FINAL MESSAGE • by Dustin Adams

A ship from Earth twinkled among the horizon of stars. Torpos Hansen, Ambassador to the immortal Factory, greeted all races, but his excitement peaked when vessels from home arrived.

Sadly, his fellow humans rarely continued their existences beyond a single millennium. Each ship brought a swell of living excitement, and offspring would frolic throughout warm, well-lit foyers. But in time, always too short, they grew weary. The children of children chose not to reproduce, and one by one they returned to eternal rest.

Torpos hoped those aboard would remain, because despite the company of millions of individual beings, he felt isolated as the sole remaining member of his own race.

“Chair, human.” Torpos said, and the Factory responded. Metal groaned and rose from the floor then halted, having molded into the shape of the requested chair.

Torpos sat and breathed in the warm air around him, saturated with the life-sustaining motes that regenerated his cells, granting him youth and immortality. Soon, those who had traveled decades aboard a confining ship would be free to explore the planet-sized Factory and interact with thousands of species both wondrous and terrifying.

An umbilical darted from the Factory like a snake’s tongue, connected to the ship, then eased it in. Once empty of its passengers and their possessions, the Factory would consume the ship, and grow. New bedrooms would form, and maglevs would extend their inner-ship movements to the new floors and wings that contained the bustling human population.

A hatch slid open to reveal a dark passage. Torpos stood, unable to contain his excitement. The chair behind him melted, becoming flat hexagon decking once again.

No one emerged. No awe-struck children appeared, asking where the lights were. “Everywhere and all around us,” Torpos would say and sweep his hand, gesturing in a way that indicated the Factory was alive.

He edged toward the ship, staring into the darkness beyond the open hatch. Surely the ship wasn’t empty.

At last he saw a shadow. Thin metal legs clacked against the ship’s decking, followed by a haggard, ancient woman, trembling, but resolutely shuffling onward behind her walker.

Torpos sprinted forward, leaping inside the ship. Instantly, he felt himself begin to age. Disconnected from the Factory, motes expelling from his lungs, he began to die.

“Ma’am, do you need help?”

“Yes,” she said from beneath long, gray hair that draped over her gnarled hands in jagged lines. “And no.” She shoved her walker forward, then slid her feet behind.

Torpos stepped aside, giving her room. He looked behind her down a long, darkened hall that stretched into mystery.

“Are you alone?”

“Completely.”

Torpos coughed, his lungs straining to breathe the ancient oxygen within the ship. He retreated to the safety of the Factory’s deck and urged the woman forward with beckoning hands.

She paused at the seam between her ship and the Factory. It glowed electric white, having fused, becoming one. She lifted her head and observed her surroundings as if judging, but her expression belied no pronouncement.

Torpos met her lively, blue eyes, deep-set behind wrinkles upon wrinkles. Those eyes had witnessed much, he recognized. Friends, loved ones, all lost behind eyes that resolutely carried on despite the anguish.

At last she hobbled forward, inching her way into the Factory. Torpos watched, waiting for her to begin the healing process.

But it did not occur.

“Oma has departed the vessel,” said an electronic voice that reverberated throughout the empty ship. “Mission complete.”

“How do you feel?” Torpos asked.

She continued her glacial momentum and said, “Pleased.”

“Factory, human couch for two.” The metal behind Torpos bent and took shape. “Oma?” Torpos leaned forward, hoping for another glimpse into the depths of her sea-blue eyes.

“My title. My name is Annabeth Peterson.”

“Welcome, Annabeth. My name is Torpos Hansen.” Torpos reached for her wrinkled hands. She placed them in his and he led her to the metallic couch. “You should feel the healing effects of the Factory. It cures–”

“That’s not why I’m here,” she interrupted.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m a messenger, come to report to our kind that Earth is no more.”

Torpos’ blood froze. “No more?” he asked.

“I am the last,” she said. “Yellowstone erupted.” She bowed and shook her head. “Other volcanoes followed. Earthquakes broke the land. The surface became an uninhabitable wasteland.”

Torpos whispered a prayer to the Creator. He hesitated to inform her that he, too was the last. All of humanity sat huddled in a quiet, expansive wing of the Factory.

“You’re not alone.”

“But I am. My family are all gone, buried beneath ash. My friends expired during the voyage, adrift forever in the depths of space.”

Torpos gripped Annabeth’s shoulders with a gentle firmness and turned her to face him. “Allow the Factory to heal you, and restore your youth.” He paused, and added, “Stay with me.” He’d begged with those words many times in the past. Always to no avail.

“You will pass my message to the others, yes?”

Torpos stood and backed away. He raised his arms, palms up, and swept them in an arc. “Message received.” He steeled himself for the inevitable, only this time he would truly be alone. No more vessels from earth. Ever.

If this woman had seen loss enough to break her spirit in a mere century, what of his forty thousand years? Entire species had gone extinct before his eyes. Maybe his time had finally come.

“I see,” Annabeth said. “Well, then.” She stood, and after a moment Torpos noticed a lessening of her quivering bones. She bowed her head and inhaled a great breath.

Relief coursed through Torpos’s soul. She would remain. For how long, he didn’t know, but he would take whatever she gave.

And then?

Didn’t matter. Not now. Not today.

Annabeth clasped Torpos’s hands in hers. She gazed at him with wisdom-filled, youthful, blue eyes.

“What now?” she asked.

“Time will tell,” he answered, and led her forward into the Factory.


Dustin Adams’ stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, and forthcoming in ASIM. He’s a multiple finalist in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest and has served as an editorial assistant right here at Every Day Fiction.


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Rate this story:
 average 3.7 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Justin DeFerbrache

    This is such clean, smooth writing. I only wish that I could write like this!

