by Jonny Capps
500 years after humanity's eradication, the remaining few attempt to build something new.
| Derrin stepped away from the stasis chamber, fighting off the sudden wave of dizziness that threatened to knock him over. He now had a grim, relative, idea of what was going on. Every part of him wanted to curl back up in the chamber where he had been comfortably resting less than ten minutes ago, close his eyes, and go back to the state of peaceful naivety that he had been enjoying. The swimming voices in his head told him that this wasn't going to possible.|
On shaking knees, Derrin turned to look toward Stein, who was engrossed with the map by the staircase. Joshua Stein had, in his time, been a world-class cartographer and geologist. Derrin remembered examining his map of the theoretical Old Atlantis, based on landmarks and abnormalities found on the ocean floor. It had been the first irrefutable evidence of Atlantis' existence, outside of mythology. Of course, the housing company who purchased the rights to build a complex under the sea, using his map as a blueprint, had not really been interested in the anthropological impact.
“This is painful to look at,” Joshua was grumbling as he examined the map, as if he were talking to himself, but intentionally loud enough for Derrin to overhear the conversation. “They should have contacted me before they drafted it; I could have done something better than this in less than twenty minutes.”
Derrin sighed. “The world is gone,” he gasped, hardly believing the words that came out of his mouth “isn't it?”
Joshua nodded distractedly. “That's what we've been told,” he muttered. “The king is dead: long live the king.”
Derrin looked around the room at the other stasis chambers. With his memories returning, he knew each of the occupants. Stepping to Claire Roux' chamber, he ran his fingers across the top, wondering how long it would take for her to come out of her sleep. He could see her through the chamber lid, eyes closed peacefully, clothed in the same terrycloth robe that he and Josh were wearing. Watching her made him feel strangely jealous, wishing that he could join her in the slumber, and excessively lonely. She was now the only friend that he had left. That thought would have made him feel as though he was being melodramatic if it hadn't likely been true. He wanted her to wake up, so maybe he wouldn't feel so alone.
Josh's voice made him jump, since he hadn't noticed him approaching. “Look, red,” he said, abruptly yanking Derrin out of his own head, “there's really nothing to do down here, except wait for the others to wake up. Personally, I'm hungry, so I'm going to see what's at the top of these stairs. The map says that there's a kitchen, and in my imagination, there's a large stock of Fruit Loops. You can stay down here waiting for Snow White to come out of her sleep, but I think you'd have more fun if you came with me.”
Derrin nodded, mentally shaking some of the cobwebs out of his head. “Right,” he replied. “That actually sounds like a good idea.”
“You don't have to sound so shocked,” Josh laughed as he turned toward the staircase. “I may not be the reincarnation of Tesla, or whatever that periodical called you (yes, I can actually read; try to suppress your shock), but I am fairly smart.”
“That wasn't what I--” Derrin began as he hurried to catch up with Josh.
“I'm just fucking with you, red,” Josh cut him off. “Relax, and let's go explore this 'brave new world'.”
Derrin followed Josh to the staircase, sparing a look at the map before ascending. He had been right in his assessment, of course: the map was fairly rudimentary. The only thing that really stuck out to him was title, inscribed boldly underneath the legend. He assumed it was the name of the location. They were in Syracuse.
Joshua Stein knew some stuff, but not nearly as much as he was pretending to. Derrin's brief amnesia had given him a rare chance to feel like an intellectual equal, with something beneficial to contribute. Before the six of them had become “The Sleepers”, which was what the organization behind the establishment had called them, Josh would never have thought to seek camaraderie with any of these people. Dr. Flattory, in particular, was someone who he had looked up to, studying his designs and reading his lectures with fascination. Of course, when they had first met, Josh had mentioned none of that, choosing to play along with the illusion. Derrin, of course, acknowledged him casually, remarking on how impressive his mythological map had been. Josh had shaken his hand, and remarked on seeing the film that was based on him, remaining calm the entire time. In his head, he had been screaming and cheering like those fanbots on Planet Disney, but he had not allowed that to show. Now, with the large, redheaded, hulking man following him up the stairs, it was difficult to remember that this was the same man whom he had so looked up to. Josh should likely not be enjoying this as much as he was, but Dr. Flattory (Derrin… get used to calling him Derrin) had been such an idol. It felt kind of nice to be the one with the knowledge now.
That, of course, didn't change anything: he still didn't know nearly as much as he was pretending to.
According to the amateurish map, this staircase lead into a common room, of sorts. Based on the crude dimensions provided on the map, it was the largest room in the complex. As he walked up the steps, Josh began to have visions of what the room was going to look like. Of course, the images that he was seeing were unrealistic, to the point of being ridiculous. That was how he tended to function, though. He would create a world in his mind that looked like it was designed by MC Escher, then he would scale it back slowly, conforming it to whatever stupid, boring, reality actually existed. That was what had made working on the map of Atlantis so appealing: he could make reality anything that he wanted to, provided he threw enough professional sounding language into the presentation to make people believe that he knew what he was talking about. The map had gotten more attention than he was comfortable with. He had been very happy with the money, of course, and the notoriety, but having to prove that he knew as much as he claimed became complicated, especially since he actually didn't know that much.
He could see the door at the top of the steps now. Brave new world… he had never actually read Aldous Huxley.
Josh reached the top of the steps, which ended in a small plateau, leading up to a steamed glass door. Through the door, Josh could see the outlines of what the room contained, but he couldn't make out exact items.
“I wonder if this is what the first men on the moon felt like,” Derrin muttered, as he reached the area a few seconds later.
“I doubt Neil Ulrich ever felt anything quite this surreal,” Josh sighed. “At least, after his moon walk, he got to go home.”
“Neil Armstrong,” Derrin corrected him. “Lars Ulrich played drums in the band Metallica.”
Josh rolled his eyes toward the sloped ceiling: “Neil ARMSTRONG was the guy with the 'one small step' line, right?”
Derrin nodded his confirmation.
Josh advanced on the door, and laid his hand on the frame. “One final leap for mankind,” he said as he opened the latch.
He had always hated how melodramatic he became when he was terrified.