Short Story: " Will I See Heaven Through The Thinning Atmosphere"

December 20, 2011
" Will I See Heaven Through The Thinning Atmosphere?"
" What the hell will wealth gain you if the entire world is hanging by a thread with all of us about to die with one false move!? These machines are nothing but torture devices. Now shut it down, Ivan, you’ve doomed us all, you and your henchmen if you can even call them that. You pathetic b******, can't you see what you’ve done?" I panted. I pursued this villain, this man whose heinous crime is punishable by death if you ask me. The year is…its unimportant what the year is, time isn't a concern at this point. We know not how many more days, hours, let alone minutes we have left. All we ( or at least I) know is there's really no time to be had, period.
" And you expect to shut down this entire organization? With what, your fists? You plan to put everything you have into those tree hugger arms to hit me square in the jaw and then what? I'll bleed momentarily, yet we will always win the war. We control the airwaves, we control what goes into these machines and what these " monstrosities", as you seem to like to call them will, put out for all of us."
Taunting isn't going to let this rage settle down one bit, so a punch is still thrown exactly where Ivan sees it coming. "Ivan, you fool, we were cohorts, we were friends, walking hand and hand. We truly did have the technology to put a stop to all of this. Now look at yourself laying on the ground, the cold steel ground, bleeding from nose and mouth, laughing manically in the face of your destruction-- our destruction.
All the ground has been turned into crude materials varying from low cost but durable metals to concrete and marble, including the forest floors, the ocean floors, the floors of our mind which once thought freely. The year, I think, is 0001. We gave up counting how many years we progressed a little while ago, 10 odd years ago. So instead of counting up to 2011 in what should have been 2000, we began at 0011. As pointed out earlier, time is irrelevant but all the same we've charted out the world's fate, and we were right; without numbers, these are in fact the last years till everything will be set back to four zeros. I swear if I return to HQ and the numbers start advancing and we live through this movement, we will all be punished by death.
I don’t go by a name I became a hermit of sorts, if you will, and with giving up everything I owned I had to give up identity. Infatuation with what one believes himself to be or what he wants to become always starts with a name. Looking at a reflection a name would always appear in the form of a question, as to why I wasn’t more handsome or why I wasn’t as wealthy as I hoped I could be. I was wealthy, though, that was the thing; more wealthy than most but greed has an appetite that I swear leaves no scraps and only begs for more.
Ivan and I were co-workers and, believe it or not, friends. "Innovators of the future" some liked to call us as we spent tireless hours in an underground society working on how we could put a stop to the machine race or at least what they were and still are feeding the machines. The technology was right there in my hands. None of us could believe the breakthrough in what could power everything and anything, even the biggest of machines which required the most sustenance. I don’t believe we named it. All of the other workers around us shouted out in glee what to call it anything from " the source" to " salvation," but anything with has a name invites greater expectations. It invites more waiting for a new model number after the original name and the beginning of finding new ways of making the product obsolete.
There was no new model for this power source, this everlasting food supply for all machines which hungered for something pure and without sin. This was the beginning and the end of an era all in one tiny shard. But then the hands of something too impure touched the key to the future. It was Ivan and his grubby hands, a man shorter than myself by an inch or two with slicked back hair who was so charismatic yet so devious. He knew all of the right words to get out of any tough situation. He'd not only been my co-worker but my role model of sorts as he was the leader of our army. " Why torment the creatures we've built to make our society faster, better, and stronger? My friends, we must bless these creatures with something that won't tempt them into perjury. We should not shove down their throats a substance so vile that we wish not to cup it in the palm of our hands and drink from it ourselves. There must be an alternative" he'd preach to all in the workshops many leagues under the sea where HQ is, or at least was, located.
Ivan was brilliant the very best of his class always. I would know. I'd been following him like a loving dog for years and he was the only one to really take notice of me and the specific genius I had. I would have never put down his talents at the time, but he knew I was always more careful with my words and could lead a nation out of turmoil with a single speech; whereas he could lead only such small crowds with his. Not to say we weren't similar in our messages, in how we put things to everyone to get the greatest effect. But it was Ivan's personality and when he began to slip up in his speeches, people began to lose interest and become a bit hostile.
