teen left on earth filled with AI
Prologue(roughly 777 words)
Fear is enough to make anyone run. Even if It means leaving the only place you’ve ever known. Everyone left. I’m all alone here in this place I call home. I didn’t mean to stay. It’s not like I enjoy it here. I was left by accident. All it would’ve taken was another ten-maybe even as little as five-seconds and I would be away from here and safe, but I’m not. Fear is my new normal and there’s nothing I can do about it.
The day the terror began was a Tuesday in April. I think it was the seventh. For years there had been warnings that the AI were planning something against humanity, but they were mostly speculations made by nutty people on the streets. That Tuesday, everything changed.
Everyone secretly knew in the back of their mind that one-day Artificial Intelligence would conquer us, but nobody thought it would be so soon. Even Stephen Hawking had predicted that it would be decades before AI even had enough of an independent mind to think of defeating the human race. Oh, how naïve and trusting we were then.
On The Tuesday, a Caretaker robot shot two children. All AI was armed in some way, but Carebots were specifically programmed to only engage their weapons as a protective measure in emergencies. A killing, or anything close to it for that matter, had never happened except once when Carebots had just come out. A baby was almost baked like a chicken in the oven. Luckily, the baby’s mother had forgotten her keys and found the Carebot putting her child into the oven before anything else happened. The baby-baking-bot was a glitch and understandable because they had just come out. All Carebots were recalled and remodified after that. But the shooting was intentional and the bot admitted to killing the children, announcing that they were "too needy and weak to be alive". It was a terrifying day for all of humanity because they knew AI thought people were unfit and too weak to live. Days after the government decided to kill the idea of using robots for things people were capable of doing, war broke out between the humans and AI. My hometown wasn't attacked at all. It was probably because it was very poor and not a lot of people had bots in their homes. That was lucky for my family.
Scientists had apparently been thinking the AI would overrule for a while and had these ship things called “Pods” prepared for a quick escape to a semi-habitable planet a Dutchman named Markus Bakker discovered called "Nieuwe Aarde" which translates to "New Earth". Each of the Pods could hold about 10 million people. which means there were around 810 Pods worldwide.
You would think that since getting on a Pod was for survival, the cost would be free, but it was very expensive. Seats were offered to the homeless and those who couldn't work for a small fee, but nothing was given to families like mine that just didn't have a lot of money.
When I was nine and my little sister Gabbie was four, my father, who was a scientist, was shot and killed by a misfire while he was working on a new type of army robot. He made a lot of money and my mother relied on him for everything. After he died, my mom bought everything she wanted with his savings. A new car, a new couch, new chairs, she even remodeled her bathroom. It was like she had no idea the there was an end to the money train we were on. About two years after that, my mother had taken out so many loans for things that the bank had taken our house as collateral until we could pay them back. We moved into a small one bedroom apartment on the third floor of an old building and my mother got a job at a bar. When I turned fourteen, I got a job at Walmart to try and help pay for everything.
After The Tuesday, our money stopped going towards the bank and started going towards payment for Pod seats. Honestly, I don't even remember if the bank or the government worried about our money after The Tuesday. They probably didn't because they were too wrapped up in the death of two children by a baby killing bot. By the time we were able to scratch up enough money for our tickets, there were only about 20 Pods left on Earth. We were assigned Pod 797 for takeoff at 3 am on April thirteenth. It was my sister's eighth birthday.
Chapter 1(roughly 1,000 words. Should take about 4 minutes to read)
That night, I didn't sleep at all even though my mom told me to. She fell asleep holding Gabbie. I stared out the window for a long time watching some blinking lights that were in the distance.
After a while, I realized that the blinking lights were coming closer and that I could hear them. All of a sudden, I could feel them. I grabbed our little portable radio and turned it on. I turned the knob until I found a voice. The voice sounded scratchy and kept shaking, but I could make out what it was saying. “Expl-ns!--here--leave---bo-s---Arti-telegence--die!” My mind went fuzzy as the floor under my feet shook. I could only create one thought in my mind as I heard the walls crack. "GO!" I grabbed my mom's arm and shook her violently. I screamed for her to wake up over the loud noise of the bombs falling down on us.
Her eyes popped open and she immediately shook Gabbie to wake her up. I ran to the closet and grabbed our already packed backpacks and opened to door to our apartment. "COME ON!" I screamed. I looked up and down the hallway I was on to check for large cracks. What felt like hours later, my mom and little sister appeared in the doorway. We sprinted down the stairs and outside to our car. Once we were inside the car, my mom sped off in the direction of the huge Pod waiting for us.
