by Jonny Capps
500 years after nuclear war, humanity strives to reassert itself.
| The door opened with a smooth whoosh the moment that Joshua placed his hand on it. The movement was so smooth and startling that he almost fell through the barrier. Derrin stopped himself from chuckling a bit as he followed his fellow explorer into the common room. He froze when his feet felt the plush carpeting. It felt as though he had just stepped onto a cloud. He looked around the room with awe. In his vivid imagination, he had never been expecting to see a room like this.|
The room that he had woken up in had been dry and characterless, with no defining marks. This room was the exact opposite. It was round, like the sleeping chamber, but the similarities ended there. There were three doors, including the one from which he and Josh had just emerged, leading out, with the other two on opposite sides. The walls were a muted, comfortable, shade of desert stucco, while the carpeting was a deep brown espresso. Three dark purple couches and two cream easy chairs were placed in the semi-circle, around a black slate table. The far wall, facing the door, looked like a gigantic picture window, although it seemed to be showing images of a tropical rainforest. In one corner, rising from the floor and designed in practically the same shade as the carpet, was a bar with a black marble top, and three bar stools sitting in front of it. Derrin quickly prayed to a god that he didn't really believe in that there was alcohol behind it. He was probably going to need quite a bit of that.
Stepping up beside him, Josh breathed in deeply. “This place has that 'new car' smell,” he observed.
Derrin nodded. “It's the furniture,” he said, pointing. “They're leather.”
“A brilliant observation, Dr. Flattery,” a new voice entered the scene, causing both Josh and Derrin to jump and look in the direction that the sound had come from. There, standing behind the bar, was a man who had not been there moments before. He was tall and thin, dressed in a three-piece Italian suit, with sleek black hair, combed away from his strong forehead. His dark eyes, high cheek bones, and sharp nose betrayed a western European origin, and his thin lips looked as though he had never smiled before. He ran his hand across the bar as he stepped out from behind it, and began to approach the two of them.
“Perhaps you would also like to inform Mr. Stein that the walls are orange and the carpet is brown?” he continued his jibe. “Or, perhaps, you'd like to say that neither of you have any idea what's going on right now? Those things seem to be equally obvious statements that you should make.”
“Or, maybe,” Josh retorted “he could say that we have no idea who the hell you are, or how you came to be here. There's also the question of why we're not kicking your ass right now.”
The man snorted condescendingly and smirked. He snapped his fingers, and a cigar appeared in his hand. “The reasons for why you shouldn't try to kick my ass are innumerable, Mr. Stein,” he replied, as he lit his cigar with a torch that he pulled from the pocket of his blazer. “First of all, you're both wearing bath robes, while I'm fully dressed. I know from your files that the only one amongst your number with any martial arts training is Dr. St. Crow, and since she's not here, I don't feel threatened. There's also the issue that I'm the only one who knows anything about the world right now, so it would probably work out in your favor if you didn't try to harm me.”
The man finished lighting his cigar, placed it in his mouth, inhaled, and exhaled a cloud of smoke. “Finally,” he continued, “and perhaps I should have lead with this, but you are physically incapable of kicking my ass. I'm not actually here.”
Snapping his fingers once more, the man disappeared. Josh and Derrin both looked at each other in confusion for a moment, before Derrin figured it out.
“He's a computerized projection,” Derrin sighed, slapping his forehead and feeling like a dullard or not figuring it out sooner.
“Wow, Dr. Flattery, you are really good at that,” the man's voice came out of nowhere, a moment before he reappeared in the exact location from which he had vanished. Josh and Derrin instinctively jumped back, as the hologram took another draw from his cigar. “Seriously, if they gave doctorates for stating completely unnecessary and obvious information, you would be well on your way!"
“You can call me Archimedes,” the man informed them, as he walked toward the couches, seating himself in the center of the middle one, facing the table. “I am, for all intents and purposes, both the heart and the brain of this location, henceforth referred to as Syracuse.”
Derrin frowned, and looked out the picturesque window: “This doesn't look like New York.”
Josh shook his head. “Sicily,” he said. “Archimedes was a Greek astronomer from Syracuse, Sicily around 200 BC.”
Archimedes nodded, “287 to 212, to be precise. Before you ask, no, we're not in Sicily either. The closest approximation that you would recognize is Salt Lake City, Utah, although it hasn't actually gone by that name in 483 years. Come, sit with me, and I will share with you a tale of woe and tragedy, unlike any ever told: I will tell you how the world ended.”
Archimedes motioned to the adjacent couches. Derrin and Josh looked at each other, and Josh shrugged. They moved to where Archimedes was motioning, and sat down. Derrin had a sickening feeling that he already knew what was going to be said.