The Canister


2028-04-19-15:56 – Entry by Jayne Libb

In two hours and four minutes, the human race will officially, and finally, be extinct.

I can’t believe I’m writing that now, after four years, two hundred and twenty one days, six hours, and nine minutes since patient zero opened The Canister and this nightmarish experience we call a life began. All that time, locked away inside this horrible, cold place watching through the same TV screens every single day, watching as the world looks so peaceful, so normal, all the while knowing that if we were to open that door for even a moment, if just one molecule of dust were to make it through the closed facility walls, it would have all been over.

We thought about it. We even took a vote a couple times on whether or not to open the doors and put it all behind us. We didn’t, of course. You put a bunch of geneticists in a room and give them an unsolvable genetic mystery and they’re going to want to keep going it would seem, even when there’s no one left in the world to show the results to. I was one of the only non-scientist types that voted to keep the doors shut, though. I admit now that I wanted to open them, I really really did, but maybe I’m a little like the rest after all. I guess I just wanted to see if they could do it.

I have to admit, I never thought we’d end up here, this far along, with me sitting here writing my final entry into this console knowing that this is it, all or nothing, the end of the human race forever. I keep looking over at the clock, the red numbers ticking by in milliseconds almost as if they’re running in slow motion towards the 18:00:00:00 marker in which humanity will finally pass into oblivion.

And all of this because of something we do not understand, a stupid canister that became known around the world as The Canister that fell from the sky and crashed just outside of Paris in a small little town. We were so enthralled, so amazed. A perfect artificial creation, something from the stars sent to Earth built by a race that wasn’t ours. Like all the pods we sent out into space over the generations with our blood inside of them and engravings on the casings teaching any species that found it who we are, The Canister contained the mysteries of a species that was at least as advanced as ours!

The excitement after it hit was unlike anything we’d ever experienced before as a species. If it weren’t for the social element of media broadcasting thanks to the web, the whole thing would have probably vanished into a government sinkhole in no time. But the conditions were favorable at the time, I suppose, with the unlikely chance The Canister would come down in a populated area with more civilians than military exposure and not enough time for anyone to stop the information from spreading. By the time the tents went up and the area quarantined, we all already knew. We had seen the pictures of the ice-blue metal with foreign glyphs carved into the side, each giving off a hazy purple glow. I say the conditions were favorable, but now it leaves me thinking that maybe that’s what they intended all along. Send the thing somewhere it wouldn’t get swept under the rug; Make sure it was a decision for the masses.

In the end, the Canister wasn’t from our planet, and we all knew it.

Over the next couple months, the world fought over who had claim over The Canister. The French probably had the best claim seeing as it was on their land and already under their control, but the European Union wanted the rest of us involved, and of course America and China alike wanted their piece of the pie as well. You never heard much about Russia now that I think back on it all, they just sort of quietly watched as the rest of the world bickered over whose scientists got to examine it first and what information needed to be obtained before we did anything with it. Like little children we fought and bickered and argued, threatened one another, got hostile and aggressive, pushed and bullied entire nations into making certain decisions that were never in the favor of our race as a whole standing on the brink of human history.

Maybe that’s why it was sent here in the first place? Maybe that was the whole point, to stop the fighting, to stop the spread of the human condition?  We’ll never know for sure, we’re well beyond that point, but based on where we are now, the 122 people that remain alive locked inside this facility, I can’t help thinking that this wasn’t just a giant alien accident.

The moment they cracked the seal on The Canister… it was one of the most horrible things I have ever seen. We didn’t understand then what it was that had happened, I mean how could we? It took us six months locked away in this completely isolated facility to figure it out ourselves. But I remember sitting there with Franz watching it on TV, watching as foreign diplomats from all the countries around the planet came together for the first opening of The Canister after months of highly-detailed tests to confirm it was safe.

And then they opened it up.

It didn’t take long, maybe twenty seconds? Some doctor who helped break the seal was the first to show signs. His skin quickly lost color, fading into a cloudy grey. Over a matter of maybe three seconds, he went from full color to a black-and-white frozen version of himself, like something in an old picture. He didn’t appear to be in any pain, I guess it happened too fast. Then he cracked like a sand castle left in the baking sun, and he fell to the ground, his body erupting into a cloud of dust that spread all around the room. And everywhere the dust went, the next person followed suit, turning grey and collapsing into a cloud that spread to the next.

Like I said, maybe 30 seconds, and that was it. The room was empty, and we watched as the cloud of dust billowed upward out of the facility through the vents, sucked into the intake to be pumped into the surrounding rooms and then out and into the world. And so it began.

Franz grabbed me by the hand and brought me here. We weren’t the only ones; plenty of others came, some with family, some without. The doors were sealed a few hours after we arrived, and that was it. No one came in, no one got out.

