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That Which Survives
True I know that all mankind is doomed but somehow the fact that this means I'm doomed overshadows everything.
It's not that I'm callous about the loss of human civilization. I have fought mightily to keep the race going. I did pioneering work in the field of human recombinant fertility. Even pushed the frontiers of nanotics with the equine resettlement program. It's just that now that humanity is down to a handful of people it's getting hard to think of it as a race. All that's left is the twelve of us. In another day after I'm gone it'll be elven. Sometimes extinction sneaks up on a race like a windshield on a bug.
Sometimes I wish I had grown up to be a story teller instead of a nanonics engineer. As keeper of the words I'd feel privilidged to be here at the end able to record the last dying rays of mankinds sunset before it drifted into that long night with only the stars to remember him by. Instead I'm a failure. Nothing we have done has been able to stem the tide. I build new nanites carefully assembling them one protein at a time. Atom by atom, molecule by molecule growing a machine out of nothing. Tubulin forming microtubles forming networks of electron clouds probibility nets shimmering into an emergent phenomenon of apparent meaningful action. Only to be crushed under the weight of the great change. My agents existence crushed by one of humanities protectors.
The first protector organisms were built nearly a thousand years ago. The idea was to prevent any future damage to the human species by codifying a set of "legal" genomes and variations. That way no virus, no mad nanites gone wrong could accidently or purposely damage the sacred human genome. We'd be safe.
It worked too. Within two generations there simply were no more geneticly based diseases. Most cancers were wiped out, as were downs syndrome and a host of others. Mankind settled into a peaceful blisful existance harmonious with nature. Or so we thought. Nature though is a cruel mother. Her rule is that life form communities. That communities adapt together, grow together change together. A human isn't an organism. A human is a plethora of interweaved symbiotic relations. >From the mitochondria in our cells to the barely microscopic mites on our skin. All sharing the journey.
Strange things happen if you break this web. Go to a foreign city and the water poisons organisms in your bowels. They die and suddenly the ph is all wrong. The waves of peristolysis come too quickly. There isn't enough time to scavange back the water invested in digestion. Diareah ensues. Luckily the bacteria can adapt or a local variant can move in. In time a new aliance is struck and the balance is restored. All is well. So it goes humanity and all it's components adapting to the world together.
We hadn't forgotten our friends. THey were made just as immutable as we were. THere lay the problem. Time has a different meaning in the microcosm. WHile a thousand years is nothing in evolutionary time for humans. It is ages for a microbe. Given any pressure every organism in an area will adapt to it's evironment. Every organism is striving to adapt in a limited world. There are millions of microbes that would love to live in the human gut. Each mutation is a potential weapon to destroy the dominant organism and claim it's ecologial niche. Every mutuation is a weapon to defend one's niche and keep the maurauding microbes at bay. It's not just mutations either. Microbes are a strange lot. They believe in free trade. Sending out recombinants of interesting genes. Accepting recombinants into thier own genomes. Small wedding rings of DNA binding all life together. All life except our's that is. The immutable human group. Unwilling or unable, cut off from the ring of life. It took less than a thousand years for the web off life to respond. IF humans wouldn't trade then humans wouldn't play. One by one the human group is being replaced.
At first it seemed like we could survive as some form of strange mechanistic outsider. We took pills to fill the void of proteins we couldn't make. We built nanites to perform the jobs our companions had done in the past. But all in all it was too little too late. We paniced and started pulling inwards. Sealed communities. De-ionized twice filtered air. Guaranteed sterile water. We retreated from life.
The final bell sounded during my parents life time. Something had gone wrong in one of the organales of meiosis the haploid division that allows us to reproduce. The births rate crashed to near zero. I was one of the last dozen births. I've never produced sperm.
And still we tried to fight back. My generation came up with the idea of the great re-seeding. Three species would be transformed into humans. Humans of a new type that would be different enough to be immune to the protectors but still the two armed two legged hairless free standing large brained ape that was man. We'd teach them to be humans and they would go on in our place. The results were less than we had hoped for. The dolphin all drift into a strange catatonic meditation after a few years and can't survive without help. The chimpanzees develop incredibly strong family groups that devolve into massive feuds and wars. Perhaps we suceeded better than we imagined at making them humans. The only group to survive as a free standing self supporting community were the homo equus, the horses.
At dawn they all rise as one and wander out into the rising sun. At first it seems aimless but after a while you begin to see the pattern in thier wanderings. They drift bout until they all find thier correct places then with a nearly miraculous simultaneous sound they begin to sing. The morning song is in the new language. THe language they have developed for themselves. It has resisted our efforts to crack it. The erie beauty of the song rising into the air from thier village as the sun drifts up into the sky is impossible not to feel. They go about thier tasks and thier lifes with a quiet deterministic drive to live every second. They push at life. THey feel it they breathe it they sing it. At night I suspect the dream it. Being around them is like being in a zen monastary full of five year old budhas. They know the secret of what life is for but can't tell you since they can't concieve of not knowing it. I hate them.
Humanity was about fighting and striving to wrest meaning out of a universe apparently devoid of it. A madman's grasp at an illusionary apple. They already know the answer that has been mankinds whole quest. I don't know what they are but they aren't human. I once asked one of them, "Why live if there is no knowledge to strive for? Why live if there are no secrets to find?" His face brightened and he said simply, "You understand. Why live?"
Very soon I won't. The cold earth calls to me and as my mind begins to fade out I think of the process behind it all. My thought emerging as my brain tries to form an explanation for actions. Actions taken as a long emergent phenomenon of quantum forces winding thier way up from the sub-atomic to create an illusion of existance. The illusion only know breaking down as the continuity of my life is breaking down. Death pulling at me. One less man. Just as my last thought stretches out and fades away into infinity I suddenly hold it as a single perfect note and I understand why the horses sing.
That Which Survives copyright 1996 by #6.
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