Doug gave the rising brow of the storm a stern
glance and plodded on in the biting wind. His genetically thickened legs and
toughened mutant skin being necessary for his survival in this blustery part
of the northern Canada. Other men with lesser powers would've already been
blown away, thrown like straw into the void of wilderness. And it felt cold
- Arctic cold with temperatures dropping down the scale like they did a
He couldn't turn back as flash floods raced in
the south and forest fires raged to the east. The west existed as a bizarre
swampland leading up to inhospitable mountains he didn't want to think
about. There wasn't any place where he could hide from the roar of an angry
earth. He always ended up on the edge of the storm. And this time it meant
Doug tightened bitter lips against the settling
frost and grim day. He imagined himself lucky in that his intelligence
hadn't been greatly enhanced. Not having the ability to calculate all of the
odds against him seemed a blessing.
Three hours more of steady walking brought him
to a long rise and a banked depression partially sheltered from the wind.
Looking ahead, he saw endless chunks of ice and colored stone sprinkled
across exposed tundra. A large part of a flash glacier had melted here and
due to his view at the last peak, he knew that this weird spread of land
stretched on for several kilometers.
He'd seen a huge log structure near the top but
couldn't spot it now against the dark background of clouds. They rolled up
like smoke in howling wind, creating ferocious effects that would make
demons and giants seek shelter.
As he began the climb he studied the ground at
his feet, amazed at the things poking out of the strange tundra. Polluted
glacial ice that had stubbornly remained had buried it for ages and it
seemed unfair that such a find would only be uncovered in a time when few
humans were left who could study it or even reach it.
Shells of extinct sea creatures, lizard
skeletons, preserved feathers -- strange greenery and ferns sprouted here
and there from ancient seeds. In places the tundra ran like seaweed in
rounded rocks, forming faces as it rippled in the wind. An unknown Eden of
the north was here and emerging from the ice … a place that had never been
mentioned in legends, holy books or even imagined.
Near the top, he looked up and spotted the
structure a couple hundred feet away. A cabin built of huge petrified gray
logs that had been pulled from the glacier bottom. Stretched around the
slope in a V shape, it was more than a single cabin and he supposed it had
been put together that way to provide maximum cover from the ceaseless blow.
Doug had to turn into the open wind to get to
the door; and from there he caught a glimpse of the other slope and the
unusual forest covering it. Squat trees bit into the ground. Their branches
shaking like tentacles. Some had gnarled limbs covered with large black
cones and others sported huge needles nearly wide enough to be leaves.
Climbing roots wound in the rotted carpeting, and in places they sat on soil
and tundra that looked like quicksand. Boughs arched overhead and coiled
where the trees were dense, creating a dim and partially sheltered world
below. Strange lighting tinted pools of icy water and as a whole the place
seemed like a tiny forest world in microcosm - an ancient hideaway that had
been uncovered after ages of burial and was sprouting again.
The heavy door was open and banging in the wind.
Doug stepped into the dark interior thinking that perhaps it'd been open in
the blow for years. As far as anyone knew, there were no outdoor survivors
up in this part of the world.
A brief look told him the place was about as
solid as a vault. Forcing the door shut he drew the sturdy bolt and found
himself in darkness for a moment before he pulled his ball lantern from his
It detected the dark room and brightened.
Shadows swept across the walls as the room lit up, and what he saw was
Spartan to say the least. Simple tables and chairs had been fashioned from a
grainy sort of pinewood. There were a few crude tools and an old Remington
rifle on the back wall. A heavy chest stood bolted to the floor near the
center table so he stepped over and opened it, finding a dog-eared
handwritten notebook and nothing else inside.
Doug was exhausted and cold. The cabin had a
small fireplace but he rarely used fire. He took the notebook and a blanket,
sat down on a heavy chair and began to read; feeling relaxation settle in as
the first words flowed into his mind.
Welcome, mutant son of man.
My name is Joe London, and since I'm the last
survivor hereabouts you can call this my survivalist's notebook.
I lived as a gambling man in a world that
gambled its life away; another roll of the dice and everything might've have
come up right. But there is no second roll of the big dice, so we got snake
eyes and a dead world in fate's toss.
Men always were thieves and robbers; most of us
worked to destroy nature. There were a few higher tribal cultures that
coexisted and perhaps history could've rolled one of those into dominance.
Instead, the axes kept coming up every time and we cut down the world - we
talked of new worlds and planets while we murdered and poisoned the species
and systems on our own. Like cowards, most of us robbed the people of the
future, talking grand and never considering that they couldn't fight back.
They could only be our victims.
Welcome to my cabin, fellow predator. You like
the gun-slit window?
