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.