A premonition woke Tiberius—or a noise, he couldn’t discern which: thumps followed a feeling similar to fear, then a crack as the front door blasted inward. He flung open his eyes and leapt out of bed. Four squadguards, carrying blunt rifles, filled the bedroom before Tiberius finished pulling on his shirt. Shouting, the guard at the vanguard shoved the barrel of a gun into Tiberius’s face and ordered him down, onto his stomach. Tiberius dropped to his knees. The speed of the assault reified his fear as trembling hands.
All four guards shouted. Words overlapped, syllables merged—it took several seconds for Tiberius to unpack the orders: lay down; don’t move; zap him.
One of the guards pressed a bolt into Tiberius’s neck. A cone of light flashed from two filaments at the end of the bolt, jolting him. Pain tore through his neck, and darkness fell on him.
Images penetrated a sea of black: cadavers on tables, examined by a robot. It rolled on a wheel, moved from table to table. The corpses melted; their flesh pooled on the tiles below. Metal armature had replaced bones, and mechanical skeletons writhed on the tables.
Then … darkness.
Light emerged as the Dictator’s face swirled and congealed. He pursed his lips, froze, then shouted, “They will replace us. They will facilitate our extinction.”
Darkness, again: Tiberius swam in a void.
Hypnogogic specks sprang into existence. They multiplied and merged, and light gnawed on, and devoured, the darkness.
Then … Continue reading