The rain was coming down heavy. Each drop pounded like a small hammer onto Reggie’s already soaked scalp. Once the sponge of his hair was full enough, a torrent would escape down his forehead and run across his eyes. He blinked the momentary distraction away. He had to watch. That was his job.
Watcher. Not a very descriptive job title, to be sure. Who, or what, did he watch? But it was enough, especially considering the, ahem, off-the-books nature of his profession. And it was a necessary profession. Reggie had seen enough to be sure of that. He had seen things people would not only not believe, but which would make them go running for the nearest rooftop to take a flying leap. And the whole way to the bottom they’d wish it would hurry up and end.
Dramatic? Sure, but still true.
From his vantage point on top of the Senator Hotel, Reggie could see across the street to the Garmendel Royal Suites. A little above his pay grade, but he wasn’t looking to stay there. He was looking at Grinda Van Douferin through magnifying lenses. And she was something to see alright: mid-20s, thin, tall with only a little body fat and all of it in the right places. Sometimes watching wasn’t all bad. Grinda didn’t seem to mind either, or rather she wasn’t entertaining the idea of peeping toms on the 45th floor.
Unless she was what his bosses thought she was. Reggie had his doubts. Sure, she had some of the signs, but not all. She was Dutch, from the same small village as a confirmed. Big warning sign, but not confirmation on its own. Money. Check. Youth and athleticism. Check. Upward mobility. Check. She was going places alright. Youngest ever head of research at the privately funded Atamos think tank. That organization studied long-term societal trends using very complicated and complex data models. Big data? Hell, they drew on all the data, as far as his own research could tell.
How did someone so young get to that position? It wasn’t the kind of place that cared for nepotism. Or looks. Credentials, yes, those mattered. And Grinda had those. First in her class, well, hell, first in every class she had ever been in. Not that the record went back that far. Her university credentials were legit and verified — she had physically attended those schools. But before that, high school? That was a little trickier. Reggie had spoken to the school where she had matriculated. None of the current staff remembered her. But, of course, their records showed that she had attended. With staff turnover and the sheer volume of students he had to assume those records were correct. In other words? A dead end. Perhaps she had attended the school. Maybe not. It didn’t rule her out, but it didn’t exactly finger her either.
So, Reggie was still here, with the cold rain continuing to beat on his skull. Across the street, the young woman started disrobing in her warm and extravagant suite. His job sucked, some days. But it was for the public good that he watched. The general public didn’t know he and his brethren existed. They knew about the task force but didn’t understand its true purpose. They were better off shielded from what he knew. Again, they’d be rushing to the rooftops.
He watched the young woman continue to undress, emotionally detached. Mostly. If she was what they suspected then it was disgusting to think about her like that. And if she wasn’t, well, he was a gentleman. Or he liked to think so at least. Maybe he would’ve been in another life? Again, he had seen things. He couldn’t go back to being normal. That door had shut. It was hard to be a gentleman when you were always on alert, looking out for any signs in people. In animals. Even in the bloody insects. There was only watching. Doing his part for society. Someone had to make the sacrifice.
Grinda, having slipped into a negligee, switched off the lights in her room. Reggie flicked on his night vision in time to see her slide between luxuriant sheets. She lay propped up on one elbow, looking out the large windows. Looking out while Reggie looked in. She looked across the street, toward the Garmendel. And up. Up some more until, finally, she stopped at the roof. Then her gaze fixed on one point.
She looked him in the eyes. And smiled. Reggie gaped and, pushing the lenses up onto his forehead, rubbed his eyes. Had that happened? Then the lenses were back in place. But Grinda was no longer staring at him. She had turned and laid down on her opposite side, her back to him.
What the hell did he do now?
Back in his room at the Senator, on a side that looked out over a different street, Reggie sat on his bed. But he continued to watch. Watch the wall that is. He had every light in the place switched on.
