Direction – An SUV for the night

Working Chapter 13 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

There wasn’t t anything resembling privacy in this new world order.  Though it didn’t stop some from trying to take advantage of the ‘needle in a stack of needles’ effect that ostensibly was Anders mind at present.  It wasn’t as if a neighbouring consciousness could raise the alarm and point out the culprit swimming right next to them in Anders mind.  No, this hunt for the triumvirate was more akin to trying to remember where you left your keys if you had 9 billion sets of keys.

The inquisition of the General had been relatively simple, but it had strained Anders mind nonetheless.  He lie passed out on the bluff where he had been sitting for some time, now with the sun close to setting.  There was no danger present and yet he felt the primal need to find shelter as the darkness approached.  The SUV he had thought of earlier would do just fine seeing as he could then use it for the next leg of his journey.

Anders groggily pulled himself off the floor and stretched his limbs, the air between some of his joints making a satisfying pop as he did so.  The SUV was a short walk down the main road adjacent to the beach.  He walked at a leisurely pace, his memory of the area so honed that he could easily find his way to the SUV blindfolded.

The keys were in a drawer by the main entrance to the house – the same place they had always been and where he always remembered putting them and incidentally a very similar place to where most put them.  It was all second nature.  It was all as he remembered.  Waltzing between the front door and the driveway, keys in hand ready to drive to work.  Only, of course, this work was very different from that which his memories alluded to.

A Ford SUV sat in the driveway right where it’s previous owner had left it.  The details of the make, model, colour and condition excited parts of his mind, notably those that had designed it, but the vast majority had a nonplussed reaction – it was just another car after all.  Tonight this car was also shelter.  Anders reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a chocolate flavoured protein bar.  Branded and loaded with artificial claims and tastes to compliment the artificial proteins.  It certainly had convinced most of Anders that it was an effective substitute for real food.  Still, effective as it was, it lacked that essence and love in food, like he had cooked when he first absorbed the consciousnesses of that group of friends.  They had shown him the initial joy of food, but the night was late for that and work was afoot.  He cradled into his Ford SUV for the night – he would rest for the night and begin his interrogations again in the morning.

Direction – The inquisition of General Howerton

Working Chapter 12 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

The memories were muddled and being actively hidden from the group. There was no method of coercion or force that could work given the nature of what was sought after, but the consciousnesses within Anders were all for understanding what had happened so there was plenty of help in seeking them out. Many memories surrounded the night in that bunker, where the fate of mankind was ultimately sealed. The only particularly notable one besides that of the three heads of state was that of the General Bradley Howerton, the loyal though somewhat blunt commander of the North American military and chief adviser to the President.

Howerton’s memories were easy to find and the first analysed by Anders and the ultimate jury he had assembled that included all human consciousness. He had no regrets. At the time he made the decision it was the only course he could see to preserving the human race – at least his part of the human race. There was no way he could have foreseen the actions of Anders, who was in his mind the true culprit here.

There was silence from the jury. They considered their next line of questioning in light of the General’s brazen bluntness.

“How is it that the systematic extermination of a third of the world’s population was the only course available? We’re other options even considered?”

Truly a question for the leaders rather than the General, but he took it and answered in his own way.

“There may have been solutions had there been a proper assessment of the risk a decade ago, but by the time we got to reviewing our available options, there was only one course. I was able to stand by my president in his decision as my view of the scenario, at the time, was that there had to be a cull in order for the race to survive. I’m afraid to say that it really was as simple as that.”

An answer that wasn’t truly an answer. Typical of those being accused that know their guilt deep done. Of course this was no ordinary interrogation and the jury knew all of these feelings that flew around now that they were so focussed on the general. It was just not possible to hide his emotions.

“We see that there is guilt nonetheless.”

“Of course. You may think me a brutish man, but I was only suggesting and supporting the course of action that we took as I truly believed it to be the correct course. Even as a soldier, or rather particularly as a soldier, I don’t take the idea of killing lightly and I idea of mass killing is that much worse. Still, something had to be done or we would have all died.”

