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What is life? What is death? Is there life after death? After millennia of endlessly searching to find the right answer, mankind gave up. It quenched its thirst for knowledge of the unknown, in exchange for immortality. Death became a valueless token from the past, as we virtually live forever. With the invention of VirtualLife+, technology finally got the best of man, imprinting not only our daily lives but our very beings.
It’s daily routine now- download your thoughts before bed, go to sleep. Taking care of the physical body is secondary now, dying is just virtual transfer. The body is just an accessory now, taking care of it a hobby, rather than a standard for survival. Fitness, fashion, hairstyles, all of these are mundane ways to humour man rather than a need anymore. Remnants of the ancient civilisation that so desperately sought answers to the mystifying queries about existence it dawdled over.
Zephyr Vexa is my name, and this is the tale of how humankind was coerced to reality once again after a long stint of being sedated by technology, by none other than the masters of life itself.
The basic overlay of Earth right now: one settlement in North America for the seventeen million humans that remain, as most were massacred in the race to immortality when this invention overtook the world. Any coherent sense of the perplexing civilisation we once had with a staggering seven billion has been vanquished, all that is left is a racially diverse populace of men, women, children and robotic figures with the senses of the human bodies that predated them. Humans typically switch to robot once pro-creation has terminated, usually by their late thirties.
Soul-searching for pro-creation is a rather tedious task, for love has always been tough, one thing that has remained constant since before VirtualLife+. I found mine a year ago, when I was fifteen. His name is Ryu Gutowski, and we registered for VirtualLife+ in twenty years, when we’ll be thirty-six. We declared ourselves soul-partners last month.
My life’s been brilliant up till now. I’ve had a good upbringing, my parents switched to robot when I was two. I’m an only child, and radically spoiled, in stark contrast to Ryu, one of four siblings. I’m looking at art as a viable option for the future, while Ryu is studying pragmatic food flavouring technology for the robot tasting experience to become as remarkable as the biological taste-buds present in humans. He’s also quite charming, and the best soul-partner I could wish for.
When the humans advanced, the gods retreated to their chambers. Their stories became distorted, treated as legend and myth and fiction, the truths dissolving into popular culture and urban fiction. Humans churned these stories as they willed, while the gods looked on, a little amused. Gone were the days of wrath and legend, man remained on earth while the creators loomed free. He would still remain inferior to the godly grandeur of these ancient creatures.
But They’re raging now. The tranquil equilibrium of these two entities- man and Lord had been broken. The shield that separated the great powers from their creations for centuries will now perish. Anger boils in Their veins now, for mankind did the ultimate. Life and death are not to be toyed with by mere mortals. Now They shall incur judgement and torment the creatures, for the precious balance of souls has been broken.
“All hail Hades, our killer, the great Orcus. All hail Him, He who is also known as Pluto. All hail Him and His wrath, and the havoc soon to be rendered on the Holy Earth, whose holiness has now been diluted by those filthy creatures known as men.”
That was the day all hell broke loose. The clouds stormed, the waters rocked, humans fell ill. Ryu became sick, and we couldn’t identify his symptoms. His body ached, we sought every medicine available, we persevered yet the pain continued. The weather scientists were going crazy, seven tremors hit North America under fifteen hours. Fifty eight percent of humans fell sick, and twenty-three percent of robots malfunctioned, and were shipped for rebooting to VirtualLife+.
“Ryu, it’ll be okay,” I soothed as I handed him the broth while he shivered in bed from the aches, “Just sleep, and it’ll be fine.”
“No, Zephyr… you won’t understand, it pains so much,” he choked in tears from the pain, “I feel like… like I’ll die.”
“We needn’t worry,” I said comfortingly, “That’s not a problem anymore. Nobody can die now.”
“I… I don’t know,” he shivered. I fed him the broth, nursed him and tightened the blankets around him. But his temperature didn’t recede. I became more and more anxious that this ailment might consume his soul after all, before reprimanding myself of such a ridiculous notion, as if I were living in the past. Dying wasn’t a thing anymore.
How wrong I was, for 2.3 million of the 4 million humans alive on Earth died. Despite every surgery, every remedy available to mankind, we failed to protect our own from this alien disease. The curse, whatever it was, killed millions, and along with it, it took my precious Ryu, my soul-partner, the love of my life, away from me. I cried and cried, experiencing this odd new emotion called grief, that had never transpired in us humans for a long, long while.
A flash of light, many behemoths appeared. In our heart of hearts, beyond all rationality, we all knew who He was. The only explanation for all of this was a creature above all of us, wreaking havoc. Mankind had denied the Creator’s existence a long time ago, collectively dumping religion to the side, yet there was no other explanation than a foe finally getting the better of mankind.
We had been corrupted, teetering on the edge of a line we dared to cross. We messed with the realm of the ancient, with powers far beyond anything we could ever hope to grasp. Life and death were part of something fragile, a mystifying concept mankind used to ponder over. It was a source of thrill and adventure that played with our tiny brains over and over. To ratify it was never our job. To stitch the fabric of existence was not in our duty.
Poseidon, the god of the oceans, shook the seas. Zeus, the god of the sky, shook the skies. Demeter, the goddess of the earth, shook the grounds below our feet. There were many more, many more ancient ones. We were given a few centuries since the advent of VirtualLife+ by Them, to realise our faults. Yet we never questioned it. Hades, the god of death, finally lost his temper. They unified, and showed us Their power.
We’re human. We’re not omnipotent, nor were we ever meant to be. The gods avenged the destruction of death as was their duty, for we broke ours. We had forgotten who we were, gotten ahead of ourselves, and sooner or later, we had to be punished for our mistakes. But I couldn’t care less since Ryu died, because I lost my will to live ever since he shut his eyes forever. And now I think I just want to shut mine, and break free from this hell the behemoths have made our self-established paradise.