I'm always amazed when I consider how people
from seventy years back could've turned nature into a raging bull today -
and put the undeserving and unborn on the receiving end of the sucker
punches and hurricanes. Keep in mind that I wasn't one of the stupid ones,
Remember the old gasoline engine? I was a top
official in one of the key auto companies of the day. It was my job to know
and in the end keep it secret. We had the ability to transfer to solar,
hydrogen, electric and other engines all along but we wouldn't do it because
we didn't want to spend the money on retooling the plants. We believed in an
ever-rising economy and it rose to the top and choked the world in its
gasses and hidden environmental horrors.
We did nothing as the ice cap melted; or should
I say that what we did was get China to embrace a policy of a car per person
to make sure the entire world would choke on greenhouse gases.
I spoke out on the issue at about the time the
meteorological system began to collapse. Making a public statement to the
effect that the planet was destined to become hell -- a place more like
Hades than Earth. We had taken the Biblical Armageddon and turned it into
Thermageddon -- an ecological catastrophe on a biblical scale. And it spite
of what was clearly happening to us, corporations and governments were
continuing to encourage air pollution, nuclear waste, burning, over-fishing,
clear-cutting, strip-mining, super dams, excessive drainage, paving of wild
lands, dumping and a population explosion.
As it was happening, the visionaries were
preaching our survival as though we were living on another planet. The
technologies they plugged like terraforming, nano technology, genetically
enhanced food and humans, tinkering with the atmosphere and so on were to be
the miracles to ensure our survival -- not on Mars, but here on Earth.
And what it really added up to was another grand
dream of the robbers. The reality being waves of nightmarish weather
sweeping the world. Our biosphere undergoing a complete transformation. The
Arctic ice cap melted yet they were still telling people that ice that was
long gone still existed up here. The planet's temperatures soared because
the huge sink of dark water absorbed heat from the sun while the shield of
ice used to reflect heat back into space.
Rising tides swept in like oily giants to drown
places like Florida. Overpopulation and burning killed the Amazon
rainforest. Salmon disappeared from the Pacific Ocean -- food grew scarce as
the world's population exploded. The last of the coral reefs were winking
out. The Everglades were drowned. The Gulf Stream switched off. Parts of the
world like Texas were becoming total deserts. Super-hurricanes, category 6
tornadoes and floods became regular news, along with forest fires and
droughts. All of it creating billions of environmental refugees in a world
already composed of billions of poverty-stricken people. It didn't take much
more to kill off their meager food supply. The reek of the dying billions in
torched cities replaced the stench of dying marine life and forests in the
end. And even then we thought we would be safe in North America.
But we weren't and for a last blow, the great
stores of Arctic methane got released through melting and severe atmospheric
feedback loops locked in, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect. The
combination of biotic impoverishment, rising air and sea temperatures, the
crumbling ozone shield, an altered planetary skin and the accumulation of
carbon dioxide finally tipped the balance and put an end to life as we knew
We couldn't act to save ourselves as
corporations had turned our world institutions into tools of profit and
suppression. Speculators were largely in control and governments geared to
Band-Aid solutions couldn't act in a fast rising crisis.
As things collapsed, those who'd profited from
bringing about our death adapted and profited from death and the industry of
extermination itself. But I was on the outside then and I'd been there for a
Shortly after my conversion to environmental
causes I became unemployable and eventually an outlaw survivalist - a
transformation that happened in degrees. The old feature films used to
display wonderful heroes and they conquered all. In real life, there is no
such animal. When I lost my financial means through speaking out, it led to
a run on my assets and then divorce. Even my two sons abandoned me as a lost
cause. Family breakup of some sort happened to nearly everyone in the end.
It happened to me early and that was important -
a personal catastrophe long before the end came. It led to my survival in
the long term. In the early days I nearly vanished from the face of the
Earth, drifting about Canada as a homeless man. During that time, I slowly
made connections and built an underground survival network. Of course, there
were thousands of survival networks later, but they were all high profile
while we remained invisible. Our group never made a public statement or kept
open addresses of leaders and camps. If we had done so we would have died as
the others did - attacked first by the desperate masses and then by the
forces of the 2nd World Order Government.
The so-called Global Village lost its true
global nature when the fast transport of goods and people ended. Once that
went to hell, everyone other than military organizations got isolated in
various pockets of the raging world storm. We could still get news from
around the world but the technological means to do non-military things at an
international and national level were nearly gone.
My group managed to gather in an area of
Northern Ontario and duck much of the disaster. A year after we dug in
Canadian cities began to collapse. Our two hundred members were still
quietly camouflaging structures in deep forest, and when we'd set up our
forest network completely, I found myself foolishly unhappy. My sons were
grown and I wanted to see them one last time before the end came for them.
I left on my own; telling the others at camp
that it was just a scouting mission. A few of the toothless and bearded
looked at me with suspicion, but they didn't oppose me.
