Were you to hog-tie your brother, stuff a grenade down his shirt, and toss him off the White Cliffs of Dover, you wouldn’t expect him to pat you on the back and buy you a pint an hour later, would you? No, you wouldn’t, because you’re from old Earth. I would do more than expect it–I would count on it. I’m from new Earth.
You’ve probably heard all about new Earth–about its burgeoning family-focused communities, about the so-called “resurrection” chambers, about the alien tech the scientists are still scrambling to figure out. Like anything else, the reality is less glamorous than the propaganda. I’m a third-gen new Earth native, but have since come to call old Earth home, and for good reason, too. Let me share a recent experience to illustrate.
Five months ago, after I became a father, it suddenly hit me: old Earth was a virtual paradise compared to new Earth and its morbid attractions. A wife, a child, and hard work—these had brought me joy and left me a changed man. At the same time, a few years had passed since I had left home; absence tugged the heartstrings and I longed to see my family again. Well, not just see them. To put it bluntly, I was determined to drag them back with me–kicking and screaming–to old Earth. You could say I was planning an intervention.
My window of opportunity to do so was small; the portal opens for one week every year. I legged it to Dover, zipped through the dimensional gateway, and landed on new Earth. As arranged, my brother Steve was waiting for me. We said our hullos, cheers, and wazzups while we strolled to the White Cliffs.
“It’s good to see you, Bill,” he said. “How was it?”
“Old Earth? It’s the real deal, mate. You’d probably find it strange, at first.”
We stopped a moment and did a bit of shadow boxing, for old time’s sake.
“Are you here to stay?” he asked, gracefully sliding past my jab.
I arched my eyebrows.
He chuckled. “Found a woman, huh?”
We reached the cliff edge and paused to gaze at the great blue. A salty breeze refreshed and calmed me. I didn’t relish what I was about to do, but I felt I owed it to Steve for taking the trouble to meet me. Plus, come intervention time, I would need all the good will I could muster.
He stood still as I roped him up, dropped a grenade down the hatch, and gave him the ol’ shove-a-roo. Down he tumbled, his rising screams cascading on top of each other as gravity got down to business. After his head smacked a boulder and his skull split open, he exploded in a bloody blast of limbs, organs, and sundry bits. I retched all over the ground, and nearly went over the edge myself. After recovering, I made my way down, gathering what bits and pieces of smoking flesh I could find, and dumped his remains into a nearby refab unit on the beach.
Out popped Steve.
“Damn, bro, you’ve still got it,” he said. “Nobody kills like you do. You’re a bloody maestro!”
“I am, aren’t I? Are you going to buy me a pint or what?”
I brimmed with nonchalance, but believe me, I needed a touch of the stout stuff right then, and that’s putting it mildly.
The sun was setting when Steve and I came home from the pub. The radiant sky brought to mind the cheery evening ritual my wife Kate and I had established on our farm back on old Earth–to kiss at every sundown. I hadn’t told my family about my marriage to Kate, and to be honest, the notion of telling them later rather than sooner was two ticks past tempting. One must consider how seriously my parents take family matters.
We entered the house. It’s a timeworn Victorian affair, transplanted from old Earth, modified in the typical new Earth style–a dedicated armoury, a refab unit in every room, and a stockroom full of Vim for scrubbing away the blood. Mum and Dad were camped at the kitchen table, knives out, shooting the breeze. Mum had on her grubbies. Dad, his suit and tie. A battle-axe was strapped to his back.
“I heard Brenda killed her youngest, Mary, a thousand times last week,” Dad said.
“A thousand? Really? Gosh. I just don’t have that kind of energy,” Mum said. “How does she find time to cook? Of course, they only have five kids to kill now that Jerry and Samantha have moved out.”
“They’ve gone, have they? Good for them. I heard Jerry got a promotion last week.”
“They bought the old Miller home. And I’m fairly certain Samantha is expecting. We should have them over for dinner next week.”
Mum noticed me and shrieked. “Billy! You’re back!” She ran over and hugged me.
“Welcome back, Son,” Dad said, giving me the thumbs up.
“Girls!” Mum shouted. “Girls, come upstairs. Billy’s back!”
She grabbed the sleeve of my shirt and dragged me to the top of the stairs. “Girls!”
As my six sisters reached the stairs and began rushing up, I saw movement in the periphery. My head turned and jerked back by reflex. An axe blade came down straight between my eyes. The sharp steel edge cleaved my forehead, sending a wave a pain through my body. That it hurt like hell delighted me–clearly, the pleasure I once took at being maimed was a thing of the past. I had feared that a return to the old hunting ground would rouse a return to the old ways.