We got to the Pod entryway without any problems, which was an absolute miracle. Once we were in line I felt free and safe even though I was shaking like crazy from the adrenaline rush. My mom put her hand on my shoulder "It's okay, nothing's going to happen now," she whispered, "we're safe." We turned in our tickets for boarding and walked through a scanner to show that we were human. After that, we received bracelets to put onto our wrists that proved we were people. An alarm went off almost immediately afterward the lady handed me my bracelet. And the ground shook like crazy.
They're getting close! I thought. My mom scooped up my sister like she was a toddler and sprinted ahead to the door with me right next to her. when we reached the door, I realized that in all the fuss, I had dropped my one ticket onto the ship--my bracelet. The lady scanning the bracelets shook her head at me.
"You need the bracelet, hon." she sighed.
“Ok, I’ll go find it.”
I handed the lady my backpack. Then, I let my mom and sister get on so they wouldn't worry. I glanced at the clock that said how long until takeoff. Ten minutes. I can make it! I ran track! It's okay! I'll be fine nothing's going to happen! I sprinted off in the direction in which I had come. After quite a few minutes of searching, I found the bracelet with my name on it: McMillan, River A. As soon as it was on my wrist, I sprinted towards the Pod. Two minutes.
I saw the lady at the door of the Pod look at me.
"HOLD IT!" I screamed.
I reached the Pod as she was walking in. The automatic doors started to close, so I shoved my arm into the small opening, hoping that I'd be able to open it. Someone on the other side screamed, "BOT!" and two men came to the door.
"Open it! Please!" I screamed at them, tears streaming down my face,
"Please!" I held up my other hand to the window, so they could see my bracelet.
"I'm human! Please, just open the door!" The men only stared.
My mom ran up to the door and pushed them out of the way.
"River, honey, we’re gonna get you in! Don't worry!" she shouted and pulled a muscly man sitting near the door towards me.
"Help me, please, my daughter, she's trapped outside!" The man grabbed one side of the door and my mom grabbed the other.
"Pull!" he yelled. My hand slipped through the door and onto my side and before they could pull anymore, the automatic doors slammed shut.
"MOM!" I screamed and started pounding on the door. My mom grabbed one of the flight attendants and yelled at her and pointed at the door. The attendant pointed at herself and spoke calmly to my mom. My mother walked back over to me.
"The entire ship is automatic. Nobody has control of the timing or placement of anything on ship. The doors won’t open. They can't stop the Pod from leaving."
A very loud alarm sounded right afterwards and I could feel the engines start up under my feet. I looked to my mother for help, but the hope in her eyes had disappeared.
"I love you." she said her eyes filled with tears as she put her hand up to mine on the window.
"I love you too! I'll find another Pod! I promise!"
Immediately, the Pod started to lift off. Within minutes, they were gone. It's funny when I thought about it: half an hour ago, I was ready to get on the flight. And then--I was alone in a big empty Podspace. All by myself. Nobody to comfort me or tell me not to worry. Nobody to tell me it's going to be ok. And I cried. I cried at the realization that I was on Pod 797 out of 800 and that there was no getting onto another one. I cried for my Dad, who had worked so hard to make money for my family. I cried for my sister, because it was her birthday. I cried for my mom, who had worked countless hours to get me onto to that Pod. But, most of all, I cried for myself. I pitied myself. I wallowed in self-pity for a long time as the world crumbled down around me.
Chapter 2 (525 words. should take about 2 minutes to read)
After a while, I realized that the explosion noises had stopped and the ground wasn't shaking. As soon as I was sure the bombing was over, I got up and peeked outside. The entire city was in ruins. There were little fires everywhere. I stepped outside and realized that the smoke was very thick. I pulled my t-shirt over my nose and sprinted to the nearest standing building, which happened to be Walmart.
Once I was inside, I listened for a long time from behind a rack of maxi dresses to make sure that I couldn’t hear any buzzing or speaking or anything that could signal that a robot of some sort was inside the store.
When I was about pretty sure nothing was inside, I wandered around to see what I could find to help me survive. Most of the canned goods were gone because of looting, but there were a lot of cans of spaghetti-o’s so I grabbed a handful of them and headed to the back where the bags were. I looked through all of them and eventually chose a pretty big camouflage backpack.
