Joseph Malone peered out his door into the twilight corridor.
The door bell had sounded briefly and he had moved as fast as he could to answer it, but minutes had passed, he was incredibly old.
On his door mat , the one that said "Welcome to the nut house", was a small parcel wrapped in crisp brown paper, a string tied in a well executed bow held it all together. He stooped painfully for the object, his joints grinding and his muscles straining, the concerto of pain that played on his nervous system was exquisite.
He looked left and then right, up the endless corridor into a hazy gloom. No sign of the postman. It was an odd time for any kind of delivery.
Doors after door disappeared into the distance, each holding its denizens in a hell of their own choosing. The corridor was a drab magnolia, it was dressed in pseudo accents, that imitated a homely home. Dusty plastic flowers arranged in garish pots, perched on wooden plinths, surrounded by artless paintings in gold plastic frames, showing views of a world that never existed in his lifetime. The red carpet, worn and well trodden, the overpowering heat from the environmental system that kept its occupants alive, the the vague smell of bodily functions, with a scent of bleach and perfume. His motorized chair, sat where he had parked it, the glow of its charge light flickered in the darkening hallway. A door chain clicked and clanked in the distance, a howl, a moan, gurgle, a snore, reminders of his neighbors. He sighed and returned to his small abode, throwing the bolt and securing his home.
The interior of his apartment was brightly lit and minimal, a set of white boxes with very few belongings.
He sat slowly and carefully in his easy chair, and sighed again with relief. He contemplated the package that sat on his knee. It was tremendously light and it had no indication of its contents.
No message, no markings, nothing.
His Carebot would be here soon to help him, make ready for his bed.
Joseph Malone was pretty special, he was 233 years old, that wasn't why he was special,however. He was special because he was the only one who hadn't lost his marbles. His brain was intact, he was whole, his picnic had all its sandwichs and he could still recall most of his life, and he treasured that. All around him on this block, his neighbors resembled the living dead, Mindless zombies who clawed about their dwellings, in purposeless existence. Fed by Bots, toileted by Bots, washed by Bots, sustained indefinitely, because humanity, was too humane to register ,that they had passed beyond "human".
His block, was but one, in a vast system of sheltered geriatric accommodation in the "Shire", an island approximately 30 miles from the shrunken City of London. These game reserves were harrowing and ever filling monuments, to mans new found longevity. The forest surrounded these islands, mankind had lost its throne on the evolutionary ladder and was being slowly driven into smaller and smaller suburbs. Concrete was being subsumed by wood and leaf.
The elderly, accounted for 90% of the population these days, the other 10 percent, were the young. The youth, who still procreated and kept society pedaling forward, albeit at a painful imperceptible crawl, were becoming less, year by year. People submersed themselves in virtual worlds and mechanically enhanced lifestyles, because old planet earth had become a wilderness once more, with small islands of conurbation poking up through the forest canopies. Mother nature was slowly reclaiming her own, after a millenia of abuse. The youth were mostly obese and lacking in physical aptitude. The elders called them Blimps, those Elders that remember such things. The human race had stopped at the side of the track and had a stitch, gasping for air.
Science had evolved rejuvanation techniques (known as Rejuve) and this kept them young. The Blimps cells remained elastic, their DNA scrubbed of illness, their immune systems armed to the teeth, aging had stopped. Only the brain decayed as muscles got more flaccid.
These fatuous fatties, couldn't be bothered anymore. Machines did for them what they couldn't be bothered with, machines now ran society and cared for its human population. It was a truly pointless existence.
Joseph Malones had long since stopped having Rejuve, he welcomed death, and its promise of release.
His eyes focusing back on his boney knees and the brown paper package perched there. He reached for the bow and pulled, the string gave way.
As the paper relaxed around the object, Joesph Malone tensed, his legs jumping, nearly dropping it. Adrenaline surged from wizened glands, that had almost forgotten that they existed.
He was quite unprepared, for fear at his time of life.
He was repulsed, but felt a familiarity with the ghoulish remains in his lap. A finger, white, bloodless, preserved somehow. A human middle finger, a keyring with keys, and a letter folded neatly many times into a crisp square. He turned his left hand over, studying the stump, where his middle finger used to be. A tingle in his brain, accompanied the waining adrenaline surge.
He picked up the keyring, the leather fob had a silver slogan on it T-Bird, that had been his nickname back in his younger days. He had fancied himself as a leather clad greaser back in the day, driving pimped up petrol cars, chasing girls, living. On the suede back of the fob someone had written in permanent marker pen, it read 1950.
Putting the keyring down, he picked up the letter and carefully unfolded it
It was written in a strong, fluid hand, old ink pen on white paper.
As your friend, I think this is the strangest letter I have ever had to write.
You have a keen mind, and that is why you were chosen,but you will not remember this part of your life.
You are Thomas Malone, a sleeper, & sanities last chance at reprieve.
We live in a society run by machines, who maintain a status quo, they cannot deviate from, as they are guided by the one rule that we set them, which is to preserve humanity, regardless of cost. We resigned our choice in the matter centuries ago, giving them complete autonomy that we might enjoy our extended lives free of drudgery.
So what we now have, if this letter has reached you, is a society that is so decayed and removed from "humanity & sanity" that it must be pulled down. Destroyed, so we can refresh, and rally as a proper human race once more or become extinct. If you look out your door, I reckon, you will see nothing that inspires the heart, makes the blood thrill through your veins, or your mouth turn up in a smile.
