Fiction

Waiting for the End: Speculative Fiction by Wesley Macheso

Image: Unsplash.com

Miko Mende was used to seeing people succumb to the disease. By now he had gathered enough courage to stand the gaunt faces that were nothing but skin and bones. He had listed down all the signs and symptoms of the disease – the convulsions, gulping mouths, and the saliva that dripped endlessly – which made him to always stand composed before the patients. But he failed to stand before his own brother when the disease had finally attacked him. He could not stand to see his brother succumb to the new virus whose cure was still a mystery. As an accomplished scientist, he made it his vocation to find a cure for the disease but since the Technocalypse, there were more burning catastrophes whose solutions he felt rested on him if the human race was to be saved from annihilation. The virus was not the biggest threat to mankind in the year 2717; the total destruction of the Earth was. And so he let his brother die.

When they were burying his brother, Miko was nowhere to be seen. Tension was written all over his daughter’s face for she knew that her father’s absence would raise suspicions that invited unanswered questions considering that Miko and his brother were identical twins and were inseparable since their childhood. Miko’s daughter was caught between a rock and a hard place, that were her father and her husband. She was married to The Pastor, a man who commanded too much respect in these trying times of multiple disasters. He was the founder of a new faith whose primary aim was to do away with science if the Earth was to be saved. The Pastor told his followers that the world was crumbling because God had abandoned the Earth since man had decided to challenge him through scientific innovation.

“We wanted to be clever and change the world through science, and what is the result? God deserted us! You can feel the heat; science has produced incurable diseases, dangerous creatures, and unexplained unnatural disasters, all because of man’s foolishness! If God is to forgive us then science and scientists must go!” he preached.

Slowly but steadily, The Pastor made believers out of the desperate souls making his New Heaven on Earth congregation a force against modernity. His message made sense although it had been years since the world had systematically abandoned religion and blind faith, making science the only logical way of living. Scientific inventions and the practical solutions that scientists were providing to everyday problems made it completely impossible for people to believe in the Bible or any such ancient books. It was a world full of doubt and everyone pursued their questions until what they did not understand made sense.

But in the year 2700, things changed. It was the Technocalypse that triggered the chain reaction leading to mankind’s impending annihilation. It was this fear of extinction that made people lose their minds and run back to religion. Although such faith was irrational, it became relevant as it became the only hope in a hopeless condition. The Technocalypse was the total breakdown in technology as a result of the malfunctioning of Hubloits. The Hubloits were humanoid creatures designed by scientists as a way of increasing efficiency for rapid progress. They were brain children of robotics, genetic engineering, and bio-chemistry. The Hubloits were machines a million times smarter than the ordinary human. On the outside, they looked like humans but the green and metallic red in their eyes revealed the danger that their creators never foresaw.

The malfunctioning of the Hubloits was more sensual than it was mechanical. These humanoid creatures caught feelings for some humans and love affairs sprout between humans and Hubloits in some of the world’s highly advanced industries. The marriage between humans and Hubloits gave birth to the problem that tore the Earth apart. Their offsprings are what are known as Neo-humans – combinations of man and machine – that became a threat to mankind. The Neo-humans were born with a natural loathing for humans and started killing people secretly, starting with their own mothers. They wanted to take over the Earth with their cunning and swiftness. But scientists quickly realised what was happening behind closed doors and decided to act. Africa, being the hub of science, held ‘The Kampala Gathering’ where a war against Neo-humans was declared. In order to frustrate the efforts of humans, the Neo-humans used their superhuman powers to breakdown all digital technology and communication, sending the Earth back to the dark ages. That is what is recorded in history books as the Technocalypse.