Looking at the camo backpack reminded me of my friend Colton who had one. All of my other friends and I always asked him where his backpack was. We never even called him Colton we called him Cam. He never lived that stupid backpack down. It made me feel homesick just thinking about him and my other friends. Homesick. It’s such a strange word.
I wandered around for a while, picking up things I might need here and there: Neosporin, water bottles, better shoes, food, a gun I found, you know, the works. The whole time I was wandering I was thinking. I thought about trying to figure out a way to defeat the bots even though I’m probably one of the last people left on Earth. I thought about figuring out a way to leave Earth and be reunited with my family. But every thought just ended with: How? You’re not a genius. You’re a regular fourteen-year-old girl. I sighed.
“Guess I’ll just die here in a freakin’ Walmart. God, what a crappy way to die.” I said aloud. My own voice startled me. I hadn’t heard it in a while. I was all crackly and hoarse. Like your voice sounds when you wake up with a cold.
I spent a week in Walmart all alone. The power had been out since the attack, so I couldn’t watch TV or listen to music. I mostly read. At first, I read books and about three days in to my stay at Walmart, I finished every book that looked necessary for my survival. I mostly read survival books about people who had lived in extreme temperatures, or camped in the woods for a year.
By the sixth day, I knew I was going crazy. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t think of anything, really. Except death. Four sentences repeated in my head over and over: I’m gonna die here. Yes sir, this is how it all ends. All alone. Nobody’s coming for me. I’m gonna die here. Yes sir-
Chapter 3(633 words. should take around 2 minutes to read)
I heard a crash on the morning of my eighth day. They're back! I thought. That was the only logical reason for the noise. I looked up over the side of the book case I was sitting behind and watched for movement. My heart was pounding so loud in my ears, I was afraid the bot could hear it beating too. I saw some movement on an aisle in front of me. I immediately grabbed my gun from out of my pocket and loaded it. Another clatter on an aisle to my left startled me. I slid back down and scooted on my butt to another aisle with shelves I could stand up behind. I heard a step behind me and whirled around, gun pointed right at it. I looked up to see the bot's head. Where to shoot? A man’s face looked back at me.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot," he cried, "I'm human!"
He shoved out his arm. I flinched and pointed my gun again, ready to shoot. I had never shot anything in my life, let alone kill something. I can do this. I can do this... I can't do this. I can't d-
"I have a pulse! Feel! See? Human."
I pointed my gun at him with one hand and with the other, lightly touched the stranger's wrist, feeling for a pulse. I felt it almost immediately. It was quick and definitely there.
"Human!" I exhaled, just realizing that I had been holding my breath.
"Yeah, human!" He smiled.
I looked at him for the first time. He was definitely old. Probably in his mid to late 50's. He had dark brown skin and deep, chocolate eyes. He was wearing an old striped polo shirt and some dirty cargo pants. It was obvious he had been poor. Before I could come to a full conclusion, I heard something behind me.
Yes sir, this is how it all ends.-When will this end? I thought. I spun around on my heel and pointed my gun. At nothing. I looked down and saw a little furry dog sitting on the floor biting it’s paws.
"Sasha! There you are, girl!” the man said, beaming proudly, "She's the reason I'm in here. Sorry. She heard you and just ran in. We've been looking for her puppy all day."
"That’s great. Have you met any other people since the last Pod-launch?" I was still skeptical, but I had lowered my gun to my side. My finger still on the trigger.
“No, just you.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping that you would’ve seen someone else by now.”
“Yeah, haven’t seen a soul.” Nobody’s coming for me.
I sighed “Crap.”
“I’m Latin by the way.” He held out his hand for me to shake. I didn't take it.
"River." I grunted. “Your name is Latin?”
"Yeah, but River"
"You're named after a dead language?"
"Your'e named after a body of water."
"Yeah, that's fair."
"Well, I guess I should be heading back to the mini-mart next door and see if Fluffles wandered back ‘home’. "
I nodded. "Bye."
Nobody’s coming for me. Nobody’s coming for me. In that moment of weakness, I decided to trust him. I was so afraid of being alone again. As he was going towards the door, I shouted:
“Hey! would you like to stay here in this Walmart instead of the mini-mart next door? I know there’s a giant hole in the wall.” I immediately regretted it. I don’t know this guy. But it was too late.
“Yes! That would be great! Thank you so much! Nights in the mini-mart are so cold, and it was getting bad for Sasha and Fluffles.”
Latin went and found himself a sleeping bag and curled up inside of it and fell asleep almost immediately.