A long silence pervaded throughout Anders body as he sat looking out over the sea. He felt almost peaceful though he knew what rumbled beneath the surfaces in the shadows of his mind. In other times a passerby would have thought he was a deep in meditation. He was very mindful, but it was his own culpability that he was mindful of.

This inquisition before the court of humanity was a gathering in order to fully understand the facts of the matter. Judgment had already been passed and the sentence handed out indiscriminately. Still those countless members of the jury needed to understand the how and the why, at least in so far as it was understood and interpreted by the individuals that were there. Truth was not something at issue here as lies weren’t possible when peering directly into a person’s consciousness. That doesn’t mean that others might not take issue with that truth.

“Most of us fail to understand this rationale. Did you originally suggest your doomsday scenario?”

It was less of a question and more of a lead to structure the thought pattern. “I did not,” came the response as expected.

“It was no doubt a politician with a mandate to protect his people and their interests.”

No comment or judgement from the General. He had his job. He was a tool and he gave his service to do what he thought was required to safeguard those under his charge.

“You could have objected. You knew the inherent difficulty in even completing the task so why was there no discussion of this and straight on to the planning!?”

“As you know and I have said, there was no other course in my mind, so objecting to state that the task would be difficult would be utterly pointless. I’m given a task which I create a strategy for and my men implement. If they had come to me before this had become a breaking point issue, I may have been able to provide some alternative advice, but by the stage the meeting was held there were no alternatives.”

A line of thought the jury hadn’t considered.

“We see that you think things could have been controlled with selective Marshal law. This does not seem to be the fairest approach that could have been taken, but it would surely have saved our lives. Do you truly believe it would have worked?”

“It may not have been fair, and I am only speculating based on what I know, but I believe it would have been controversial, costly in some lives, but not to the extent that was to be considered under the alternatives.”

The line of inquisition is fruitless. While deplorable the General’s actions may have been, there is no recourse and the only truth that he offers up is tainted by his strict point of view. The jury wants an apology, an act of acquiescence or some other form of admission that he is guilty. General Howerton had essentially used the classic line of denial. He was, he finally contended, “Only doing his job,” as many of his men also contended. Their moral compasses were shrouded by fear and the desire for self preservation. Were the jury sympathetic? They may well have acted exactly the same. In fact, it is more than likely that they would have. Still, there is always a stark contrast between the hypothetical and the actual. Many of those on the jury would have acted the same, but they did not act.

“We have no further use for your memories General.”

They could not destroy him, but instead they did the closest they could to banishment – they suppressed the General’s consciousness deep in the the murky sub conscious of Anders’ mind.

Direction – The road to Istanbul

Working Chapter 11 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

Anders stood by the shore staring out to sea. It was as close to home as he could possibly get. To some part of him this was in fact home, but that wasn’t the part of him that was stirring at this moment. The Anders who left his home back in Marstrand, the home that he had not left until his fateful experiment proved catastrophically successful, was the part of him that was stirring. It was a rare occurrence on his long journey to put his kin to a right and peaceful rest. Anders had taken a back seat in his own body as he let others that swam in his consciousness and guided his body, like pilots taking over at each new harbour that they visited. This was too striking though and too similar to home for Anders to take a back seat to.

He wandered along the shore of this foreign place. For once he suppressed those other consciousnesses, a difficult feat even with all this time to have practiced, and allowed himself to walk the shore in his own mind and experience it singularly. The shore here wasn’t rocky as he was used to, but the water called to him. There had been plenty of sea throughout his journey, sure. Some of it was probably more like his home than this, but this was the first time that he drew himself out. He pondered that perhaps it was because he was in such a remote location now, an in between part of the world, that no one was clambering to the front of his mind and he was able to enjoy it for himself. For himself was perhaps the wrong term as his mind continued to swim with thoughts and feelings of others, even as he had control. He enjoyed it for as long as it lasted.

So far the journey had been a heavy one on his heart. His body, fit and young, had been able to absorb most of the physical strain and when he was tired he was quick to use his vast knowledge to find ways of making his movement from spot to spot more efficient. It was[ Where I stopped writing on 30/11

Tried to figure out how long it takes a human body to decompose, but couldn’t find an answer.

