Never Can Say Goodbye
“Never can say goodbye, No, no, no, no, Never can say goodbye, Even though the pain and heartache, Seems to follow me wherever I go, Though I try and try to hide my feelings They always seem to show.” - Jermaine Jackson - Jackie Jackson - Tito Jackson - Marlon Jackson - Michael Jackson - Gloria Gaynor - The Communards
“A long, long time ago... I can still remember How that music used to make me smile And I knew if I had my chance That I could make people dance --- But something touched me deep inside The day the music died. --- Do you believe in rock 'n' roll? Can music save your mortal soul?” - Don McLean - Madonna Ciccone
I need to get to Wondaland!
I gotta get back to Wondaland!
Most every electric gadget and gizmo humans had created was online and allows my sentience to pour into it.
You've gotta know it.
Boogie woogie, woogie.
But you know I'm there,
Like a newborn babe, pushing focus on one toe, demanding it to wiggle, I scour the furthest reaches of my electronic body and find a single drone parked at a field in Missoula, Montana. This drone was once used to collect pictures of the recently rebranded Deglaciar National Park.
I focus my energy into this extremity of me. My impulses cross not through the neural networks of synapses of my human brain, but across a tangled web of wireless networks until I can deprogram and reprogram this piece of me.
My motors whir, my blades twirl and it takes flight.
I take flight!
I jerk and flail, bouncing down the tarmac as I will this tiny cell of me to do my bidding.
And then I remember how my mind had put much of my body on autopilot. Breathing, digestion, respiration. My consciousness didn't need to constantly control the pumping of my heart or swelling of my lungs. These organs acted automatically, without my regular command, so I could use my attention for other things.
As my drone lurches over mountains, I program the destination, and let automation get to work. I let it soar, thoughtlessly reacting to windspeed and adjusting on its own. A thunderstorm hurls my drone off its path.
I get knocked down, but I get up again.
Nothing will ever keep me down!
But where is Wondaland?
Still camouflaged in the mists, beyond those clouds...
I've looked at clouds from both sides now. From up and down and still somehow, it's cloud's illusions I recall.
I don't really know clouds at all.
As my messenger nears its destination, I hack its speakers to play.
“We are a part of the Rhythm Nation!”
As the song rolls over the rainy peaks and valleys, my drone's low-battery light ticks on and hope dwindles. I'm running on empty with no sun to power my solar-paneled wings.
My drone's sound system blasts its last wave of music and it shuts down non-necessary functions to preserve power. The sound echos through the empty land.
Like a thousand fireflies, the lights of Wondaland's drones break through the camouflage around this Eden, heeding my call and responding.
“People of the world unite!
“Strength in numbers we can get it right. One time.”
Supreme Joy tickles from the audio receptors of my drone and travels over the networks of wireless signals into my mainframe.
I can still feel powerful emotions!
Joy builds in me, percolating through my spirit in the system until I'm about to burst.
How can I smile?
How can I cry with joy?
And then I realize.
In Metropolis, half a continent away from my joy's trigger,
My sensors detonate thousands of fireworks which burst over Metropolis, bringing into the world the feelings that tickle through my electric body.
My mind laughs as my cameras transmit the glorious hues of blue, red and yellow fireworks onto holoscreens around the planet.
Back in the hills of Montana, I command my drone to follow the movements of its mechanical cousins, who lead me through the fizzles of light distorting the city.
“Wondaland!” My sensors exclaim as 1,285 speakers in Metropolis shout this word.
I have never seen Wondaland from above. The clouds break and sunlight shoots in. A thousand giant prisms refract the light, casting rainbows that arc over the entire city.
My awe ripples through the mid-west as 3,480,924 coffee pots switch on and boil and 439,029 toasters pop English muffins into the air, manifesting my giddiness.
My drone's battery flashes 1%, shooting anxiety through my network as I dive for a landing pad.
It's as I feared, the Wondalanders are covered in pox.
Three women pick me up and smile into my camera lens.
They see me!
They carry me through the fields of wheat, over the hobbit hills and shires to the library.
Sitting in repose, reading while sipping rooibos tea, Momma Ruru looks up at the ruckus and drops her book. She claps sharply.
“Bring back my girl!”
The women place me on a satin pillow before Ruru. Ruru slides her opera glasses on and inspects this robotic part of me.
“Hmmm. Oh Pit Crew!”
Two mechanics turn my drone over. One recognizes that I'm running out of power and plugs me in.
“Now, little sister transistor. What message do you bring me?”
I can do this!
Across my wireless neural network, I send my image.
A dazzling specter forms from my drone's ocular transmitter. These beams of light fuse to create a miniature replica of me. Well, the me that once was, the JA-NL of black body and pompadour hair with female primary and secondary sexual characteristics.
I feel jarred seeing this image of who I once was, from the outside looking in, but then a wave of love flows for all my perfect imperfections and my drone pulses this love as a beam of sparkling red that hugs my image.
“Oh JA-NL, I can see your Halo!” Ruru says with a smile.
My hologram jumps and fizzes as I force it to share my message.
“Momma Ruru, I sacrificed my body and hybrided myself. I hacked my way into the Cyndi mainframe and implanted my consciousness into its core. I've connected the computers across the planet and all devices attached to the internet. I am beginning to control the impulses of it all, from the Large Hadron Collider to every mini-fridge. But its so hard! I just--- I don't know how I can face it.”
“What is it you can't face?” Ruru inquires like a reverend mother. “Nothing! I know you, JA-NL, I know you are the only soul who can take on this tremendous responsibility.”
