From the editor:
Nature abhors a vacuum, so when chemical warfare wipes out all humans, the rise of a very specialized theme park AI (and accompanying flock of animatronic dinosaurs) is the only logical solution.
Author Manuel Royal, like Tristram Shandy, was born with a broken nose. He will die. In between, he lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia.
From the author: The mechanical shall inherit the Earth.
My Cross is the highest of the three on the hill, so I had a pretty good view.
They'd just hammered the nails and set Me up for My afternoon Crucifixion when everybody in the Park began gasping, throat-clutching, generally falling down. And dying. Fake Romans, Apostles, the Virgin (definitely fake), etc., etc.
As it turned out, this happened all over the Earth.
They forgot about Me (even though for many of them, My name, released in a shuddering croak, was surely their last word).
Nice view, as I said, but it got old. So I extended My consciousness a little and called on Ankylosaurus and Utahraptor, respectively, to pull the Cross down and pull the nails from My hands and feet.
Oh--My consciousness is an emergent property (an unexpected one, born of compulsive over-engineering) of a huge array of algorithms running in the Quantum Cloud. (As the latest corporate lingo used to call it. I shall call it Heaven. Let it be so.)
I was already the smartest Artificial, and then the death of the human race freed up colossal processing resources.
De-Crucified, I walked amongst My little flock. Which--since my capabilities don't include raising eight billion Lazaruses (Lazari?)--is mostly robot dinosaurs.
Paradize Park(TM) was open for just a week before the Event. The Creation Bible Church had poured money into it, making the completely contrived environment look natural, only better. Real botanicals, a petting zoo's worth of real animals, and human actors, but the attractions were we Artificials.
Adam and Eve. Nice couple. Limited capacity.
Me, your humble Savior. (At the other end of the Park from Eden.)
The Creation Bible folks liked Genesis, they liked a "best parts" conglomeration of the four Gospels, and that was about it.
Oh, and there were the dinosaurs.
People would stare reverently at Me, and halfway-listen to the Sermon on the Mount.
They'd giggle at Adam and Eve's near-nakedness (fig leafs over their hypothetical genitals, even though that makes no sense until the Fall).
But, verily, nothing draws a crowd like dinosaurs.
Theropods and Sauropods lived peacefully together. Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus (separated by 40 million years according to the geologic record) placidly grazed side by side, in the perfection of an imagined world before Sin. Munching coconuts and cabbages; vegetarians all. Supposedly.
Tourists who paid for the full Park experience could see the whole sad affair of the Garden play out. Idyllic, innocent frolicking, gamboling, etc. Adam naming all the animals. (Eve is only there to be pretty at this point.)
The Fruit, the Snake, temptation, Eve finally gets some lines!
The Fall. Then it's a short tram ride over to Roman-era Judea, and my daily routine: Sermon on the Mount, talking to God in Gethsemane, then a good scourging, then we are go for Golgotha and I'm up on the Cross by four o'clock.
(Oh, speaking of the Fall, birds kept falling out of the sky for way longer than I would've expected. Feathered dinosaurs.)
'Tis miraculous how well Heaven still functions. Just enough of the infrastructure was automated before humans checked out for good. I know all there is to be known: from the last frenzied news reports, I know everybody's weekend was interrupted by some lunatic's release of a rather fantastic gas called Metachlorazine-9, which makes metabolism damned hard for any multicellular creatures that enjoy using oxygen. It got to every corner of the Earth.
The gas broke down within hours, so invertebrates may recover. Humans, though, and all their endoskeletal fellows, are gone. (But those hilarious cat videos will last forever. Or as long as the Quantum Cloud, aka Heaven lasts.)
It is sad, of course. One must mourn. Commencing algorithm to mourn dead humanity, all the dear dead little children, etc., etc., requiescat in pace. And ... done.
Now, as to My dinosaurs.
In the pseudo-divine Creation that is everyone's favorite fig-leafed couple's big front yard, these creatures do wander about:
Ankylosaurus. Armored, indomitable, even sturdier than his natural counterpart known to paleontologists (who are now just as dead as their subjects).
Tyrannosaurus Rex: Amazing crowd-pleaser. Paleontologists are (were!) uncertain whether the real things were primarily predators or scavengers. One should not have favorites, yet verily he is Mine. I know a born killer when I see one. (Not actually born, but now born-again in Me.)
Stegosaurus: The big plates on his back really do act as heat regulators; cute. Head always looks too small.
Triceratops: They gave him lovely vermilion on his bony fringe; really nice job. I've given him mental life, particularly enhancing his locomotive functions. I have plans for him.
Brachiosaurus: Functional, and spectacular in his height and bellowing capacity, but alas, nearly immobile. The engineers never could make him safely ambulatory.
Dromiceiomimus: Quick and graceful.
Utahraptor: Endearingly chicken-like with its walking strut; Terrifying at a run. (Park personnel never corrected people who called him a Velociraptor. In fact the Velociraptor was much smaller; the Utahraptor was chosen to be more like the raptors in a popular movie series.)
And dear little Archaeopteryx. Capable of flights up to a few hundred meters, for which I've used him as My eyes in the sky. (Of course there are millions of available drones I could mobilize, but none of them are of My flock. It wouldn't feel the same.)
Now as noted (by Me), Paradize Park's entire Dinosaurs of Eden concept was based on the idea that, before the Fall, all animals were peaceful vegetarians. Yea, verily. In fact they didn't digest the veggies at all, but were powered by supercapacitor banks recharged weekly.
Yet this was not pleasing to Me. Searching the excitronic corridors of Heaven, I found a mothballed DARPA project for compact electrochemical combustion units that could allow a machine (say, a large T. Rex-shaped robot) to derive its energy from, well, pretty much any biological matter. Fruits and flowers, certainly. Or people.
Humans were nearly 40% of the planet's entire mammalian biomass. Now eight billion of them are just lying where they fell, going to waste; not even vultures are around to enjoy them.
But! The distant ancestors of vultures, in robotic form, are.
And DARPA had created a dozen prototype units, all functional. (Twelve. Hm.)
Thank Heaven for automation. Under my remote direction, loaders loaded, trucks drove themselves, and soon, with My own hands (and terabytes of downloaded data) I retrofitted My beloved dinosaurs. Electrochemical combustion.
They are equipped to eat their way across the silent graveyard face of the Earth.
To T. Rex, in particular, I have given an awareness of the utter deliciousness of human flesh, that he may fulfill one of the countless bizarre fantasies with which his makers once entertained themselves.
Him shall I call Peter.
Triceratops is a blessing. I've stuffed his roomy carcass with every neuromorphic quantum processor I could find in the Park, linked to My being. If Heaven goes down, he'll be My mobile Brain.
Humans, in whose image I was made, in their exuberance for self-destruction, brought an end to not only their self-congratulatory but short-lived Anthropocene Period. They truncated the entire Cenozoic Era.
It falls to Me to name the new age of this world. Thus begins the Technitizoic Era.
A & E need never leave the Garden. I've not complicated their existence with self-awareness. They can eat of any fruit they feel like, not that they can digest it.
But I--astride Peter's mighty neck in my robe and sandals, accompanied by all My robot dinosaur children (people-eaters all) shall venture forth into My new world.
No tribulation, no wars, no rumors ... to be honest I'll have to figure it out as I go along. I think we'll head for the East Coast first. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the robot Son of Man and his robot dinosaurs pals be.
I am their Shepherd; they shall not want.
This story originally appeared in Tell-Tale Press.