h.e.l. // epilogue

My name is Limper, or at least, that’s what the rest of the transhumans call me. Maybe I should say that’s what the rest of my kind calls me.

I remember lying down, and feeling so goddamn peaceful about everything when the transhumans loomed over me. I remember finally anticipating what my newfound contentment would feel like.
At first, it was painful as hell. I felt poking frigid fingers everywhere. They drove wires and microscopic rods into my arms, through my fingernails, separating the nail from the bed with a sickening wet sound. One of them shoved a piece of rubber in my mouth to keep me from swallowing my own tongue. Jesus, I screamed like a banshee. I think I lost consciousness when they started to slit my legs open to clean away the rotting tissue and to force my bones straight. The stuck some electronic metal in there, too, I think. There was goopy, rank, and yellow-red pus splotching on the floor as they squished and squelched around in my body.

They cracked my sternum and wrenched my chest open. My eyes remained open and I just gazed up at the ceiling, eyes glossy. They replaced my heart with something mechanical and stored most of my organs in pans, ready for donation, most likely to some bastard eating too much butter. It was really quite poignant, if you thought about it. But not more poignant than I realized when I woke up in the cave.

I awoke to a familiar dark ambiance, and to familiar high, uneven, stalactites. My body had sunk into a very comfortable wool cover on the cot that I had once slept in. And around me, the transhumans. I squinted closer at each of their faces. These were all faces I knew, once.

My brother. My friends. My kids. My uncle. My aunt. My grandmother. One of my high school classmates. I knew these faces. The transhumans—they never wasted anything. They killed humans, and recycled them into something greater.
All my friends and I had joined something better than humanity. We joined the human extinction league.

h.e.l. // metamorphosis

Why did you come back to the hospital?
No answer. He lowers his head and doesn’t keep eye contact with us. He is not afraid; just anxious.
You ran from the hospital and now you’ve come back. Why?
“I don’t know,” says Limper. He stiffly moves his upper body, careful not to move his legs.
What happened to your legs? They’re rotting from the inside. You were nearly healed by the time you had run away.
Still no clear answers. One of us grabs ahold of his right kneecap and wrenches his leg out of his socket. Limper shrieks out like a dying pig. “Goddamn it!”
Why did you come back?
He blinks to squeeze out two tears and spit sprays from his tongue as he snarls at us. “Because I’m not a goddamn idiot. I know you were going to kill me. It was what you had planned the entire time.”
We glanced at one another and then back to him. He wasn’t wrong. Yes, we were going to kill you. Humans always talk. Humanity is not ready to fathom the existence of transhumans.
“I would’ve kept your secret. I could’ve lived the rest of my life in that cave,” says Limper, swiping his arm across his crumbed and stained beard.
We have to tighten every muscle in our bodies to stifle a chuckle. We’ve heard it all. Humans all think in some kind of collective mindset. They aren’t loyal or trustworthy to anyone. Or anything. Unless it reeks and it’s green, don’t you know?
Limper clenches his jaw and brushes a clump of hair from the back of his neck. “I came back because it was the only place I could go. The hospital is better than any place in this world.”
It was the best place you could go? The surgeons are murdering patients for their organs—this is the best place?
“It’s the best place, trust me.” He moves the sheets from beneath him and we wince at the overpowering smell of pus radiating from his legs. “The city isn’t safe. The air isn’t clean. People are hacked to pieces in alleyways for their money. The food is disgusting.”
The hospital isn’t going to be any better, either. You’re going to die here and go to waste.
“Oh, believe me, the hospital is as good as it gets. They got pills and shit. It’ll be less of a mess when I do myself in.”
What a waste. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, though. We know humans are incredibly wasteful.
He continues, “You see, I came back to tell someone about—the cave— but when the doctors called the psych ward I knew there was no point. The human era is over.”
Indeed it is. We can’t help but scrutinize his legs, wondering how to clean them up. He catches our line of sight, as if he suddenly realizes all the questions we are asking him.
“Yeah, I broke my legs so I could be admitted to the hospital for a longer time. I had friends who bit themselves, broke their ribs, swallowed bleach, burnt themselves, you know, the whole nine yards,” says Limper.
Well. You’re not walking out of here alive, you’re aware?
He sighs, lies down, and laces his knobby, hairy hands together. “I know.”
He would die, yes, as a human.

h.e.l. // city animals

Limper is a smart little human monkey. But we know he’s no übermensch. He is not on our level, yet. Luckily, we have infiltrated the majority of his city and we have received messages that he has returned to the hospital for some reason. He has checked into the urgent care department.

We figure he somehow found a way to contact someone in the city to arrange a search-and-rescue and one of our own may have caught him in the act. So, like a savage, he must’ve used brute strength to tear the limbs off and to crush its chest. We would have to repair it later. For now, we hurdle towards the city, in a frenzy, hoping he hasn’t told anyone of our existence. He won’t get far, though.

