The Genesis Machine
by Peter Shogren
In the year 2029 life on Planet Earth had become unbearable. Twenty-three billion people now resided between and under it’s littered shores. Every square inch of space was used up with millions of people dying of starvation in the streets every day and the babies still kept coming. Even with such an unmanageble overpopulation problem some underdeveloped countries (even now more numerous in 2029) and a few devout Christian majority nations wouldn’t agree to abortion, mandatory sterilization, or even voluntary contraception. So the babies still kept coming. As the people died in the streets and their bodies sent to “burger” factories to be boned, sterilized, and formed into patties for the less fortunate people of the world. And the children of the dead parents’ grew up to take their places thirty-five or so years later. However, for the more affluent people there were hydroponically grown fruits, vegetables, and other garden staples mass produced by the gross ton (keeping a good portion of the developed countries’ workforces well employed).
So little room was left on the planet that all housing had long since been institutionalized and anyone not of the elite class of state workers (such as key defense personnel, senators, leading scientists, and the like) or the very wealthy lived in huge overlit halls separated by paper-like partitions high enough only to obstruct sight– never noise. Clearly the world and the living conditions thereon were impossible and something drastic needed to be done. And unknown to all but one man, something was going to be done, and soon.
Dr. Neomond’s entire laboratory was five meters on a side, painted a dreary grey color and was lined with silver and grey wire shelving on all four walls from floor to ceiling. In one corner leaned a wooden stepladder that was just tall enough so that if he stood on the very top step he could reach the middle of the highest shelf, on which sat all things that he used the least. On the other shelves sitting in various boxes were tools and parts of every shape, color, size, and description. Resistors, inductors, capacitors, ionizers, laser and plasma generators, diodes, biological memory circuits, soldering tools of all kinds and anything you could possibly think of was to be found on one shelf or another. Occasionally Dr. Nemond even found something he never put on the shelf in the first place; but this never really bothered him much and he usually forgot about whatever it was soon after he typically through the item away.
In the center of the room surrounded by a sea of small tools, bits and pieces of fried parts (in all phases of complete uselessness) was a huge, black vinyl chair and a dark grey over-sized control panel. In the center of the panel was a computer keyboard and all around it sat buttons, dials, and levers packed together like cars in a New York City parking lot. The only item with any room on the “desk” (as he liked to call it) was a large covered red button somewhat above the keyboard– the Genesis Button.
He called his latest invention the Genesis Machine because it would give the Earth a new beginning on life. This was done (at one or more touches of the red button) by systematically “erasting” single persons or even whole sections of the population at the suggestion of the user (with the exception of the user himself, of course). The person or group of persons in question were not only neatly eliminated, but all the memories of them were destroyed also. Once the button was pressed the only thing left was the memory of them in the mind of the user him or herself. There was no corpse, nothing. The machine itself was quite simple to get started; you merely plugged it into any wal socket and waited for the green power light. Running on normal “house” current this would take several hours as the central memory storage unit gathered all the information and power that it needed to function. At its peak it would know everything about everybody all over the world and be able to find any specific person after a brief description about the person and get it right every time. Then it would slowly die out (for the saftey of all who lived) after its one and only usage.
Now that it was finished he pushed the electric plug into the socket and waited the long waith for the green light to blink on. He moved over to the next room, being his small apartment, and ate something then slept. While he waited to nod off, he thought about the moral question of why he should be the one to have arbitrary say over the life and death of whole countries, races, and creeds of people This did bother him somewhat but he rationalized that if he did tell anyone about his invention he would be thrown into prison just for attempting to make such a device and someone else would pounce on the privilege and honor of such a necessary task.
Eventually the Genesis Machine was ready and Dr. Nemond anxiously sank into the driver’s seat and began conversing with the superlatively intelligent subservient mind before him. First he began the list of single people– all his old rivals, competitors and arch-enemies– only to make sure that he selected them all. Then he moved on to the whole sections of the population he deemed necessary. Click click click click click he typed without malice, carefully trimming off sections of people to bring about the much needed reforms to the 21st Century’s impossible lifestyle. All the dozens of riff-raff (in one way or another)classes and the politically disgruntled organizations with a history of chronic violence were listed for oblivion– to make room for the more deserving masses of population. Finally he ended with a few bodies of people who were much too far behind on the social evolutionary scale for the coming world of tomorrow.
He re-examined his list to make sure that everything was correct and exact, satisfied that all his choices were intelligent and necessary. Flipping off the cover of the Genesis Button he reached out, hasitated briefly, then pushed the red button of life for The World. There was a great surge of power released and then the machine relaxed, winding down to become dormant, never to be used again. Confident he was now in comparative paradise, he got up and left the machine on to see for himself his “world of tomorrow”.
Normally walking down the crowded prefabricated halls to or from the surface left him sickened at what the world had grown into, but this time he felt a sense of elation at this work and optimism about his findings upon reaching the upper world.
Stepping into the brightly lit grey steel and simulated wood paneled elevator he knew that being this deep in the Earth’s crust it would be a long wait. His lab was down so low partly for security reasons and partly because there was so much already excavated/constructed above. Finally the number “1” lit up and the doors barely sliding open, he rushed his way through and briskly climbed the single flight of wide concrete stairs to the open air.
Almost yanking the well marked crimson building doors open he was greeted by the familiar thick repugnant smell of factory induced smog and a surreal absence of people in the city streets. Deep in the earth below him, Dr. Nemond’s creation began the final stages of its shutdown procedures. “IT WORKS!” he cried to all. Happily Dr. Nemond capered and pranced down the avenue in glorious proclamation of his work. This way and that he danced a happy, random dance not apying much attention to which street he turned onto. Gazing along empty lanes and boulevards he saw enough room to last a dozen of his and his descendants’ lifetimes. Wishing to reexamine his work he turned around and made his way back to the building in almost the same fashion as before. About halfway back to his laboratory and the mess that he had created, something started to gnaw in the back of his mind, but this bothered him little in light of his wonderful accomplishment. He even resolved to tell someone about his machine someday. He doubted that anyone would believe him– he didn’t care. Upons seeing the well-memorized doors to his building again the unfathomable something began to gnaw a little harder. Declining another gleeful skip through the streets he nervously went down to the lab with the foreoding suspicion that something might have gone wrong. Not knowing why, the return stroll through the silent halls made him feel uneasy and even more nervous.
Reaching the ominous navy blue front door to his apartment at a brisk walk, before he entered his workroom he almost made a good job. The Genesis Machine was still there, silently awaiting his unscheduled return. Nothing had moved and this made him a little more comfortable as he walked on the useless scrap parts unter his fee. Slumping into the “captain’s” style chair he near fanatically typed:
“Request list: Remaining types of world population.”
“Information ERROR: Insufficient Information.” The machine replied. “CAUSE: Shutdown procedure starting at 16:34.21.4.” Sensing something grossly amiss and knowing that the machine was in its final stages of death to prevent capture he typed one final question:
“Request Figure: Current total world population.” and his face became ashen with horror, for there printed on the screen was the number:
Copyright Peter Shogren 1986