After I emerged from the refab unit, we gathered in the sitting room and spent the evening together as a family. We chatted about my journey to old Earth, the conversation swinging along quite well until things devolved into the usual new Earth antics. It began innocently enough–hot pokers thrust into noses, eyes, and ears; heads dunked in buckets of petrol and shot with flare guns; pick-axes driven through chests, snapping ribs and puncturing hearts. My nearest and dearest proceeded to bathe the knotted oak flooring in blood, hacking arms and legs off with chainsaws, slitting throats, and sloshing vinegar into the wounds. I watched from the wings, growing more disgusted with each severed limb and scream of joy. They simply couldn’t fathom the emptiness–the hollowness–with which they were filling their lives.
The refab unit churned happily along.
I consider it a blessing that the alien-built refab units cease to function when they’re brought through the portal. Scientists say it’s some sort of wormhole effect that they’ll overcome soon. What do they know? They still haven’t said whether new Earth is a past or future version of old Earth, or whether it belongs to a parallel universe. And where are the aliens? They don’t know–or they aren’t saying. It may well be that the artifacts the aliens left behind will, when the scientists understand them, bring about a tech renaissance and send mankind boldly forth to colonize the galaxy. Until then, I’m content to live a normal life on old Earth, like the billions that have come before, taking time to stop and smell the roses as often as I can.
The next morning, bright and early, I found Mum and Dad in the kitchen. While I put the kettle on, Dad gently positioned Mum’s neck inside the lunette, stepped back, and pulled the handle. The blade dropped. Her head tumbled across the room and her body slumped to the linoleum floor. The time to intervene had come.
“I don’t know, Dad,” I said. “I’d call it an addiction. All of this killing. The best thing I ever did was visit old Earth. I’ve decided to stay there, and you should consider moving there, too.”
“Don’t get me started on old Earth, Son. Last time I checked, old Earth was still obsessed with screens. Movies, TVs, computer monitors, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, e-readers–heck, you had to have a screen in each hand, one in your pocket, and twenty others within striking distance or you felt like a complete git.”
Dad grabbed Mum’s headless body and dragged it along the floor, mopping up blood with her blouse and skirt. It was sickening.
I sighed. “It’s totally changed, Dad.”
“Rubbish. Is old Earth what you really want? Hour after hour watching TV, playing video games, surfing the internet, killing precious time? Family life on old Earth is a joke.”
Dad motioned to Mum’s head. I crossed the room and picked it up by the hair. Blood poured out at the neck.
“There’s more to it than that,” I said.
“Son, don’t you dream of finding that special someone, that one you love to kill and who loves to kill you?” he asked. “You’re nearly twenty-two.”
“I know, that’s why–”
“Soon you’ll marry, get a job, buy a house, and have eight kids. Nothing beats coming home after a hard day’s work to spend quality time shoveling scorpions into your wife’s bustier and mowing your kids down with a Gatling gun.”
I tossed Mum’s head into the refab unit.
“I have found that special someone, Dad. Her name is Kate. We bought a farm together–we raise chickens, for goodness sakes! The air is fresh. And we just had our first child.”
“You can’t be serious. You’ve gotten married without our consent?”
“Well, there’s nothing for it, I suppose–but it’s going to kill Mum to hear it. You know that, right?”
I nodded again.
“You are her favorite, after all. Well, I told her she ought to worry, but she was hell-bent on believing that your fixation with old Earth was a bit of wanderlust or some other such nonsense.”
We both eyed the refab unit and braced ourselves for her revival.
Kate was waiting outside the portal when I returned to old Earth. She asked about the family.
“No luck,” I said.
“They’re still obsessed with killing, huh?”
“It’s worse than that. They seem to think I’m the crazy one and…hold on a sec…the gateway must have scrambled my TIBS. I need a reboot.”
I glanced around, searching for a suitable tool. Piles of soiled nappies, broken concrete, and twisted metal lay strewn about the streets of Dover. Thick smog settled upon the city like a shroud. A rotting corpse lay in the gutter, its head crammed into a storm drain.
As we entered the Pencester Gardens parking lot, I extracted a rusty nail from a nearby trash heap and gave it to Kate. I couldn’t help but notice that her real life face had all the grace of a mucked up double-decker bus. The pleats of fat draped upon her body made me cringe; the burlap sack she wore as a tube top certainly didn’t help matters. She carefully set down a piss-stained Cabbage Patch Kid doll, brushed my hair back with her hand, and jammed the nail into the socket behind my left ear. My Total Immersion Brain Screen, version 3.0, flickered a few times and snapped into focus.
Kate retrieved our beautiful daughter, Jessica, from the ground where she sat cooing and smiling. Kate looked ravishing in a glittering red designer gown and stiletto heels. We embraced and made our way to the train station, strolling across the lovely park and down immaculate streets. The sky was clear and bright. Birdsong skipped along the top of a gentle breeze. I gave Kate’s tight little butt a playful tweak and sighed with relief. Things were just as they should be. Next year I would try a more forceful approach with my family. They had no idea how far down the rabbit hole they had fallen.