    • Thanks Justin. Hey, took me four years to sell my first story. You’ve got #1 under your belt. Let’s keep plugging away, and we’ll get more out there!

  • Justin DeFerbrache

    This is such clean, smooth writing. I only wish that I could write like this!

    • Thanks Justin. Hey, took me four years to sell my first story. You’ve got #1 under your belt. Let’s keep plugging away, and we’ll get more out there!

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Great stuff.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Great stuff.

  • Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

    Wonderful story. Well-written, imaginative. But I’m sad for Earth.

  • Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

    Wonderful story. Well-written, imaginative. But I’m sad for Earth.

  • History52

    A lovely story, simply told but complex with emotion: loneliness, loss and, at the last, delicate hope. Well done, Mr. Adams.

  • History52

    A lovely story, simply told but complex with emotion: loneliness, loss and, at the last, delicate hope. Well done, Mr. Adams.

  • Agreeing with Justin, this is really clean and smooth writing. Just excellent. Easy to follow without being simplistic. Some touching moments as well, and a look into one version of our possible future.

    Great job here, Dustin. I completely enjoyed this one. I look forward to reading more of your work. Perfect lunch break story. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Scott! I’ve got three stories in the EDF queue. You’ll see more if the slushers and editors like them. 🙂

  • Agreeing with Justin, this is really clean and smooth writing. Just excellent. Easy to follow without being simplistic. Some touching moments as well, and a look into one version of our possible future.

    Great job here, Dustin. I completely enjoyed this one. I look forward to reading more of your work. Perfect lunch break story. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Scott! I’ve got three stories in the EDF queue. You’ll see more if the slush readers and editors like them. 🙂

  • MPmcgurty

    I liked this. I do have questions, although none of them are problematic. Perhaps someone could let me know what they think?

    How was the Factory producing atmosphere that could heal? I got the impression one must choose to live or be healed. If so, why did the “children of children” choose not to live? What made Torpos want to live?

    Sorry if I’m dense. I did like it. It had a poignancy about it, and I loved the paragraphs that dealt with Torpos meeting the old woman coming off the ship.

  • MPmcgurty

    I liked this. I do have questions, although none of them are problematic. Perhaps someone could let me know what they think?

    How was the Factory producing atmosphere that could heal? I got the impression one must choose to live or be healed. If so, why did the “children of children” choose not to live? What made Torpos want to live?

    Sorry if I’m dense. I did like it. It had a poignancy about it, and I loved the paragraphs that dealt with Torpos meeting the old woman coming off the ship.

  • I like the idea of the factory. It has a lot of potential. Just imagine all the stories it must hold.

  • Carl Steiger

    Well, that was worth dropping in to read! I’m also in the dark about how the healing process works and how the person to be healed has a choice about it, but it doesn’t worry me much.

    Unrelated to the story itself, but is Discus a thing of the past here, or is it because of this funky Chinese ISP I’m using today that I can’t see it?

  • I loved this, Dustin! The Factory is a fascinating place. I’d like to read more about it.

  • Intriguing story and great world you created. Enjoyed it.

  • Carl, I’m not sure why Disqus has disappeared, but the site was down for a bit and Disqus was gone when it came back up. I will find out from our webmaster what happened and let everyone know.

  • J.C. Towler

    Nifty story, Dustin. Great world and character building.

  • Really nice story, Dustin. Covers a huge amount of ground in very little space. Well done!

  • S Conroy

    I enjoyed this story and the style a lot. I also wondered why the other humans ‘only’ lived for a milenium. Did they then choose to die? Is Torpos somehow special?
    Discus doesn’t seem to be back yet. So comment to McGurty: the life sustaining motes reminded me of the film ‘transcendence’. In that film the ‘motes’ in a special high tech plant heal disease and, if I remember correctly, might also ‘heal’ old age. But to be honest I didn’t think the film’s explanation (The uploaded online consciousness of a physically deceased genius scientist has developed a healing force field with the help of other living humans) truly plausible. Think it’s a case of suspending disbelief.

  • S Conroy

    PS. Just read an old story by the author “The Gift”. Brilliant.

  • MPmcgurty

    @S Conroy: That is a good story. Really well-constructed. If anyone hasn’t read it, they should.

  • Elegant storytelling, Dustin.

  • Katherine Lopez

    Apart from needing a few more rewrites, can someone explain to me what’s exceptional about this story? Another Last Human Alive scenario, there’ve been some top notch stories written on this theme, even one or two here on EDF. This one didn’t ring any bells for me.

  • Good writing. Great message. Worthy of the best-paying places.

  • Dustin Adams

    @ MPmcgurty – The motes are explained more fully in other “Factory” stories. For this flash, I was hoping folks would just roll with it as part of the unusual setting.

    @ Derek M. – Thanks! I’ve got several other stories in this universe. One is at Amazon in the anthology “1st and Starlight”. (It’s the direct prequel to this.)
    Another will be coming out in Dimension6 magazine in the spring of 2016.

    @ Carl – The Factory used to force its will on people. (See Dimension6 story) but has since learned not to.

    @ Carl, S Conroy – These stories ask the question: Can you survive immortality? I’d like to think I could live forever, but what would it truly be like? My grandmother, who just turned 100, says she’s ready to go, and accepts that she’s near the end. All her friends have already moved on, she says.

    Multiply that feeling times a hundred. A thousand. Would a youthful body be adequate trade for long-dead friends, lovers, species?

    @ Katherine – Thanks for the constructive feedback. I’ll get to those multiple rewrites straight away.

    Personally, I like to think this story satisfies our desire to be transported, at least for a few minutes – aka 1000 words – into another time/space. There are no new stories, right? But if a setting is intriguing, and there’s a hint of romance, and we don’t find out “it’s all a dream.” then I like to think I’ve done my job satisfactorily.

    @ Steven B. – Thank ya!

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