John hopped around in panic. He had scrambled down the alley in hope of escape and found the end blocked. Turning he saw a group of Zombies round the corner, see him, and start to advance with that guttural growl. Fear rose in John’s throat and frantically he tried to climb up the sheer wall but couldn’t find a handhold in the well pointed brickwork.
“Shit, shit, shit.” He repeated. The Zombies filled the end of the alley. He couldn’t run past them. Arms raised they moved inexorably towards him with hungry lust in their rheumy eyes. Frantically John tried to brace his back against the wall and shimmy up, but the gap was too wide and he fell on his ass. He had no means of escape. He huddled in the corner and the Dead closed the last few inches bending down to grab him and feast on him. He raised his arm up to stop them and noticed that he could see through his hand. His whole body tingled as the moans rose to a crescendo, and as the Dead grasped at him, snapping their teeth and licking their lips, his arm seemed to vanish in front of his eyes.
“What the f” he said
8.96 nanoseconds prior to John saying “What”, Cadish once again surveyed the scene many miles below him. He was perplexed and confused. This was almost the polar opposite to the effect he had expected. The simulations he had run had showed happy meat, and a pleased population with a bright future for the meat creatures. No. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t right at all.
3.47 nanoseconds before John said “f” Cadish reviewed the past few hours surveys, collated the anomalies, ran a series of simulations based on current and assumed data forward in time to several thousand years and came to the conclusion that he didn’t have enough data to assume anything. He would have to talk to one of the locals. Get their perspective on the situation.
“uck” Said John as the transfer completed and he found himself crouched in the centre of a silver room. Myriad complex pipework in what looked like stainless steel formed the walls and as he looked closer he saw pipework on pipework like a fractal pattern. What looked like blades or butter knives appeared to be connected to the ends of some of these pipes or rods. The room was roughly square and dimly lit even though he could see no light source. His eyes adjusted to the gloom and he realised he could see his breath. It was freezing cold but as he stood the temperature rose dramatically.
“What. The. Fuck.” John repeated, now completely confused, and feeling slightly sick.
“Apologies meat creature. Interior space has oxygen content but the temperature will take several divisions of linear time. bits of time. pieces of time. Pieces of Eight? What? …..Seconds to achieve your ambient temperature.” Said a low hollow voice that didn’t seem to come from anywhere.
“What the fuck?” John repeated.
“Are you stuck? Locked? Repeating? Looped?” Said Cadish.
“If so say ‘What the’ if not say ‘fuck’.”
“Eh?” Said John.
The room seemed to vibrate with a low rumble. John immediately thought it sounded like someone saying ‘Hmmm’ as if they were frowning in consternation.
John regained a modicum of composure.
“Where am I?” he asked to the room
“Excellent!” Exclaimed Cadish. “You are not stuck. Looped in linear time! Communication can commence. Let us talk together/communicate in sporadic soundwave amplitudes.”
John just blinked.
“Would you like a seat?” Said Cadish, emulating meat protocols he had observed.
John nodded. Cadish thought this was wonderful. Normally transferred creatures became angry or panicked and had to be returned to their prior location before they hurt themselves. This creature showed a higher function.
John felt the ground underneath him move and he stepped to one side. The pipework and blades below him seethed and writhed around before rising out of the ground searching and feeling their way up to a height of about three feet. There was the sound of a thousand knives being sharpened as the rods flicked about searching for something, as if working out the best position to lay and for several seconds it flapped about ineffectually before finally settling into something that resembled a lopsided chair, or it would do if there wasn’t a nasty looking blade sticking up from the seat.
John didn’t sit.
“Oh sorry” Said Cadish, and the offending blade flipped about as if searching for somewhere to hide, like a mouse caught by surprise in the corner of a shed with no immediate escape. Eventually it forced its way under several other blades laying flat on the seat, and nestled in as if getting comfortable. John sat down gingerly and the chair seemed solid enough.
“Good. Good.” Said Cadish. “I cannot offer you food, energy, fuel, sustenance…”
“Look. Where the hell am 1?” Said John, trying to bring some sanity back to the situation.