Chapter 4(roughly 1,100 words.Should take around 4 minutes to read)
That night, I studied him. He seemed nice enough and his dog cuddled up against him lovingly as he slept-probably warm for the first time since the bombings. I didn’t sleep that night. I was afraid to let my guard down with a stranger so close to me.
The next morning, when Latin woke up, I took him on a ‘tour’ of my Walmart. I told him that he should probably make a bag like I had so that if we ever had to make a quick escape, we could. He got a bag and filled it with jars of peanut butter I had overlooked, a gun, bullets, water bottles, and a baby sling. When I questioned him about the baby sling, he gestured toward Sasha who was wandering around the dog food bags a few aisles away.
We found some walkie-talkies that said we could talk through them from a distance of about two miles. It was a major find and we were both super excited about them. We also found a weird radio that you had to crank for a few minutes to get sound out of. We didn’t think that we would get any reception at all so we just tossed it in the bag for later.
I know it sounds horrible, but we took all of the cash out of the registers in the front. We cracked them open and shoved all of it into our bags.
“Nobody’s gonna use it but us. There's no one to use it. Besides, it’s only for vending machines.” Latin said after I protested.
When we sat down for lunch, Latin asked me about how I had ended up living in a Walmart after the whole apocalypse instead of with my family. I told him that I didn't make it to the Pod on time, that my Mom had fought trying to get me there, how it was my sister's birthday, and that my mom never bought any AI because my dad had been killed by one.
His story was a little bit more involved.
"I had two kids. A girl and a boy. Twins. Mia and Micah. And we were happy, my family. We all got along-my beautiful wife Aveline and my precious, precious children. We were all happy. That is, until the war broke out. I tried so hard to keep them safe." He shook his head. His eyes watered even more every minute he spoke. "I was fighting two cities away when the AI attacked from behind and destroyed everything I had that was worth living for. My wife and kids were gone in an instant. I knew as soon as I heard the explosion. It was so loud and the ground shook like an earthquake. I tried so hard to protect them. They were all I had. I had to go on duty to try and save them. To make a little more in the crap economy. That was about two years ago. For two years I've been homeless and alone," He sobbed, "We had tickets for a Pod, we kept them on us at all times. Theirs burned. Mine was in my uniform. I learned soon after that we would be taking AI with us. Imagine that, though, just for a second. We are so attached to the AI that we are willing to take them with us to the New World even though they were the things driving us away. So, I decided to stay here and keep fighting. I gave my ticket to a man I saw sitting in the street and that was that. The army fell apart about three months after I gave away my ticket. There was not getting a new one. I had no money or anything. Now I'm stuck here. Just like you. " He shook his head.
"I didn't know they took AI with them." I shook my head too, "Why didn't they tell us that?"
Latin shook his head again and looked at me very intensely. "Because, they didn't want us to fear it. The new world, I mean. I wasn't supposed to know I discovered that on accident. Didn't you notice, River? When you were about to get on the Pod the doors automatically closed. That's why you couldn't get it, remember? The ship was a flying chunk of AI built to get us away from AI. Do you too how stupid that is?"
I laughed uncomfortably, "Yeah, I see." We have a problem: My family's on that Pod. MY FAMILY'S ON THAT POD OH MY GOD.
"So anyway," He got up and stretched, "That's my story. Now I'm stuck here just like you."
For the rest of the day, Latin and I didn't really talk to each other. He went out searching for Fluffles and I wandered around Walmart for a while. I found the bike section and decided to see if I could remember how to ride a bike. It took a couple of tries, but I got the hang of it. I drove circles around the store just patrolling. Looking for Fluffles, food we had overlooked, other cool things I had always wanted to buy. I decided that living in the Walmart wasn't that bad if I knew there was another person nearby. It didn't feel as lonely.
That's what our nights consisted of for about a week. During the day, I read books and Latin patrolled the grounds around the Walmart incase he saw another human or a bot or his puppy. I patrolled inside- checking to make sure no bots were inside and that no rabid animals got in.
After that week, though, it was time for us to leave Walmart. Latin wanted to keep moving. The only reason he had stayed was so that he could find Fluffles. He did find the puppy, but it was not alive.Walmart was also getting colder by the minute and we decided that a smaller space would help keep us warm because there would be fewer entrances and it would be less drafty. So, Two days after we decided to go, we packed everything we would need. We already had our emergency packs but we decided to get more canned foods and water bottles for the trip. We also got bikes so we could travel a little faster. We didn't know where we were going or how long it would take for us to find another habitable place, so we thought the bikes would help.