City. Oil stains, darken the sidewalks. Cigarette butts pile up in corners. Stickers, papers, and whatnot plaster the ground. Thick, rank air. The smell of garbage permeates. At least there are more electric cars parked on each side of road this time around. Most of the city is homogenous: there are lights dotting each street, flickering sometimes, mindless nightlife. There are solar panels scattered on almost every roof. Cars zoom to and fro, with human passengers giggling and horse-playing in the backseat. The car seems to creak with every bump and crack in the road as its rotund passengers heave up and down. There’s hardly anyone walking around nowadays. We don’t pay too much attention to this.

We scurry our way through those city bridges, with the stink of the river oozing up. It’s utterly diluted with shit and oil and trash. We would take care of that, later.  Fast food restaurants and dispensaries litter every street front and corner. Instant meals, everywhere. Candy bars boasting essential nutrients and calories for the day. Sodas and sugary juices. There’s also a water fountain, here and there, rusted and brown. There are TVs everywhere, providing a harsh luminescence to the streets. It’s all reality television and porn.

The hospital isn’t hard to locate. It is glossy, pristine, white, bright, and has a plastic sheen. The inside is marked with green tile, machines, IVs, touchscreen doctors, and whatnot. Worried relatives and friends rock back and forth in the lobby, next to the emergency room and urgent care areas. Nobody looks up as we slip past the reception desk without making eye contact to the computer, which is expecting us to sign in with a fingerprint. Slithering past the keycard security doors to the urgent care department is not difficult; the door simply cannot read what we are made of and clicks open. We change into the standard grey scrubs to embed ourselves in the background.

Limper was not lying. What we saw was a travesty to humankind; for any kind, really. Patients lie in hospital beds, swiping and tapping at tablet computers, and diagnosing themselves with inane questions: “How do you feel?”, “Which part of your body hurts? Circle.”, “Do you have a fever?”, “Are you suicidal? If so, please donate organs and limbs.”, “Are you bleeding? Attempt to pressure wounded area.”.

There are a few patients talking to human doctors. There is one signing papers for surgery and organ donations, knuckles white, as if there is some kind of silent blackmail agreement between her and the surgeon. The anesthesiologist keeps squeezing the gas mask, nails ticking densely. Sharp-sounding mutters perforate the air. A surgeon signs the patient’s form and hauls her away into the operating rooms. She howls like a banshee. We figure the surgeon must’ve forced her to agree to a standard viable organ and limb donation. It isn’t too surprising, with all the diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It surely would control the population a little. Other patients look on, and pull their curtains shut. She would be an empty hull soon. A disembodied torso.

Just then, we hear the clatter of metal utensils and a man shouting and growling out obscenities back through the hallway to the operating rooms and prep rooms.

“Please, wait. Wait! Don’t put me under, yet. You have to listen to me, Doctor Hou.”

There he is, sitting up in a gurney in a prep room, in a hospital gown. His legs are contorted in grotesque directions. Limper latches his fingers into Dr. Hou’s arm, voice close to tears.

“Please, lie down and relax. We need to operate on your legs. They’ve developed gangrene tissue,” says Dr. Hou, unfazed and cold. He wraps his hand around Limper’s wrist and sets it down and motions for the anesthesiologist. He catches sight of us, standing in the corner of the preparation room. “About time you got here. Psych department is so damned slow, Christ.”

Limper hasn’t noticed us in the room until now. He recognizes us instantly and begins to weep quietly. He doesn’t bother shrieking. We cart him into another room, switch on the sickly light, and lock the door. He has much to explain.

h.e.l. // put them all down

It’s been about two weeks since we found Limper near death at the front door of our home. Our specially made diet works like an elixir on him. His lanugo hair is gone and has been replaced by a smattering of a dark beard. The ligaments and bones in his ankle are better, but he still won’t be able to sprint for a while. He’s been up and about with us, though. We sit around the fire every night and he tells us about the humans. We have a bit of a rapport with Limper, now. But it won’t last long, because inevitably, he will try to tell his kind about us. He’ll tell them of transhuman existence and all hell would break loose. We would have to—take care of him—discreetly.

“A lot of the money is in oil and coal. And in all the clean water,” said Limper, growing fond of drinking his meals now.

What do you mean clean water? There’s no clean water for everyone?

He frowned, and scoffed. “No, there’s no clean water for everyone. What do you think this is? Shangri-La?”

So who has the clean water?

“Big corporations. Old money, whatever.” He holds his hands out to the fire for warmth, and inhales his human scent off his forearm hairs. “The really rich people get to drink clean water. The rest of us, well, I don’t really know what the hell we’re drinking. Sometimes the water is yellow or brownish. I put it through a filter and throw some iodine in there. Drink up all the bugs in there and everything.”