“I have created this aperture to maintain your current life state. You are several divisons of distance above your previous position. Divisions of distance. Millimetres. Yards. Chains. Inches. Kilometres. Miles. Yes Miles. You are several miles above your previous position. Look”
Two large rods folded out of the roof at one end of the room and an inky image coalesced between before forming an unbelievably high definition image of the Earth in 3D. The ruined Earth sparkled below John, it was so realistic, so beautiful and with a sickening sensation John realised he was in space.
“What the. What are you?” exclaimed John.
“I am Cadish” Said Cadish.
“What’s a Cadish? A Computer? A ship? A robot? An Alien?” Said John
“I am Cadish” Said Cadish. “I am not a PC, an ocean going vessel or an alien. Not to me anyway.”
“Well what do you want with me?” he asked.
“Good. Good. Straight to business. No beating about the bush. Excellent.” Said Cadish.
“I need to enquire/ask/determine/assess/simulate/hypothesise/find out and torture several parameters with reference to the situation currently in progress through linear time on the surface of your home planet/home-world.” Said Cadish.
“You want to ask me a question?” Summarised John.
“Yes.” Said Cadish with uncommon brevity.
John shrugged and with no small measure of glee Cadish realised this was the meat gesture for ‘Go ahead’.
The image on the screen morphed into a street view. Zombies were chewing on a fresh kills, savouring the dark meat of the liver of what looked like some poor teenager.
A rod shot up from the floor with a ‘snick’ and stopped in front of the image.
“What are these?” Asked Cadish, tapping the screen with the blade pointer.
“These are Zombies Cadish. The living dead, eating the flesh of the living”Said John, sickened by what he saw.
The physiological response of the meat creature confused Cadish.
“Living Dead is an oxymoron, a conundrum. A paradox. Not…..erm……right.” Said Cadish.
“The dead started rising up last night, they started attacking and eating people. I don’t know why Cadish.” Said John sadly, thinking about the people he had lost in the last few hours.
“Maybe it was a disease, some type of Swine Flu, or maybe the government” he continued.
Cadish saw the same sadness come over John he had observed on his arrival and initial surveys of the planet.
“I do not understand. These Zombies are autonomous, moving, thinking, in the same way as you meat creatures why do you think they attack you meat creatures?”
“I don’t know Cadish. I’m not a scientist. They aren’t the same though are they? They don’t bleed, they don’t think, they just eat human flesh.” Said John
There was a low rumbling ‘Hmmm’ from Cadish.
“You are correct meat creature.” It said after a moments thought.
“John.” Said John.
“What?” Said Cadish
“My name is John. John Kendall.” Said John.
Cadish remained silent.
“JohnKendall. I do not understand death” Said Cadish.
“When meat ceases to move/function/talk/speak/complain/analyse/think, what happens?”
John thought for a moment.
“Everything stops Cadish. The heart stops pumping blood, electricity stops going through the brain, the soul leaves the body.”
“The soul? I have not seen this on analytical diagrams of your meat structures? Where is this ‘soul’?” This was totally new information to Cadish and was very exciting.
“If you are religious you believe that the soul departs the body to move to a higher plane or a different dimension.” Said John.
“Oh.” Said Cadish. “Please remain here for 3 divisions of linear…sorry….seconds.”
“Do what now?” Said John as the room dissolved around him. Panic gripped as the cold of space nibbled at him and the air was sucked from his lungs, he could see the Earth hanging like a jewel below him but pain shot through his eyes and he had to close them before they were forced from his body. The pain and cold increased exponentially until he realised he was sat, once again, in the spindly metal chair aboard Cadish. He breathed deeply, recovering his composure before screaming at his captor.
“Cadish! What the hell was that! You left me in space!”
“Yes. Apologies. I needed to check several trillion dimensions and as you can appreciate this can take some divisions of linear time.” Said Cadish.
“Your meat structure ‘souls’ are not referenced in any pan dimensional literature, nor could I detect any evidence of a physicality of ‘souls’ in any dimension other than this one.”
“I don’t think it works like that Cadish.” Said John, still out of breath.
“Why?” Said Cadish petulantly.
John sat and thought for a moment.
“I wish I had the internet here.” John mumbled.
“The internet? What are the internets?”
“Our global information network on Earth”
“Oooh!” Said Cadish who was actually quite impressed by this.