Realise there may be a fundamental flaw int he travelling around the world to bury bodies. As such, trying to reconcile that.s] not as if he could truly bury every person in the world, he knew this. Even with an eternity to spend on the task, the bodies would completely decompose before he made it all around the world. So it was that his journey was more one of memoriam rather than action. He was deep in thought throughout the journey, though clearly those thoughts were not always his own.

There were far too many evil thoughts swimming around in his head along with those that remembered the great and the good. There was haphazard evil such as Anders, along with the darkest dregs of humanity. Inevitably the voices of evil and their victims were suppressed – too hard to confront those horrors even after there is nothing to be done about them. It would have been some justice if the combined memories of humanity could have pulled together to understand this evil, but even a peak into it was too maddening for the group to consider a full excursion and do they were suppressed. It had weigh laid Anders and rendered him unconscious somewhere in Northern Italy close to lake Como. There were worse places to fall unconscious in the summer, but it was far from ideal losing control.

(He wakes up on the banks groggy but pulls himself together. He decides he must continue east rather than heading south through the rest of Italy even though his hearts pull him there)

Was it water that was lapping up against him? It could have been that he was floating in it, buoyed by the memories of a race now past and the water just reaching over the threshold to splash his face. Anders was struggling with the concept of reality on his trip. With all the voices swimming in his head it was hard the determine what was real – so many points of view that it was impossible to grasp what reality actually was. Though he was now certain that he was not in the water and he was not getting wet. All he bed do was open his eyes and the truth would be revealed to him.

The ground was dry beneath his body, but he was in earshot of the lake and could clearly hear the water’s slow and rhythmic sounds. This must have been the origin of his dream of lying in water. It didn’t matter now, the dream would be pushed into the ether. He sat up and looked around him. Mountains shot up in the background, snowy peaks that he had a great longing for. Many a time he could remember swimming in the lake and skiing down those slopes – joyous memories that revitalised him. This was all a relief from the pit he had stared into a short time ago. This was why those memories had to be suppressed.

His subconscious had brought him to this spot, because he recalled quite clearly being a couple kilometres away before falling out of touch with the world. It wasn’t for a distinct travel purpose so it must have been to calm the raucous within. The majority was with him on this journey and they were happy to ignore those that were most unlike them.

Clearly his situation was far more complex than he at originally imagined. Each moment that passed something new emerged. Now on the bluff overlooking the water, somewhere on the road to Istanbul, it was if the memories and consciousness within him were forming groups and voting amongst themselves to try and determine his course. “Their Course,” is what they thought, but there was only one body left. It was vastly unhelpful getting anything done when your body had turned into a purely democratic force without any framework.

These, his own thoughts on the new workings of his mind, lead to a violent groundswell of emotion from the others and a vying for attention in the consciousness. It was a physically unpleasant experience that he had on a reoccurring basis – everyone thought they could be as strong as Lina, but no one else ever succeeded with that level of control. That episode was a one off. It’s just hard to get people to believe it. “SILENCE!” Anders shouted out loud and he regained full control from the squabbling masses that made his stomach churn and head throb. He filtered out and suppressed what he could and the his own consciousness drifted back to thoughts of a time before he had become the ark housing the entire human consciousness.

Immortality had been his goal. It was not necessarily that he wanted to live forever. That’s not to say he hadn’t originally considered it – imagine what he could do with all that time. The problem was that those pesky statesmen had forced him into it. Without their careless actions to take the path of least resistance towards their survival rather than making difficult sacrifices, Anders would not have contemplated immortality and he wouldn’t have started down the path towards ultimate knowledge. They were down buried deep in his mind. There was no doubt that they were there – they hadn’t committed suicide or died before the wave swept over him like that baby in Gothenburg. No, they were in there, but they were quiet. They must have known that this was at least partially their fault.

