The deafening trill of static whined insufferably in Somnium’s ear. He grimaced and reached up with one rusted, spindly red metal arm and grunted as he tried in vain to find the issue with the exposed wires on his head using the clumsy claw manipulator that passed for a hand on his second left arm.
The biting, shifting desert sands stung as they whipped against the explorer’s scarred face, getting caught in the incomprehensible web of cables and wires that were rooted in the left half of his head, snaking down his body and digging into access ports embedded in Somnium’s lower back. With his more dexterous flesh-hands he brushed some sand from his head, running their oh-so-deft fingers through what remained of his strands of flesh-hair.
He remembered the Ashtide. When Nature unleashed the full might of its terrible, calamitous wrath upon a vainglorious Humanity.
Somnium sighed, the sound coming out distorted and tinny through his heavy rebreather mask, pulling whatever scarce oxygen it could from the thin atmosphere and funneling it into the bulky air tank he carried around on his back. He had travelled the world, looking for a surviving relic of the Old Humanity, his Humanity, that sparkling beacon of innovation, creativity, talent and an almost childlike naivety, but his efforts so far had been for naught. Three hundred years of continuous searching had corroded his cybernetic parts to near unusability, but still he kept them on, knowing they were the only things keeping his body alive to continue his search, this great crusade of his.
New Humanity was a far cry from their technologically advanced predecessors; having just recently discovered the uses of iron ore after barely figuring out how to properly farm and do agriculture using fire and the wheel. However, these Neo-Humans, descendants of the last holdouts of Old Humanity that had perished after the Ashtide, were different from Old Humanity in that they displayed less capacity for violent thoughts and actions, Somnium not having seen any conflict past the odd fistfight in any of the small pastoral villages he had visited.
Somnium had travelled the globe - what remained of it anyway - and seen all that Protohumanity, the Humanity before Old Humanity, had left.
Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal, Christ the Redeemer, Machu Picchu and the Colosseum. Even beyond that, the glory of the written word, the spoken tongue and the intricacies of artistic expression were heirlooms of the Protohumans passed down through thousands of years in memoriam of their great ancient civilization.
Somnium remembered - remembered the chilly night breeze of the northern winds passing untainted through primordial mountain clefts as he traversed the Great Wall, marvelling at the stonework crafted with the blood of thousands long dead, which had broken army upon army and defended China’s borders from the days of antiquity to even now, where Neohuman tribes on either side used it as a barrier against each other.
He could recall with vivid detail the first slivers of orange-scarlet dawn sunlight creeping down the craggy steps of Chichen Itza, illuminating the carvings of jaguar gods and feathered serpents etched into the stonework. Each particle of radioactive dust illuminated by the sun’s rays shining off the Taj Mahal’s dome, and the long shadow cast by the statue of Christ the Redeemer over the flattened wasteland that was Rio De Janeiro. Fresh in his mind were the winding, cracked streets and narrow alleyways that spanned the labyrinthine Incan estate of Macchu Picchu and the vortex-like swirling of the bloodstained sands of the Colosseum as the Ashtide tore Rome apart.
Somnium had bore witness to almost every legacy that had been left for Old Humanity by their forebears, to every shred of lasting memory that had endured the trials and tribulations of thousands of years’ worth of history to exist during the time of Old and now New Humanity.
And he was on a mission to find a legacy of Old Humanity worth remembering,
He had found it. He had heard the rumours among the nearby Neohuman settlements - of an enormous Old Humanity monument that had survived the Ashtide, vast in its scale and crammed full of artefacts and relics of the Old World. To Somnium, it was the Holy Grail, a place where he could let New Humanity gaze upon with wonder the same way Old Humanity did to the Wonders of the World left behind by Protohumanity.
He crested the ridge, his mechanical limbs scrabbling at the sands, his eyes straining to see what lay below bathed in the early morning sunlight.
A giant, sprawling landscape filled with mountains upon mountains of Old Human garbage and plastic refuse.
Somnium stood, still, unmoving for a few seconds, in horrified disbelief. He felt the urge to cry, to weep at the unfairness - or perhaps justice - that the Universe had done unto Old Humanity for its sins on the Earth.
For all of their accomplishments, the immeasurable, globe-spanning cities, the creation of the Internet, stepping foot on the Moon and even simply making sure more than half the world did not go to sleep at night starving and hungry - all of it was for nought. The only things left for New Humanity to remember Old Humanity by would be their discarded plastic trash and evidence of their failure to protect the Earth.
Creaking, broken laughter filled the rank, miasmic air. Somnium was laughing, crying, almost, at the sheer irony of this debacle.
With a final, piercing shriek of joyful sorrow, he flung himself from the ridge, grief the last thing he, and with him, all of Old Humanity felt, as he plummeted far, far down, plunging into the sea of plastic rubbish, the last scion of a failed civilization snuffed out amidst its eternal legacy.
A pile of trash and waste.
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