Following established trails I began the
journey. Emerging from cool pine forests in the North I entered heavy mixed
forest on the long run down to the moraine that borders the City of Toronto.
This was rough going as years of high winds had blocked roads and created a
jungle of deadwood and stumps. The older forest was strewn with enormous
fallen logs; rising temperatures seemed to have spurred the growth of
deciduous trees, undergrowth and vines. The tougher customers of nature were
surviving while the weak died. Bears were plentiful, feeding on a rough
genetica version of carp surviving in the shrinking waters with the tinier
plant fish they ate. The angry roars of the bears often spooked me.
When the forest got too dense or dangerous I
worked my way down following the shores of small glacial lakes. A reek of
dead fish rose on these shores as some species were dying in the warmer
water. But there was no shortage of food as I could see schools of fish
swimming in the clear flow and was able to catch fat sunfish with my bare
Before reaching the moraine I stumbled onto a
huge abandoned farming complex. A rich moth-fluttering meadow suddenly ended
at endless fields of scorched earth, stubble and lumpy clay. Empty
observation towers told me it had been an experimental farm.
Land that's been burned off quickly rises with
new growth and this area was dead, so my guess was that mutant crops had
been grown; the sort of stuff that is genetically programmed not to seed,
because if it did it would spread and choke all other plant life. It looked
like the government had failed here in one of its attempts to feed the
population with new storm-resistant crops - the result being a strip of odd
desert in Canada.
I avoided main roads and towns. Beyond the dead
lands, I followed a long winding valley, walking down the mostly overgrown
track bed of a freight line. Rail transport had been another victim of the
weather - mostly wind and flooding. This trek took to me to another
survivalist settlement - large and obvious. The camp had been constructed
out of old rail cars dumped along the valley and converted to storage sheds
The first person I encountered was a skeleton.
He rested in the parched weeds outside one of the bigger rail cars. The
tattered remains of his clothing fluttered in the breeze and his bones were
clean, indicating death had taken him quite a while ago. Looking inside the
car I found little other than darkness, cobwebs and empty food tins.
Moving on I found many more skeletons in random
locations. It was like death had come suddenly and no one had lived to
struggle and clean up later. A white powder like lime sprinkled the ground
near the bones at the shore of a pond. Nearby I found spent canisters of
some sort of chemical. In the central section many rail cars had been
huddled together into a sort of shantytown and there were a lot of skeletons
and more of the canisters. Some bore the 2nd World Order marking and from
them I got the picture of what had happened - a chemical weapons attack. 2WO
had been created out of the remains of NATO and it was a ruthless military
outfit involved in survival through sheer power and the genetic mutation of
humans, animal and plant life. A decision had been made by that organization
to exterminate this survival group with chemical bombs. It meant 2WO had
planned to resettle this land.
Sunset fell with great brilliance that day. I
remember sitting out front of one of the tilted rail cars, nibbling on my
rations. The dead grinned back at me as long beams swept the land, and I
decided to enter Toronto under cover of darkness. My people knew from
underground radio transmissions that most of the other survivalist groups in
the countryside had been done in and the last of the survivors were being
herded into the cities by the government. The herding was supposed to make
food rationing easier by concentrating most of the survivors, but I didn't
believe that story, as I've never trusted government.
My son was in the city centre; I knew that. My
guess was that he would know the real reason for concentrating people in the
cities. One possibility was segregation. Word on the grapevine was that 2WO
planned to populate the countryside with the hardier mutant breeds of man.
Perhaps those of old mankind would be kept and fed like weak sheep in the
cities. It would make it easier to control them and their birth rate - if
nature wasn't already doing the job well enough.
Fearing the highways and arrest, I entered
Toronto following the half-rusted rails. It seemed incredibly dark on the
edge of the city. Occasionally the moon slipped out of the clouds and
revealed blocks of vacant suburban houses and scarred high-rises. Weeds and
maples had overgrown much of this property, creating a densely forested
The night wind seemed inhumanly hot. It riffled
the boughs like they were a dry musical instrument, and added to that sound
were eerie howls and bangs from the gusts swinging down the empty streets
and through the hollow buildings below.
Near the central city I began to spot military
vehicles and pedestrians, but I stayed out of sight, not wanting to be seen
until I was well inside where I wouldn't immediately be asked to identify
myself. I had no idea what would happen if I were arrested and didn't want
to find out.
Coming out of a long ravine trail I cut through
the shadows in Summerhill Park and walked out on Sumac Road, heading down
the lit street to my son's apartment building. This part of the city was
still populated and a few people loitered out front of the buildings. The
buzzers didn't work but the door stood open so I went up to the fourth floor
and knocked. I didn't get an answer; instead a pretty woman of Oriental
extraction opened the door of the apartment next door.
