The Autmn Project
A science fiction novella, Chapter 1 and and look at next weeks articles.
I want to apologize in advance for a week heavy on fiction writing and lite on journalism. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of the week sick in bed.
The good news is that it wasn't COVID. After two negative tests, I can only assume that this year's flu season will be on par with expectations for 2021.
Now that I am feeling human again, I have begun writing and working on news stories in earnest. Tomorrow I will be publishing an in-depth article on the Denver-based Artist who is the creator of the unique "Bacon Faces" room in Meow Wolf, Denver, Andi Todaro. Hopefully, we will be publishing an updated, comprehensive article on the Title IX investigation ongoing with the Estes Park School Districts by investigative journalist Susan Waller, and my motivation to cover this story.
Why so much fiction when you're sick, you may ask? Because I have piles of it already written and ready to be published. Today's piece is a foray into my science fiction work. This story takes place in today's YMCA of the Rockies, after the collapse of modern civilization as the residents of 'The Campus' attempt to rebuild a better life here in the Estes Valley Community. This story is the precursor to a series I have been working on the world-building of for several years now. It deals with the topics of surviving a collapse of our ecology, society, economy, building again, and advance artificial intelligence. It is undoubtedly a departure from my supernatural fiction work. Let me know what you think.
The AUTMN Project - Chapter 1
"OK, class, who can tell me what led us to the collapses. What factors brought about the end of the old world." asked the old man, Dressed in what was once a white, short-sleeve polo shirt, now threadbare with several lighter stains that came from the years of use and washing. He also wore a matching pair of cargo shorts, some old Birkenstock Sandals that had been re-cobbled several times over. His long yellow-white hair was kept out of his eyes by an old rainbow-colored Terry cloth headband. His long beard hung halfway down his chest.
The children were seated in a semi-circle on stone benches that ran along the extensive outdoor pavilion. The man listened to the sounds of aspen leaves rattling in the summer breeze as the children thought about answering his question.
After a few moments, Several hands shot.
The boy looked about 12 years old and wore clean but well-used clothes with tiny scar-like stitches where they had sewn in repair several times. The blonde-haired boy stood up and answered.
"It started with the pandemics, we thought we had licked that virus, but then it changed a lot, that started everything. But there were a whole lot of things that came after. The earth was sick, so we had superstorms and the scorching summers, then everyone had no money and started fighting with each other. The second war with ourselves, I forget what it's called." The boy trailed off.
"Correct Georgie, and it was called the second civil war. We will begin discussing how we solved some of these issues to build our lives here, starting next week. OK, that's class for today. Time for us all to do our communal chores. See you all after the weekend."
The small class gave a collective cheer, gathered up their things, and began running off. Georgie was the last to leave, stopping in front of the man with a curious look on his face.
"Professor Howie, Why did everyone fight with each other?"
The Professor scratched at his long beard as he answered, "You know Georgie, I don't know if I have an adequate answer for that question. It's just in our nature. A hardwired survival instinct that short-circuited long ago."
The Professor ruffled Georgie's hair with his hand. "You have a good weekend. Behave for your parents-ok?"
"OK, I will," Georgie said with a toothy grin before running off.
The Professor stretched, looking up at the sun as it traveled in its mid-morning journey. He thought about the trip he and Autmn needed to make into town today, making a mental inventory of the items needed to trade with the town administrator.
He headed to the part of the 'campus' that he called home. In the summer months, he preferred to live in a complex of yurts they had set up on the outskirts of the settlement that had been the YMCA of the Rockies, nestled at the foot of what was once Rocky Mountain National Park, back when there was still such a thing as a national park.
He made his way through the orchard of genetically engineered fruit trees that now had a rainbow of different colors of fruits. All differing species that grew from the same tree thanks to the science of genetic engineering. As he walked through neat rows of trees, the buzz of harvester drones filled the air as the shoebox-sized machines flew about, plucking ripe fruit from the branches and dropping them into nets that hung below their articulated appendages, like giant insects. He passed through the orchard and into the hemp cultivation field where smaller hockey puck-sized drones were busy pollinating this month's crop, with string-like fingers that they used to do the job of pollination. The bees that nature had intended to do the job had decades ago died off.
The yurts outer shell was made of a white canvas-like cloth woven from the fibers of the hemp plants they grew here on the Campus. Howie preferred to keep the large door to the yurt open in the summer, allowing the cool breeze coming down off the mountain peaks to blow in. The inside of the yurt was divided by curtain-like sheets of material, creating rooms in the large circular structure.
The smell of linseed oil and the sounds of classical music quietly playing greeted the man as he walked in.
"Hi Autmn, I'm home. Are you ready to head into town with me?"
The voice of a young woman answered from behind one of the curtains.
"Hello, Grand Father. I am just finishing up a new painting. I'll be ready shortly."
"Ohh, really, and what are you painting a picture of today?" The old man asked as he began pouring some tea into a cylindrical metal thermos for the trip.
"It's a picture of you and me and shadow before he died last spring."
"That kitten sure loved you." He said as he started gathering up some of the electrical pieces that the town had commissioned from him to help keep the old hydroelectric plant functioning.
"Be sure to wash your brushes before we head to town. Can I see the painting?"
"Of course, Grandfather," the girl responded as the rhythmic sound of machinery pattered into the next room.
Howie gathered up some papers and put them neatly into a messenger bag that he swung around his shoulder and walked into the room that Autmn was painting in as the sounds of running water began.
"It is a remarkable likeness." The man said in a kindly voice. "You really captured the memory of Shadow." He had a proud smile on his face as he looked at the canvas propped up on a wooden artist's easel.
The painting showed an almost photo-realistic picture of himself with a tiny black kitten sitting in his lap as he lovingly scratched behind its ears. Next to him and the kitten was what looked like an old vintage Apple Macintosh computer from 1984 that had attached two mechanical legs that looked like they were modeled after the two-legged walkers of the Star Wars films of that same era. Two small articulated arms looked like they belonged on a robotic Tyrannosaurus rex. Each had two fingers and a thumb. The computer screen had a basic cartoon-like face, with two eyes and a big smile. The was also an old tattered pink tutu that hung from just above where the mechanical legs were attached.
The sound of the water stopped, and the mechanical buzz started again as footsteps came across the wooden floor.
The curtain pulled aside as the short four-foot-tall robot walked through it—several now clean brushes held in the robot's right hand. Autmn walked over to the easel and dropped the brushes into a jar on a small table.
The robot then turned to face the man. She looked up at him with a beaming graphical smile that reminded him of old anime characters from the world before.
He smiled back. Then the graphic face changed from a smile to a frown accompanied by a moment of silence.
"Grandfather, why do bio's have to die?"
He stepped closer and put his hand on the flat surface of the top of the screen.
"Because that's just how the universe works. Eventually, everything comes to an end, so that something new can begin."