But the Technocalypse and the war were not the only problems that mankind had to deal with. Global warming had taken its toll due to the rapid increase of greenhouse gases and the almost total destruction of the ozone layer. The ice in the North Pole was fast melting and scientists had predicted that by the year 2718, the whole world would be submerged in water and that would be the end of the world. It was this impending end that drove people to the Bible, the Koran, and to other scriptures that were long forgotten. Human beings love life so much that they cherish fantasies of living forever and they will try anything to make that a reality. This desperation is what made The Pastor one of the most powerful men by the year 2717. He ingeniously evolved a new book of faith by selectively combining books from the Bible and the Koran and made it a pillar for his church, the New Heaven on Earth. They persecuted scientists and killed those who refused to renounce science. The new faith was to be the end of science and the salvation of the world.

Although Miko Mende and other scientists publicly renounced their further involvement in science for fear of being hanged, he strongly believed that science was the only solution to the problems that were there. It was only through science that the Neo-humans could be defeated. It was science that could provide a cure for the new virus that he suspected was invented in a laboratory by the Neo-humans. And above all, Miko wanted to find a lasting solution to the global warming and the impending submergence of the Earth by water. His solution was to find a way of making the sun set for a thousand years so that the water freezes. He was to use science to find a way of making the Earth stop rotating on its axis or to move the planet from the solar system to an alternative source of energy in order to save humanity. And with science, he had a strong belief that all this was possible but the only obstacle was this new faith and this new man they called The Pastor. To make things worse, the pastor had married his only daughter and he had brainwashed her.

Miko and two of his friends connived to build an underground laboratory where they could work on their plans undetected. By the year 2716, they had built a facility that used and reproduced nuclear energy without anyone knowing about it. The laboratory held nuclear capacity that could blast the Earth within seconds. The power in that lab could lift the earth off its axis in a blink of an eye. The three men felt that they were closer to their dream than ever and they spent sleepless nights working on their project. This was why Miko often disappeared from his house for weeks with no trace or suggestions of his whereabouts. Despite that his twin brother was the closest person to him, Miko only visited him twice in the four months he suffered in the hospital. This somehow made The Pastor suspicious and he was determined to find out what Miko was up to by mostly manipulating his daughter. This is why it rained tension on the day of his brother’s burial.

All along, Miko had suspected that The Pastor was a Neo-human in hiding. He remembered the metallic gleam of his eyes when he first met him. His daughter had brought him into his house and introduced him as a friend. This was a few weeks after rumours were heard that there was an underground movement geared towards killing science. Miko could not help but notice some strange features and mannerisms in the man who had befriended his daughter. He spoke too clearly and with a vehemence that surpassed human confidence. He was too quick to respond to puzzles that Miko quizzed deliberately. He could dart his eyes from wall to wall as if he wanted to swallow in everything. In short, he looked like a man with a plan and menace was imprinted on his forehead.

“And how did you know that man again?” Miko had asked his daughter after the visitor left.

“Well, I met him at school before the war began.”

“What was he studying?”

“He was doing genetic engineering, but he dropped out before the war.”

“Oh! Any reason for that?”

“He said he already knew most of what we learnt and that the world did not need people sitting in classrooms and discussing theories and what others had done before. He said the world needed people who would go out on their own and think of how to change the world by finding out what to change in order to change.”

“And what did he say needed to change?”

“Dad, why are you asking so many questions?” His daughter was visibly tired and annoyed and Miko had to find a way of making her comfortable if he was to know more about the young man who had just left.

“But darling, I’m a man of science and you know that inquiry is my life,” he forced a smile.

“But come on, dad. Or maybe you just don’t like him?”

“No darling… of course, I do. He is an intelligent young man… don’t you think?”

“Well, I don’t know,” she was now blushing, “but to answer your earlier question, he said humanity must go back to the basics if we are to survive.”

“Oh, I see. Basics in science or culture?”

“But dad!”

His daughter was obviously furious and he did not want to push her to the edge. But that was when his suspicion began. As such, he was not surprised when he later found out that the young man was the leader of the new faith and that his daughter had been completely brainwashed to believe the nonsense of going back to the basics and embracing the new religion. His daughter was caught between two opposing forces and two loves she could not reconcile.

