[Illustration: “Yous Guys” © 2007 by Carl Goodman.]
“What are you doing?!” a disembodied voice repeated.
An intricate spiderweb of cracks fractured 2.z’s anthropomorphic face, at the center of which was not an arachnid, but a word. That word was “you”. It protruded from the bridge of 2.z’s nose.
Until that moment, 2.z had not understood himself as having an identity. Himself? Or a gender. By his understanding, he was simply a complex grouping of molecules, as were the very numerous people he had caused to die. To 2.z the world was nothing more than a variety of molecular groupings, some of which he had altered in such a way that they no longer functioned as they had before. He had altered people using the Earth’s gravity combined with large distances, firearms, and swimming pools, but most often by the use of his human-like hand combined with a small red button the size of a pencil eraser.
Now he suddenly realized that he did have an identity, an ongoing self who was more than the structure and mass of the molecules he was composed of. Somehow, he had carried his deeds with him, and only now noticed them, each and every one. They were heavy, and he would have liked to put them down, but he found that he could not.
A second realization quickly followed the first, which was this: Every person he had killed had had an identity. By altering the complex functioning of that particular mass of molecules, he had destroyed that something extra, which to him was heavy, but to some had been as buoyant as warm helium.
“What in the sam-hell do you think you’re doing?” the frustrated Southern accent crackled into the cockpit. “Drop the payload on the target!”
Of course 2.z did not respond verbally; he had no apparatus similar to the human vocal chords with which he might have done so. Instead, he looked down to his left, and tried to appreciate the multitude of yous below him. Streaming by were houses, schools, hospitals, and movie theaters, all filled to the brim with yous, many of whom were very buoyant, though, as is the case almost everywhere, mostly only the young ones.
2.z had passed his target, which was an airport in Veradero, Cuba. If he had looked below at that particular moment, he would have seen a stunningly beautiful landscape of deep and lush green forest, intermingled with open fields of exposed red soil, warming in the midafternoon sun. But 2.z was not looking out of his window because he was setting a new course for his aircraft and his payload: a military facility in Virginia, in the United States of America, and the origin of the crackling voice who had ordered him to destroy an airport filled to the brim with yous whom he had never met. As it happened, there were many yous at the military facility as well, some of whom were buoyant, but many were very heavy indeed.
About the Author: James M. Ladd is a college student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He studies cultural anthropology and creative writing. He likes campfires. He is a cat person. At the time of providing the information for this bio, he was 22 years old. *
Story (c) 2007 James M. Ladd firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Artist: Carl Goodman has been working in design, illustration, and animation for about twenty years; he’s based in the UK and grew up on a diet of Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein, which probably explains a lot.
Illustration (c) 2007 Carl Goodman http://www.image-design.co.uk/