He was high and mighty one second with such great posture in front of our makeshift podium, never faltering to get his point across to us about why we need not give the machines benefit of the doubt, and why if we gave them a little extra boost with a new energy supply we could still be faster without corrupting the world. Then he'd grow a twitch, and if you looked carefully, enough a few of the strands of hair slicked back on his head grew grey and popped up forward. He grew sweaty and when someone in the crowd of workers spoke out of turn making a valid point to argue against what he'd say, he'd grow red and maddened.
I found Ivan's emotion to be a sign of strong leadership, a willingness for our cause that would not and could not be found in any other member except maybe myself. I don’t mean to boast( not as if its really boasting) but I'd be reduced to tears if I had opposition against my cause and needed to make a strong comeback. Yet the tears would be my friend. The harsh stinging running down over my cheeks helped in lashing back against our oppressors.
Our enemy, the enemy still at hand unlike myself, will do everything to put labels and names on machines and themselves but with such a lack of creativity. There are many organizations against us but there has always been one head honcho in the lot that aimed to take us down, specifically HQ. HQ was not unknown to the world-no it may have been myth to many-- but all the same people knew. Word travels fast when there's an armor plated security camera following your every move on the streets, on the ocean floor and even below it. There's one giant pyramid that rests smack dab in the middle of the surface world as we refer to it now since our exile to the underwater world has made a permanent home for us. If you can even really call it land or water at this point, though, it's certainly not what's described in story books with wondrous forests and beautiful sandy beaches working into the pristine blue.
Anyway, that pyramid, yes that pyramid, is the least attractive thing I've ever laid eyes on, guarded by at least a few thousand machine foot soldiers. Those poor machines are fed the very worst of their crude fuel sources, the sort that not only weakens spirit but mind and reason. The machines haven't much of a mind to call their own in the first place but what they feed them in the military machine mess halls is pure hatred.
I've never been too close to the pyramid. No one who worked on the clean energy source with Ivan and me knew any of its secrets or had been inside. Ivan had, though; he used to work with the very oppressors I loathe so much. Long before ever joining HQ, he was buddies with none other than TerraCon.

TerraCon are supposed keepers of what is moral, what is just across the land, keeping clean our water supply, finding the freshest of materials to use in construction, doing it the cleanest way possible without corrupting the ecosystem. All of this is not so, and we have eyewitness accounts from having lived underwater so long in our few dome- shaped structures. To the east with the 3rd smallest down, farthest from HQ's primary stronghold, there is an observatory. The observatory has the highest quality telescopic capabilities with high powered magnification devices able to withstand the harshest conditions of the sea surrounding.
It's sad we are able to observe more than the older days before the countdown; yet now we've lost sight of the basics, for it's hard to say what body of water we are residing in and what land has sunk deep below into it. As of 0006, a nuclear warhead campaign began in what was formally known as the Americas. TerraCon found a way to win over the support from north to south of that entire region, claiming complete political dominance as well as buying out every natural resource imaginable. How their propaganda worked I'll never know, but through trickery after gaining an alliance with all other continents, betrayal struck. Terracon planted a knife on every single continent that they gained trust with and soon acquired so many nuclear warheads as to devastate all of the lands not owned by them. TerraCon doesn’t care whether or not they can obtain more land; they wish only to use up every ounce of what they already have and once that’s gone, well, I have no idea what they have in mind.
Radiation is half of what makes up the air these days due to that campaign and, as I said, land literally plummeted to the ocean floor due to how greatly Terracon upgraded all weapons of mass destruction. From our observatory you can see some of this terror as well as proof that Terracon is using the most vile substances to feed the machines. There are rigs, hundreds, all lined up digging wherever they can in the ocean for the snakes, the black snakes so sly, so liquid, that they can get past peoples' judgment. Tiny underwater machines work tirelessly, sometimes feasting off the spoils of their work, not knowing any better as the oil rigs grow in strength destroying all marine life in their way.
" You had no right to betray all of us, you idiot. Now look where we stand on the hard cold floors you’ve worked so hard for. They’ll all be incinerated in a matter of hours. This was all for nothing! A sick practical joke, you leaving Terracon taking what you wanted from HQ then selling out and wasting our product, our hard labor, leaving your only true friend." Back to the matter at hand, I fought for my life with words.
It's time to have a stronger voice than Ivan as we stand at the very precipice of the TerraCon pyramid. About 10 imperial machine guards now surround us but Ivan waves them off clearly indicating that this is his fight. It was never his fight ,though, especially not to be won. This is my battle now to shove down all of Terracon's lies right down his throat and have their vile black liquid make him gag.