A tiny black ant crawled up the wall. He watched it a moment, following its path. Soon a second ant joined it, then a third, a fourth. This continued until 10 of them traced a path along the flat white surface. Foraging, searching. Watching? He laughed. It was possible.
Reggie stood and picked up one of his shoes from the floor. At the wall he squatted down and watched the ants. His nose was almost touching them. When his shadow fell across them they scurried in several directions. It was too late though. Reggie brought the shoe against the wall with a smack three times. They were gone, now only black smears on the wall and his shoe.
"Take that you damned spies," he said, smiling to himself.
But she couldn’t have seen him. Even if she was one of them, they couldn’t do that. He had been invisible up there, covered for the most part in a black camo tarpaulin. His face had been covered by a mask of the same material. The lenses he used were made to absorb light, not reflect it. And he had ensured that the lights on that part of the roof had been deactivated. No one with regular vision could’ve seen him. And yet she had.
And, no, she hadn’t simply looked in his direction. She had looked directly at him. Was he compromised? Should he abort?
Had he imagined it? Maybe she hadn’t seen him. She had been thinking of some old boyfriend, or girlfriend, that was all. It was a coincidence. Her eyes were looking in his general direction, that was all. But the way she smiled…
Reggie returned to his bed, lay down and commenced studying the ceiling of his small room. Again, he left all the lights on.
Gerry would know. He’d ask him first thing in the morning.
He closed his eyes. Yeah, Gerry would know.
Soon Reggie watched only the back of his eyelids. He didn’t see the new wave of ants scouting the wall.
Reggie unlocked his phone with the usual four-factor biometric and passcode sequence. They could only simulate three of the factors. For now. He continued, opening his task force issued, end-to-end encrypted comm app. He tapped the first contact listed.
"Gerry? It’s Reg." He sat in a crowded cafe. Bright sunlight streamed in through the street-facing windows.
"Reg, my man, how are things?" Gerry asked on the other end of the call. "You’re still in D-ville?"
"Yeah, still in Darlington. About that…" He paused.
"Yeah? Problem? Verification?" Gerry was eager. He wanted every watchee to be verified. Being a desk jockey now, he longed for his time in the field. The sniffles Reggie felt didn’t fill him with the same longing.
"No, not a problem so much as… well, Christ, she looked at me."
"The watchee? You mean like, across a room? A random encounter?"
"No, fuck, like she looked directly into my goddamn eyes." Reggie cupped his hand over the space between his mouth and the mic on his phone. Everyone was too caught up in their lattes and own problems to notice his raised voice at any rate. People in cities were good at minding their own business. "Shit, Gerry, I was laying, in the dark, on top of a building and she looked up and right at me."
"You’re dreaming. Even if she gets verified… they can’t do that."
"Reg… We should get Scara to take over the case. You’ve done like 10 missions now without a break. You need some downtime."
"Don’t take this away from me, Ger. I’ve been on this one for months. And it’s close."
"You have proof?"
Reggie sighed. "Not yet. But I’m close."
It was Gerry’s turn to sigh. "Fine. I’ll leave you on it. But what do you want me to do? Why did you call? Seriously, what did you expect me to say when you spout shit like that?"
"I… just needed… What do you think?"
"What do I think? I think you need a break. But since I’m such a stupid shit I’m gonna leave yer ass out there. So don’t fuck this up? Capice?"
"Gerry, how do we know they can’t do that?"
"Because they never have before."
"That’s not a convincing answer."
"It’s the only one I’ve got. We work on facts, Reg. Until it’s verified it’s not a fact. They can’t do that. That’s what I know. You still want the mission?"
"I do. I’ll keep my wits and be in touch."
"You remember the job, okay?"
"To watch, only watch. I get in deep I’ll call in the actors, don’t worry."
"You damn well better. You aren’t 20 anymore, right? Those days are over for you."
"For us both."
"Don’t remind me, hey? At least you still get out there. So, count them lucky stars, ‘kay?"
"I will, Ger, I will. Thanks."
