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Top 10 Sci Fi Writing Challenge
Using GIMP v2.8, I finally added (both with a built-in filter and some digital painting) the effect of having the street light being lit up at night. Thus, I have created the final image for a translation I am doing in the Solo Minimalism Workshop . However, in this unusual case, the image above is merely an illustration for the actual translation, which is, surprisingly, a science fiction short story inspired by H.G. Wells’ classic “The War of the Worlds”, the minimalism workshop, and most importantly, by the original artwork of RB artist Rhoufi:
War of the Worlds – the march of the machines
Thank you very much, Rhoufi, and I hope you will appreciate this final result, as I have been amazingly inspired by the journey caused by this translation. :o)))
A Final Message from the Last Survivor of the Human Race
It’s a funny thing, really, that I am writing this, hoping that some intelligent species will come to Earth and figure out the language, and understand the meaning of these words and what happened to a planet that was once teaming with life. When I was young, a very long time ago, people (especially my great-grandfather) used to imagine with great fear what it might be like to have aliens visit, but now, it is my only hope that this message, this very limited history, will ever be read.
For the first sixty years of my life, I was like most of the humans on this planet, never doing anything of great or lasting importance, until I invented a device we eventually called the Zap Band. What happened next, well, who could have imagined it? I guess the easiest way for me to tell what happened, and how it all felt at the time, is to paste together some key entries from my diary, in the order they happened. You can skip to the end if you’re in a hurry…or you can read the whole dang diary if you want. I sure don’t have any secrets now.
July 6, 2013 – Wow, we just beat the patent filing deadline! It was touch and go there for quite a while just to raise the attorney’s fees, but now that I’ve got that done and some working prototypes, it looks like my little invention is actually becoming a reality. I’m not ready to quit my day job just yet, but this thing just might make me some real money – or lure me into losing my shirt!
February 3, 2016 – The U.S. Patent Office gave final clearance this week, and most of the international filings have been completed, so we have reached an important milestone for our Venture Capital support firms, thereby releasing $10MM to proceed with our scale-up to full production levels on the Zap Band units for installation on highway lighting under a guaranteed contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Our preliminary accelerated testing proved that elimination of flying insects by the device will extend the useful lifetime of the lighting fixtures by over 40% (four years), and by reducing both insect and avian waste, make fixture maintenance much more pleasant for the workers. Under the contract, DOT workers will install Zap Bands with the next lamp change or other maintenance visit on all existing equipment, and beginning July 1, all new lamps will include a Zap Band as standard factory equipment. Over the next eight years, that will amount to over 70 million units at $14 each (still more than 60% profit for the company!) for a total contract of $980MM. I am still in shock at these numbers.
January 1, 2017 – It was officially announced today that AECO (Alabama Electric Company), Alabama Power, a part of the Southern Company, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Inc., Tennessee Valley Authority (AL), Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, Alaska Villages Electric Cooperative, Chugach Electric Association, Copper Valley Electric Association, Golden Valley Electric Association, Kodiak Electric Association, Municipal Light & Power, Arizona Public Service,…[2 pages of power companies omitted for brevity]
– essentially every electric power company and cooperative in the United States, has entered into a joint contract with our parent company, Zap Band Holdings, for installation of Zap Bands on all outdoor electric lighting fixtures. This agreement was driven, in part, by Federal subsidy funding of 30% (32 billion dollars) over the next ten years. An additional $10 billion was provided by Monsanto, in recognition of the reduction in crop insect pest protection costs they will stand to gain by the projected reduction this project will have on flying insects. In a letter of commendation from the President, I was told that the scope of this project will add over 2 million new jobs per year to the U.S. economy.
January 9, 2017 – Our public stock price is up over 300% since last week’s big announcement, which, on paper at least, makes me a billionaire. Amazing! Things are moving so fast I really don’t have time to think. Just ordered a private jet that seats 20 in luxury; the old one (last year’s) will pass down to my Vice President of Sales.
November 20, 2020 – Bolstered by a great influx of capital from our domestic contracts, our R&D department has come up with an amazing spin-off for handheld devices – the Zap App! It turns any standard smartphone into a household zapper for crawling insects like roaches and ants. With safety software to protect small children and pets (as well as the user – just shuts off when any warm-blooded mammal is in range) we’ve already obtained UL and the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval.
December 3, 2021 – Just hammered out a deal with the major iPhone and Android distributors to sell Zap App!’s in most major outlets (worldwide!!) in time for Christmas. We already have advance orders for over 50 million units and we haven’t even made a public announcement! Our experts are convinced this will yield an almost instant 2-for-1 stock split. I really never expected this…
September 7, 2023 – Almost elbowing the European EEU deal out of the way, the government of China has demanded priority in our supplying all Zap technologies into their market in exchange for elimination of U.S. debt to their country. This means we will have to almost quadruple our current production, but the President has assured me we will get full government and military support to do whatever it takes to pull this off, as it will literally rescue the U.S. economy and save our domestic social programs from bankruptcy.
