The old man could not move his legs off the bed. “Raffy,” he called out.
Murl came into the bedroom. “Yes, Adam."
“Murl, what are you doing here? Where’s Raffy?”
“He had to run some errands. I was pleased when he asked me to attend to you. Did you sleep well.”
“Yes, I did. That’s about all I can do well now.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I mean, I’m not sorry. I mean…”
Adam smiled and patted Murl on the arm. “It’s good to see you. I missed you.”
“And I you.”
“How have you been? What’s new?”
“I am fine. As far as news, the restoration of Rome circa 200 CE is complete. The Scalenes beat the Muons, 6 to 4, in the baseball world series. The play When the Apple Turned Green by the eminent biologist Batil is opening at the Grand Via. A space vehicle was lost near Jupiter killing 12 genues. And the common rat is now an endangered specie.”
“That’s too bad. I don’t mean about the rats—about the genues. But, no, no. I meant what’s new with you.”
“Yes, of course. Forgive me but, I am no longer use to responding to a human.” Murl sat on the bed. “New with me? Well, my left ankle tends to lock up every once in awhile. I have a patch of DuroDerm on my back that won’t respond to sunlight. And my short term memory module is not as quick as it used to be.”
“Still, you’re doing okay for 107 years old.”
“I suppose,” Murl said. “But it is no fun getting old.”
Adam laughed. “Are you hale enough to help this 107 year old out of bed? I want to look out the window but I can’t move my legs.”
“Certainly.” He picked Adam off the bed, put him in the wheelchair, and pushed him to the bedroom window.
Adam stared out at the genue metropolis. “Just look at how Risen Falls has developed.” He pointed to a building off to the left. “What’s that building there?”
“That is our new Motlafu Executive Office Building.”
“Very nice. And what is that other structure behind it?”
“The Ugene Institute of Arts. And next to it the Batil Botanical Gardens.”
“It’s odd how you guys name buildings and such with the single genue name. In the old days we had full bodied labels, like the Yuri Leonid Chenkov Science Academy, and the Abellina Cleopatra Fye Temple of God. Why don’t all you genues adopt a surname?”
“All genues adopt a surname?” Murl thought a moment. “How about Green?”
Adam chuckled. “Right. Murl Green, Raffy Green, Hatabo Green. Very funny, Murl. You must have had Cheknov’s humor chip implanted.”
“No, never,” Murl responded. “But many younger genues are getting upgraded with it. It’s become quite the rage.”
“Yes. I find it annoying, myself. Not so much the mouth twitch you call a grin, but the subverted logic and anachronism that humor so heavily depends upon. It used to be that logic and order were things genues strove for. But younger humorized genues don’t seem to appreciate them as much. They find it amusing to twist meanings, expectations, and situations. Humor is a human trait I think we could have done without. But I suppose it’s here to stay. I guess that’s why Ugene had it installed.”
“Ugene upgraded? He tell you any good genue jokes?”
“I don’t know if they are good. He tells a story about a genue who falls out of a second story window, and when he hits the sidewalk his left leg breaks off. He gets up, puts his severed leg under his arm, hops to a genue repair facility and asks the attendant there, ‘Can you please put my leg on.’ The attendant answers, ‘No thanks. I already have two.’ Then Ugene gives me that mouth twitch.”
Murl added, “Yes, like that.”
The smile grew larger. “Murl, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
“I am quite content with my life as it is.”
Oblivion's Children — Chapter 12: Epilogue
Adam shook his head. He looked out again at the landscape and pointed at another building. “That one over there. What’s that?”
“That is the Tallo Being Research Institute.”
“Bean Research? Why would genues be doing bean research?”
“Adam, I said Be-ing Research. We are making tremendous progress in understanding our intellectual identity—what it means to have consciousness, to have a time perspective, what constitutes ‘self.’”
The old man sighed and spoke with great effort. “That kind of speculation used to be left to philosophers.”
“Oh, our studies are much more empirical. The scientists in the field have developed standard units of measurement for cognition. And they’ve come up with some interesting concepts such as ‘coincident awareness frame’ and ‘rational acceptance threshold.’”
Adam held up his hand feebly to interrupt the discourse. “It sounds exciting, Murl. But…” He took several short, small breaths, then uttered softly, “But I’m too tired to think about it.” A dull pain coursed through the old man’s body and a dizziness flashed through his head.
“Take me to my bed,” he urged. “I’ve got to rest.”
The genue obliged and Adam slept for several hours.
When he awoke he was cold and numb. He called out, “Murl, Raffy.”
They came to his side.
Adam’s gaunt and wrinkled face quivered as his head turned so that his eyes could gaze upon the genues. He labored to talk. “I don’t feel so hot. I don’t think I’ll see another sunrise, guys. Probably not even another sunset.”
