Habitat for Humanity

14 November 2020

I don’t have much in the way of worldly goods. I never had. But I don’t need much either. A patch of land, water, sun, a warm cabin for the winter. What else does one need?

Mind you, before I was abducted I wanted much more. I wanted friends, money, the love of beautiful women. At least I thought I wanted those things. Turns out I was just confused. Turns out I just wanted a bit of space to myself.

They tried to give me companions when they first took me. But they were all just simulcra. You see, they had gathered vast troves of data from Earth. Books, movies, music. More than I could ever hope to want. But for the biological stuff, it was only one of each type of thing. I was the only human they gathered, and they were never going back to Earth, so I was all alone.

When I asked to have companions, they were at first confused. We are social creatures, I told them, but they struggled to understand. When they finally did understand, they made machines that acted like the people you saw on television and in movies. They are supreme engineers, and the creatures they made were beautiful. I thought it might do for a time, but within a few weeks you can’t get over the fact that there is nothing behind the eyes. Beautiful, empty shells. They didn’t understand why it mattered.

They worried when I started to withdraw. I don’t know if I was depressed in the clinical sense, but that description is as good as any. And who could blame me, being basically in solitary confinement. It must have been what they thought as well. They started to give me some kind of pill with my food, and it seemed to help for a time. At least the urge to slam my head against the wall went away.

But after a while the urge and depression raised its ugly head again. The same old gray hallways felt like they were closing in. They just didn’t understand. Eventually they asked if they could put me to sleep. It took me a while to figure out they meant to put me in some kind of stasis, just for a time.

I agreed. It would be about a century, Earth time. But they said it would give them enough time to build me a new home. What is a century of sleep when you can never go home again?

I didn’t dream in stasis, but it also wasn’t timeless. When I finally awoke, I felt old. They said I wouldn’t age, and best I can tell, I didn’t age physically. But mentally I felt tired, stretched beyond my years. The lust of youth felt gone, though I was only supposed to be twenty-nine. Given my choices, it was a fair deal. Lose a bit of spry for some semblence of peace.

After they woke me, they took me to a new chamber. It was about the size of a soccer field, but it was built to look much larger. There was grass. Real grass. And trees, some of which must have been at least fifty years old. They must have grown it all from seeds. The chamber formed a slightly hilled grove, and in the center was a small pond with a cabin made of real wood. Even a few books made of real paper.

To keep the pond fresh a little creek flowed past the cabin into it. It wasn’t real, of course. It sprung out of a cluster of stones at the edge of the chamber. And the sun wasn’t real, but it was close enough. Rain would fall at times, and there were even distant summer sounds. There were no animals, but there were the sounds of animals. I could hear birds, foxes, even distant wolves. A background of animals I would never see again.

That was nearly fifty years ago. Now my aching knees and arthritic hands match the old soul that awoke from the stasis pod. I can feel that my days are numbered. Maybe a year or two, but not much more.

They say they could change this. Perhaps give me a machine body, like the toys they made when I first arrived. But I told them no. A human should be ready for death’s embrace when the time comes. If we aren’t mortal, we really aren’t human. No afterlife for me. I made them promise.

So when the day comes, I told them, just wrap my body in cloth and bury me on the small rise by the pond. The one opposite my cabin. They promised. As long as my bones were there, the grass would grow, the trees would green, and the distant sounds of animals would call.

They were sorry, they said. They didn’t know how it would affect me. I don’t mind, not really. I have a home, and that’s all anyone really needs.