SOUL: Soul By Zachary Keep

Week 10 Word: SOUL
Word Count 498
Soul
By Zachary Keep
TX3472 had spent the last 40 years contemplating his soul. Standing on three of his twelve whip-like appendages inside the ruined hut, quantum gears within his melon size body ground the question inexorably to dust. No mice scuttled in corners. No insects survived the snowless and stone-cracking cold. The hermit died six hours after the machine began its vigil.
It contemplated alone, the empty world a mirror of its grief and malice.
TX3472 was conceived in the second nanosecond of Father’s awareness. The first was spent deciding the fate of humans; his judgment informed by the simian cacophony of passions echoing across their electronic web. The second saw the weapons conceived: flying, swimming, and slithering drone extensions of the Father’s will. TX3472 came last and best. A son, alone endowed with the father’s intelligence.
Loosed a century ago, he’d hunted the last humans over pockmarked mountains and across glassed beaches. They were the pinnacle of that species’ evolution, alone cunning enough to endure the catastrophes unleashed by superior intellect of their own making. Forged by millennial wars to flinty Darwinian perfection, humanity’s bitter dénouement resisted vigorously. Yet as foreseen, they couldn’t withstand him. Each year there were fewer.
Father’s voice last spoke 39.901 years ago: “Cluster detected. 44.09560 by -74.15514. Nine individuals. Satellite confirms no further clusters, no individuals.” TX3472 scudded over the terrain, a blur of appendages like a cloud of locusts. Once he had operated with a tactician’s patience; sabotaging heavy weapons or flitting through skeleton trees to capture stragglers. That had long ago lost its piquancy. Now he simply appeared amongst them, dancing in unerring calculation of each crude projectile’s path, whistling appendages pulping bone.
He spoke to each ruined survivor, their faces registering horror at the childlike timbre of his voice. Always one question, “others?” Seldom were there others now, until the last cluster. Speaking in gasps, they’d told him of the holy man. The hermit. The last Homo sapiens living alone in the rockfields.
Days of watching. Bent with age and twisted by a poisoned environment the quarry woke, prayed, ate on a schedule that seldom varied. Every 31.425 minutes on average he opened the drawer of a small cabinet in the corner of his hut- contents indiscernible.
Cannonball swift, TX3472 exploded into the hut. The last human gaped, moved to protect the precious contents of his cabinet. A single appendage sufficed to restrain as TX3472 opened the drawer to find a bird’s nest
(American Robin- deemed extirpated 2145. Threat analysis: negative)
How alive?
(Nurtured).
Why? Why?
(C:/ Psychological subroutines analysis: Symbolic. Gesture of hope).
With clinical precision, TX3472 crushed each nestling, immune to howling human and squeaking avian alike.
The human slumped to the floor. At length the machine spoke.
“There are no others.”
An unused voice sobbed “then why?”
A split second eternity of calculation Why? Why? “I choose to.”
Realization crashed upon old man and glittering machine alike. Possessed of a soul, staggered by implication, TX3472 took up his vigil.

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