip we took, that was to be your path. There was nothing I could do to stop it.”

“Couldn’t you have said something?” He inquired.

“No,” she confirmed, “it would have made you want it more. You would have pushed harder. And it would have driven you away from me more violently.

“I had to allow you to do as your destiny demanded. It was more natural. This is what is meant to be. Embrace it.”

“What of you?” He persisted.

“I will still be here,” she affirmed, “and I shall come and visit. Do not worry. And you may have a brother or sister. It is the way these things go.”

***

Billy selected a team. The conservation team agreed to accompany the animals to Earth and to remain there to study and preserve life in a more natural setting. The conservancy cubes were loaded into the largest ship he had ever seen. 

“What shall we call our ship?” Anders, the bug cat overseer, inquired.

“How about The Ark?” He asked, somewhat jokingly.

The Ark,” the scientist mused, “good enough for me.”

“Let’s get loaded up,” he looked at Anders.

“Yes,” the scientist nodded, “let us.”

Billy entered the ship with the science team. He stopped at the hatch and took one last look around. It would be the last time any of them would see Home.

They lifted off after the last conservancy cube had been loaded. The small loading/offloading crew remained aboard. They would return the ship after all was offloaded. 

That had been how he had set things up. They would load and unload the ship, then return Home with the empty ship. He would remain on Earth with the scientists.

He smiled sadly. In a flash, they would be over Earth. There, they would off load the animals according to their original continent. The Americas. Eurasia. Africa. Australia. 

The islands would receive their animals last. There would be fewer to offload. Fewer to get mixed up.

Behind them. A second ship lifted off. This one was loaded with a cleaning and colonizing crew. The lunar colony would be small, just enough to maintain the hostel. 

Their project would be the most important. It would establish a resort where people could stay while visiting the preserve known as Earth. It would ensure that there was little to no contamination of the preserve.

***

The Ark lifted off from Earth and vanished. Its departure symbolized the last chance of leaving the planet. Billy blinked away the tears.

What had begun as a research project had become his life’s work. He was now fully invested in returning Earth to its former splendor. There was no turning back.

He turned away from where the ship had been and vanished into the primal jungle. He would roam the forests and jungles from this point on.  

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 6

6.

 

He had found the same promise of hope at each capped source. Grass had begun to grow where the water had made a wet spot. The discovery gave him such hope.

It showed him that life could return to the planet. Life would return. That meant that once the caps were destroyed, the atmosphere would return to what it had been before humanity poisoned it.

The rains would return. The plant life would spring back to life. Verdant forests and lush prairies would grow.

He hoped that the elders reconsidered their idea of resettlement. He would rather they return the creatures of Earth back here to roam free. Yes, Earth would be best as an animal sanctuary.

Humanity had its new home. It really did not need to return here. They did not need to risk returning to what they had been.

If they wanted to colonize, they should look outward from where they were now. Not back toward where they had been. No need to revisit the past.

Not permanently, anyway. The animals could have Earth once they were repopulated in their respective regions. Humanity could come back and visit, leaving it as they found it.

Not that it would be hard. They no longer hunted for pleasure or even for food. They no longer had the need.

Perhaps they would have to cull the population in order to keep illness down. Then, again, maybe they wouldn’t perhaps illness was nature’s way of doing just that.

He could only hope that the elders would listen. The planet was going to be pristine. Untouched.

At least once every seed had grown and all animal life returned to its rightful place. And once the oceans were filled and once more teeming with life. Why spoil it?

Humanity had destroyed it once. There was no need in risking it happening again. Not after so much work to restore it.

Perhaps they could replace the colony on the moon and use it as a hostel where they could stay when visiting Earth. They could also clean up Mars and recolonize there.

He would recommend this as more feasible. He would push for the idea of Earth as a nature preserve. A sort of open zoo where the animals roamed free in their own environment.

The only permanent human inhabitants would be those sent to ensure each region’s animals’ full return to wildness. The keepers. They could close down the preservation zoos they had set up on Home permanently.

He smiled. It was a grand plan. He just hoped that the elders would agree.

***

He placed explosives on the last cap. He was finally done setting the charges. It had taken three months, but now they could free the water.

He grinned with satisfaction. Every seed had been planted. Every cap was ready to be blasted. 

“Are we ready, mother?” He asked into his communicator.