I stepped over and ask her if Jimmy London was
“No. That guy went with the military to one of
the domes. He said he was signed on to work for them in data skills so it's
likely a high access dome.”
“Domes? What are they?”
“Since the earthquake they've been moving people
from damaged areas to the central domes. Now they take people from undamaged
areas, too. They are a racist or ignorant sort of thing and go in order of
importance. Most people don't want to go there but there isn't anywhere else
“I see,” I said, thanking her before I left.
Out front, I questioned two thin black men
smoking rolled cigarettes beside a battered newspaper box. “I need
information from the military. Do you know where the nearest station is?”
One guy took a drag and puffed out smoke. The
lit end highlighted his lumpy nose. “The stations are mobile mostly. And you
don't want to find them unless you're planning on disappearing.”
“Disappearing, what do you mean?”
“The domes my friend. People who go there never
come back. Rumors are that some of the big trucks headed out of town are
loaded with people being taken off to work as slaves for the mutants.”
“It doesn't sound good. But I've got nowhere
else to go and I'm looking for my son.”
“That's the story everywhere.”
As I turned away, I saw pity in his eyes. With
little to do, I took a late night walk on some of the main streets. The
lamps and some of the building lights were on and people milled about here
and there in front of buildings that had stood up against the quake. A
semblance of order existed and I saw no real threat of crime. Litter and
dust flew in the warm wind rushing out of cracked alleys and I could see
fast rolling clouds on the skyline. Toronto was actually one of the safest
places in the world; most of the damage having been done by one devastating
earthquake and a hurricane that hit shortly after.
Of course, there were other facets of the
nightmare. When the food distribution systems collapsed, the cities were the
first places in chaos. The initial wave of crime and death had been tidal,
but it did subside and things came back together. Now it was a bit easier to
survive in city centers than in the countryside. Small survivalist groups
could vanish in the city jungle, while in the countryside they were open to
attack. If we hadn't been so far north we wouldn't have had a chance against
other groups and forces of law and order bent on destroying every outlaw
I drifted deeper downtown on Dundas Street and I
finally came upon a military checkpoint. Metal barricades blocked further
passage on the street and I could see through to a huge dome rising in the
dark. It was immense, like a stadium the size of a city block.
Ten heavily armed guards at a post and an
armored personnel carrier held the point. There weren't any citizens trying
to pass late at night. In order to see my son I had no choice other than to
chance talking to them. After ditching my hidden weapon in an alley waste
bin, I approached them.
Cool air drifted from the checkpoint window. The
guard staring out at me was unshaven with mutant light green skin.
“What do you want?” he said gruffly.
“I've been living in my son's apartment,
thinking he would return. Now a neighbour tells me my son is working with
the military in one of the higher security domes. I want to know if there's
any way I can visit him?”
“You got identification or a chip implant?”
“None. But he can identify me if he sees me.”
“Not good. You'll have to give us his name and
your name. We're going to hold you until we verify your identity. Any
objections to that?”
They held me in a jail cell for three days. The
window allowed a view of the street and I could see the military personnel
entering another large checkpoint near the dome. Some men had small Canadian
flags on their uniforms, and sprinkled among them were many boy soldiers
with greenish faces and 2WO outfits. Without a doubt, the old NATO wing of
2WO had bred a huge army of mutants that were presently reaching the 16 to
18 age. Their youth was apparent in their faces, yet their bodies were well
developed - stocky and strong like those of older hardened men. Since the
troops were mixed I got the notion that the mutants were to be integrated
with the general population.
When Jimmy was ready to see me they had me
hauled into the dome. Two burly mutant soldiers were my escorts and they
took me down a long passage lined with windows giving a one-way view of the
ragged crowd milling in an open concourse below.
We arrived and found Jimmy waiting outside his
office door. My son was large, healthy and rugged - not at all like the
other shattered men of the period. His dark hair seemed to be getting
thicker and wavier with age and his brown eyes were intense and youthful. He
also had perfect teeth, which was rare. It surprised me that he looked so
good in a military outfit as he had been an electronics engineer and not a
He greeted me with a strong embrace and led me
into his office. A wave of happiness consumed me at that point. I felt that
my son finally believed in me. Then I noticed the combination NATO/2WO
insignia on his shoulder and my joy began to evaporate.
Jimmy sat on the edge of his desk while I took a
“I guess you want to know what happened to Mom
“They're gone. They survived the worst of it
only to die two months ago from a pandemic virus that hit the city. I saw to
their burial. They're in the cemetery off York side road in the old
“That's more than sad. But I suppose I'm lucky
just to find you alive.”
