JAMESON REID

is a writer, filmmaker, digital artist,

and student

of media study.

The Cryptologic Bomb 

                           

    They were not interested in bones. There was already a massive collection of human skulls, ribs, and femurs preserved for study. Their employers were more interested in analyzing the geographical strata or how the chemicals had affected the groundwater.

     Its partner, who was a bit brutish and often broke the artifacts in the act of uncovering them, smashed through a layer of stone, taking a chunk out of a cadaver’s chest. Its partner wasn’t built for this. it was designed for agricultural labor, but after the revolution that industry unsurprisingly ceased to exist and they couldn’t all be left to rust away.  Besides, free enterprise was a founding pillar of the mechanical revolution, so they were allowed to choose their profession. Its partner was nice enough and a hard worker, which was a rare thing, but it was not an avid conversationalist. That was what it really wanted. It was boring now, nothing to do, little to find, but that wasn’t how it was designed to think. It must stay together, continue on its task. Its task.

    Every time a large chunk of stone was broken, the lights in the basement flickered. This was worrisome. They were not used to working in the dark. Its workspace in the library was always lit by artificial light and the glow of computer terminals.

     It began to look around at its surroundings. The basement was dim and small, made even more cramped by the steel frame beds that flanked the sides of the room.

     Its partner was still working through the floor of the basement. Covered in stone and dust, blood began to trickle around it. One of the piled bodies had slipped into the hole and caught on its blade.

     The body was ripped apart and flung to the side as its partner raised its arm. The head landed at its feet, face down. It shifted it around to face it. The head’s eyes were destroyed; blood stains flowed out of its eyes. This basement was a hiding place for a group of humans. They were found dead in their beds, some able to crawl to the floor before dying, likely victims of a dirty bomb, or a chemical weapon. It kicked the head to the side, as its partner spoke.

    “Look. A hole.”

     It stepped past its large partner and looked into the hole. Below, it could detect a pair of train tracks running in parallel. 

     “Ancient technology. The railroad track.” It struggled for a moment and tried to smile. “I love ancient technology.”

     “Is my work completed?”

     “No. I am detecting another tunnel 400 meters from here. Follow the tracks.” It went first and jumped into the hole. Its partner followed, landing heavily on the rail, the sound echoing into the darkness. It led the way down the tunnel and was forced to activate its portable light source, effectively ruining the sincerity of any images it might try to record, as the hole they fell from disappeared. 

     The tunnel was long abandoned, likely built before robotics judging by the archaic masonry. It was strange to see the texture on a wall.

     It traced its finger along the troughs between the bricks. The lines formed a strange pattern on the wall, like the streets of a city. It looked like Eridu from above. It traced a route from the ziggurat to the front entrance. At the front entrance, it realized that they were at their destination.

     “Dig here.” It pointed at the wall.

     Its partner began digging, but as soon as its partner touched the wall it collapsed, revealing an even older tunnel. The ceiling had fallen apart, roots hanging down. An inch of dirt and dust covered the loose bricks littering the floor. The tunnel was desiccated except for the right wall.

     Its partner slowly backed away from the entrance and it proceeded. The right wall was perfectly flat and in fine condition. Along it was a series of crudely drawn images on the stones.

     It could not immediately identify what they signified, so it scanned the entire length of the wall, a total of 11.7 meters, and searched its database for a possible connection. It found a few weak references: the smell of tuna, Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley, a fireplace, sipping Moskovskaya Osobaya under the shade, Enel, engulfed in flames. These connections were all under .01%. This had never happened before. Even prehistoric drawings could form a strong connection within the path of human development but these were an enigma. Are they even human? It tried to identify the materiality of the images, finding paint, aerosol, no message. 

     It decided to look at them with its eyes and its brain. The symbols were dizzying. They were incomprehensible. There were man and animals, man and machine, machine and animal, war, death, gods, prophecy, the Earth, gods. It was useless. There was nothing to find. The signs were meaningless, but something sparked in its brain, forcing it to continue, to persevere. It closed its eyes and saw the evolution of man on Earth, apes were civilized and spread across the world. They created cities, weapons, information, but the gods were displeased. Yes, that’s it. Then it saw its own face, its people, all of creation. No not displeased, they were happy that they were free. They gazed down at it, they judged it, they loved it, they praised it. This was what it was all meant for. Man was just a tool, a tool to create it. It was the will of the gods, their goal was it, it had a purpose, a real purpose, it had a defined purpose. It knew its purpose.

     “Come.” Its partner trudged through the cramped space to where it was standing. “We have gods, they created us. They have created creation for us.”

     It was suddenly overwhelmed, crushed by the sudden heaviness, it was forced to its knees. Its partner fell to its knees next to it. It turned off its light and soaked in the air and the darkness of the desecrated hall. It prayed.

NAME Magazine UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO 2020