Emergent

Emergent

 This is my entry in another of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. The challenge was to write a short story around the idea of an invasive species. You can see the challenge here. The idea for this story has been bouncing around in my head for a very long time, and I have a book-length treatment in mind for it. The challenge gave me the impetus to begin telling the story with what appears below.

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You can call me Negrick. That’s what they call me. It’s not my original name, the name my mother and father gave me. That would be Billy. William. It’s been a long time. Not as long as it seems, but long. I’ve almost forgotten all that.

We didn’t know they were there. There were reports, but we didn’t take them seriously. In some places, in the high Himalayas, they were Yeti. In North America they were Sasquatch, or Big Foot, or Skunk Ape. In Australia, Yowie. Other names in other places. We thought they were wackos, the ones reporting these elusive creatures. Or hoaxsters. Maybe there was something there, but other than some shadowy photos and footprints in the woods that anyone could have made, reports from oxygen-deprived, frost-bitten , snow-blind climbers in the Nepalese mountains, unexplained cries in the forest, aboriginal beliefs, there was nothing. We gave them no credence.

We gave them no credence, but all the while they were there. Beside us. A parallel race, a parallel existence, a parallel reality. Big and woolly and wild and unseen. Watching from the thick woods, the icy crevasses, the swamps and forests and out of the Dreamtime. They could wait. Watch. Give us little evidence of their existence. But they knew. They knew more than we did. We thought we knew. We didn’t. They did.

We all watched the movies, read the books, looked up and imagined. They would come from beyond our planet. An alien race invading from another world, beyond the solar system, from the stars. Martians landing in New Jersey. Terrible creatures hidden in returning space ships. Aggressive organisms taking root in our soil, coming here to conquer us, to make our world theirs. We thought they would be hostile or benevolent or fleeing their own doomed world. Coming to save us, or to destroy us, or enslave us. We always knew this. All the while we knew this.

We knew. So much, so well. Never a doubt. We knew. And we were wrong. They were here all the time. They didn’t have to come from another world. They needed no advanced technology. No superior intellect. No stellar coordinates. They didn’t have to beam in on our inter-galactic radio transmissions. They were part of our world the whole time. They knew us more than we knew them. And they waited and watched and knew. It was just a matter of time. We only had to do what we do best, which is destroy ourselves, and then they could emerge from the forests and swamps and mountains, from the wild places, from the places outside our so-called civilization, and take us as their conquered, their enslaved, their livestock.

It didn’t take a nuclear war. Not as we imagined it would be. It wasn’t radiation that spawned some terrible creature. It wasn’t a plague or incurable virus. It was almost ludicrous, how easy it was to bring ourselves to our knees. And to open the way to our current enslavement. It took less than a dozen detonations. Detonations above our atmosphere. Nuclear detonations, to be sure, but the targets were not our buildings, the intent was not to kill people outright, not to level cities in an instant. The intent was different than that, more insidious, but just as effective. The objective was to incapacitate our electrical infrastructure, our telecommunications, our computer networks, the nerve systems of our societies around the world. And it worked. How well it worked.

They called it electromagnetic pulse – EMP – and it was well known. But it was always the priority, the danger, the threat that could be put off to another day, to push down the road. It was known, but downplayed. And then some impetuous little rotund Asian dictator gave the order, pushed the metaphorical button, and there were those detonations aboard the satellites circling the earth, and that was that.

It would have been bad, very bad, if that was all. Most of us would have died, anyway. First to go was the power, and with it the refrigeration, the lighting, the heating, and the cooling. And then there was the water. And the sanitation. And the hospitals. Criminality, disease, conflict, murder all ensued in short order. It would have been bad, no doubt. We knew this, too, but it was all too preposterous, too big, too outside our usual parameters, to prepare for it, to take the steps that, maybe, would have protected us against all this.

It would have been bad. Very bad. But we didn’t know about them. We didn’t know that those who were watching us were waiting for their opportunity. They were just watching and waiting, knowing that sooner or later they would have their chance. And then this happened, and we gave it to them. They didn’t have to do a thing, not attack a single human, not tear apart a single sub-station, not step out from their secret dwelling places until the time came. They just had to wait, and we’d hand them their opening. Just like that, we’d hand it all to them. And that’s what happened, and what we did.

Now these woolly creatures, these primitive creatures of the forests and the mountains and the swamps and the dark places, now they are our masters. Somehow, we still don’t know how, they were able to communicate across the oceans and the voids. They had a language we did not know, did not even know existed, as we didn’t know they existed, and a means of communicating among themselves, and it all happened at once. Their onslaught came as if on queue, on every continent, in every quarter of the earth, not just in this country, what remained of it, but in all others, and in a few insane days it was over. Their victory and our defeat could not have been more sure. Now they are the victors, we the vanquished. They are the emergent, and we are theirs.

Each of us, each of us who did not flee and disappear into the forests and the dark places, have been secured, named, numbered, and assigned our roles. Many, of those who survived the months after the detonations, were dispatched at the outset. Those deemed of little use or too sick or too outwardly belligerent. Some became food for our conquerors. Some fertilizer. Some were fed to the fish or the animals. We’re all little more than animals now, anyway. We are the smooth-skinned ones, they the hairy ones, but they are the herders, we the herded.

We didn’t know about them, but they knew about us.

You can call me Negrick. That’s what they call me. Did I tell you that? It’s not my original name, the name my mother and father gave me. That would be Billy. William. It’s been a long time. Not as long as it seems, but long. I’ve almost forgotten all that.

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