May 9, 2024 – On my 71st birthday today, I received a special call from Melissa Gates. She would like my philanthropic help to join with the Gates Foundation on a massive project called “Light Up the Dark Continent”. We will provide lighting, education, and other resources (Including Zap technologies, of course!) to all the developing regions of Africa, and hopefully reduce the death and disease caused by malaria and other pest-borne illnesses. Of course, I agreed.
August 15, 2025 – I have been approached to add support to a promising research project that claims to have made several breakthroughs to slow or even reverse the effects of human aging. For a mere donation of $20MM, I have arranged to be a test subject in “Project De Leon”.
August 29, 2025 – We have begun my treatments in a secret location in the Cayman Islands, to avoid interference from the FDA and other regulatory agencies, as well as the prying eyes of the press and paparazzi, which hound me almost everywhere. Like the other subjects, I will receive a cocktail of drugs aimed at telomere lengthening, reduction of epigenetic changes that accrue to our DNA over the years, and reversal of the down-regulation of my natural tumor suppressor genes. Unlike any of the other subjects (who also paid good money for their treatments, but not as much as I did) I have bribed these doctors into giving me a highly controversial treatment – time-release microspheres containing thimerosal, an antifungal preservative that contains small amounts of mercury. I made this choice after reviewing their testing results on experimental animals showing this agent seemed to provide the most long-lasting anti-aging benefits.
June 12, 2026 – The results of my treatments have been nothing short of amazing. I actually have to apply cosmetics to “look my age” (now 73!) but I absolutely feel better than I did when I was thirty. Even my memory is noticeably sharper, and my real voice is strong and youthful. However, in order to guard my secret “elixir of youth”, in public I have to force myself to speak like the old man I was becoming before last year. Luckily, I was always a pretty good mimic.
March 11, 2028 – To maintain appearances, I have stepped down from my position as Chairman of the Board of Directors into “retirement”, which is somewhat laughable, because physically and mentally, I’m far better now than I was when I founded the company almost fifteen years ago. But, it really does seem like time to enjoy what I can now – the fruits of my labors, so to speak. And, to be honest, retirement is even sweeter when you feel like a kid again! Besides, Europe, India, and most of the rest of the world are now adding Zap technologies – this has all gone so far beyond my wildest dreams, the company really doesn’t need my guidance any more. And most of my friends have already retired with more money and amazing experiences than they ever expected. Life is good – time to enjoy it!
August 1, 2030 – I’ve found great fun going around rural spots in the USA this summer and sitting in for “Zap Dance Parties”. I didn’t realize when I was CEO and everything was such a blur, that my little invention had actually changed part of our culture. Now, Zap Dance is what the kids started calling it when a bug would fly up near a street lamp and “dance around” closer and closer to the light, until finally, that blue laser beam would zap him into a bunch of glowing embers that would float down in the night sky like little fireworks. We used to watch it ourselves in the lab in the old days. But a Zap Dance Party (they even call them ZDP’s now, can you imagine!), well, on a nice summer evening, everybody will drag out a lawn chair and sit around the yard looking up at the street lights, drinking a glass of ice tea and chatting while the kids maybe eat a slice of watermelon or slurp on an ice cream cone. Real, old-time neighborhood get-togethers, like they used to have before air conditioning and the mosquitos and gnats drove everybody indoors to watch TV or mess with their computers. In the first couple of years of the Zap Bands, you would see lots of bugs get zapped, and you would often see a double zap (like in this old photo) or even a triple! After a while, you’d only get one or two singles an hour, but the social part just kept getting better. Then, with the Zap App!, the kids could still squeal and giggle when an ant or a pill bug or a centipede got zapped on the ground, so they were still having fun while the parents got to know each other and their neighbors better. Joining in on some of these parties as a real “guest of honor” has been one of the best experiences of my life – hearing people tell me how these ZDP’s have changed their lives and brought them closer together again – even made some stop texting! And being able to “take back the night” without the stink of bug spray or the itch of some pesky bite – well, they just couldn’t thank me enough. Made me feel really, really good, I’ll tell you.
September 4, 2033 – In a real surprise (to me anyway) I’ve been invited to Stockholm, Sweden to receive a Nobel prize – not for science, mind you, but the Nobel Peace Prize! I guess they decided that my contributions to stabilize the major world economies, and bring educational improvements to the third world, as well as a great reduction in malaria and other diseases, were worthy of this most special recognition. Well, who am I to argue with the Nobel Committee? Truly, though, it is a most humbling honor, that I’m really not certain I deserve, and certainly not alone, as there were so many who saw, even better than I did, how much better the world could be by reducing pest numbers. Heck, I was just trying to make light poles work longer and not be covered with bug wings and bird droppings! Who would have figured it would have led to this?