"Thanks nothing. Do the job: verify and call the pros. Or, if there’s nothing there, come home. Either way, get the damned proof. Facts, Reg, remember. Facts."
There was a click as Gerry ended the call.
Grinda didn’t act any different that day. Before Reggie had spoken to Gerry, he had tailed her to the new Atamos extension office in town. Her schedule had her there — getting the place set up — for another few days. And every day at 8 a.m., an hour before everyone else, she showed up and got to work. The cafe where he called Gerry from was across the street, with a view to the entrance of the building. Aside from Atamos it also housed a law firm, a few accountants, a scientific research firm and an engineering outfit.
In the cafe he watched bearded and plaid-decked hipsters use over-priced computers and drink expensive coffee. He, ostensibly, looked at his phone. One eye kept watch across the street while the other monitored data on his phone screen. His phone was special issue, as were those of all watchers. It linked to all nearby devices to give him a surveillance apparatus undreamed of by even the most conservative-minded paranoiac. And tax dollars paid for every integrated circuit in it and every bit and byte that passed through it. For once the conspiracy theorists would’ve been right, if they had known anything about it.
Grinda was in the Atamos office. A cleaning staff member on the same floor told him that. Or rather the man’s phone did. And a lawyer in the office under Atamos’ own told him the same thing. Reggie could even pan around a 3D model, in real-time, of the Atamos office, and the watchee — shown as a dot with a label — as she went about her business. That was unpacking boxes and giving directions to techs — whom he could see too. But, occasionally, Grinda would withdraw to her own office. There she disappeared.
From his screen that was. She was still physically in that room, but Reggie had no way of seeing her with his data eyes. It was what they called a black hole. Sometimes they happened because of the materials of buildings or natural electromagnetic phenomena. But sometimes, like if she was what they suspected, those black holes were engineered to stop people like him seeing what they were doing. Of course, the problem was ascertaining which it was: natural or engineered?
The building was rampant with devices, so it wasn’t a lack of data points. And Reggie had spent part of yesterday looking into the building itself, checking on materials used and any odd quirks it might contain. Nothing. It was clean. Where did that leave him? Was that proof? Maybe. But maybe not. He would need to go in there and see what was behind door number one.
If Grinda had anything to hide that was where she was hiding it. A visit a few months back to her office at Atamos’ headquarters had shown him nothing. Except how to get in again. He had pretended to be a low-level employee, a grunt, a gofer. Getting the required identity was easy enough. Of course, Grinda was another story.
Would she recognize him? Perhaps he should have let Scara take over the job. Reggie knew he might be compromising the mission. And, yet, he couldn’t let it go. If Grinda was verified he had to be the one to do it. Pride? Maybe. But he knew her. Scara might miss something that could make or break the mission. No, it had to be him.
The rest of the day passed like all the others since he had arrived in Darlington. Grinda went about her normal schedule, returning to her hotel room in the evening and ordering room service alone.
Reggie assumed his position on his hotel roof again but, this time, he relied more on his data eyes. And instead of his normal lenses, he used a periscope so he could lay below the roof’s edge and still watch her optically. Eyes on target; that was their motto. For most watchers in the task force that included data eyes. And he certainly used them. But he still felt that optical watching was essential. There was body language, and other small things, that you could only notice from extended watching of a subject.
You could tell a lot about a person if you studied them for months on end. Reggie knew Grinda’s routine; when she ate, when she went to the bathroom, what she wore on Tuesdays. And, with several verifications under his belt, Reggie knew certain traits belonged only to those suspects who were likely to be verified. Those people weren’t quite human, and it showed. If you watched long enough. They’d gotten pretty good at mimicking over the two decades since humans had discovered them, since the task force had been formed. But not good enough. Luckily for Reggie and all the other watchers. And lucky for humanity.
Grinda turned in around the usual time and tonight there was no eye contact. Maybe Reggie had imagined it, had overstated it at least. That had to be it. He decided to put it out of his mind and move on with the mission. Tomorrow he’d go to Grinda’s office and get proof if there was any to be found. Either way, the mission would be over and he’d take a break.
