It was the twelfth day of the war

I was in a warehouse, somewhere in the docks. Earlier I saw groups of people running and shouting in that direction. They were angry men, forced to witness the horrors of the last eleven days. I overheard the leader of this group say that weapons had been found in one of the warehouses and that military personnel were trying to organize a resistance. There were more there than I had expected. I saw a couple of hundred people, mostly men all fit and tough. I realized straight off that there was something homogeneous about them. They reminded me of a targeted focus group or maybe members of the same gym or football team. I had a sense of what was going to happen, a brief glimpse of the future's perversity. The soldier who looked me over wasted no time, right there he gave me some kind of automatic rifle. Not one of the new fancy self targeting types, they were part of the enemy's arsenal now, no matter whose hands they were in. It looked like one of the new Kalashnikovs, pretty advanced but far inferior to the auto-weapons. He was abrupt, spending a few minutes showing me the basics of loading, aiming and firing.

I listened to the shouts and overheard snatches of hurried conversation. This was not the resistance. After all we had witnessed survival did not seem possible. All these people wanted was to go down fighting, not screaming and begging like the rest. When I was sitting, avoiding groups or individuals desperate to cling to some stranger with words, I could see the officers debating about what they could do. Then I heard the drum of something banging at the warehouse doors. At first it was soft and I was the first to know that the doors electronic were being interfered with. I stood, readied my weapon and marched forwards. Sadly I was never meant to be a soldier and my attempts to even ready the gun were fruitless. Nevertheless I kept walking, death at this point was welcome. The doors opened and behind me I heard the shouts of alarm. Of all things I was embarrassed. It never occurred to me to warn the others.

I was looking out over the seafront and coming through the door were ten or more once human things. They were riding bicycles that had glowing green bags of liquid strapped to them. The modification of the people was impressive. Their heads had been severed, then reattached using that new medical material used to re-attach amputated limbs. Whatever was behind all this had kept them alive, but not in control of their own bodies. I had seen on T.V. experiments where amputees allowed the processors embedded in the material to control their limbs by remote. I guess that was happening now, a platoon of the dead kept alive, moaning in horror even though the collar around their heads distorted their faces into a sickening grin. I walked right into them expecting death, but they rolled on by.

As I walked into the night air I heard gunfire and screams and the pops as those green gel sacs exploded. I looked back and realized the gel was some kind of tissue solvent, the men were covered in it and quickly the flesh melted from the bones and soon the gunfire slowed til it was silent. I knew there was some common thread uniting those men, logged onto the same football site maybe, or just the same nightclub. I was the odd one out; I did not do sports or go out much. Whatever targeted class I was, tonight was not my time, but they would come for me. I wondered though, how close to the last I was going to be?

I headed south, away from the estuary along the outskirts of the city. There were no sounds of war, no screams, no artillery reports, there was nothing. Now and again I strained to listen for some signs of life or see some distant activity. The street lights were on and humming but there was no traffic, just empty street after immaculate empty street. Every window was dark and what cars were left were parked in neat rows where parking was permitted. I walked like this for hours making my way deep into suburbia until I found a small bungalow at the corner of some bland housing estate. The lights were on. It could have been a trap, like the warehouse, a bright light to lure the unwary. I thought it odd, though now it hardly mattered as to the method of our execution; still the enemy constructed these elaborate vignettes. It was as though each death were a pay per view event designed for each victim. If I still cared about survival I would have hugged the shadows, but death seemed so inevitable and life so terrifying if it meant living with the memories of the past ten days or so I walked to the house. My only hope was for some quick extinction even though most were denied it.

I knocked at the door; through the frosted glass I saw a pale shape approach. It was a robot, one of the more expensive models. I knew that meant intelligence, a certain autonomous capability. It was designed for medical care it's shape and demeanor that of a non-threatening and somewhat feminine assistant. It invited me inside with a gesture and I followed it into the living room. I was terrified, wanting death but still exhibiting all those brutal primate reflexes of thundering heart beats and cold sweat. I sat down in a comfortable armchair. I was not alone. A woman in her forties sat in the armchair beside mine and a younger lady, perhaps her daughter was in a wheelchair (manual) by the table. Both were smiling and looking at me. I noticed right away their dilated pupils and awkward drunken movements. I spoke to the medbot.