May 9, 2053 – Today I am 100 years old! Everybody is amazed at how well I’m holding up, and I still can’t tell them about the reason why, since the other test subjects all got fatally sick with fungal infections and the research team all went into hiding. Lucky for me, they left me with enough of the drugs to last me another 50 years, if I don’t succumb like the others did. Obviously, though, the gamble I took on insisting I wasn’t afraid of mercury and I wanted the thimerosal has paid off. Can’t help feeling sorry for those other fellows, though…
May 9, 2073 – My 120th birthday. Wow! I went into hiding in my mountain retreat several years ago – just too many people asking questions, and trying to scam an “old man” out of his money. Old man, heck, I can still run circles around most of ‘em! But I can’t tell them, or they would sure as the dickens turn me into some sort of experimental lab animal. It’s probably just as well, though, my hiding out. Things out there in the world aren’t quite so rosy anymore. Oh sure, people are all living longer and healthier without the pesticides on all the crops. Turns out none of those chemicals were really all that good for people – big surprise, huh? And the bugs eating holes in the fruit and letting in contaminants weren’t great, either. So that part has been good – real good. For a while there, folks kept finding new ways to honor and thank me. I guess my favorite one was when they used the old latin word, Pater (pronounced Pah-tare) to call me Zap Pater (“father of the Zap”). All over the world for a few years there were signs saying “Viva Zap Pater!” I still chuckle at that one. But the not so good part, well, once all the flying bugs were wiped out, all the smaller bat species starved to death, and that got a bunch of the PETA folks all up in arms. The birds that used to depend on flying insects (fly catchers, swallows, and such) dwindled in numbers quite a bit, but then some of them started coming down to the ground and eating the ground bugs, so those birds did alright…but, together with all the kids using those Zap App!’s, all the ground bugs died off a few years after the flying ones, so now the only remaining insects on the planet are in special zoos. People actually pay to come to look at roaches and houseflies – can you imagine that? Some of the ecological scientists have been making grim predictions of dire consequences, but with all the good things that have happened, few people are listening to them. Of course, all the pollination that isn’t windborne is done by hand these days, but that one isn’t my fault – they never could stop that Hive Collapse Syndrome, and the honeybees were mostly gone before the Zap Bands or the birds ever got to them. Still and all, most of what has happened has been a very good thing for the human race, by almost everyone’s assessment.
April 27, 2084 – Something really bad is happening out there. The news reports say there is some kind of plague going on all around the world in the more tropical regions. People in ever-increasing numbers are getting sick and dying of some kind of lung infection. Antibiotics and anti-viral drugs appear useless, and the deaths appear to be from asphyxiation – often less than 72 hours after the first signs of illness.
October 4, 2084 – Doctors have finally determined that the agent of this most awful plague is an airborne fungal infection, but the progression of the disease has been so rapid that the entire temperate zone, from roughly 40 degrees north to 40 degrees south is a virtual dead zone. Dead bodies, human and animal, are strewn everywhere. Nobody is alive in that entire area, and the almost certain death zone keeps progressing to wherever the outdoor temperature is above freezing.
May 16, 2085 – There has been no signal, no sign of human life on the entire planet, as far as I can determine, for two months now. I thought at first that I was spared because of my remote, mountain location, but I have gone into the nearest town, 30 miles away, and searched through the carnage there for several weeks. I know what happened, now, and a few scientists had figured it out before they, too, fell victim. Without the birds and the bats and especially the winged insects constantly combing the air, there has been nothing to retard the growth of unseen, airborne molds and fungi. Before all of man’s antibiotics were overused, and sadly, before the Zap products led to the death of all the insects, these fungi were kept in check, and they, in turn, only produced a limited amount of their own natural antibiotics. Once they began to overgrow, they killed off all the competing bacteria, and totally filled the microscopic ecosystems we have always ignored. Once they reached a certain, fatal level, any mammal breathing in the air received a fatal overload, a bio-burden of mycotoxins that overwhelmed the natural defense mechanisms and shut down lung function in hours. For all the good I thought my products were doing, I may have almost single-handedly killed off over 8 billion human beings, countless billions of vertebrate animals, and trillions of insects. And the only reason I haven’t died along with them – yet, anyway – was a greedy, risky and illegal decision to add that anti-fungal drug to the illegal anti-aging cocktail that I bought with “blood money” sixty years ago.
May 9, 2093 – One hundred and forty years on this planet. With all due respect to the legend of Methuselah, I’m pretty certain I have now lived longer than any human ever did, and the last eight years have been in total isolation. When the wind isn’t blowing, there really is no sound to be heard. No crickets chirping, no eagle’s cry, no crow’s caw…ever again. It has taken a few years to decide to forgive myself for what happened. I don’t think I could have known, and once it got started, I don’t think I could have stopped it. And, if I hadn’t come up with the idea, eventually somebody else would have done so. As my own judge and jury, while I did find myself “guilty”, I decided to give myself a suspended sentence, with some credit for “time served”.
That’s as far as my diary went, and I stopped even tracking the calendar after the year 2100 – I guess that was four or five years ago by now. So, I’ve made it to the ripe old age of 150, about what they told me was possible when I went into cahoots with those anti-aging researchers. Man, what a long, weird ride it has been. So, like I said at the beginning of this message, I feel like I have this one job left – to leave some account of what happened, and hope that if you are reading this, you can learn something valuable from my big mistake. Even if you are some hideous, alien, monster species that would have destroyed us all – if I hadn’t beaten you to it. After all, who am I to judge?
Professor Herbert George Wells IV, Nobel Laureate and LMoE (Last Man on Earth),
sometime in the early 22nd century.
Copyright 2013 by David A. Barrow – all rights reserved