The lights glow through the darkness, green and red and flickering like stars shining in the night sky. It’s quiet inside but for the low hum of the machines and the distant rumble of the last generator on the roof, long abandoned and fuelled now only by the few undamaged solar cells taking in the final few rays of the setting sun.
Away from the building stretches a forest, dense and green and leafy with no end in sight. Elsewhere, the world is disturbed by the hooting of owls or the rustling of animals as they settle down into the undergrowth. Deer slip between tree trunks, darting through patches of moonlight to escape the prowling cats slipping along behind them. Wild dogs patrol the cities in gangs, howling up at the moon from the top floors of skyscrapers that tower above roads that have long since become rivers. The hum of human life has long been absent from this planet, the evidence that they were ever there slowly disintegrating as nature reclaims what is rightfully hers.
However here, with the final sputtering gasps of the generator as it produces its last sparks of power, the woods are silent. There is no chatter of birds sitting high in the trees, no gentle scuffling of a deer in the undergrowth or curious prowling of a big cat moving in for the kill. There are no rats darting and slinking through the roots of the trees that have grown where the driveway once led down to the road, no squirrels clambering along branches or cicadas singing in the dimming light. Instead it is quiet, the last breaths of the generator and soft whirring of the machines the only noises but for the rustle of the leaves in the gentle breeze.
The sky turns from orange to purple, the sun dipping beyond the horizon to allow the stars to emerge. The generator struggles, gasping and sputtering as it pushes out its last ounce of power. The fuel is long gone and the wind turbines rusted and still. Most of the solar panels now sit in permanent shade, the trees surrounding the building towering high with branches reaching out over the rooftop. The others are simply broken, cracked with heat and broken by falling boughs. For the past few days, the generator has been running on residual power alone, kept afloat in the past twelve hours simply by the sun poking through the treetops. Now, with this final source of energy dipped beyond the horizon, the generator stops. It will not start again.
Inside the facility, the noise whirrs to a halt. One by one the machines fall silent, the dim lights surrounding each of the coffin-sized boxes flickering off. The room plunges into darkness but for the soft glow of moonlight coming in through the high windows, illuminating the patches of damp growing over white-painted walls.
Disguised by the still purple blackness of the night, a boy stirs. His fingers twitch, his toes curling in the sudden cold. He sits up suddenly gasping, his hands gripping the sides of his box as the glass lid clatters to the floor and smashes into a million pieces. The darkened machines at his side are silent as he rips the wires and tubes from his skin and clambers from the box, falling onto the broken glass and cutting his hands. He blinks into the darkness, his eyes wide with fear. He feels the stinging pain of the cuts on his hands and knees, the beating of his heart against his ribs, the ache of his lungs as he takes his first struggling gasps of air. He is awake.