“Where is it?”Cadish enquired. The scene on the screen still played out but in the background John could see a shop counter, with a PC on it. He stood and walked over to the screen.
“There. See that thing?” he asked as he pointed at the screen. The image tilted jerkily around until the front of the computer could be seen.
“We use those things to type, you know, with our fingers. To give the computer instructions or to access the internet.” Said John pointing at the keyboard. “We see what the results are on the screen” Said John.
“Then its lucky we were at the exactly correct place/location/spot to view this ‘internet’.” Said Cadish calculating the staggering odds of that happening.
“What? No. Any object like that, really anything with a screen that looks like that can access the internet or store information” Said John.
“Really?” Said Cadish.
“Yes. Try to log on to it, if you can find anywhere with electrici……” John stopped as the PC onscreen booted up. The image changed to show the flickering scene of millions of computers booting up simultaneously even though the apocalypse had stopped the supply of electric to all but the most secure bunkers.
“Ah yes. I will retrieve/gather/harvest this information. Harvest complete. What now JohnKendall?” Said Cadish.
“Have you just downloaded the internet?” Asked John, stunned.
“That was quick.”
“No it wasn’t. Your computers are slower than light.”
John felt like apologising for some reason. He didn’t.
“Look up ‘Religion’.”
“oh” Said Cadish. The room seemed to dim around John and when Cadish spoke again it was in a low tone.
“The Nanodes and I did not calculate this possibility.”
“Wait! Hang on. The what now?” Said John “You mean you know about this?”
The room visibly bristled with alarm, the screen folded up into the roof and a rod and blade hand shot out to grab John’s and shake it vigorously.
Whoa. Whoa. Wait a minute you. What do you mean. ‘The Nanodes’?” exclaimed John.
There was a long pause.
“It appears JohnKendall that I may have a confession/redemption/apology to make.” Said Cadish, contritely. The screen flicked down from the roof and an image appeared of a group of people, dressed in black, mourning at a funeral. The coffin was being lowered into the ground and the people around could be seen to be crying and shaking with grief. The image morphed into a succession of funerals from different parts of the world.
“This was the first image/funeral/burying I really saw on my arrival. It confused me for eight seconds, which is a very long time indeed.” said Cadish. John sat back in the spindly chair.
“Why did it confuse you?” Asked John.
“Everyone was very sad/morose/scared. It made me feel similar.” Cadish’s voice was very quiet now.
“I did not want to study so much sadness. So I calculated several million possibilities and planned a future with limited outcomes. Bar some population errors it appeared to be a good solution. The Nanodes were dispatched to implement the plan/scheme/non linear action.”
John rubbed his forehead and eyes in frustration. He had a headache coming on.
“So what did you do?”
“The idea/thought was to repair all damaged meat structures. So no one would…….die, and those that were dead were repaired.” Said Cadish.
“Well it didn’t work did it?”
“Yes it did.”
“No it didn’t.”
“Yes it did.”
“No it didn’t, they are all still dead. None of their organs work, none of the nerves work.”
“Actually it did but not as it was prior to the event. We decided that it would be inefficient/poor form/just plain wrong to repair them as they were and so the Nanodes replaced all existing autonomic functions, with the exception of the higher brain activities, so as better to assimilate themselves back into a live state, and prevent further cellular decay leading ultimately to a system failure/death.”
“They were going to be immortal?” Said John.
“They were going to be immortal, and so would you when you suffered a terminal system failure/went kaput.” Said Cadish.
“So you were actually trying to stop death?” Said John.
“Yes. I thought this was what the people were like before they died but I don’t believe that to be correct/resolved, hence my communicating with you.”
John thought about this for a moment. Cadish, for some reason, could feel non-linear time wriggling about in the background as the possibility of this revelation revealed itself like a mass of writhing snakes.
“So you thought all the Zombies were like this before they died?”
“Yes. It was the only resolving pattern.”
“So the Nanodes got something wrong then?”
“Not possible. They have 100% success rate at all tasks we agree on.” Said Cadish, a little offended it must be said. He contacted the Nanodes.
“It appears there may have been an iterative error/cock-up/mistake.”