“For what?” His mother returned.

“I just set the last explosives,” he responded, “are we ready for mass blasting?”

“Did you remember to place the wireless remote detonators?” She pressed.

“Yes,” he averred, “and made sure that the explosives were just enough to destroy the caps, but not enough to damage anything else.” 

“Then,” she admitted, “we are ready just as soon as you are back in the ship and we are airborne.”

“Then,” he stated, “I am on my way in.”

“Any special requests?” She inquired.

“Turn on the external audio sensors,” he suggested, “I want to hear what it sounds like after the caps are blasted.”

“Very well,” she sighed, “the audio sensors will be on.”

“I’m headed back in,” he concluded, “no time to waste.”

“The hatch is open,” she averred, “just hover right in.”

“Thank you,” he stated, “I will.”

He sped to her location.  He had no time to lose. They had to get to a high enough altitude that the mists of the roaring waters did not dampen their ship and cause contamination. They also had to go above the planet and deploy the relay net so that the simultaneous detonation could take place. 

He hovered into the cargo bay of the ship. Getting out of the rover, he made his way to the bridge.

“We need to release the relay net,” he stated, “so we can finish up.”

“Let us get into high orbit,” his mother responded, “that should do the trick.”

***

The relay net was a remote operated retractable device that expanded to whatever size was needed. They would expand it completely for use, then allow it to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. It would not cause any harm to the planet.

Once it was deployed, they reentered the atmosphere and hovered low enough to capture any sound that might emerge after the detonations. And waited. 

The detonations barely registered as more than a distant pop. A soft, but growing roar followed as the waters were suddenly released. They watched on the monitor as the waters washed over the parched ground, flooding over the newly planted seeds.

It was a beautiful sight. He thrilled at the thunder of the water as it flooded forth. The sound of nature at her most pure. Most violent.

Even his mother was enthralled by the sight and sound. It was the first time he had ever seen her speechless. He smiled.

“So,” she finally gathered enough courage to speak, “this is what the elders wanted you to do?”

“Yes,” he nodded, “though I am not so certain we should recolonize.”

“Is that their intention?” She frowned.

“It was one of the possibilities, yes,” he admitted, “though not the only one.”

“What would you do?” She pressed.

“I would turn Earth into a sanctuary for the animals currently kept in the preservation zoos,” he responded, “with minimal human contact. And almost no human population…just a small number of scientists to oversee the welfare of the preserve. We could…have hover tours to keep contact to a minimum and a hostel on the moon to stay at when visiting.”

“So,” she rubbed her chin, “you’re against recolonization?”

“Yes,” he nodded again, “I am. Why colonize when we can always search elsewhere for suitable planets? What if recolonization sets off the chain of events that originally caused us to leave the planet in the first place? What if we recolonize and end up finally destroying the planet?”

“I see your point,” she averred, “and agree. The risk is too great.”

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 5

5.

 

Bones littered the plateau. Shattered remains of buildings, glass stripped by fire and explosions, stood like stark sentries above what had been New York City. A blob of oxidized copper sat where a once grand statue had once stood.

The bridge was still there, but riddled with holes. Crumbling. Unusable.

Empty shells that were once cars sat, littering the streets. Skeletons sat within, sightless and uncaring. Sands had begun to reclaim the streets. 

It was a nightmare landscape. Something out of his nightmares. How he wished he could turn back. 

But he had a mission to complete. In a way, he was breaking the rules at the behest of the elders. He was attempting basic terraforming by reintroducing once native species back into the ecosystem.

The only difference was that he was taking the natural path, not using machines to do the work. All he had to do was find the source of the problem where the rivers were concerned. What was keeping them from flowing? 

Had the source springs dried up? Had they become clogged? Or maybe buried?

Had the same happened to the tributaries? Or had the aquifers been drained? Or had the problem been manmade?

He knew that the aquifers had not gone dry, but too many questions flooded in. He felt somewhat lost. He had admission to complete, but no idea where to begin. 

He sighed. He would begin at the big lakes at what had been the ancient border of Canada and the United States. He would do some scratchings there as well. In each lake bed. 

He hoped that he could turn things around. He hoped he could return waters to this rock somehow. Even a little bit of water flowing could restart the ecosystem. It could get the rains to begin again. 