The credentials he needed to become a low-level Atamos researcher had arrived in his inbox earlier in the evening. He’d get them printed at the local task force safe house early in the morning and show up for work.
"Darren, ma’am, Darren Stevens," Reggie said in a slow Texas drawl. "Transferred for a month out of Houston."
The woman at the Atamos front desk studied his credentials a moment and then handed them back. "Very good, Darren," she said, smiling. "Welcome to Darlington."
The real Darren Stevens had been delayed. He had, strangely, been directed to the wrong boarding area in Houston and ended up on a flight to Toronto. And, shockingly, all the phone service on that flight wasn’t working due to a technical glitch. By the time Darren could check in Reggie would be long gone. It helped to have vast resources at your back.
"Thank you, ma’am. Uh, where should I set up?"
She pointed down a hallway. "Down that way. Just ask one of the other researchers to show you to an unused desk. You’ll probably have to unpack your own workstation." She smiled again. It was one of those fake smiles, a business smile. "We’re still getting settled in."
"Of course, thanks." He waved to her as he walked in the direction she had pointed.
He passed several other people coming toward him up the hallway. They all smiled that same smile and nodded at him. Maybe it was an Atamos thing. Perhaps it was the happiest place to work on Earth. To Reggie it looked like your normal overly-designed-to-stand-out decor; greys punctuated with bright, nearly neon, colours. Was neon back? He hoped not.
The hallway opened onto another set perpendicularly to it. That hallway opened, on the left, onto several smaller offices and, to the right, onto two larger rooms. One of those larger rooms was the researcher pod. That was where he was supposed to go. One of the smaller offices was Grinda’s. He turned left.
His phone told him that Grinda was in another part of the office, a boardroom. From his monitoring he knew she had entered it, along with fifteen others, five minutes earlier. Whatever kind of meeting it was she’d be in there for at least 20 minutes or so. Luck was with him. Now was the time to see what was behind door number one. To find out what was in the black hole.
He approached the door with confidence, as if he belonged there. It was amazing how far that could get you. At the door, he paused and glanced in both directions before trying the knob. It turned in his hand. This was too eas…
He stopped, the door part way open and his hand still on the knob. His mouth hung open and he stared once more into those eyes. Grinda stared right back from where she sat behind her desk.
“But…,” he stammered, “the biometrics. You’re in the boardroom.” It wasn’t a question. His device did, indeed, show that she was in that other space. And, yet, unless his eyes deceived him, here she was. Reggie wasn’t used to getting caught unawares. He was the one who knew the score, who was on top of things.
“Biometrics, yes.” She paused and smiled. “Mr. Sinkowski, I’m disappointed in you. You seemed so bright. You know such things can be fooled, mimicked.”
At the sound of his own name, but more so at that word, mimicked, Reggie’s stomach lurched. She shouldn’t have known his name, just like she shouldn’t have seen him that night.
“You saw me,” he managed. He gave no context, said the first thing that came to his mind. His instincts, his training — to focus on the mission, to keep his head — had sunk somewhere deep inside of him.
She nodded. “We can do many things now that we couldn’t before.”
“So, you are Gaian?”
Her lip curled and she squinted, as if in thought. “More or less.” The smile returned. “Reg. Reggie? Do you mind if I call you Reggie? That is the form you prefer, correct?”
“From my friends,” he managed, coming to terms with the situation a little. She had thrown him for a loop, as she had intended. But things were what they were; she knew what she knew. Reggie still had a job to do.
“We can be friends,” she said, still smiling. Those smiles were making him rather sick.
He reached into his pocket and long-pressed a button. Released it. Pressed it short. Then short again. The signal was sent; the actors would be on their way now. Reggie only needed to keep her talking. She seemed to want to talk, so that didn’t appear too difficult.
“I prefer to be friends with humans, sorry.”
“I am human enough. You seemed to think so that night you watched me undress.” Reggie fought down the crimson that started to rise in his cheeks. Luckily, she changed tack. “So, you fear all that you don’t understand?”
