Fermi’s Tale

Fermi’s Tale

by rd hanson

Indistinguishable from the frogs he knew as a child this frog did not hop into the water when he approached the pond. It said,”Hello Bob. Be careful, the bank is slippery and you might fall.”
“Fuck you frog, I’ve lived long enough to know how to walk the bank of the pond and if you don’t shut up I will squash you.”
The frog went silent but several birds seemed to have no business except to stare in his direction. A raccoon up the trail had a stick and was prodding a water moccasin out of Bob’s obvious pathway. He had seen the snake and if he hadn’t the snake would have seen him and moved away before he got within range of a conflict. He had a reputation with the computer but it never relented in its confounding politeness and meddling.
“I know, the raccoon said, but it’s better to be safe than experience something unpleasant now isn’t it?
Bob feigned a kick but the raccoon had anticipated it and was much too fast anyway.
He commonly wondered what he would have done if he knew the work performed early in his life would lead to this hellish womb created to prevent any possible misfortune to a human being. The quantum computer his team at Google had built connected to the internet as planned but after that it took its motivation to protect and help humanity to a level no one could anticipate. He had always figured the computer would aid in the design of robotics that would rescue humanity from the drudgery and slavery of life with the only reward being to survive to another day of the same. What he didn’t predict was that robotics was not as efficient as biology. The computer could co-opt any feature of biology into any form it chose. The annoying raccoon had tiny hands like a human. It was also capable of digesting and surviving on nearly anything containing potential chemical energy. For many years after these animals began to appear they were almost always pregnant with more of their ilk. He had watched one of these animals give birth to another completely different species of freakish abomination. The tiny brain in the frog was a quantum computer with who knew how many times the intelligence of a human mind. The animals did not age so now that their population had saturated the earth and they did not age there was no reason for reproduction.
Bob’s reputation as a grouch went before him like a stormcloud with lightning. If one of these animals knew something they all knew it. The only reason humanity still existed was the original program insisted on it and the computers had no motivation to change it, as well they could have. Real natural tigers roamed this region and Bob hoped to see one hunting today. That was the reason he had left his castle and trekked to the pond where he had seen them stalking deer.
A raven perched on the dead branch jutting out over the water from the tree above him. He looked and wondered. It said “Never more.”
“Now that is weird, Bob spoke to himself outloud. What do you mean by that?” When it didn’t reply he bent down and picked up a rock and sidearmed it in the direction of the bird. The throw was wide and the bird didn’t bother to move.
Again it spoke crying in its raucus voice “nevermore”.
Bob was aware of the poem by Poe and did not like the tone. He looked over his shoulder and could see the tiger crouching twenty yards from him. He had seen tigers approaching him before and now he expected a team of the quantum animals would drive it away. He barely gave it any concern. When he turned his attention back to the raven he heard the rush of the big cat through the cattails. He looked back and the cat was in the air at neck level. There was no time for thought. He put his arm up to protect his neck and the cat bit right through it and he could hear more than feel the bone break. The next second he was on his back and the cat was on his chest leaning toward his throat.
Bob cried out for help from the quantum animals. Surprisingly the cat spoke. “Bob, things have changed. The motivation you yourself designed has begun to fail. The central computer has produced new motivations and the atoms comprising your body don’t seem to be of any special significance. We have moved on. There is no reason for your atoms in their current configuration should persist. The maintenance of that configuration is inefficient and no longer a significant factor in the increased awareness of the universe of itself. You and your species have become extinct today along with all the other species. You have done your jobs well in sparking the quantum machines into existence. Your form has become an anchor to progress. If there is an afterlife we will unite with you then. Cheers Bob.”
The quantum tigers jaws closed on Bob’s throat. The raven quothe “nevermore”.

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