“I made it but it wasn't easy. Believe me, it
surprised me when they came saying you were here. I thought it was an
impostor. You were part of the survivalist movement - they're all dead now.
You must be just about the last one.”
“I am the last. On the way into the city I found
a lot of corpses. 2WO and not outlaws killed them. They were just pockets of
people trying to survive on their own little pieces of ground. What's 2WO's
reason for such atrocities?”
“Panic and resettlement are the likely reasons.
The Canadian Government and 2WO feared the survivalists would band together
and form a guerrilla army in the countryside. I think the attacks were based
on paranoia over something that never would have happened. Then there is
resettlement. The people in these domes are going to be moved onto that
land. Soldiers are hard to control now as there is no oversight.”
“Something big is happening here, isn't it?”
“Yes. That's the reason I waited so long before
seeing you. What I have to explain is very delicate and hard to accept.”
“Nothing surprises me these days. We are
accepting things we wouldn't have accepted before. So don't worry too much
“True. The environment has changed totally. 2WO
leaders have realized that man and society also have to transform themselves
completely. Mutants like the guards who brought you in are one of the ways
of the future.”
“Ah, I see. So I’m one of the old boys now and
flawed mankind is on the way out. But I’m a mutant too in a way. I’ve
learned to survive in ways even mutants can't. Perhaps they could learn from
“It’s changed but not that much. You can see how
strong I am. It’s due to a new kind of gene therapy. I'm one of the few
people with the physical makeup to respond to it. My stamina, base
intelligence in certain areas, and life span, have been prolonged.”
“You mean humankind has been recreated as a new
master race. I have to admit that I'm impressed, even if it means I'm mostly
Excitement rose in his voice. “It's a new
beginning. Only last year we believed that only the mutants would survive
over the long term. Now a miracle has happened. Mankind will live on in a
slightly enhanced form. Two master races - mutant and man will live side by
side in a newly harmonized world environment. The days of man the predator
will end, we'll govern nature itself, and survive on this planet and
“I don't quite understand how enhanced humans
are different from the mutants?”
“You wouldn't. Mutants look quite human but they
are much different on the genetic level. NATO's world project in that area
that runs years back. When it was restructured, it became a secret military
organization. Most of the old reports of aliens had to do with the first
mutants. When the world started to get hot they accelerated the process and
bred a small army of them.”
“If full mutants are that different, then it's
likely that they won't have any place in their world for people like me.”
“No need to worry. You can live on in
comfortable retirement. In fact, I've already put your application through.
There's no need for you to meet the same fate as the others.”
“Are you saying that the others are being
“Sorry. I didn't mean to let that slip. I guess
I have to tell you sooner or later. You may hate us for this but simply put
- most of those in the domes won't live on. Only those who respond to the
gene therapy and some of their immediate family members will.”
“And the rest?”
“They think they are leaving to work on farms.
But they never get there. Be assured that it isn't a painful end. The
transports are set up to gas and put them to sleep instantly at the
cemeteries. Unfortunately I'm one of the people making the life and death
“God help you, if He still exists!”
“Our reasons aren't cruelty or fascism. We have
a dream and a goal. Just as you saw the end coming long ago, we see a new
beginning. Yet this new world can't work if the old race breeds and damages
the environment again. We are doing it in a way that seems cowardly. Yet it
is because we knew from the outset that few people would believe in us or in
the truth - just as few people believed in you when you warned them of the
end and later gained your abilities to survive.”
“Yes. They wouldn't listen and now they've
earned this. It's a horrible end and appalling to me - but I understand it.
Outrage and clinging to the old ways won't in any way change things. I can
only hope to see the curtain of horror lift and the new people entering a
humane future. I hid for a long time, but I knew I would return to world
that had changed. If you and your people can make that change for the
better, I can't disagree.”
Jimmy nodded and I sighed. I could see that my
apparent acceptance of 2WO and their politics of doom had moved him on a
deep emotional level. In spite of his health, he had thumbprints of guilt
bagging his eyes and up close I detected a haunted look. I saw that look
soften to relief as I said a few more resigned words. Then we ended up
talking about other things - memories of family life long ago when the world
was a better place … when my wife and children were beautiful. I embraced
him and departed holding a ticket granting me a small apartment in one of
the domes. Sometime in the future, I was to be resettled with Jimmy, being
allowed to live on in retirement until I died. There would be no attempt to
apply gene therapy to me. Jimmy knew I wouldn't want it that way.
Jimmy knew a lot. His great intelligence had
been enhanced to the top. Yet he'd failed to detect my lies. He wasn't a
cop. I did not intend to accept his new world. It gave me visions of a
future that would continue into a new realm of the vile and decrepit.
Mutants and genetically enhanced humans would be at war. It was certain
because man had not ceased being a predator – greenish monsters
exterminating the old race or an improved version of it could only be worse
than it. And that was certain when the enhancements were only for survival
and targeted to certain forms of intelligence.