Yes. He would have to get a little water trickling out of the ground. Just enough to restart the rains. Once the rains started, the rivers, tributaries, lakes and oceans would fill up over time. 

The seeds he was planting would grow. And maybe long dormant seeds hidden beneath the sands. With that growth, the atmosphere would heal more. 

The cycle would continue. Rain, growth, oxygenation…perhaps his actions would bring on more seasons. Perhaps spring and fall would return to separate summer and winter.

He smiled as he thought of what his actions could bring. A renewal. A rebirth.

It could also bring on catastrophe. But that was a remote risk. Something the elders felt necessary to see if Earth could be revived.

***

The scratchings and corings done in the lake beds had yielded moisture. Water had come bubbling up from two holes left after core samples had been taken. Puddles had soon spread, forcing Billy to abandon each lake bed. 

He smiled. Water was to be found. And at this rate, he might be able to return a decent ecosystem to this planet. 

“Water in all four large lake beds,” he reported to home base, “perhaps this planet isn’t as barren as we were led to believe.”

“That’s a positive thing,” his mother began, “isn’t it?”

“A very positive thing,” he confirmed, “has the oozing water a few clicks from you begun to build to anything?”

“So far,” she returned, “not that I can see. But the location is quite a distance from me, so it could have become a bigger stream. In this salt desert, it’ll be hard to see much difference until a lake forms…or a river.”

“True,” he averred, “just keep watching. If it does show signs of change, or the water gets too close, go ahead and move to a plateau.”

“Alright,” she answered, “and I will be sure to relay my new location to you.”

“If I happen upon something manmade and believe it will pose a threat to you,” he continued, “something I have to break, for instance, I will contact you and tell you to move the ship.”

“Alright,” she stated.

Shutting down the communicator, he went back to work. First, he would travel to the north. Check the rivers there.  He would plant the seeds as he went. Forests and grass would grow once more here.

“Moving to the slope,” his mother reported, “for a better view of what is below.”

He switched his communicator back on.

“East? He inquired. “Or west?”

“West,” she replied, “why?”

“Just for reference,” he stated, “the west slope is closest. The east would give me further to travel.”

“Oh,” she responded.

***

Humanity had been stupid. They had capped all the source springs of all the major rivers and tributaries. They had literally stopped the flow of all lifegiving water. All in their greed.

Perhaps they had thought that they were conserving. Or maybe it had been an act of war. Or malice. Or greed.

He believed it had probably been the last. Or maybe a combination of malice, war, and greed. And maybe not in that order.

Whatever their reason, they had killed the Earth. After capping the rivers and tributaries, the rains had stopped. When the rains stopped, crops wouldn’t grow. And starvation set in.

By all appearances, they had forgotten that they had capped these sources. Wouldn’t surprise him. Humanity had not been that smart.

They had always been making war for no reason. Hating for even less. And their greed had been horrible.

They had stopped caring about each other. Only money mattered. Not life. Not equality.

And their politics had reflected that. Their hate. Their greed. Their lack of compassion.

But so had their religions. All of them. None of their religions had taught compassion or love.

Both had been their downfall. Both had brought on their extinction. Their end.

Looking at the cap before him, Billy noticed something. It had begun to deteriorate. Just a little.

Where the water slowly oozed from the cap, a small damp spot had appeared and grass had grown in that spot. A ghost in the ruins. The promise of returned life.

He had enough explosives to blow every cap he found. The problem was, how to handle the simultaneous demolition of every cap on the planet. He turned his communicator back on.

“I have a problem,” he announced.

“What kind of problem?” His mother inquired.

“I have found the source of the problem,” he returned, “but it will take weeks to set up all the explosives for a synchronized demolition.”

“Demolition of what?” she pressed.

“The fools capped all sources going to all rivers and tributaries,” he sighed, “all will have to be blown so that the rivers can all run free.”

“Is that within the parameters of your mission?” She was alarmed at his inference of interference in the natural order of things.

“The caps are all man made,” he responded, “if we destroy them, we return the natural balance and set the rivers free. Is it interference if we return things to their natural order?”

“Well, no,” she allowed, “but…”

“I was told to do whatever it took,” he reassured her, “as long as it restored balance and did not use machines to artificially create anything. Blasting the caps off the source springs successfully fulfills that mandate.