"Did you drug them?"

"Yes, I am their licensed care assistant" I heard the young lady giggle.

"Brittle bones" she said "It's genetic, me and my mom both have it" I looked to her mother who seemed to be lost in some dreamy fugue whispering quietly to herself.

"Watch this!" the girl said and raised herself out of the wheelchair. She staggered towards me but halfway lost her balance and fell onto the couch. I heard the unmistakable crunch of breaking bone and she let out a little yelp, followed by fits of hysterical giggling. I turned to the bot.

"Aren't you going to do something?"

"Do not be concerned sir, I will make them comfortable. It won't be much longer."

"Longer?" but I knew what it meant.

"I want to sleep. Can you make me, comfortable?"

"Of course, there is a bedroom down the hall. I was expecting your arrival. There is a glass of water and some medication on the foot locker. Good night sir."

I was relieved that my end would be peaceful. I tried not to think about what might happen during the night. I took the pills and fell unconscious within minutes.

Then I woke up, it was daylight and I was calm. I recognized the dulling effects of valium. I went back to the living room. It was empty and clean. There was a strong smell of detergent from the couch and a wet patch where the woman had fallen. I heard an auto-bin transport outside, I guess the medbot had arranged for its clients removal. I found it in the kitchen.

"Good morning sir, I trust you slept well?"

"Yes, thank you. What's happening?"

"I believe you are one of the last sir. If you go to the city center you will find a pub that is occupied. You will have some time to spend talking to the few who remain."

"Will I find out why this happened?"

"No, I do not believe so" it said. "There is a car outside it will take you to the city."

Feeling numb I entered the autocab. I saw my reflection, I looked clean and well groomed. The medbot must have tended to me as I slept though it could not do anything about my sunken bloodshot eyes. Whatever those meds were they put a smile on my face. At around mid-day I got to the pub. There were a few people outside smoking. They looked me over as a walked in, their eyes haunted and their hands shaking as they gripped their cigarettes and drinks. Inside the small drinking house thirty or so people were talking, split up into several groups. I sat beside three others, two men about my age and an old lady. The television was on, the images were of the war but something had changed now. The rolling type had been replaced by waveform descriptions and the music was full of hisses and fluting calls. I looked to the others for an explanation.

"It's the robots doing the talking now, it's their language. We're just the last few pieces of garbage."

"Why did it take so long to get to us?" The woman asked.

"I'm not sure, something to do with their demographic analysis I think"

"Maybe they like us" One of the blokes said. We laughed.

I looked around the pub, garish oranges and vinyl seats.

"Y'know this place could have done with a change in d├ęcor. Slate floors, real wood furnishings, something with a bit more class." The old lady put her hand on mine, "You should have been an architect" she said.

I was finishing a bottle of beer when a rumble was heard. The TV screens showed images of a city being dismantled. Building seemed to crumble into the ground while crystalline shards erupted here and there. Then for a moment there was a familiar image. The American general whose face we had all seen at the beginning declared that it was over and that for any listening, and I presume he meant us, it was best to prepare for the end. The reaction around the pub was like last orders. People grabbed a few bottles and started to leave. I got a bottle of gin. I looked over at the old woman. She was crying softly. She reached out to me but I pulled away. I never felt comfortable around old people. I walked out with the others to find death in the city. The two men I had sat with in the pub were with me I offered them swigs from the gin, the first guy gave back the bottle and walked off along the river to be alone. I drank some more and handed it over to the second. As he drank he told me.

"I always wanted to do radio, a show about foreign cinema or something."

"That would have been good. I'd have enjoyed that" I said. I reached for the bottle, but he pulled it away. His eyes telling me he would not return it. Behind us the first of this city's buildings started to collapse, signaling the arrival of the death machines. When they came for us, we were still fighting over the bottle.