Meeting Jimmy really did establish me as one of
the greatest of the survivalists. No other father could have faked his way
through that interview. Swimming through quicksand would be easier. Emotions
and inner pain would've choked them all. Their reactions would've drawn in
the 2WO guards - and then they'd have been put to death with the rest.
I'd suffered before. My family abandoned me
years back. This second time around with my son it hurt even more. But I
knew that the world was at a dead end and that loss and desperate emotions
were a big part of it. If my son could abandon humanity, I could abandon
him. We all die one day, and the best is if it's physical and not spiritual.
Two days later I escaped the dome and headed out
of the city on the same route I entered with. Armored helicopters buzzed the
trees at the edge of town, but I managed to keep out of sight and work my
way north. At the camp of skeletons, I stopped and picked up a rifle and
ammunition and was leaving on the rail bed when three 2WO mutants emerged
from the pines to confront me.
These were soldiers with thick green skin, heavy
armor, laser weapons and high-speed Glock guns much more deadly than my own
rifle. One of them called for my surrender and I responded by swinging the
rifle off of my shoulder and firing. The shot bypassed body armor and got
the centre mutant - the leader - in his unarmed throat. Blood spurted
grotesquely as he fell, and this frightened the others enough that they
They could have drawn and finished me if they
were experienced. The window of a couple seconds their fear created allowed
me to roll down the bank and break for the trees. I burst through sumac and
into the pines, seeing lasers rip up the branches all around me.
From there it became a stalking game - kill or
be killed. Cold-force laser beams and thick DUSB rapid-fire bullets
saturated the forest around me with fire, splinters and destruction, and for
about five minutes, I remained behind a monster fallen tree trunk. When I
moved I ran fast. I could hear them crashing through the brush to the giant
pines so I made a dash through the mist toward a shadowy path and worked my
way down a slight incline to heavier forest. I found a large granite boulder
partially curtained by vines, got behind it and listened.
They came down the soft slope with the cunning
of foxes. I heard them whispering and touching into supposedly silent
communication devices as they approached, and then they split up - one
mutant heading past me while the other veered off to the north.
Keeping my breathing silent, I let the first
mutant pass. He poked around in the thorn bushes near another boulder then
he went through the trees toward a tiny clearing. A misplaced shot would be
the end of me so I didn't fire on him. Instead, I crept up behind him and
got behind an oak. He looked into the clearing then turned back, and when he
passed, I stepped out and planted my hunting knife in his back.
The soft forest duff and sprouting greenery
muted his fall. And I simply turned and hurried through the clearing. I kept
moving at a near run for a couple of kilometers then I fell winded on the
bank of a stream. Fortunately, I didn't encounter the third mutant. About
two hours later I saw a camouflaged helicopter pass quietly and circle to
head south. It was returning to their base to report.
Dense forest became my accomplice as I moved
north. Sometimes the helicopters passed but they failed to spot me as I
could use the wild life as camouflage. I never moved in open areas where
their sensors would get solid detection on my body. I trudged through brush
and thick forest where flies could kill the average man in a single
afternoon. A few days later nightmare storms moved in and grounded all
aircraft, making it possible for me to move on in quick rushes when the
winds and rains left quiet pockets.
Near home base, I came upon a mutant military
encampment. There were hundreds of them dug in with special tents and they
had several all-terrain vehicles. Surveillance told me what I'd suspected -
these soldiers didn't keep prisoners. The dead they abandoned as food for
the hungry animals and the storms. At night, I moved in, disabled their
fencing of sensors and stole some of their rations. Circling back, I took a
longer route home.
Gunshots and artillery fire echoed in the woods
as I approached home base so I halted and did some poking around. I crawled
on my belly to a cabin on the perimeter and burst in the door with my rifle
at ready. Bodies littered the floor inside. They were gore-spattered and
riddled with bullets. All of them were friends of mine and after seeing the
blue face of Jack Bonner, one of our best fighters, I knew it was over for
my people. My last home would be gone in a few days.
The urge to shoot it out and die rose in my
blood. For a long time I sat under a tree cradling my head in my hands.
Perhaps too long as blue smoke was drifting in and I was in danger of being
It would've been over for me then. But as I
looked up at the haze of sun in the treetops, an inner voice spoke, telling
me to move on and survive. And I did just that.
A power far removed from survival instinct drew
me north. During that journey, a distant sun often broke through the brow of
angry clouds and glared down at me like the evil eye of some underworld god.
Reaching the shore of Hudson Bay a good piece up on the west side I walked
on in a hypnotized state while bear-paw gusts from a gale shattered nearby
trees. Nature brought up the rear, striking against the mutant and human
enemy with its own artillery blasts, yet I felt nothing and drifted forward
with the wind at my back, following the rippling grasses and waters.