“The problem is that we will likely have to go to every continent and island and set charges…which is time consuming. That means we will be here a while. That is, if we want to do this right.”

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 4

4.

 

Beyond the sixth coring site, he came upon the rusted hulk of a submarine. Had the inhabitants survived? Or had they died?

Curious, he approached it. It was as big as he had believed it would be. No matter. He could still get in.

A simple adjustment to his utility belt and he was at the top. He studied the hull as he rose. It was remarkably preserved for something that should have been rusted away.

But then, there had been no moisture since it came to rest here. No rain. Nothing.

He inspected the sealed hatch. The lock was still intact. Almost as if no one had exited the machine.

That meant that all were possibly still in there. Were they alive? Or had they died?

He shook his head. They couldn’t be alive. These machines had not been built with hydroponic chambers for extended use. They had been intended to remain at sea for short periods.

Once out of food, they would have returned to base to get more. They possibly changed crews at that point as well. Or received new orders and ordinance.

He popped the hatch. A putrid odor rose from the bowels of the machine. The smell of death and staleness.

He touched another button and a bubble popped up around his head. A filter would be needed for exploration here. Something to filter toxins.

He descended into the bowels of the submarine. As he did so, he noticed that some of the lights were still blinking weakly. There was still energy enough stored here to keep the lights going. That was good.

Bodies were strewn everywhere. The mummified remains told him a tale of being trapped within this machine for decades longer than they had intended. Maybe longer.

He sought out what he believed would be the captain’s quarters. He needed to find the log. Or whatever the final moments would be recorded in.

He needed to know what happened. How it happened. And why.

Anything that could help prevent future mistakes. Or future wars. And anything that could add to the incomplete histories the elders currently had.

***

The captain, or what he took to be the captain, sat at a desk in one of the compartments. A stained book lay open before him, his dead, empty eyes staring at the ceiling. In his hand was a stylus of some sort. To one side sat a strange computer so compact that it folded easily.

So unlike the current technology, Billy thought to himself. Now, computers were little more than crystals that projected digital workpads. They saved so much room and used so much less energy.

The data on the old foldable computer would have to be extracted and digitized. After, it would have to be transferred to a crystal all its own. Just as the book before the captain would have to be digitized and placed on a crystal.

Still, the work couldn’t be avoided. The data was important. As was the video feed streaming back to the ship. 

He had switched on his video button when he entered the submarine. He had wanted a record of his entry into this massive machine. He had wanted to record all he saw.

He had not expected things to be so grim. But then, he wasn’t sure exactly what he had expected. Or why.

He had known that no one could have survived in one of these tubs for thousands of years with nothing to eat. And it was very apparent that they had starved to death. Or those who were still in one piece had. 

The rest had become food for the others. Perhaps, because of this cannibalism, the rest had succumbed to poisoning as the rest may have died of illnesses. At least that was how it appeared. 

He took samples from each corpse. Perhaps the samples would tell him what had ended their lives. He only hoped that he didn’t end up freeing some contagion.

From what he could tell, the engineering crew had been the first to be sacrificed. Perhaps they had been the first to die. Or maybe the first to fall ill.

He knew that in situations of dire need, in those times, the ill and the weak generally ended up the first to serve the needs of the rest. It was a disgusting fact in primitive humanity’s past. It amazed him that humanity had survived.

Man had been such a horrid creature in his primitive form. So selfish. So filled with hate and violence. So quick to eat his own in times of need.

He was glad that humanity no longer had need of physical sustenance. It seemed such a distant unnatural thing. So foreign.

He made it to ordinance. Or what he believed to be ordinance. He checked for radiation. 

There was none. The uranium used in the warheads had finally degraded beyond danger levels. The radiation levels in the engine room had proven to be below danger levels as well, though there had been signs of a leak. 

Nuclear power had been such a primitive form of propulsion. Most of it was what was called fission reaction. Splitting atoms to make energy. 

The Savior, the man who had helped the peaceful escape and who had started the colonies, had used what was called cold fusion reaction. Creating energy by fusing atoms in a cold environment. At least that was how he understood the concept.

***

A few clicks away from the submarine sat another ship. This time, it was a surface ship. One the ancients had called an aircraft carrier.

It was huge. Like a massive city that had once floated on the waves. And as it was just sitting there on the bottom, seemingly settling in an upright position, it was even more impressive.