“Given that the Zombies state was a second state separate to that of standard meat structures, there may be a reason for it. Initial subjects did not act like meat structures and the Nanodes could not determine the reason for this. They are not as intelligent/pan dimensional/omnipotent…No…too much ego. Not as smart as me and they looked for a precedent to base higher function programming on. Seeing as this was not a normal state for the meat structure to return from system failure/death then they used a guide to understand higher function programming, and not knowing individual psyches/higher functions/personalities/memories they based it on a template.” Explained Cadish.
“what template?” Said John, pensively.
“A DVD copy of George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’” Said Cadish, the room shuddering with embarrassment.
“Everyone was the same. It made the programming easy and this was what we assumed the people looked like before death, because they still looked like that in their graves. I think the Nanodes may have become confused and thought it was a historical document. This has never happened before.” Said Cadish.
“So you thought everyone would embrace Zombies as old friends and loved ones and that no-one would notice that weren’t actually acting like they used to.” Said John.
“This may have been an error.”
“Yes Cadish. This is an error.” Said John thinking about what this meant. He rubbed his face and forehead. His head ached and was getting worse. Eventually he looked up at the screen and smiled.
“I reckon we can fix it.” he said.
“Hmmm.” vibrated Cadish. “I’m not sure how wise this. I don’t want to interfere/spoil/mess up and make the situation any worse.”
“Can’t you just go back in time and stop yourself doing it?”
“As you yourself said JohnKendall, it doesn’t quite work like that.” Said Cadish.
“Really? Ok. Well we’ll just have to repair what you’ve done the best we can.” Said John.
Relinquishing the endless possibility of Cadish’s considerable power to this meat creature was too delicious a opportunity to ignore. He felt positively giddy at the thought, and he could feel non linear time flapping about like a wet fish with all the uncalculated possibilities that could occur. Cadish tried not to show his excitement.
“Can you get the Nanodes to relinquish control of the bodies, just let them die again?” Asked John.
“Hmmm. I am reluctant to comply. People will not see their loved ones again, and will be sad. I cannot allow that.”
John laughed. Cadish was stunned at this reaction, it was like nothing he had ever seen before, he was quite perplexed as to its meaning.
“Cadish I absolutely guarantee that the people will be happy about it.” Laughed John, smiling for the first time in hours.
Cadish negotiated with the Nanodes, and reluctantly they agreed. On the screen John saw the Zombies drop to the floor, their link severed from their microscopic puppet masters.
The image changed to show a group of survivors who were fighting a running street battle against the Dead. As the pursuing Zombies fell to the floor, the group slowed to a walk, looking dazed and confused. Slowly one edged back to the now dead pursuers and poked it with the end of his machete. It didn’t move. The grouped started jumping around laughing, hugging each other, and crying. They didn’t look sad at all.
“Ooh!” Said Cadish “Well that is good isn’t it!”
John sagged in his seat, relieved the nightmare was over. Cadish flicked through other scenes of celebration occurring all over the globe., but John couldn’t see the celebrations, all he could see was the devastation the last night had caused. This gave him an idea.
“Cadish. Can the Nanodes repair inanimate objects as well as living forms?”
“Oh yes. It is much easier, but the amount of damage done compared to time of my arrival is massive, this may take several linear…sorry…minutes to achieve and may not be one hundred percent accurate, but I can ensure that none of the errors are dangerous. Would that suffice?”
“We’ll try that then.” Said John.
Cadish was stunned, the meat creature, knowing that the solution would not be perfect was willing to complete the task anyway! Oh to have such uncertainty, oh to have a wild stab in the dark without calculating the trillions of possible outcomes! Cadish deliberately ignored both linear time and non-linear time, he didn’t want to know what would happen next. It was so exciting. It negotiated with the Nanodes who complained bitterly at the amount of work involved. He promised them a reward for their hard work and loyalty and they agreed.
John watched the screen intensely as broken glass rose from the floor, millions of pieces coalescing together forming a white hot ball of glass before stretching out to the size of the window it came from, it drifted back into place cooling rapidly as it went. A car rolled onto its wheels before the panels buckled out to their former shape, the wing mirror flew in from the left of the image and re-attached itself and it glided gently into the parking spot from which it came. John and Cadish watched in awe as the scene unfolded, in fact if it wasn’t for the reaction of the people watching the scene it would just look like a film in reverse. After a couple of minute the Nanodes reported in.