Sometimes I crashed through brush like a crazed
moose and barely noticed fly bites and the lashing of branches and thorns on
my skin. On the cloudiest days my head would clear and I would set up camp
and do some fishing or hunting. Even then, I did little thinking on the
human race and what had become of it. I was more like an ancient hunter,
content to eat his meat.
It was a bleak world, devoid of mutants and the
new humankind and their guns and calculated future. I existed alone, looking
out of eyes blackened by the rings marking an evil time. I had no use for
society and it was a good thing to be in the wild.
My arrival at a new slope had biblical
overtones. A huge flood subsided before me and I moved with agility through
a swamped forest. Spooked wildlife fled in all directions in these deadly
woods, escaping ghosts of the deluge. Higher dry land brought me to a
hilltop and from there I looked down at the slope and the ancient forest
sprouting in the glacial melt.
The pale sun glowed with mystic light and sent
beams streaming down. Chunks of ice glittered like scattered gems and the
whole scene took on a divine aspect like I was looking back into the
beginning of time. Days later, when I'd done a detailed study of the
uncovered bones, minerals and plant specimens, I knew that I really was
looking back through millions of years.
Dense forest rose in the centre and when I
descended to it tall weeds in open areas gave me the feeling of being lost
in a maze of unknown proportions. Deep in the twisted trees, I found a small
clearing. Petrified logs were heaped there beside a glacial brook and I
decided to use them to construct a cabin. It would be hard work for one man
and the job relied on survivalist skills I had learned long ago. I could see
that a river had carried the logs to this spot and then over time they'd
been buried in ice.
While perched on the logs I thought about what I
would construct. Over the next few days, I cut a path and began to toil like
Sisyphus, using a slow technique of vines, small logs, stones and levers to
roll the big logs up the hill. Once there I notched them and fitted them
according to my plan. Two months passed as I did this work; I grew dirty and
callused and must have looked like a wild man. I also had the feeling of
being watched and often looked back to the forest, seeing nothing other than
fleeting shadows, rustling boughs and ferns.
It seemed impossible, but I finished the cabin,
and once inside I had plenty of time to rest and stare out the gun-slit
window. I found that I really was being watched, as it was then that the
others came - and by others don't assume that I mean other survivalists or
mutant soldiers. These others were creatures emerging from hibernation of
some unknown variety.
When I first spotted them sunset rays were
brightening the trees and creating glare. From a distance, the creatures
resembled strange apes. They continued to move in the long shadows below as
twilight softened the sky. Near dark they began to walk up the slope, and I
seemed to wake - the strange calm lifting and my scalp tightening with fear.
I did have a rifle, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me to arm myself
As they drew closer I noticed that their fur was
patterned and matted - a mathematical or puzzle-like effect. A key symbol
stood out on their chests. Belts of fur covered their genitals. Light seemed
to emit rather than reflect from the round eyes of these creatures. A glow
of darkness edged them, forming an aura of biological energy I'd never seen
They shuffled up and passed the window, and
their strange eyes glowed in at me - imparting an instinctual knowledge of
their being into my mind. I became aware of them as natural creatures and
not man-made mutants. Other thoughts passing in my head were unexplainable,
existing in a blur beyond my comprehension. I ended up gaping and drooling
like an epileptic as they moved near the window.
My head cleared when they left. I opened the
door to look as they were fading into the twilight … disappearing in the
clawed roots of the ancient trees.
In the night, they returned to haunt me in
dreams. Feeling incredibly light I dream-walked out into a forest salted by
faint rays, ferns brushed me as I passed through to the clearing, and once
there they emerged from crooked trees and surrounded me.
They spoke to me telepathically, using inner
voices that reminded me of the speech of beautiful children. Images of
understanding rose in my mind as they told me the end had come - that all
humankind and mutants would perish as they had perished.
I knew they lacked hostile intentions; they were
the messengers of some nameless other. A being that granted awareness of its
existence but not clarity as to what it was in reality.
Long before the birth of man, these creatures
had ruled on Earth. Like us they'd abused nature and earned extinction. The
Other had destroyed them and buried them; not a trace was left for man to
find in his new beginning.
Yet the Other did not forget its mistakes;
nature itself existed as this being's memory. Some of the creatures had
remained and lived in a bubble at the bottom of the ice. And in the same
way, they had chosen me to live on as a memory of mankind.
In the dream they forced me to reveal secrets I
did not want to reveal - that I was a survivalist and that I didn't want to
live on as a specimen, that I would kill them if I could.