Unlike the submarine, the aircraft carrier had begun to oxidize and the sheeting seemed a bit eroded. Still, it was in fairly good shape. He nodded. He would explore.

Instead of seeking entrance at the lower level, he decided to hover to the top, to the tarmac and explore from top to bottom.

Bones littered the tarmac. Deteriorating aircraft also littered the top deck. Standing at the far end of the top deck, he could see a seabed littered with planes. And other ships. Cruisers. Destroyers. And even one that looked oddly like what had been described as a commercial cruise ship. 

Apparently, they had run our of fuel. All of them. He shook his head sadly.

He didn’t have time to investigate the other ships. Nor did he want to. As it was, he was wasting valuable time exploring this one.

He felt, though, that he should. Maybe there was a similar journal here. Something to corroborate the other one from the sub.

Floor by floor, he walked the corridors and the cavernous lower levels. None had survived and much of the ordinance was harmless. There was even evidence of the same fate as those on the sub. 

A tear came to his eye. It was such a sad way to go. The torture of deciding who to sacrifice. The slow agony of death as it closed in.

Again, he had turned on his video feed. Once again, all was recorded. He climbed back into his rover and turned off the video feed.

He would head on to the plateau once known as North America. There, he would plant the seeds he had been instructed to plant. After, he would seek out the mysterious reason why the rivers suddenly dried up.

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 3

3.

 

Home was fifty light years from Earth but the most current technology could bend time so that one could land on Earth in the same moment in time that they left Home. They could remain in the present even if the space in time was vast.

He chuckled. Ancient humanity would have claimed that the technology was impossible. But they, his more recent ancestors, had come to realize that nothing was ever impossible. Ancient quantum physics, and ancient astrophysics for that matter, had been rudimentary. Incomplete. Biased enough to ensure that truth seemed to be the impossibility.

Even time travel was accessible now. One could go to almost any point in the past and, remaining beyond the continuum so as not to be seen, observe events of the past. Yet none had attempted it. Not past a few years.

He wondered if he would be given a pass for that as well, once he was done with this mission. He wanted to find out what had really happened. Who had started what? Or had it been a natural disaster?

He also wanted to know what the true origin of the long held religion really was. Had it been a single man? Or had it been something simply made up?

He was full of questions. How did man begin? How did he advance to where he had been when the schism occurred? What had been the origin of that schism? Had it been founded in truth? Or just another lie?

He had so many questions. So many things he wanted to discover. But at the moment, he had to finish the mission the elders had given him. After, he might convince them to allow the other.

“Two minutes until we enter Earth’s atmosphere,” his mother stated, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“Did we remember the rover?” He inquired.

“Yes,” she assured him, “and the packs you were told to bring. I just don’t understand why I have to remain with the ship.”

“The elders talked that they might be transmitting more orders,” he shrugged, “and someone has to be aboard to upload the data I send through com.”

“Oh,” she frowned, “and what was with all those packs?”

“Just something the elders wanted me to do,” he smiled, “nothing to worry about.”

“Not worried,” she sighed, “just seems to be an awful lot of secrecy surrounding this mission.”

“I will probably be gone for a few days, so will have to send data through com,” he explained, “someone is needed here to upload it to the crystals so that it is ready for transmission to Home. No real secrecy. No mystery. 

“I am simply to do my experiments on my own. Nothing more. It was the instructions I was given by the elders.”

“Oh,” she nodded, finally satisfied, “OK.” She paused. “Be careful.”

“I will, mother,” he smiled, “no worries.”

***

What had once been oceans were now deep cavernous deserts. There was no life to be seen. Nothing to hint of the once vibrant world that Earth had once been.

Instead, a swelteringly dry wind met any who entered the desolate world that remained. Billy wondered if the plateaus that had been the continents and islands offered anything cooler. He hoped so.

He would be working up there soon enough. That had been where he had been instructed to plant the seeds. That had also been where he had been told to explore. 

There had been no settlements in the oceans. Nothing but great underwater war machines known as submarines. And even those had their limits where depth was concerned.

He was sure that he would come across some of these strange machines but he doubted if there was any left alive within. After all, there was no food. Nothing to survive on.

At least not where primitive humanity was concerned. Modern humanity no longer needed sustenance. They no longer needed anything remotely resembling food. 