“Understand? Oh, I, we, understand you, and what you’re doing, quite well.”
“By we I presume you mean the Biodiversity Task Force,” she said, as Reggie tried to hide his astonishment. What didn’t she know? Knowing about him, his personal details, was one thing. Knowing about the organization, its true purpose… well, that was something else. As if reading his mind, she continued. “Yes, we know all about you, Reginald Victor Sinkowski. Watcher.” Her smile faded, replaced by a grimace. “And we know about actors as well.” Grinda looked toward Reggie’s pocket, where his phone was. “They won’t be coming, by the way. Take a look.”
Reggie tried to hide his surprise. Again. She was keeping him on the ropes. He had to regain control of the situation. But he couldn’t resist checking his phone. He removed it from his pocket. No signal. Nothing. That didn’t make sense. It was a satellite phone and there were damn well enough satellites for constant, and redundant, coverage. And it also fell back to mobile networks, WiFi and, even, radio bands. He felt his mouth falling open but caught himself and closed it.
Grinda was smiling again. “Well? Nothing to say?”
“It seems,” he said, mustering all the confidence he didn’t feel, “that you have me at a disadvantage.”
The smile widened. “Indeed. Would you like to be enlightened?”
If his phone had been destroyed, then the task force would know right away. The regulations assumed that was the only way a phone’s signal would stop. In that eventuality, they would dispatch a team. And, so, maybe they were on their way anyway. Reggie had to assume it was so. All he could do, at any rate, was keep her talking. “Sure, fill me in. It seems there are some gaps in my knowledge.”
“Why don’t you tell me what you think you know, and I’ll jump in when necessary.” She was grinning now, enjoying his unease. She was Gaian but she was all too human as well. All the others Reggie had watched could pass for human, but they hadn’t had the spark of individuality that she had. They could function in a role but one-on-one they were easier to spot. Not so with Grinda van Douferin.
Whatever the outcome for him personally, Reggie needed to observe every detail and communicate it back to his office. He still had his phone in his hand. And it was still on, even if not connected. He could still record everything she said. He started recording with the tap of a finger and lowered his hand to his side. But he didn’t return the phone to his pocket. He needed to get outside. The black hole they had established in the office was blocking his phone. If he got out he could send what he was recording. But, there were likely a handful or more of brute Gaians waiting outside the door to tackle him. Still, it was the only plan that he had. One step at a time.
“What do I know? Many things. About you, too. Or, at least, about your assumed identity.”
“Assumed? No, no. I am Grinda van Douferin.”
“You already admitted to being Gaian.”
“But that is not all that I am. I am also human.”
“Bullshit.” That was impossible. Gaians were not human. One was either a single human being or millions — billions? — of tiny one-celled Gaians. “You’re just a colony of little fuckers pretending to be one of us.”
“Little fuckers?” She shook her head. “Tsk. Tsk. Mr. Sinkowski, such language. But, yes, what you say was once true. But we, they, us, have found a better way. We have formed a partnership. I am still me, Grinda, but also them. I have knowledge and purpose. And resources, resources that your little task force could only dream of.”
Reggie turned his head to look out the window. He couldn’t look at her. If what she said was true… Bile rose in his throat. “Your race’s perversion knows no bounds.”
“My race? No, Reggie, we are the future. You see, humans, people exactly like you, have been running roughshod over this planet for millennia.” Her lips dipped into a frown. “And in the past couple of centuries you have been killing it. Not on purpose, not at first. But in the last few decades, even with knowledge, even as the waters rise and the earth trembles more and more beneath your feet, you don’t come together. Don’t do anything about it. Well, we are going to do something about it.”
“By destroying all that we’ve built and us along with it?”
“Not at all,” the eternal smile returned once again. “Like Grinda, we will give you a place in this new world. A world free of environmental calamity, disease and hunger. A world we can share, as equals.”
“As long as we become slaves?”