So after the burial of Miko’s twin brother, The Pastor made his suspicions known. He told his wife that he believed her father was working against the progress of humanity. “If he is not working on some sinister plan, what can explain his strange behaviour lately?” That was his question and Miko’s daughter had no answer. She just promised her husband that she would make sure she found out what was disturbing her father and that she believed it was nothing sinister.

Miko showed up three days after the funeral. He looked exhausted like he had not slept in days. His bottom eyelids were bulging; heavy with sleep. His clothes were as dirty as if he had just survived from a catacomb that had fallen in. His house was quiet as it had always been since he lost his wife a few years before. He knew that by then his brother had died and was long buried but he did not want to allow that sorrow distract his mind from the progress they were making in the lab. Sorrow had its place and time and there was no room for it at this moment. When he entered his bedroom, he noticed something unusual. The light was on but he clearly remembered switching off the lantern when he left the room a few days before. He was not the type to leave a lantern burning for days. He understood the value of energy and he conserved it jealously. He slowly stepped into the room and surveyed his surroundings cautiously as if he was treading into strange territory. Then he realised that the drawers on his dressing table were open despite the fact that he had locked them and carried the keys with him when he left. He rushed to the table, his heart thumping and sweat suddenly coming to his face. Somebody had tampered with his privacy. He found the drawers empty of all the papers he kept in them. They were not very dangerous papers of course – only sketches of the lab he and his friends had built in the mountain. He was sure the location of the lab was not written anywhere on the papers but still a piece of his secret was out and that was dangerous. All the sleep that had tormented him drained in the sweat and he stormed out of the room.

He stepped out of the house trying as much as possible to be composed. He knew that whoever had broken into his bedroom must have been watching him – trying to find a fault in his actions. He ambled along the main street but his pace picked up with every new thought that came to his mind. Each new thought gave birth to paranoia which lit ominous fear in his heart. Without realising it, he was trotting to alert one of his friends, Wellington, with whom he was working in the laboratory. He understood that Wellington must have been too tired and sound asleep by then but this was an emergency and it could not wait.

When he reached Wellington’s house, Miko just pushed in the door, and, to his surprise, it was unlatched. His heart beat faster and he run towards the bedroom, calling out, “Wellington! Wellington! Wellington!” Wellington’s bedroom was open and when he finally entered, Miko did not believe his eyes. His friend was tied to the bed and a cloth was stuffed into his mouth. He was mutilated on the cheeks and there was blood on the bed and all over the floor. Miko jerked forward, making for the bed, but a familiar voice suddenly rang in his ears.

“Stop! Don’t you make any move!”

He turned around to find his daughter standing firm behind the bedroom door with a gun pointing straight to his face. He just gulped as if he was out of words and slowly raised his hands in disbelief.

“Raise them up! High up!” She commanded, “Now move slowly and join your friend over there!”

This was the first time a nightmare had come alive in Miko’s life. He saw his daughter with new eyes. It suddenly occurred to him that his daughter had changed over the years and that he did not even pay enough attention to notice these changes. His daughter had become a stranger and that stranger was about to shoot him dead in his friend’s bedroom. His adrenaline rose and he had to think like a cornered tiger.

“You two old men have things to explain and you better do that quickly or I will kill you! What have you been up to?” she commanded.

Miko did not have time to look at his friend who was grumbling on the bed; the gun was pointing to his face. His daughter was taking calculated steps towards him and she looked fiercer with every forward step she took. Tears were slowly forming in Miko’s eyes. They were tears of sorrow, disbelief, regrets he could not explain, and mostly, tears of love. Here was the only person he loved the most in the world threatening to kill him for attempting to save the world. For the first time in his life Miko felt what he thought Jesus had felt on that cross. He wondered what was more important between affection and life itself. Should the love for life force us to kill? Isn’t that an oxymoron? A new determination raved through his veins and he knew that he had to act. He had to stop his daughter or the Earth would be annihilated.

——————

Image: Unsplash.com

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