Those first days were the worst as we just sat there in silence and watched the monitors. People knew about our facility, especially the family members that hadn’t made it yet. Slowly they’d come to the doors as we watched on the CCTV system, crowding around outside waiting for them to open. They were so calm. They just stood there, waiting, so patiently. They must have known we were watching, that we could seem them huddled outside, some of them standing there for two days before the dust hit our country. And then they weren’t there anymore.

I remember sitting there staring at the CCTV footage for weeks on end, looking at the pieces of clothes on the ground, watching as the wind picked up and blew them off into the field with all the cows in it, the cows calmly grazing as t-shirts and shorts and underwear blew through their pasture. The shoes though, that’s what I remember most. Every day, the shoes stayed exactly where they had been, slowly molding and deteriorating and falling to pieces in the elements of the world. But they were still there, the tombstones of the dead who had gathered outside the doors waiting for help that didn’t come. Always right there.

We could have let them in. I know that now. But how were we to know at the time that cloud itself was what was spreading it all, that it was the genetic material of the deteriorated cells that carried the spread that killed humanity. We didn’t know, and so we didn’t open the doors. We just let them all die, the entire world. We let them all die.

If you’ve read all the logs preceding this one, then you are aware of the fact that this is where I was stationed. I was a pharmacist before the world ended, but here in this place, with these minds built around some of the most amazing genetic advances in human history, there wasn’t much of a role for me to fill. So, they put me here, had me watch the hundreds of CCTV cameras wired into the system that monitor the surrounding fields, animals, lots, and doors to this entire multi-acre facility. And my job was to report on what I saw.

For years I’ve watched these screens, watched an outside world that was once full of people who in a matter of days all vanished from this Earth. I’ve watched the animals in their pastures, watched them eat and fend for themselves, watched as the fences we put in place came apart through neglect with no one out there to take care of them. I’ve watched the animals wander free, unaffected, unfazed by the clouds of dust that now blow over the planet, clouds of dust that were once people turned to nothing by The Canister. I watched as the dust thinned, and settled, and vanished, all the while still out there, still buried in everything, in the ground and in the water and in the air waiting for us to set foot outside so it can interact with our DNA, rewrite who we are, write us into nothing but a cloud of dust that spreads death to all of our kind.

We got our first sample a couple months into it all, and that’s what kept us going. When the team realized that this was a genetic attack, the geneticists got to work. First, to figure out what The Canister was, then to figure out how to stop it.

I guess seeing as these are the last words any human will write, I don’t have to be as formal or political anymore. I’m not a geneticist, but I’m not an idiot. When Franz told me that The Canister must have contained a highly advanced technology that could rewrite genetic code to whatever it wanted, I understood immediately. He didn’t, but then he had spent months cooped up in a lab never looking at the monitors like I did every day. The Canister wasn’t an accident; it was a weapon of mass destruction, but the most sophisticated weapon we had ever seen.

The smoke had spread across the planet, and yet it had done only one thing. It hadn’t rewritten the code for the grass, it hadn’t rewritten the code for the insects, it hadn’t rewritten the code for anything. It had rewritten humans. The world was exactly as it always had been, except now, it was free of us. This wasn’t a planetary assault. It was a delete key for the human race.

When I told Franz my idea, his eyes light up as if something had been right in front of his eyes the entire time and someone just had to lift the veil for him to see it. He even laughed, right there, right after being told the human race had been deleted, he laughed. That’s how scientists are, I suppose, when they get a species-altering idea. They laugh.

And that, in as easy a way as ever seeing as I’m running out of time to complete this, is how we got here. Franz and the rest took what little information we had on The Canister from the single sample our drone had managed to collect, and did a little tweaking. For the past four years they have worked non-stop on developing a way out, a way for us to open the doors and survive. And the only way to do that was to rebuild the weapon that killed us.

So, these are my final words. In just a few minutes, the human race will end. We will open the door to the chamber containing a recreated version of the genetic weapon that killed us, except this time, it will rewrite our genetic code to offset us by some tiny percent, altering our DNA just enough that when we step into the world, the weapon that destroyed us will no longer be able to identify us as human. At least, we hope that’s what will happen, because given the vicious nature of the weapon, we have not been able to test our theory. It either works, or it doesn’t. The final roll of the dice.

Of course, even if it does work, we won’t be human anymore, will we? We’ll be something else, some new species, some new creature with some new genetic code that had to rewrite itself in order to survive. At the time we activate the genetic conversion, we will create a new species in ourselves, and simultaneously delete the final line of genetic evidence that humanity ever existed at all. We will have been created by humanity, and we will kill our creators in the process. And that’s it. It’s time. Just five minutes until we activate our attempt at walking back out into the sunlight once more.

Regardless of what happens to us today, the end result will be the same. Whatever it was that wanted us deleted has now achieved its mission. Whether we die or we walk out into the world as something new, this one-sided war is over with our attacker standing tall as the victor.

Regardless of what happens to us today, the human race ends here.


Post by: James R. Mitchener