You’ll Have To Tell Us The Story, Sometime

They were hoping for a place to stop, refuel, find the spare parts they needed to patch the ship back together again after millennia in deep space. In that respect the planet they ended up on was a paradise.

The entire world had been converted into one enormous machine. It had been a planet-wide City, with arteries of skytrains and underpasses and electricity lines and water pipes, countless nuclear stomachs pumping out energy day and night, numerous nerve centres of frantic activity and intellectual enquiry. It had even had a brain: a central hub that had controlled the mechanisms of the City. It had been a hive mind, formed from the individual minds of the generations of deceased who lived within it, alongside their joys and tortures and boredoms and lives and thoughts and deaths.

Now, all was just death.

It was the most boring place that they had been for some time.

They wandered through the City, individually and in groups, ostensibly looking for the rare materials that they needed but in reality trying to find something, somewhere, that could make this world memorable. Everywhere they went they found the same thing. Buildings abandoned for centuries, crumbling to dust. Only in the lower reaches deep below the surface where the air was stillest did they find some remains of the world’s last people. Their fragile skeletons, which disintegrated and blew away on their discoverer’s breaths, revealed nothing of what had happened.

Finally a small group of them stumbled on something. Not much. Following an air shaft down from the upper levels, attracted by the complex system of mirrors which lined its interior, four of them came upon a small chamber. It was lush, green with plant life and red with rust. Creepers hung from rivets on the walls. Grass covered the floor in a damp carpet. And in the centre there bowed an ancient tree. At first it, too, seemed dead: its withered drunk twisted, gnarled and leafless. But at its base, fresh saplings were fighting their way up towards the sunlight.

The enormous door into the chamber had been broken as weeds grew into the cracks. The four explorers forced it open. They stood in the chamber beyond, where plants were beginning to spread out and cover the laser scorches seared into the metal.

“You know,” said Tim. “I think we’ve been here before.” He nudged the person standing next to him. “Eh, Hades?” Ashes laughed.

Ivy looked perplexed. “I…don’t recall that at all,” she said. She frowned.

“Probably while you were AWOL,” said Tim.

“Probably.” Nastya looked around, and back at the ancient tree standing tall over its domain. She wrinkled her nose a little. “You’ll have to tell us the story, sometime.”

“Sure. It’s an interesting one. Remember the headlines, Hades? ‘Ulysses Dies At Dawn’…”