She sighed and shook her head. “Such archaic sensibilities. You already connect with other humans through your crude devices. This is simply a purer joining.”
“Why couldn’t you stay underground? You could’ve had your world, deep in the earth.”
“Could we?” Grinda, or rather her Gaian components, asked. “Could we indeed? Well, I, we, were there when humans first broke into our domain. Two centuries ago, as your steam engines started spewing fossil fuels into the air. You needed coal, lots and lots of it to power your industry. You dug deeper than ever before. We felt the shovels and picks.” Reggie knew some of this but only the facts. He had never heard it from their perspective before. Grinda’s smile had faded, and she looked down, sunken. “At first we tried to retreat, tried to keep going as we had.” She looked up, looked once again into Reggie’s eyes. But there was only anger there now. “But you humans wouldn’t leave us be! No, you kept coming and coming, digging deeper and deeper. So, we started to learn, started to evolve. We had never had a reason to do so before. But now we did.”
She took a sip from a glass of water on her desk. Reggie was still standing a few feet in front of her desk, just inside the door. The door was near but there were still the obstacles that waited beyond it. Grinda seemed to sense his thoughts once more.
“Take a seat,” she said, indicating the chair on the opposite side of her desk. “You’re not going to run away.”
“I prefer to stand,” Reggie said, but approached the chair and placed one hand on it. She was close to him now, and, sitting, lower than him. It made him feel a little more in control. It was an illusion, he knew, but he savoured the feeling, nonetheless.
She shrugged. “As you like. Anyway, where was I?”
“Coal,” Reggie offered.
“No, past that. Ants, that was where I was. First, we joined with the ants. Like us, in many ways, and yet, though linked, very stupid. We Gaians are many but we think as one, when in contact. The ants don’t really think. They act, they react, they perform functions. But we think. Much like humans. But we know we’re many parts. While life forms on the surface forgot their one-celled heritage, pretend to be I and me, we still understand that we’re a sum of many parts. We are aware of what we are.”
“I’m happy for you,” Reggie quipped.
Grinda ignored him and continued. “Anyway, from the ants we jumped to higher life forms until the form of rats brought us to the surface. I imagine that journey was very much, for us, like going to the moon was for you humans.” She looked up, to see, perhaps, what Reggie thought of her grand simile. He just continued to stare down at her. She shrugged. “You know the rest.”
“The rest? That’s a very short summary of cruelty and death.”
“We… regret how our mimicking process works. We must study what we copy.”
“You consumed people, ate them from the inside out.”
“We did not eat them! We studied them. Much, I should point out, like humans have done to other life forms since they climbed down from the trees. At any rate, by the time we understood that you were intelligent, and I use the term loosely, the damage was done. But you were doing your own damage by then.”
“Yes, we had identified you and treated you like we would any other infection.” Now it was his turn to smile. “At any rate, by the time we knew you were intelligent, by some people’s definition, the damage was done. As you say.” He enjoyed throwing her words back at her.
“So that is where we are, hmmmm? Taking jabs at each other? It’s time to put all that behind us, to join as one, to save this,” she spread her arms, “our common home.”
“Bravo,” Reggie said, clapping his hands theatrically. “And the Oscar goes to Ms. Van Douferin.” He glowered down at her. “This,” he said, raising his voice and pointing at her, “is invasion! Call it what you will but that is what it is. First you infiltrate. Then you subvert. Then you control. I am not an ant and you will never control me!”
He turned on his heel and strode the length of the space between the chair and the door. Then he turned and did it again, and again, pacing as his fury built. Grinda sat back, crossing her arms, watching him, curious.
“You know, some people in the task force say that you Gaians are the Earth, itself, rebelling. It was one of them that gave you that stupid name.”
"Maybe they’re right, maybe we are the planet’s answer to your idiocy," Grinda said. “We have a right to life too. And if you destroy this planet that is it for all of us. But together we can do so much.”
“All we have to give up is everything that makes us us.”