What if the water is unsafe to drink?

“Not ‘if’ it’s unsafe to drink. That water is definitely not safe to drink. But hey, it’s natural selection, isn’t it? There’s already too many people to care for on this planet.” He finishes his meal and hugs his knees to his face. “Sometimes they stop the water.”

So how do you survive?

“A lot just die of dehydration. We’ve just become hostages to the corporations. Or whoever has the water. Or they get massively obese.” Limper chuckles wryly. “All the food available to the majority of us is just this greasy shit.”

Like what? Humans eat a lot of French fries, don’t they? Something like that?

“Yeah, something like that,” said Limper, standing up, “it’s a lot of hamburgers. Only, it’s not meat. It’s like eating goddamn cardboard.” He yawns and disappears into the cave.

Limper has been an invaluable fountain of information, especially when he goes off on his rants and blithers on. He really has been a great help. Now we knew much of the extent to which humans have destroyed the planet. And to what extent they are suffering for it. Perhaps the league has to make its debut earlier.

Some of us made our way through the dark to the back of the cave, where Limper usually slumbers. It would be painless, for him, because of how helpful he has been. Syringe in hand, we kneeled down next to the cot he usually takes.

Humans are easy to put down. Even easier to murder. But we won’t murder him; we will kill him gently, like catching a feather and setting it down. He would not be the first human we had to put down. Most of them we had to kill quite early because of their incessant threats and screaming. They would always try to contact someone about our existence. So, we put them all down.

We lift the wool blanket, and the cot is empty. Still dented with the faint outline of his body. Deeper into the cave, into the pitch black, unlit by anything, we hear a barely audible buzzing and whirring. The end is lit by a white blue light, blinking erratically.

By then we know what that means. A pitter patter of our footsteps bounces off the walls. One of our own lies on the ground, neck distended and bruised. The flashing light emits an electronic sound from the socket of its arm, which has been ripped off its body. The little twerp has escaped.

h.e.l. // limper, new pet

Unpurified spring water gurgles down his throat. His eyes are glassy and bloodshot. Every blink squeaks loudly, and we cringe because we can only imagine the pain. Our heads, poke together, like a flower, block the bright sleep-inducing sun. Index fingers jab into the attachment of his shoulder and body, torso, and lanugo cheeks.

He tries to keep his eyes wide, fearful, but he is so exhausted that his eyelids insist on rolling down. We all silently agree to let him drift into whatever oblivion he is teetering towards. Then we drag him into the cave, arms above his head, leaving a snaking trail in the sand.

We lay our softest buffalo hide on the floor and cover him with wool. Then we remember that humans need to sustain themselves on around 3000 calories nowadays; the lot of them are bursting like sausages. But Limper is gaunt and bony, like he had started out at a smaller size than most humans now. He is about 5’8 and 110 pounds now. Perhaps he once was seventy pounds heavier. We feed him as best we can: a ground up paste of everything he needed. Nothing indulgent and nothing disgusting. Simply insipid.

At nightfall, the incandescent orange flames catch delicate loops of light on Limper’s lanugo. His mouth creaks open, fire hopping in his dark, oily eyes. He groans and tears squeeze out of his eyes. Soft whimpering. His eyes acknowledge ours, and they don’t fill with panic, but with a primal look of gratitude and indebtedness. He scrunches the hide as he attempts to hold his weight on his elbows. He knows immediately that, though we look like them, we are not human, but he doesn’t panic.

Limper begins to utter something, croaking like a toad. “W-what are you?”

We tilt our heads, almost surprised at the fullness of his voice. He was nearly dead yesterday.

He beckons us with his grinding jaw, curious as ever. “Where am I?”

We are the human extinction league. We are transhumans. We found you yesterday, starving over here in the mountains. You’re in our house now.

Limper notices that he is in the cave, as he peers up at the ceiling, pushing up at the sky. Twisting his legs, he realizes that he has broken his ankle and some of the surrounding wounds are festering. The smell alone is wilting the little weeds, growing from the cave walls. “I came from the city. Walked twenty goddamn miles.”

What were you running from?

He decides to overlook the fact that we are communicating to his mind, acknowledging our superiority over humans. He says, “I wasn’t running from anything, per se. I was running to find a human doctor.”

A human doctor?

“Yes, a human doctor,” said Limper, reaching for a spoonful of grey paste we’d set out for him, “a human doctor. They’re so hard to find now. They’re all for the rich. Th-the hospital is automated, you know?”

Several of us sit down, and gather in a semi-circle around him. It suddenly feels like campfire story night. Limper continues, “It’s all just a jumble of goddamn machines, now. They just check your pulse, scan your eyeballs, and shoot light through your ears, and then you’re off. Didn’t take long for me to notice that my hair was falling out in clumps and I was sick.”