The sky was a clear and the ocean a deep blue. It was a perfect day on the road to Istanbul along the coast. Anders pondered his two thoughts further – why did he find this place so familiar within his own mind and where were the memories of those statesmen who had doomed them all? To answer the first was an impossibility. Though, it was a nice thought to consider how two regions can feel so similar and yet be so far apart and so different. Something about the ocean pulled him in and gave him comfort. Sure, the ocean was different, but that same salty smell permeated the air and light wind whipped up against his face. There was more common ground here than not. It was peaceful and he felt as such.

Then he snapped back and considered his other question. He had stopped walking now and sat on a bluff before the beach so that he could look out on to the ocean. There was a fully tanked SUV down the road that he was going to walk towards shortly to give his journey a bit of pace, but he wanted to rest his legs for a bit first. He considered the names of the statesmen in question. What they were doesn’t matter, but he used their names to focus his thoughts. It was as if the rest of his consciousness allowed him to work at this question and somehow even tried to aid him – everyone had a stake in remembering these thoughts.

What is a decade? – Gothenburg

Working Chapter 10 of my Is it for us alone? novel in progress

Originally written under the same Chapter as ‘What is a decade?’ but I decided to split it up for now.  At least for the purposes of the blog.

The route to the harbour where the helicopter was uneventful, except for the two corpses that he encountered on the way.  When the machine had been turned on, most inhabitants here had been in bed, but some later revellers had been walking home when they were stopped in their tracks.  Of course, the rotten faces were familiar, which was part of what made this trek so tragic, but one part of his mind would not allow him to mourn.  Instead the reaction on seeing both was to run as fast as he could to the harbour.

Unfortunately, his body was still not up to the memories that remembered running being an ease and so it took a toll.  His weak frame still not capable of living up to his own expectations.  This would change in time, but for now it was a disappointment that all those active parts of his mind would have to deal with.  Coming to the harbour and seeing the helicopter gave him great joy.  It was almost as seeing your baby again.  Interesting, the inquisitive part of him thought, that someone in there could be attached to this helicopter as though it was their own baby.  So it was though and so he accepted the joy instead of allowing the dark parts of his mind to reign free.

Preparing the helicopter for the relatively short journey was a breeze and before he knew it he was up in the air.  Except for the dearth of traffic below – all still and silent now – it was not as if much had changed from his memories of the scene from above.  Gothenburg was only a short distance away, so the flight would be very short and uneventful – given that there were no other aircraft in the air.  He enjoyed looking down at the ocean and flying with an ease that meant he felt very much relaxed and at peace.  This would be disturbed all too soon as he entered the airspace above the city.

It was visible that something had occurred.  That this place was now devoid of life, was obvious and that something catastrophic had occurred was certain.  There were no longer any fires, but you could see that cars had piled up and crashed into each other and the buildings all around.  His gaze was fixed on the destruction that was below and he pondered on how it had been him that had caused all of this.  He felt a welling up of sadness in his body that made him shudder before he was whipped back into his objective.  To find what wasn’t there, to understand what had happened.  He went to land near the hospital as he knew that was where he had to go.

Landing was a breeze as luckily there had not been a helicopter parked on the hospital helipad.  He disembarked and made his way to the OB/GYN section of the hospital – he knew exactly where he was going and so much of him knew exactly what he was going to find, but he had to go and see it for himself.  He had to go and see what was there and face it.

The corridors wound in this hospital so it took him much longer than he ever would have wanted.  His body was sweating with fear and his mind was racing as not only did that one part of his mind race towards the delivery room, but almost all others willed that part not to push on.  The struggle was real and was taxing, but the one overcome.  There was something in him that said, “We have to know.”

There was no choice.

As he rounded the last corridor he faced the door beyond which was the answer that he craved.  The answer that he knew, but could not know.  So, he opened the door and slowly entered the room.  It was still lit, he wasn’t sure why exactly, but he thought perhaps it was some back up generator in the hospital that had kicked in.  “Stop,” he yelled to that part of him that even questioned it and he moved slowly into the room.  It was odd looking at this women.  He knew her, both from this angle and from within, but the loss was not as real as it could have been.  She was dead, but still survived in some sense.  A loss and a gain was how it felt, but the two conflicted and drove him mad.  This was not why he had come here.  To stare at what was essentially himself now.  He came for what was lying in the cot next to the bed with the women.