Grinda looked off to one side then, much like a dog does when it hears something humans cannot. “It seems our time is running short. I wish we could continue our conversation; I really do. I wish I could make you see.”
“They’re coming,” Reggie said, ignoring her other comments.
“Not that it matters, really,” Grinda said, subtly acknowledging the fact. “The actors won’t find anything. There are no Gaians here.”
Reggie’s face went blank.
“Oh, yes, we are here. We are everywhere.” The smile had returned. “But things are different now as I, as Grinda, represents. The royal we.” She gave a little flick of her head. “Look at your phone. Look at your little map.”
He did so. The connection was back. His conversation with this Gaian abomination was being synced to the task force cloud. They would know all that he knew. Then he did as she instructed, viewing the building’s schematic, based on all the smartphone links around the area. The black hole in the office was still there — he couldn’t see himself or Grinda. But all over that floor, and the one above and below, all over the whole building people were converging on Grinda’s office. All the people in the building, 100 or so.
What did it mean? They were all Gaians? Reggie looked up, looked into those all-too-human eyes.
“We’ve already won,” she said. The smile was gone. All that was left was sadness. “Yes, you’re not seeing things. They are all human. But also, all Gaian. And not slaves, no. Volunteers. People who see what we can offer humanity. Much like your little phone linkup, we can all see what the others see, hear what the others think. We are the future of this planet. You’ve lost.”
Reggie backed away, toward the door. Outside there were already 20 people, with more coming.
“I wish we could have done this together,” Grinda said, coming out from behind her desk. The floor to ceiling window behind her framed and silhouetted her slender form. “But, either way, you will be a part of the future. It’s time for your task force to end.”
Trapped, that was what he was. She was in front of him. Others like her waited outside the door. Part of him wanted to believe her. He wished he could trust that they were telling the truth. That they only wanted what was best for the planet, for all of them.
But even if it was true it wasn’t a world he wanted to live in. He was already paranoid that ants were watching him. And they probably were. But to think that every human was a potential collaborator… To believe they were waiting around every corner… It was too much. It was not his world.
He had reached his own line in the sand. And he found that he could not move it. His brain had reached its limit of what it could accept. The Gaian’s existence he accepted. His role in countering their invasion he accepted. But a place in their new order he could not understand or accept.
“You’ve given us no choice. Can’t you see?” Grinda and her Gaian infection asked. “All you humans know is bickering, violence and killing. You don’t even treat all other humans as equals. Different sex, different colour, different rules. What does that say? Even if we could find a way to stop this war, how could we ever hope to be treated as equals? No, Reggie, I’m sorry but this is the only way. We must be one.”
Reggie shook his head, walked a little to the right and looked up from his feet.
"No, I can’t accept that. You might be right. Perhaps your way is the only way. But I can’t, won’t accept it. I have no place in your world.” He knew what he had to do.
“You can, it’s still not too late,” she pleaded with him. “Join with us and call off the actors. We can dismantle the task force today and secure the future for everyone.”
She was still in front of the window. And now that he had walked to his right a little, he was lined up with it too.
Reggie glanced down at his phone once more. It was still recording and syncing to the cloud.
“I don’t know what the future will hold, or what it will say of me,” he said. “I can only control what I do now, in this moment.”
He lunged forward, as fast as he could. As he grabbed Grinda by the waist and threw them both into the window he looked up and she looked down at him. He could’ve sworn he saw relief on her face. He hoped so.
They crashed into the window. The impact shattered the glass but the window’s laminated coating didn’t break.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Grinda screamed. “Help! Christ, help!”
Reggie was undeterred. He threw her onto his shoulder and backed up. Without a second thought he ran into the window again, throwing his shoulder against it.
This time it gave and they toppled through into the cool morning air.
Grinda screamed, again and again. Reggie looked around, smiling, enjoying the rush of air through his hair. He watched the ground rush up to meet his head.
Maybe they are telling the truth, he thought, maybe they will be better stewards of the planet.
I don’t care. That’s not my world.