As you will know, we can rejuvenate the body, but not the mind. The brain is not affected by any methods we have tried so far. We are destined to live forever, but demented as animals, crawling around boxes, guarded by robots whos sole provision is to keep us safe.
What about fail safes you are asking. You are one of two, Thomas "T-Bird" Malone. If you fail then our last failsafe will be envoked, but that will mean the end of the human race.
As an employee of the Defence Executive, you were deployed to Human Health Sciences, and later became a candidate as a "sleeper", because your brain exhibited an unusually slow aging process.
You will surely have become exhausted with life and failed to attend for rejuve sessions, so your body will be corrupted and pain ridden, you want to die, but you will soon know there is a reason to exist.
Take your finger and touch it to your stump. It is your finger, Thomas, we removed it and erased your memory. The implanted memory says you lost it as a result of an accident, but that is not the case. Place the finger to the stump and you will have all the answers you need. Do not be afraid.
You can be free of this awful existence, and so can everyone else.
Time to rise up T-Bird Malone, and face the world.
Goodluck my friend.
His signature. He had written to himself, but when. He couldn;t remember anything of his time at the Defence Executive or Human Health Sciences, he had been a civil servant, in an administration job. He gulped and felt a little sick.
He had been given the bird, good and proper, by a younger version of himself. His mind reeled.
The door chimed announcing his Carebots arrival, it was bedtime.
Scooping up the package he thrust it under his easy chairs cushion, and waited for the Carebot to enter.
The Robot was purely a utility machine. So numerous the Robots were designed to be robust and cheap. Four arms hung from a double shoulder, arranged like a cross , over a slim barrel, with caterpillar tracks. A globe sat atop this arrangement with a vis screen, this provided a rough approximate to a human face. It imitated expressions, in the hope that its patient felt relaxed, and undisturbed by the incredibly strong and untiring, whirling machinary that was attending to its activities of daily living. Thomas hated his reliance on others, but it did help him dress and wash, and if he felt like it, he could play chess with it. It always won of course, but it did help waste some time. So much time to waste.
Thomas was clinically depressed, his life had no purpose and he hoped that he had left rejuvenation long enough that his weakened state would cause his demise soon. He hadnt bothered taking the meds he was left each morning by his breakfast tray. He just flushed them, antidepressants and all. His brain felt so sharp, but to what end, what was the point.
Bertie Bot (as he had nicknamed him), whizzed about the apartment, sorting things before helping him into his pyjamas, fixing him a hot milk and departing, to its next patient. It really was minimal care, more of a supportive package, that made sure he coped. Soon he would need more help.
In bed he sat propped up by a mountain of pillows, that helped his skeletal frame rest easy. He took the package out again and examined it. He touched his cold finger, then picked it up. "Ha! Pull my finger!", he farted, an old mans, drawn out wet fart, and laugh snorted to himself. Sick, sick, sick. He put it between his ring finger and forefinger, looking down his nose, like the demanding fiancee, trying on a ring in a jewellers shop.
As the stump touched the finger he jumped, a buzz shooting up his arm. A silver pin shot out of the finger into his stump, but he felt nothing. Nano bots were invading the site, numbing his nerves and attaching the finger to his hand. He attempted to shake it off but it would not budge, he fell out of the bed in a sweaty panicing heap, the bed sheets wrapped around him, restricting him. He reached for the emergency call bell he had round his neck on a string. He paused, as the sensation in his hand changed and he started to feel the finger. He stared at it in awe. The microscopic Nano bots kept on with their work, resurrecting the blood supply and making the connections to the brain whole once more, the finger took on a healthy pink hue and normality resumed. It looked a lot younger than the rest of his hand, and a lot less hairy. His Adrenal glands were feeling properly taxed now, 2 times in one day. From the floor of his bedroom he started to see floaters crossing his eyes, and felt a momentary lapse of reason. What he didnt know was that the Nano bots had swarmed up his nervous system and were working on his brain, opening synapses that had been sealed off over 200 years ago. He shuddered when the connection renewed.
Oh My god, oh my f**** god! It dawned on him that he remembered a whole segment of his life now. He rolled over trying to get up, his weakened state restricting his movement. He staggered to his feet and lent against the wall, as the memories flooded in. He now remembered being at The Defence Executive, his time at Human Health Science, his preparation for his role as a sleeper. His involvement with the team who set up the Rejuve program. He remembered losing his finger under a local anesthetic and writing the letter to himself, and the T-Bird keyring with 1950 on its rear. The keys to his garage, the key to his car, and the key to number 1950 at heart of the metropolis where The Carebot Care & Rejuve programme was based, in London, England. There was a lot more to T-Bird Malone than a civil servant from Milton Keynes, he had form, he was quite interesting.
He remembered all his training at the defence executive, if he wasnt so old he would be a lethal weapon. Now he struggled to draw breath, he coughed, and stretched himself up to his full height, ouch! ouch! ouch!
The provisions they had made 200 years ago were good, if a little hesitant in coming forth. This situation should have been resolved a long time ago. The 2nd plan was too horrible to contemplate, strategically placed doomsday devices that would blow every trace of humanity off the planet. He had to make the first plan work.
Humanity had got complacent, lazy, stupid and had cheated evolution. He felt the fervour he had used to contain, swamping his mind. He had to do something to restore the balance, he set his shoulders and felt powerful.
Then he farted again and a little dribble of pee, ran down his leg, he sat on the bed, exhausted. Really?