Monday, September 19, 2011

Twilight Of Man

The dead were walking the streets again. It was becoming a daily occurrence. It was a daily occurrence that the vast majority of people could do without. Somehow, I doubted it would become anything but more commonplace as time went by.

In every age of man for as far back as history records, and probably even further back than that I guess, there have been controversial discoveries made. You don't have to be some egghead history buff to know that. Science and technology have always advanced farther and faster into unknown territory than has the society that such advances are intended to benefit.

Necomantic Replication Technology or NRT was just the latest controversial discovery in that long list of such things. Looking back, I don't think anybody saw such a thing coming to be, but we should have. Where or when did it all begin? That's hard to say. Stem cell research, genetic manipulation, DNA resequencing and the development of artificial organs to replace every organ we had were all baby steps leading to the eventuality of something like NRT coming to be.

The scientific breakthrough that transformed NRT from a theoretical concept into a potential reality was something called Memory Engram Storage or MES. It was a big old mess indeed. By the late 21st century, Alzheimers and other cognitive brain disorders were rampant. It was a classic case of cause and effect. Advances in medical science had enabled the average person to expect a lifespan of well over 100 years. The unexpected downside to this was that the human brain wore out long before the body did. MES allowed a person's memories to be stored digitally against the need for them to be restored. It enjoyed far less success than was anticipated.

For once, the technology was not to blame. It did exactly what it promised. The problem was the human component. It became evident in the earliest application that imprinting memories back on to a structurally unsound brain was useless. The subjects that most needed the treatment no longer possessed a brain capable of accepting the data. The only widespread benefit was in the proof of concept that memory storage and restoration WAS possible.

In 2190, the MES technology was finally fully validated by the introduction of the Artificial Positronic Matrix or APM. By this time, the human brain was understood well enough that it could be recreated electronically. It was a triumph of technology over common sense. If the subject brain was unsound, then replace the brain and THEN restore the memories.

Behind closed doors, a cabal of scientists, doctors and others first theorized the NRT project. Ironically, the longest phase of the project lay not in determining COULD such a thing be done but in deciding if such a thing SHOULD be done. In the fullness of time the SHOULD and the COULD factions reached agreement.

Every broadcast medium in the world carried the press conference announcing the first trials of the NRT program. Specially-chosen members of the team explained the process in terms anyone could understand. The first step required a sample of subject DNA. Only a very minute amount of DNA was required. The growth of the specimen would be dramatically accelerated. When the specimen was sufficiently developed, all organs would be replaced with flawless artificial organs. Finally, the APM would be implanted and the MES would be applied. The finished product would be a fully-functional subject with all of the memories of the original subject.

The response from the media and from humanity at large ran the gamut from wonderment to outrage.

A savvy newsie posed the question: Why use such a non-scientific term as "necromantic"? The abashed spokesmen admitted a flaw in the NRT process. Regardless of the sample, the process only worked about 70% of the time. The scientists had jibed that there must be some voodoo variable that made the process only work sometimes. They hadn't isolated the variable so, for now, necromantic seemed apropos.

The religious elements railed that it was an abomination. Soulless artificial humans were unthinkable! They were mollified by an appeal to their emotions. It was an abomination that children should grow up never having known a beloved family member taken away too soon. It was soulless for poets, musicians and writers were taken away with so much beauty left to give. The soothing appeal worked.

Everyone agreed there must be some limitation placed on the NERTs as they came to be known in popular parlance. The consensus reached was that their inorganic parts would be programmed to deactivate after one year. All agreed this was acceptable.

The process was commercialized and the orders flowed in. Within a month there were over 100 thousand NERTs in existence. At six months, their numbers had swelled to nearly one half million. As the first year of production neared its end, 2.8 million NERTs were among us.

The night before One Year Day dawned, each NERT was bid farewell by sons, daughters, colleagues and those who cared for them for whatever reason. As One Year Day began, the horror began as well.

Somehow, by some unknown way, the NERTs did not die. Scientists were at a complete loss as to how such a thing could happen. Attempts to examine the NERTs were the first concrete proof that something was very, very wrong. The NERTs attacked the scientists and tore them limb from limb.

Similar reports poured in from all over the planet. NERTs were attacking anyone or anything with no provocation whatsoever. Inicidents multiplied to the point that military action was deemed expedient.

The NERTs responded in kind with brutal effect. With no centralized nervous system
a NERT could only be stopped by being completely obliterated. While the military fought, the NERTs took the initiative away.

Theories say that the NERTs formed some sort of collective consciousness. By means not understood, the NERTs created more NERTs...a LOT more. They declared themselves to be independent and autonomous. Humanity fought them with all its martial might...and lost.

So now every day dawns with the undead walking the streets, defying us to challenge them or resist them. It has become a daily occurrence that there are fewer of us and more of them than the day. We stay in our homes, with our doors locked and wait for the end to come.


  1. Part of me thinks this is some sort of prophecy. Are you a soothsayer? Brilliant piece by the way!

    A x

  2. That is why you run lots of tests: one NERT turning into a blood thirsty being of death could've been handled, but they had to create millions.

    Great story, love the science. The details make the story seem more real.

  3. Fascinating science for the walking dead... Makes me wonder how I would've handled the prompt, and what this voodoo variable was they failed to identify. Seems more important when the NERTs won't die. Definitely scary to imagine facing an enemy you can't hurt.