He hesitated just at the point where he couldn’t quite see into the cot and considered the possibilities of what he would see.  Most of his mind knew, but did not vocalise what was bound to be the truth, but parts held out that the baby girl would still be lying alive in the cot.  The kind part of Anders encouraged him that it was somehow possible that a child that had just been born would be able to have missed out on his sweep.  Perhaps, he thought, the baby would be here and he could name her together with the world in his head – name her something of hope that there could be a future for people beyond his body.

There was to be no life beyond his body though, as he reached the cot and looked at the lifeless flesh that was a short time ago a living, breathing child – just not in time to be absorbed by him.  He fell to his knees in tears, his insides bunching together and his eyes flooding with tears as if they were being squeezed out of him.  Never in his life or any life that he could remember had the loss felt this real and this ultimate.  All feeling from his legs had gone and he now bent forward on the ground and spoke out loud to himself.

“How could I have let this happen?  This is only the start of the cost of what I have done.  I can feel the other losses, those that I hadn’t dared think about, now flooding my consciousness.  I must do something, but what I don’t know.”

He felt silly talking out loud to himself, but he simply did not know how to react in this situation.  There was someone that he wanted to console him, but then he knew that there was no one to lean on – they were all inside and none of them was up to the burden when they dug deep.  So he lay there with his face in his hands rocking to soothe some of the pain.  Thinking was not worth it and it produced no good answers.

Some time passed.  Anders couldn’t say exactly, but he imagined it had been hours.  He finally stood up and looked at the small bundle in the cot.  Trembling, he reached in to grab a hold of her.  Despite the urges within him that were demanding that he look at the girl, he did not.  Too much of him knew that it would be a moment filled only of disgust and regret.  Better to keep a memory, painful as it was to think of it, than to put himself through that.

With the bundle now safely wrapped up and in his arms, he gently made his way out of the hospital.  It was clear to him that he would have to go to the cemetery out in the eastern part of the city, where Linn’s parents were buried and where her daughter would also rest.  It was strange to think that this child had somehow escaped the grasp of his machine, but it had.  He remembered back to the moment when it hit blackness for Linn.  Difficult as it was to pinpoint such an exact memory rather than a general skill stored as a memory, he felt the need to understand what had happened.

Pain was what he could picture, but a different kind now.  Childbirth it was, of course.  The memory didn’t last long as all he could see was the child being born, but there being no sound or screams and then just blackness.  Blackness then turned into what he was living now.  This mingled mess in his head where Linn’s memories, soul perhaps even resided and wrestled with the others.  Could the child have actually been alive, but then been neglected and so died?

Anders had to dig deeper in his memories as he walked through the city towards the cemetery.  It was odd walking the familiar streets, without any of the familiar activity or sounds.  Haunting was not even the start of it.  Devoid of all the pleasures, and of course the darker elements, that once filled them and brought them to life.  This too made him even further depressed at what he had done.  Then he snapped out of it again.  So foolish to walk and hate himself for this.  Yes, the blame was his and now he was the only person left, but done was done and there was no sense in beating himself up over what he knew he could not fix.  So he refocused on the child.

The delivering doctor must be in his head somewhere.  Doctor Filipson was his name, that Anders remembered from Linn.  Unfortunately, the good doctor did not have as strong memories as Linn and was wallowing far in the background somewhere.  If he was able to access those memories he might be able to know whether the child was stillborn or if it had some chance that it was simply alive at the wrong moment.  The baby had ended up in the cot, so he wasn’t sure if Linn had just blacked out before the absorption.  It was a dilemma that he may never be able to answer, even with all of the memories in the world.

Without Anders intending it, the child in his arms had just become a parcel that he was carrying, without much meaning.  It was just his duty to carry the parcel to the destination and so he did.  Before he knew it he was walking along some tramlines and nearing the large churchyard.  It was mainly crowded roads and then before you knew it the churchyard opened up.

