Watcher in the Wastes

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“You know they thought it was a god, once? Used to pray to it for good luck and everything,” the speaker was a pinprick of light. A second pinprick of light floated next to it. Their brilliant, unwavering points of light stood out amidst the darkened wasteland around them.

“Really? Well, I can kind of understand that,” said the second pin-prick of light, “Just imagine how awe-inspiring something this big might have been for the primitive people back in that age?” No one except the first pinprick of light heard this thought because there was no one else there. They were alone on the distant planet and far from home.

Dark, cold wind howled by the two pinpricks of light, though they seemed completely unaffected by it. They were both floating over an icy wasteland before a large, weathered statue of a man kneeling. The Kneeling Man’s form was huge–easily over a hundred feet high–and its shaggy hair and beard streaked down its ragged sides from millennia of exposure to wind, rain, seasonal thaws and all the raw elements of nature.

“Watcher in the Waste” was what the tourist pamphlet called it. They floated a while in awe, took some selfies and then blinked out of existence leaving only the dark, howling cold wind behind them.

Much like most of history, the Kneeling Man was alone again. The wind howled and the air was cold, but he just carried on kneeling there waiting.

***

“The world is ending but we must survive,” said the General, and those in the room murmured the reply to his greeting and continued working. One of them handed him a fresh mask and then ran back to his post.

The General strolled through the room overseeing everyone. The room was in a small, hastily-built military installation. It was perched halfway up a mountain. The worst of the pollution did not yet reach up here while this low down the dangerous UV rays and the thinning oxygen were not too bad either.

The General was satisfied with the progress and arrived at his desk. It stood by the only window in the dull room. He stood and looked out at the wasteland that Earth had become. The sky was grey, filtering the dangerous sunlight through to reveal portions the planet’s burnt, blackened and dead surface. In some areas, great storms rolled and, in others, sub-zero temperatures froze everything while yet others saw the ground rupturing and volcanoes decimating whole landscapes with ash, soot and fire.

“The world is ending but we must survive,” the General muttered, shaking his head, “Report to me Specialist Brown!” he barked to the room, turned around and sat in his chair.

Specialist Brown scampered up and began rattling off technical terms and endless details. The General raised his hand and asked a single question.

“Will we make, Specialist Brown, will we make it off the damned planet in time?”

Specialist Brown smiled, relieved, and nodded: “Yes, General, we should.”

The General dismissed him and turned to the window again. There were not many humans left but there were enough to populate the next planet. They now had cryogenic stasis and AI to fly the starship. They also knew where they were going. They would make it, but only barely.

Out of the window, the grey, swirling toxins that made clouds in Earth parted briefly and a ray of cancer-causing sunshine pierced downwards to highlight a large, kneeling man far down below where the city used to be. It was almost prophetic, as the Kneeling Man had been their rally point for the survivors of the Fourth Wave. The General took seeing it days before the launch as a good sign.

“The world is ending and we will survive,” he muttered, “But you, my friend, will have to stay behind and look after it. Who knows, we might return one day?”

***

“I want it to be huge!” the client exclaimed, “This is my legacy! Now, hit me with your ideas…”

The architect and his draftsmen buzzed around throwing ideas at him, but he discarded all of them as boring. He sat like some minor royalty in his chair sipping his cola and offering his patronage to someone who inspired him. But nothing worked. No idea was good enough and he just kept dismissing them.

Eventually, the Architect threw his arms up and turned to walk out. His draftsmen all turned to go as well and the Client slumped down in his seat. This had all been a massive anti-climax.

But then, one of the younger assistants piped up: “Why not a huge statue of a kneeling man opening the door at the entrance?”

The Client jumped up as inspiration hit him like growing occurrences of lightning in the heartlands.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” he repeated as the idea quickly solidified, “Yes, a huge, massive man kneeling down like a Greek god and protecting my casino. I want the statue huge and towering over the competitions’ casinos! I am talking a lasting, meaningful legacy here, people! I want this kneeling, Greek god to whisper about luck to all that turn up in Vegas and capture the skyline from every angle in this damned desert! This will be my legacy and all that look on it will know so!”

The Architect and his draftsmen were back in the room, bustling with papers, plans and Google-searches for Greek gods in kneeling poses. The Client was happy, sitting back on his plastic thrown and fantasizing about his casino.

Outside, another dust storm was growing intersected by lightning bolts from an increasingly unstable sky. In the background, the TV was reporting on extreme weather and the dwindling fish in the warming ocean but it was on mute. No one was listening. They were busy building a casino.

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