“99.14% correct realignment of damage.” Reported Cadish, proudly.
“What about the 0.8 or whatever is left?” asked John
“Of the incorrect realignments the most severe is a tree in idaho which has the DNA of a horse. It will not be a problem….As long as the DNA has no muscle stem cells of course.”
“Right.” Said John trying to imagine the horse-tree running free across the plains of Idaho. He shook his head and got back to business.
“Last thing Cadish. All the dead are going to rot and cause horrific diseases, can you remove all the bodies? Dispose of them?” Asked John.
Cadish didn’t answer but on screen all the Zombies corpses instantly bubbled, grew into a sort of small mossy hill and then disintegrated into the Earth.
“Next?” Asked Cadish.
“Next? Well the last thing I think is to return me home isn’t it?” said John.
“Oh” Said Cadish.
“It would be unwise JohnKendall for your species to know my name/nomenclature/power/existence. I’m afraid you cannot go homeworld.” Said Cadish, quite saddened by this turn of events, and the fact that JohnKendall was going to leave this mess a lot less tidily resolved than Cadish would have liked.
“Cadish. Look up ‘Conspiracy Theory’ and ‘alien abduction’” Said John.
“Oh.” Said Cadish “They will think you are insane/nutty/mad-in-da-heid/not well.”
“Yes. That is why I’m not going to tell anyone about this.”
Cadish thought for a while before agreeing. It had considered the possibility of putting John in his sub-space Zoo, but felt this would be a bit unkind given all the help, and fun, he had provided.
“Well JohnKendall it has been an absolute pleasure to meet you.”
The blade and rod hand shot up and shook Johns own hand enthusiastically.
“Er, and you.” Said John, taking care to not cut his fingers on the vicious looking blades and rods that shook his.
“I’m sorry about all that erm, all those erm, well I’m sorry anyway.” Said Cadish, and he meant it, it had been quite the strangest visit he had made to anywhere in a long time.
“Oh that’s… ok.” Said John. Ok? Ok! He had lost his girlfriend and his best mate. God only knew who else and here he was saying it’s ok like Cadish was a seven foot tall body-builder who had spilt his beer in the pub. It didn’t pay to antagonise body-builders and John concluded that Cadish was a lot more powerful than a body-builder in the pub.
John stood there awkwardly for a moment.
“Well then bye.” He said hopefully, he waved his hand feebly to the room.
“Bye JohnKendall.” Said Cadish, and in a moment John was back in the alley, tingling all over. In the distance he could hear singing. He walked from the alleyway without looking back and never spoke of Cadish with anyone, however he often pondered the experience and decided after a few years to join the Clergy.
Cadish hung like a silver star in the heavens for 7.6 nanoseconds. In this time he catalogued the internet watched the whole of Youtube, and everything ever made on television. He read every piece of writing committed to file. He came to the conclusion that he liked Benny Hill, Chess and JRR Tolkien the best but didn’t really like the film ‘2001’. Finally he filed all the data away in subspace along with the dimensional search results and the trillions of simulations he had conducted, and decided to leave a marker for any passing traveller who happened upon the human race. For his own amusement he decided to leave it as a meat creature email:
If you find this message it means you are in Geosynchronous orbit above a most remarkable planet, who’s populace display the most interesting possibility solutions. I would recommend the inhabitants be viewed for a period of linear time, or to see the planet from first-life to fiery end, I suggest a hat-stand of non-linear time be employed.
However, I most humbly request that you do not interfere or disturb the creatures below as there existence is short, brutal and fragile and any well meaning action can have disastrous consequences as I, Cadish, have learned.
He simulated linear time to ensure that all who saw this message obeyed it, and unfortunately, several billion years in the future, Earth would be conquered by a warlike species from the rim of the great event.
To counter this he added ‘…However If you do interfere I will be… displeased.’ to the last line, another scan revealed this would do the trick and ensure that the meat creatures would be left well alone.
Cadish gazed at the planet one last time, thought about what had happened, and vibrated its interior space in a ‘Hmmm’. Then it folded space around it like a child folding a duvet round itself in a cold bedroom, and was gone.