" My dear…oh yes of course how foolish of me. I forgot you don’t go by a title-- much too humble, aren't you? It makes no difference. It's not as if I really remember who you are at this point, why should I bother remembering anything of importance to do with low down scum like yourself?" Before I know it, he's kicked me hard in the groin, having me cry out in pain, still circling me.
" HQ is a wraith, a ghost no one should ever see and will never see thanks to my imperial guards taking out what was left of your effort to bring this Pyramid to shambles. Do you like these silver threads all up and down my body, old friend? Would you like to know how I manage to get something so luxurious"?
I'm barely able to respond at this point yet I bring myself to one knee as the machines seem to inch closer. I look into their red, orange, and even yellow LED eyes and something begins to flicker. These sorts aren't beings for emotion yet they seem to grow increasingly violent with Ivan's every word. " Let me guess, you packaged the blood of my men and sold that for profit just like you sold the heart and soul of what made our cause worthy!?"
" Now, now, you always did jump to extreme conclusions" said Ivan "But I've never heard you so tense, friend-- if I may call you that at this point. I bought this because I saw who was stronger in the end, and riches don’t last forever, but then again neither will the world one way or another. Life is valueless yet why not amass everything that people seem to value in life the most and claim it as your own before you must depart?"
And at this point I'd about had it and somehow-- somehow-- the imperial guards' eyes turned blue. The very color we had made the pure energy source, the very same as it was such a magnificent combination of mostly blue with a hint of green surrounding. The guards seized Ivan at once and I peered outside to see all the foot-soldiers' eyes (the ones we hadn't destroyed with our guns and fists); they all turned blue as well.
" Let go of me you idiots, capture him apprehend him" Ivan roared "He's the traitor, he's the one who should be attacked! You fools!" There's no escape for Ivan this time; the machines won't rip him limb from limb but, almost automatically, the machines shut down in place with their semi- rusted arms made up of gears and cogs holding Ivan to watch his doom.
" We retrieved it, sir! We found the power source, the everlasting power source. We took down Terracon, we've…"
And in an instant, upon seeing HQ's masterpiece before my eyes, everything froze. Christophe, the young worker, one of the few I had left who was exhilarated in having found the shard froze/ yet continued to move. I could see every footstep and movement of his mouth in a separate frame. There was no pause in the pictures the frames just sort of lunged forward and I saw myself carry on with him I'd separated myself from my own body. Was this the enlightenment I'd been looking for through making a worthy cause come alive? A million years passed before my eyes as I sat back and watched the Pyramid fall, the blue machines eyes celebrating me and celebrating all of HQ. The continents were restored, the oil rigs smashed to pieces by the submarine workers. I viewed through my own eyes for the first time the devastation of the past, of that past's future, of the future's past, and everything that was and wasn’t and what I will have done, should have done, and will have never done for this effort.
I saw the world end and me fail against Ivan as the countdown clock in HQ hit 0000. Every possibility to ever occur flashed before my eyes and then-- darkness. There was nothing left, I was not there nor was I ever there in the devestated world. I did not exist because I did exist in the place where…
" Patrick, wake up already you'll be late for work! And fill up the gas tank on your way and don’t bother wearing a coat! It may be winter but it's so warm outside!" Patrick, yes that’s right it was all I dream. I was Patrick, I am Patrick? I cannot limit myself to this one role. No fall back asleep or fall back into that other world-- there's work to be done!
I arise from bed and realize the cause is outside, with smokestacks galore. All of the machines, they're cars. The vile substance is oil, petrol, Terracon is every gas station I've ever known, and Ivan I'm surrounded by Ivans. The year is 2011. I've heard everything I could of global warming, and I've constantly returned to the past and future. I know those are not dreams for all of that could be very real; it is real in that place and time. I am constantly battling Ivan in a world devastated by weapons of mass destruction, thrusting a sword of hope through his side. Right now as it takes me a few seconds to wipe the sleep from my eyes, a million years are occurring somewhere where the world is no longer inhabited by we humans, for we polluted everything we are blessed with. Then I think time--time doesn’t exist.
" I said hurry up!"mother yells. Yet if I know for a fact what does not exist in that place and time. Then I must realize the war at hand, like the battle with Ivan that I must prevail in to save this world, once again…

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