Too many memories flooded back into his head.  Sorrow and grieving, loss and absence, hatred and love were all there in his head.  These episodes were becoming acute in certain circumstances that left Anders in a debilitated state.  First the hospital and now the graveyard.  Clearly they were both places of high human emotion and he simply could not contain the entire population of Earth that was rising up with him as he entered it.  On his knees again, he held his head in his hands and rocked back and forth.  Images of death flashed before his eyes.  Not of people dying, but of the funerals and the pains that death caused.

Time was all that he could use to cure his paralysis, so he laid on the ground curled up in the foetal position, pondering his dilemma while his mind also swam amongst the pain.  Clearly he would have to stay away from places of high emotion from now on.  A difficult task for sure, as he wasn’t entirely sure what places would count.  Was it only places associated with pain, or would the high emotions of a large football stadium or a parliament also have the same effect?  He didn’t know, so he would have to endeavour to simply be better at thinking things through rather than acting on the impulses of the population.  A couple of shocks like this would surely make them more willing to leave the rule of the body to a reasoned set of decisions that most agreed with rather than the emotional force of one or two.  Then again, that was what people had thought of the world in general before its collapse (even before Anders), but that in the end was driven by the emotions of the few to the detriment of the many.

Thinking about the problem seemed to relax him some and he slowly came out of his paralysis.  The bundle that he had been holding and then dropped when he was overcome with the pain of death was now unravelled on the ground.  Sara, no, the baby, lay on its back now staring up at Anders with the dead eyes of an unformed lifetime.  His resolve managed to suppress Linn for this moment though.  She could not grab a hold of Ander’s body from her strong perch in his mind as he was resolved to bury this baby and allow the true grieving to commence.  He realised that he needed bury this baby and then bury the past.

Linn’s family grave was only a short walk into the graveyard, but first Ander’s needed tools.  Naturally, he knew where the gardener’s shed was and he moved across to it.  All he needed was a shovel.  For a moment while he was in the shed he felt an urge coming through him to clean up the graveyard.  In normal times the graveyard had been a pillar of beauty and serenity, but now it was returned to nature.  The weeds that had long been the bane of the gardener’s life had sprung up freely without the genocidal hand of the gardener being around to end their kind as best he could.  Of course, as many another gardener knew, it was impossible to weed them out for good.  There was always a seed left, waiting to return and take up its inheritance from the earth.  This fact irritated parts of him greatly, but he was resolved to stay strong.  Bury the past, that was his only objective at the moment.

Shovel slung over his shoulder and bundle in his left hand, he strode through the graveyard, using the pathways so as not to offend the mourners that he had suppressed in his head.  He approached one of the outlying family burial plots that was by the cemetery wall and rested under an old birch tree and an oak that had either been youths in this part of the world long before the cemetery or had been placed there many generations ago by a church gardener.  Even with all the knowledge trapped up in his mind, this he could not know for sure.  He could make a guess, but those simple, plain memories had died long ago.  This was the spot where he started to bury the past.  This was where he would begin to atone for his mistake and to put his mind at ease.

Anders flung the shovel over his shoulder and planted it in the ground.  Then he gently laid the bundle to the side and began his labour.  His physical state had improved dramatically since he had absorbed.  It was a combination of the drive that several of the memories gave him and the urges for exercise that ran deep in his veins now.  Luckily for him, in some ways, this was no grown person.  The grave he dug was not too shallow, but did not reach the depth of six feet that was so customary.  He quickly checked with his memories of Linn to make sure that this would be ok, and it was agreed that it would be.  Sara, the baby girl, the baby with no life to speak of and never an experience except for the first silent moments of life, was placed in to the ground and then Anders shifted the dirt back over to cover the hole.  It was the hardest thing that he had done in his life.

This was only the beginning though.  He stood and bowed his head, not in prayer, but in thought.  There was nothing to it, but to resolve that he should bury and more humans that he came across in his travels around to world that he now only shared with nature and the other animals that had so long been the servants of humans.  Of course, following this rule would mean that it would take him some time to move anywhere, but he was prepared to do so to atone for his irreversible misdeed.  At this point, with immortality still in his mind and feeling in reach (though he did not know why), Anders thought that a decade did not sound so long, so there was no need to worry about time.