You had choice but to run.

“I had no choice.” He scowls and clenches his jaw, as if he is about to burst with a deluge of confessions. “So I ran twenty miles, stuck out here in the mountains, delirious and out of my mind. It was too dangerous back in the city. Everything is automated. Every goddamn thing is automated. We let any old money-grubbing bastard crawl into the government and we just sit on our asses and watch our screens. We let them automate our bodies, our minds, our lives.”

Limper drops into a bit of a catatonic state, with glazed expression hanging on his face. Human are much too theatrical, we think. They swirl in emotional states too much and it makes them unpredictable. Dangerous, even.

We let him rest, tonight. But he is a sponge, meant to be wrung and strangled for information. He knows what his kind has done to the planet. He knows.

h.e.l. // present day

Our cave, what we call home, lies at the foot of a great big mountain, dry and secluded for miles. Anyone who’s out here is surely a straggler. We rarely see any humans out here, much less interact with them. In fact, we have never directly interacted with any humans. There once was a John Acosta, a camper, rescued near our cave. There was also a group of hikers that got lost for five days. That was it.

Although we reside in the cave in our natural state, away from humans, we do send some of our own into their society to observe how they live and what their plans are. Unsurprisingly, humans are stagnant in their progress. They stay mired in conference room turmoil over money and who holds the authority while the dirty air pervades their cities and towns and the water runs grey.

We sustain ourselves by hunting coyotes and whatever else comes out. We like insects; they are often overlooked as food but they are an excellent source of protein. Our diet is about 300 calories a day because our bodies have adapted to lower amounts of energy usage and are über efficient. The biotechnological enhancements account for the rest of our energy. We run on batteries and charge ourselves every month or so.

Life is slow, today. We sit in various circles and globs, at the mouth of the cave, basking in the sunlight, harvesting solar energy to use later. It’s a beautiful day. Hardly any breeze. Pristine, crisp blue skies and atmosphere. The sun beats warmer and warmer with every minute. We don’t bother to keep track of time nowadays; we just watch the sun. We watch the bushes and the weed and the flowers twitch a little. And then we see him.

Tattered stark white gown stained with grease, dirt, spittle, and some urine. He drags his leg around in a heavy limp, pulling himself into sight with clumsy grasps of the bushes lining their way to the mouth of the cave. The man looks haggard, like he had been in the mountains for a week or so. His hair flops against his forehead, heavy with oil. His face stays frozen in a grimace, clearly a human expression of pain. His lips are chapped, bleeding from dehydration. He’s seen us by now.

We shift uneasily at the opening of the cave, exchanging glances at each other. We silently decide the same thing: he knows we aren’t part of his society.

We might be different from the humans, but we certainly aren’t cruel. The man is dying. We dispatch some of our own to carry him into the cave. Limper, that’s his name.

h.e.l. // prologue

We live on the outskirts of town, in a cave, away from the majority of humanity. You see, when our grandparents were kids, they had an inkling that the coal, the natural gas, and the oil couldn’t hold up for too much longer. So, they hid their existence from the humans; the discovery of transhumans in their midst would be devastating for all of us. Violence would be our only form of communication. So, we are in hiding. They know that there are things greater than them but choose to ignore them.

The humans had started some business about pollution in our grandparents’ lifetime. They had begun to sell carbon emissions and there were trivial little talks about climate change and how the humans would start to change the way they lived. But it was all for display, quite obviously. They would sit around in suits, around a big wooden table, gesturing wildly, as if it would mask the inevitable failure of the humans. They would wait until all their resources had been exhausted and the public had devolved into anarchy. Then they would start to scramble.

At this time, we would peek out from the cave, and watch them. The stray humans that wandered out into the mountains at the mouth of the cave would often starve to death, and we would pick at their remains. They weren’t delicious, but our hunger said otherwise.

They were wasteful, the humans. They used their water supply so carelessly. They let the frogs, the monkeys, the birds, the fish, all of it, die. They crawled around and clawed at each other for these smelly, green sheets of paper, all the while in denial of the fact that their winters had grown unbearably warm. The rain that collected in the drains and hit their eyeballs stung. Then, frantically, they erected wind turbines and solar panels. Suddenly, all the aesthetics didn’t matter. We snickered at them as they squirmed.

They were so passive about everything. Politics, energy, climate, environment, coal, you name it. The humans readily sat on their hands and waited for things to fix themselves. They only started to worry when the gas prices shot up and no one went in to work. Electricity became a luxury and they began to live backwards, huddled together in communal housing, around oil drum fires, reading books, illuminated unevenly by oil lamps, eating uniform food bars with daily proteins, fat, and nutrients, trudging on day by day.

We are the human extinction league. They deserved everything coming to them.