I awoke with a fever - sweaty and mumbling in my
bed. The morning sun was up and I could hear the faint whistling of the wind
in the cracks. Bars of shadow were sweeping over the window and in my state;
I saw ghastly images in them.
Managing to rise, I went to the door and looked
out. Fresh air rushed to my nostrils with the power of an oxygen charge. A
beautiful day enveloped and uplifted me. I looked up at the racing white
clouds, and then I heard voices.
My eyes went to the slope, the forest and ferns
and finally settled on some dark patches of quicksand. Heat shimmies rose
from the gases bubbling up and for some reason I felt drawn to the spot. A
powerful force tugged at me and I started to move . . .
Tomorrow, morning comes as always, but on a new
day of a new world. I’ll hear the creatures calling and walk down the slope
and into that quicksand. It will consume me … suck me down to that bottom of
all bottoms; down to that great inheritance humankind passed on to me. There
I'll exist in the eternal memory of the Other as the last remnant of this
We have come to the end, and I am the last son
of man. So tell me - is it fair? Should Joe London live on forever in this
way? Bearing the weight of mankind and evil?
Yes, you must think it right. You did come here
to exterminate me, so it's certain that you won't weep or shed so much as a
single tear for me.
Yet if you can't weep for my kind, perhaps you
can weep for yourself and your own. Recall that the end has come and that
you are doomed as well. The Other will work to fix his mistakes and he will
give the new world to a new life form that deserves it.
So in one sense the ending here in this notebook
at this cabin is your ending. It will be made in your mind. The morning will
come and you too will step out on that slope.
What end awaits you, new mutant sons and
daughters of man? Will you be crushed under clouds of doom or will the
voices call and bring you down to quicksand and to me . . .
Doug closed the notebook and thought about Joe
London. He'd been an admirable person, the hardiest of his kind and a
prophet. Joe at least tried to warn the others. The leaders of the old world
had few excuses when people like London had clearly told them what would
happen. They were criminals, deserving of the death penalty they'd received.
Even London's son had lacked his father's wisdom
in spite of genetic improvements used to raise his intelligence. Like old
mankind, altered man and its mutants had failed. Again in human history
arrogant fools herded assumed inferiors to death camps.
Madness of a different sort had taken Joe in the
end - visions of creatures and the godlike Other. Now he lay at the bottom
of the slope and at the bottom of the quicksand. Joe London remained as a
symbol of the fate the masters of his kind had prepared for everyone.
In a way it could be seen as tragic and comic -
humorous to a degree. The notebook left Doug with an odd smile on his face
as he drifted off to sleep.
Mutants rarely dreamed and Doug's night passed
in an instant. Bright morning sunlight streamed in the window and his eyes
were opening. Hunger ached in his belly so he pulled out a ration square and
boiled some hot tea.
Images from the notebook came to mind as he
sipped the hot liquid. A quick report on it seemed in order so he got his
handheld out and sent in a quick message on the find.
Half an hour later he received new instructions
from 2WO. They wanted him to search the slope and forest to verify that
London really had died. Samples and photos would also be in order.
“This is going to be great,” Doug thought as he
walked to the door. “My find of London and the portion of ancient forest
will establish my name worldwide.”
A wonderful breeze swept his face as he stepped
out. Soft sunlight illumined the slope and the scene below glowed like a
mirage. The ancient trees quivered gently, tall ferns rustled and clear blue
water bubbled up in one of the melting pools. His eyes were drawn to dark
patches and he supposed them to be the quicksand containing the remains of
Evaporating ice created areas of drifting mist
at the edge of the forest. The effect seemed almost magical. Doug studied
the glittering droplets, and then he spotted something more and halted. A
ghostly image moved near the water - a man. Doug nearly gasped at the sight
- had London fooled him? If so the notebook was an elaborate trick. The old
survivalist's intention had been to put him off guard and ambush him.
Doug pulled a pistol from his side pack, and
when he looked again he saw the image of London fading in and out like a
strange holograph. It caused him to blink. Damned if he wasn't seeing a
ghost - and it was beginning to shimmer as its face and arms opened to the
Melting to mist, the glimmering phantom rose,
and Doug's eyes followed it. He expected to see it fade into the pale
northern sun, and it did. Only this sun had a huge solar storm at its center
- the pupil of an eye looking back at him.
Beyond the sun hostile clouds cloaked the
horizon. They were rolling in like some dark scroll of the end. Fear charged
him then his head began to whirl - another form of chaos and sunspots had
blackened his thoughts.
Doug felt his legs giving way. He could hear Joe
London whispering something strange . . . and as he fell, the voice of a
child passed on a message he couldn't quite understand. On his back he saw
a shield of sun blaze. He knew it would end all human life on earth, but
gently like a forest fire. Tomorrow the world would rise again and a new
life form would rule it.
---- the end -----