Published on 2011/10/16

To Be Human

Derek Robinson

I am the last true Human.

Earth is dying. Soon there will be nothing but ashes, and then even that will burn away. The Sun is slowly dying, changing into a red giant. Mercury and Venus have already been consumed by the expansion and only the straining containment field keeps the scorching heat from obliterating me.

Her legacy will live on though through the seed she's scattered throughout the universe. In the billions of years since Man first discovered space travel countless frontiers have been conquered, technologies have been advanced to the point of being indistinguishable from magic, and countless nations, empires, democracies and theocracies have risen and fallen. Whole planets were transformed to become habitable for Earth life until finally, there were no more that could be changed.

Humanity's insatiable lust to spread and survive could not be stopped though. When we couldn't transform the planets, we transformed ourselves. Genetic modification, selective breeding, and cybernetic enhancements were among the multitude of methods used to stretch the definition of human to its limits. Through many great tragedies - the Flood, the Black Plague, the Holocaust, Kurosawa's Unfortunate Mistake - humanity has learned that survival of life is of the utmost importance, even if it means becoming something beyond human. I think it's the ultimate irony that in order to save humanity, we must abandon it.

It's only by chance and rotten luck that I'm the last pure human left. When I did my third military tour in the Canes II galaxy, our ship crash landed on a planet that was in the seventh stage of the Gaertner terraforming process. The ship's crew consisted of 13 men, 9 women, and one android. 932 years later, a colony ship arrived to find the supposedly empty planet had a population of 602,130 humans, one very rusty android, and 2 platoons of frozen marines. When my third wife left me for a Centaurian ambassador, I decided that I'd take the 75,000 light-year journey to help start a colony in an uninhabited system in the Perseus arm of the galaxy - the arm of the galaxy farthest away from my ex.

Unfortunately, instead of finding an uninhabited system, we arrived to the third largest space port and pleasure planet in the galaxy. It seems that during our journey, faster than light travel was discovered. After 30,000 years, the paperwork holding our claim to the system was lost and authority to colonize the system was given to others. Many of my friends and loved ones settled down throughout the years. Others changed themselves, seeking advantage or monetary gain. Several of my old military buddies now have more animal genetic material than human. Carl had his eyes replaced with eagle eyes and Beal now has a chitin exoskeleton. Ja'el had his brain transferred to an android's body and performs Shakespeare for the King of the Siam Vega system.

It's been over 3 billion years since the day of my birth. I'm only a youngling though, turning 158 last year. Age is not a factor in my decision though. There's no more room in the universe for obsolete models like myself. The Earth has itself has become obsolete; with its atmosphere burned away by the encroaching red giant it can no longer sustain life.

Soon the sun will consume the Earth and humanity will be freed from the nostalgia of Old Earth. The containment fields are only rated to 8500 degrees Fahrenheit; I'm surprised they've held out this long. I hear the generators straining though. Soon, they'll collapse and I'll become ash. Humanity shall be freed from the past; only the future shall remain.

Derek Robinson lives in Northwest Arkansas. He wrote a short story in 3rd grade that received critical acclaim from his teacher Ms. Berry, after which he retired from the public eye to focus on other scholarly pursuits.