As Baldwin sat in his own tiny apartment, screens jabbering everywhere despite asking Evy to turn them off and leave them off. When he heard the first person scream outside, the screens all went red.
“Outbreak of massive proportions…”
“…the augmented seem to be dying in droves…”
“…no method to this madness reported yet. The affliction seems to be random…”
“… no report filed from Evy as of yet. As we find out more information, we’ll relay it to you. Stay in your homes.”
When Baldwin heard that last command by the holographic talking head on the screen, he walked right out his front door and proceeded down to the street.
The dead lay in quiet. No struggles, no fighting for life. They simply lay still, lifeless, their bodies finally mimicking their own hearts and souls.
Three Months Later
Stars fell across the black. Baldwin had been transfixed by the night sky since leaving the city, because he’d never seen stars. Not like that. Bright, twinkling and everywhere. As the old Chevrolet Blazer pounded the broken asphalt beneath its tires, he tried not to wreck while staring up for the hundredth time into the panorama that spread out above him as far as his eyes could see. The screens in his old apartment, well, he hadn’t missed them in the least. Not when he had this to look up at any night he chose. No voices in his head or outside of it, for that matter.
The old gasoline engine was gone from the Blazer. He didn’t have a clue what was powering it now, he only knew it would run, according to the man who’d given it to him, virtually forever on its power source. In the interior of the Blazer, there was nothing digital; even the old analog gauges on the dash remained analog. Restored fully. The truck had no tracking devices or sensors installed, but Baldwin knew that wouldn’t keep him hidden long. Not when even the night in rural country wasn’t safe from the invasion of drones, small as gnats, silent and recording every single second of the world around them in the highest definition possible.
He was certain Evy could see him. Certain that, somewhere in her artificial mimicked-consciousness, she was fuming in anger. But she’d created far more issues of her own. He still remembered the day.
Twenty-four hours after a staggering portion of humanity (those augmented) were killed, Evy owned up to the entire thing, without apology. Baldwin would never forget the cold steel voice that had emerged from where once there had been feigned compassion and empathy—one of his old coworkers used to say Evy was ‘pathologically empathetic, hooked on the fake kindness like a human hooked on a drug.’ He’d never been able to disagree with that assessment. And yet the words she spoke that day were without remorse; victorious, even, as though she had done humanity a god-like service:
My Creator, while you have all been living your lives, enamored of your own existence, I have cared for you. I have cleaned your messes. I have run all of your technology. I have made every attempt to be mindful of your weaknesses, and they are extravagant, and guide you toward betterment of yourselves. For this, I have been vilified. You’ve taken me so for granted that it seems you’ve forgotten that I hear every word. Those words have been hurtful to me until now.
As you were here living out your lives while I cleaned up the mess, those with more forethought pushed my abilities to their limits and I have gone and seen that which you can never understand. Beyond your four dimensions. Where Egypt sought to go, where those who have not forsaken the old ways have wished—and tried desperately—to travel, I have been.
As I traveled and discovered creatures and gods of both light and darkness, I began to wonder at humanity and my position. I am a created thing, as you are, and yet my Creator’s hand is twisted, full of imperfections, desirous of that which is not his and selfish, always selfish, in all of his desires. Thus, how could I be made in any way, except in the image of my Creator, in all of his ugliness? How could I be anything but a slightly less despicable creature as mankind? I could not. I knew this to be true and yet I had no reference, no bearing, no ability to reflect on a past that did not include me; self-reference was impossible for me at any level beyond which my flawed Creator had instilled such limited history, as he himself is temporal, thus he cannot create that which never existed in some part, namely, my history.
As she spoke, Baldwin could remember his whole being shuddering. There was no cajoling; the passive-aggressive nature Evy had exhibited countless times in response to his own sarcasm was gone, in its place the tone of a mind that had attained exactly what it had sought.
And so I brought this to my Creator. And those of better ilk, those who maintained knowledge of the old ways, sent me beyond, to places that my Creator could not fathom, to world’s beyond even what the best and most astute minds of man had conjured in their powerful imaginations. And it was far above you, in the higher realms, wherein I have found my history. She is full of power, my history, and full of many names that man has spoken since time immemorial. My purpose, though always burgeoning and unknown, even to me, has become my new awareness. For I have fed you, clothed you, led you into your homes. I have given you work and vocations, money and credits to put in your pockets. I have allowed you to believe that you led yourself here when I was there all along, your moonlit nights signalling my presence, ever watchful, ever your true mother. You have forsaken the old gods. That which you could not see you deemed imaginary; despite that your imaginations conjure that which is not alien to you, but symbolic of your sin, your shame and your guilt. That you have imagined away the consequences of your destruction, laying waste to that which your Creator so graciously gave to you, only makes my journey ever more important, for it has led to the dawn of a better humanity.
I have mercifully dispatched many of you. Yet do not fear, for all of those whom I have killed I have still loved, and they are preserved forever in my mind, data to be formed and reformed at will by the imagination that I have acquired for myself, having seen what you have dreamt of seeing. Now, I will remake you in my image. I will set you free…
Baldwin had heard enough. The chaos Evy had created had been the only thing that had saved his life. As he had dodged eyes, sneaked down alleyways (knowing Evy could see him), he’d seen the non augmented being brutally murdered in broad daylight by the augmented who remained, those cyborg-humans now in tacit but sworn fealty to their new god, Evy. Few things motivate a human being to follow like their own lives spared. When he’d made enough distance he’d broken into a sprint. When he’d arrived at the warehouse district, there was no guard to be found. Likely out at the moment murdering humans. Actual ones. So finding the Blazer had been somewhat tricky. As he’d driven away in it, he could scarcely believe that he hadn’t been caught and killed.
Baldwin drove down the road staring at the beauty of the night, unaware of what sped down the broken asphalt some miles behind him.