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The Promise of Eden - A (Very) Short Sci-Fi Story

Closeup of a cracked wall, with a patchy recycling symbol on it. The words "The Promise of Eden" superimposed over the wall and recycling symbol.

All the lawns on Mentone Avenue are mowed on Wednesdays. The machines wheel out just before dawn, emerging from charging stations hidden underneath porches or behind garages. If I get up early enough, I sit at my window and watch them do their dance. They move together like a single organism, expertly tuned, carving swoops and swirls into the grass. They’ll even add polyhedral shapes near the trees or shrubs for extra flair, and they always finish their labor by 8:00 a.m.

That way, when the other residents and I leave our homes on Mentone Avenue to head into the city, we’ll not see the metallic servants that made our little world so perfect. That's what is preferred—what everyone considers proper. After all, no one wants a reminder of the cost of peace in our time. I, however, am one of the architects of this fallacy we call Eden, so I’ve already had more than enough forbidden fruit to ignore the truth. Yet for the sake of those of us left, I try my best to do as everyone does and forget.

So once the machines hide, we leave at 8:15 on the dot. Then, with nearly as much coordination as our mechanical servants, we residents of Mentone Avenue head for the city and our various professions therein. Donning suits and dresses made of chemically recycled textiles, we climb into wheeled vehicles powered by solar cells. With careful precision, our self-driving cars back out silently from permeable-concrete driveways while we sit idly sipping hot synthetic coffee from bioplastic thermoses.

As our vehicles exit the suburb and enter the adjoining area known as the ag, the other riders and I hungrily break out our breakfast sandwiches. While the sandwiches are all identical—the bread and contents rendered in various hues of pink—each one is uniquely flavored. Yet no matter how good or poor the flavoring, it is considered improper to wonder where the “meat” has come from.

However, I know that the other residents of Mentone Avenue have no problem with their recycled food today. They are too busy feeling thankful this fine morning… because none of us were chosen by my Lottery today.

Our time is coming—everyone in Eden knows it—but it’s improper to discuss such things. For now, my neighbors and I just enjoy our ride into the city, over rolling hills and through pristine grasslands. If we’re particularly lucky, we might even spot an animal or two on our way through the ag. Maybe something even as large as a cat—an auspicious sign, to be sure. But before too long, the city of emerald spires rises into view, along with the tremendous gray seawall that rests behind it. The wall stretches for miles in either direction, eventually closing on itself and forming a large circle.

What lies within that circle—Eden—is the city, the ag, and the fine suburb where Mentone Avenue and its residents reside. What lies beyond that wall, however, is no one’s concern. In fact, it is proper to think of everything within the circle as being all there is to the world. Either way, the truth is not that different. Inside the wall is life. Outside, it is the opposite.

Here, the lucky residents of Eden can forget the horrors of climate change and decades of war. Within that great circle of concrete and steel, the last of humanity can live inside this picturesque place and enjoy all the comforts 22nd-century technology can offer… Even though this isn’t the 22nd century. I shift slightly from side to side as my car weaves around vehicles and pedestrians, drawing ever closer to my destination: the city’s central tower.

When I reach it, I exit the vehicle, enter that spike made of shimmering green glass, and head to the floor-wide office at its top. There, the other architects and I work to sustain the systems that govern Eden. For me, my task is the maintenance of the AI known as the Lottery. Besides our workstations, the room is relatively bare, save for a clock on the wall. It’s simple, analog, and one of the few explicit measures of time allowed.

Truth be told, I’ve no idea what century it is precisely—though I do have a guess. Yet like so many other things, it is improper to discuss such a topic aloud. Why should time matter when everything we could ever need is here? Why, indeed, for Eden is without war or strife. Here, there are neither illnesses nor afflictions, our technological means having long surpassed them. And for Eden’s residents, there is just enough of everything for everyone.

Yet is this really enough? More and more, as the years go by and my Lottery Day draws closer, I keep thinking of this. The promise of Eden is that of eternity. All who live here will never cease to be. Even though the Lottery inevitably comes for us all, it also brings us back.

That was my crowning achievement, my great “gift” to humanity. For Eden to function with the few untainted resources left on this Earth, all had to be recycled—even people. They had to be because there are no more livestock to be found on this planet, and even if there were, we certainly couldn’t spare the few resources we did have to raise them. So here, in our little Eden, we are both the consumers and the consumed.

It was a tough sell initially, but my Lottery made it work. Even if one’s time is up, eventually, the Lottery brings you back just as you were when you first registered your genetic code within the system centuries ago. Then you begin a new cycle all over again. For me, this is my 112th iteration.

While a resident’s average cycle lasts around eight years, the time between their cycles is anyone’s guess. Still, even if I had been immediately recycled every time—which the Lottery would never allow—I know that at least 890 years have passed since I first helped build this place. 890 years… and what do we have to show for it? And suddenly, I rise from my workstation, excusing myself as these thoughts overwhelm me, my eyes welling up with tears.

Hurriedly, I take the stairs down one floor, find an unoccupied seclusion room, and lock myself inside. We, architects, all burdened with the forbidden knowledge of Eden, were granted this little luxury. These quiet rooms, their walls covered with positive affirmations and soothing imagery, were a place where we could grieve in private—which is, of course, the only proper way to do so in Eden. And as before, I make good use of this seclusion room, weeping as I think of what’s become of our species.

The human race has survived into the third millennium despite its many mistakes… but is this truly survival? Technically, there are only three million of us left, with nearly two-thirds of that always in the process of being recycled, and yet more is missing from this so-called paradise. There are no universities here. No research centers. There aren’t even children.

We had killed most of our planet, turned it into a runaway greenhouse, then irradiated it with nuclear weapons. Yet, in all our tragic ingenuity, we still found a way to survive, only for it to cost us everything. We should be among the stars by now, expanding across the Milky Way. We should be raising new generations of leaders, artists, and scientists to one day take our place. We should, by God, progress. Instead, we seek the promise of Eden—a peaceful eternity. And the only way to get it is to stop time altogether.

So, we are explorers no more, our thoughts devoted only to the embrace and maintenance of this false heaven. We’ve no more questions or ambitions either, having traded curiosity and imagination for stability. Every cycle, we teach ourselves once again the proper way to think in our new world—that if we wish to end all struggle and hardship, we must resign ourselves to this fate. To that end, we spend our endless days convincing ourselves that our 22nd-century luxuries make up for our intellectual austerity. We ignore the truth that in this gilded prison, the knowledgeable being known as homo sapiens has been made to stand aside for this meager shadow we’ve become.

When I helped build Eden and the Lottery, I was only trying to save what was left of humankind. Like many of us, I thought we could find refuge in eternity… but we will never leave this Eden, never grow beyond its walls. We built a place without time, not realizing it would become our tomb. And now, as I’m sure I’ve done so many cycles before, I contemplate suicide.

Yet there’s no point. The Lottery will just bring me back. It’s what I deserve—what everyone in Eden deserves. Because of our species, the Earth is dead… so it’s only proper that those of us left will never escape it.

Hope you enjoyed this depressing piece of Sci-fi! Feel free to share it or leave a comment, and subscribe to my site for updates on more stories, including my book, PHANTOM ULTRA.

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