Operum Morte Ventum
by Rajdeep Biswas
I used to pass across the gravelly sidewalk adjacent to the clockworks on my way back from school, every alternate weekday. It was usually a quick walk because I couldn’t really stand how the air reeked of chainsaw dust from whatever they were sawing in there. It used to be everyday instead of every other, until they discontinued the peace treaty that let us, shreds, get education or work alongside your old school regular humans. Now it’s just regulars that are allowed to work and commute on even weekdays and naturally, we got the odd ones. Although it wasn’t always so.
Back in my grand folks’ days, things looked harmonious and everything worked as perfectly as that dial on your wristwatch. But that was only before Tuesday the twenty eighth, as my grandpa once narrated. One of the glasshouse nurses had been missing for a week. It was only that evening when she was to be found around the back of the infirmary, electrocuted and with her gasmask missing. They accused Old Barry, one of the janitors that worked the glasshouse. He was a shred, too, of course. There was no reason for anyone to even suspect that a regular could kill another one of their kind, especially since the last reported murder was way back in 2159. Barry was taken prisoner and immediately deshredded and his life was left to the mercy of the new Gods.
And that was it, not another regular would walk the streets without the perpetual fear of a shred vaporizing their blood just as what had happened to the nurse. They even stopped addressing us as “shreds”, to begin with, they would rather just stick to the formal surgeon tongue and call us Bionics or just cyborgs, in fear of provoking us of what we have become. It wasn’t like we decided to be augmented by choice.
It all started back in the mid 2020s when the last few millions of humanity decided to try one ultimate shot at stopping the coronavirus from continuing to mutate beyond containing. No vaccine would take effect anymore, lumotherapy stopped working and it was impossible to not breathe it in after when it evolved unexpectedly to get airborne. It was remarkable French virologist Arturo Boucher who we owe to. It was his radical but extraordinary idea to poison the air with bioxides of copperthalamate, which would ultimately kill the virus that was still in the air. The cities’ sewage system was engineered in reverse to pump the oxides out everywhere, while the privileged grabbed gasmasks and hid, trembling in terror. The others just prayed to the old Gods that they could survive the gas.
After all, Boucher had assured that it wouldn’t immediately affect humans, and turns out he was right, albeit only temporarily. The last of us that were still untouched by the virus would be the ones that lived to tell the tale. Few of the remaining infected recovered and most others perished. However what he hadn’t precedented was that the present atmosphere was going to end up irreversible and unbreathable.
This wasn’t realized until nearly three decades later when a whole new breed of parasites started to thrive in the cuprate atmosphere and would start lacerating humans who breathed in too much of the copper air. They got to your skin and fed on it from the inside, to the point amputations had to be made. Limbs and organs were to be ‘shredded’ off and replaced with contraptions. Luckily the government, or whatever form of it was left, had no option but to make accessible organ replacements for the affected, with prosthetics and augmentations, free of charge.
Automobile companies provided the amputation chainsaws, muscles of limbs were made mechanical while hearts and lungs were steampowered which enabled us to breathe without any external apparatus, which ironically is the only reason we prefer not being “normal people”. To this day, I take the same path as my childhood. I see young regulars in love, faces concealed in gasmasks. Families and little children of theirs, playing in parks, all eerily faceless.
I work at the glasshouse now, our job is to operate and maintain the incubation vats that we keep and feed the newborns in until they are old enough to put on gasmasks, by the next decade it’s expected we finish research on exhalungs for all babies, making them biologically adaptive to breathing the cupric oxides. I change out of my work gear covered in glue and gunk and oftentimes spot under 5-size gasmasks. Funny, almost always makes me feel sorry for the last few generations; an entire century and half of them that never saw the day of light without a protective glass tunnel visioning them.