Murl communicated internally with Raffy on the GenLink. “This is not good.”
“Is there nothing we can do to prevent his further deterioration?” Raffy asked over the radio link.
“No. There is no science for that.”
“It causes me great sadness.”
Murl stared into Raffy’s eyes. “And me.”
Raffy grasped the old man’s hand and said, “I… that is, the entire world, will mourn your death.”
Adam’s shriveled lips moved imperceptibly. “My death is nothing. Everything dies.”
Murl studied his friend to imbed his image in his mind. “We will mourn the loss of your friendship. But we also grieve because you will not see the future—the great things that will happen. We want you to see what we will see.”
“No one can see all of the future,” answered Adam. “I saw the future that my parents didn’t, and they saw the future that their parents didn’t. We may have all hoped for immortality. But most of us realized we were finite beings mortally trapped in time between two infinities. Only the soul has a chance to live on.”
“Soul?” puzzled Murl. “For all the years I have lived and all the books I have read, that still is not a concept I can understand.”
Adam stared past the genues. “There was never a consensus of what it meant. Many believed that each person had a soul; that it was a spiritual thing. In my youth I found that notion hard to understand.” He sighed again, then continued slowly. “Later, my friend Hope shared with me a different perspective. She believed that the soul wasn’t some other-world spirit, but rather a kind of shared cultural essence. She thought that the thing we called ‘self’ was a carrier of part of that essence. That each of us was a fragment, and reflection… and extension, of that one soul. Over time, I came to understand what she meant.”
“Only one soul? Where did it come from?” asked Murl.
“I suppose it arose when the human animal first developed a self awareness and consciousness. And it grew with each generation, with memories passed on… with the advancement of culture. It became an ethos, a dynamic consciousness, a social morality. That single soul was shared for thousands of years by billions of people. It ran like a thread through each person, through each unique self.”
Murl spoke. “In a sense then, the consciousness of the first human has spanned a million years growing along the way… and you are that first man seeing the world through the last man’s eyes.”
Adam smiled and nodded.
“But that soul does not end with your death,” Murl said.
“I know that now,” Adam said.
“In us you have captured the human intellectual essence… without the biological mechanisms that flawed your own existence. And just as each person carried the lore, the hopes, the visions of your ancestors, so will genues carry them. You are reborn in us. You have become us… just as we had become you.”
“Yes,” came the weak voice.
Oblivion's Children — Chapter 12: Epilogue
“And we will take that soul to other planets and other stars. And when the sun explodes and destroys the Earth, we will witness it from a new home in a new galaxy… and so will humankind.”
They waited in silence, but Adam said no more.
They watched his eyes close and his jaw quiver.
They heard him mutter a haunted noise.
They felt his faint pulse weaken and disappear.
They listened to the old man’s somber breath sink to stillness.
They witnessed the last human death.
Raffy pulled open the top draw of Adam’s dresser. He would have to decide which items should be sent to the Museum of Human History and which should be discarded. From among the many objects, he picked up the amber stone that Murl had brought back from London for Adam. He held it up toward the light coming from the balcony. Through the clear resin, past the small imprisoned reptile, he noticed Murl standing motionless, staring out at the genue world. He placed the amber in the box of things to be discarded and went to his side. “What have you been thinking about for so long, Murl?”
Murl continued staring at the landscape. “I was thinking about the final chapter of my manuscript, A Race from the Past.”
“You now have an ending,” Raffy said.
“Sadly so. However, I was wondering about the day we told Adam of the genue decision. Remember how at first he was so elated that the human species might thrive again. Then he was so irate when I told him this was not the case. Then his anger turned on me for not telling him of our decision. And finally recall his joy in realizing we had taken independent action.”
“Yes, I remember. What causes you to wonder about that?”
Murl ambled back into the living room. “For all his emotions then, and all his thoughts since that time, he never once asked us if we had determined the cause of Amber Day.”
Raffy went back to the dresser draw. “But even if he had, we couldn’t have told him much. Just a speculation that it was not a natural event, but rather a deliberate, intelligent act directed specifically at ending human existence.”
Murl looked on. “But he didn’t ask. Adam, so inquisitive, so brilliant, jumping from concerns about human survival to a perception of our betrayal and back again to his obsession with our consciousness, all at the expense of his curiosity.”
Raffy picked up the bracelet of eight gold rings Hope was wearing the night of her death. The unlucky bracelet, Adam called it. He handed it to Murl. “It amazes me how irrational human behavior was much of the time.”
“Yes.” Murl stared at the rings and pondered. “Maybe that is what troubled the perpetrators of Amber Day.”
He gave the bracelet back to Raffy who placed it in the box for the Museum of Human History.
Oblivion's Children — Chapter 12: Epilogue
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