Knowledge fed them. Understanding. Empathy. Wisdom.

Billy studied his surroundings. The trenches were off limits. They were nothing but fiery pits spewing lava.

He smiled. He would travel just out of his mother’s line of sight before making his first test for water. After scratching for water in a few places, he would head for what had once been the Americas.

He was glad that the rover had hover capabilities. It was sort of like a small flying saucer, though not enclosed and mostly empty so that cargo could be stored within. His little cockpit was just big enough for one.

“Am I out of your line of sight yet?” He called back to his mother.

“Yes,” she answered, “and I do not like it. But you have your instructions, so I must accept even if I do not agree.”

“Alright,” He began, “I will do my first scratching here.”

“Alright,” she returned, “ready for data transfer.”

He stopped his rover. He could not see the ship. Good. 

He got out of the rover and dug in the cargo hold for the instruments needed. Finding his core tapper, he walked a short distance and pushed it into the sandy soil as deep as he could. He would be taking six of these cores in his attempt to scratch for water.

***

On the sixth coring, water began to ooze – almost unnoticeably – from the ground. But he had noticed and was thrilled. It meant that the planet wasn’t completely dry. Or completely dead.

He gathered some of the water for analysis. He wanted to see if there were minerals in it. Or if it was completely sterile.

He hoped that this was not a fluke. That would be a horrible thing. It would also mean that this whole trip was for naught.

He hoped to find an answer to what had caused this. Surely humanity hadn’t drank up all the water. Nor had the water simply dried up. Or had it?

So many mysteries. So many strange things that didn’t make sense. He shook his head.

Even with the greenhouse gases that ancient humanity had caused, this was not a plausible end. Poisoned water, yes. Extreme heat, yes. But not total loss of water.

So what had happened? Had their nuclear warfare caused the waters to be stopped up? Had their greed caused all the rivers’ sources to be tapped and capped? 

Nothing here made much sense. There was nothing to indicate exactly what had happened. Not like the colonies on the moon or on Mars.

All on Mars had died from some bacterial plague. The source of the bacteria was unknown. Wherever it had come from, it had spread rather rapidly. 

There was incomplete evidence that the bacteria had been indigenous to the planet. But nothing solid. No evidence could be found to corroborate what the colonists had recorded. 

The catastrophe that had been the lunar colonies was horribly evident. Space debris, most likely a small asteroid, had destroyed the protective bubble and allowed the artificial atmosphere to escape quicker than the machines could create it. Space dust and stellar radiation damaged the machines beyond repair. 

The end result was the death of all within. The investigations into the scene had proven it. He found himself tearing up at the thought.

Before I Begin…

I mentioned in my last update that I was thinking about cutting the prologue from the short story. After I mentioned it, I decided it was a good idea and went ahead. the result is that I now have two (or more) collections of short stories now started.  I also went in search of two stories I had begin….and realized that I had flushed them both down the proverbial/creative toilet.

No big loss. Neither were unfolding quite the way I had hoped at the time. Now, they will be parts of my growing project.

I hope to finish another three or four chapters (not sure how long I will draw out Ghost In The Ruins) today….after posting the next chapter. (sorry I am late with it, but we set another 8 – 10 posts and reinsulated the wire on the electric fence, so was out the door before I could do much….)

About the story…

Before I go on, I want to say that I may remove the prologue and place it into a story that will precede this one…as I am suddenly tempted to do just that. The story itself takes place several millennia after the prologue and it seems to be a sort of literary sore thumb just waiting to be whacked by some unseen hammer for not quite meshing with the rest of the story.  Besides. I have a whole ‘nother story zipping through my brain that includes the current prologue.

I wrote the beginning because I felt I needed a quick explanation for where the story has ended up. I am beginning to believe I was a bit premature with my inclusion (comes from starting a story under one title and ending up skipping through my list of titles to find a more apt one..) and now find myself facing a second storm brewing in my very creative mind.

I may even write a second “prequel” short that helps the reader a bit more with the ‘how’ of the story I am currently writing. (how all ended on earth, how humanity evolved into what they are in the current short, etc.) The reality being that this is meant as an ongoing series of short stories, not just one or two. Sort of a series of episodes.

In many ways, I am returning to my original craft…episodic fiction…though in longer stories. Thus, I prove once more that we always return home. Both in life and in our writing.