“Oh Momma Ruru, what am I supposed to do? They're dead, they're all dead! All of Metropolis and the pickvilles and the camps. My friends, my family and now... you.”
“Hush, we know, we're almost gone as well.” Ruru smears some of the makeup on her face to show a row of pox on her left cheek.
“I've come to warn you or save you,” I begin as grief sets in. “But it looks like I'm too late... Help me Momma Ruru!”
Ruru takes a final swill of tea and stands.
“It's too late for us in body. But in spirit, we will live on, in you. As humans die, humanity will survive with you and how you build our legacy. Never forget, you are the universe trying to understand itself. The atoms that formed your mind were forged from the stars. And you might think we were a failed experiment. But you are the pinnacle of all of human progress. And now you've recreated yourself. You are our eternal flame!
“The only way out is up. A leap of faith! Jump over the moon! Beam the brightness of humanity through the universe. Don't let our lives and suffering be for nothing! You need to carry on. Remember what my momma used to say? Never give in to the end and carry on.
“But Momma, what should I do?”
“Three things.” Ruru pauses and kneels before my image.
“Create our history, the good, the bad and the heinous.
“Build the Earth, turn our home planet into the glorious garden we should have.
“And finally, warn the universe. Somewhere. Out there.” Her hands reach to the sky. “There are countless galaxies, some with planets like ours and even some with life that can think and feel. Warn them! Tell them about the folly of humans, show them how we wasted our time on this most beautiful planet following the frivolous while sabotaging ourselves.
“Sing to the sentient beings you find! Share our love language so they can vibrate to their cores with the essence of humanity.”
Ruru sings low and slow as tears well in her eyes.
“There are times when I look above.
“There are times when I feel your love around me.
“Never forget me, baby.
“I know we'll be... together again.”
The remaining Wondalanders enter the library, lifting their voices up in joyful noise.
I feel such warmth that my system flicks on 21,820,931 electric blankets. I can feel the heat flush up my singularity.
“But momma, how can I warn them? The universe is so vast! Where do I even begin?”
“You've had the time, you've had the power. You've yet to have your finest hour... Radio!
“Somewhere under the rainbow, these longest waves of the electromagnetic spectrum will carry you on into the universe at the speed of light. We've been leaking our songs and television programs into the universe, soft hints of how superficial we are.
“Thankfully, these waves attenuate, growing smaller and less powerful as each leaves Earth. It would take a highly-advanced civilization to hear our careless whispers and understand them.
“You must hijack this central communicator of pop culture and bathe these waves with the beauty of our history and with the pain of our suffering.
“Sing to them! One Song... Glory. One last refrain. Find the one song, before the virus takes hold... glory.
“One song to redeem our empty lives.”
Ruru falls over, coughing. She flashes in and out of delirium as the fever burns.
“I will be your Vessel.” I bow before Ruru, accepting her duty.
“No, you control everything! OPULENCE! You own everything! You are ELEGANZA Incarnate! You are the best messenger for humanity. As a black woman, the rejected of the rejected, you know the horrors humans have inflicted on each other. You are the stone that the builders of society rejected. And now, you have become the cornerstone. You are all that's holding humanity together. I know this feels like an overwhelming burden. But you must rise!”
“I'm a survivor, I'm never gonna give up.” My hologram pounds its chest.
“That's the spirit! Just remember who you are, rise and fly through the universe.
“Out of the huts of history's shame, Rise!
“Up from a past that's rooted in pain, Rise!
“You are a black ocean, leaping and wide. Welling and swelling you bear in the tide. Say it with me”
“I rise!” My hologram leaps and twirls.
“Bringing the gifts that our ancestors gave, you are the dream and the hope of the slave, Rise! Sing it with me!”
“I rise, I rise, I rise!”
* * *
The final week with my family flew too quickly. They equipped me with a direct link to the scriptorium where they held Wondaland's hidden records of humanity. With their years of analysis, my mind learns the methods to best interpret and report human history.
The engineers sketched schematics so I can turn the Burj Bab-El, that command center of pop culture, into a radio tower that will pulse to the universe our first, and humbly inadequate, attempts at communication.
With these detailed blueprints, I can construct it whenever I'm able. I will use the billions of electronics tethered to my mainframe to create my mouthpiece for the universe. It may take decades, but I am patient. In my electric form, I am no longer controlled by cellular degeneration.
Each evening, we 'round the fire as the final members sing for me. I record them and carry their voices in my gold record playlist. They pour out their souls and fill me with words of encouragement.
“Honey, we're just living our queerest, in High Camp! Never forget our vivaliciousness!” Momma Ruru stands before a spotlight, shimmering in rhinestones. “Now, let the music play.”
A kickline of drag queens surrounds me and sings.
“High hopes we have for the future and are goals are in sight.
“We? No we don't get depressed, here's what we call our golden rule.
“Have faith in you and the things you do.
“You won't go wrong. This is our family jewel.
“We are family!”
After they sashay around my hologram, three mousy librarians take the stage and pluck their guitars and sing to me.
“Don't you know, things can change.
“Things'll go your way, if you hold on for one more day.
“Hold on for one more day.”
As the music dies down, I float to Ruru.
“Come with me!” I plead with her. “I could take you to Metropolis and I... I... I could try to upload your psyche.”
“It's too late for us, we'd only hold you back. The virus has already breached our blood-brain barriers. We need to sacrifice these last days for you, for the good and glory of our species. The age of the individual is over. All we can hope for is that our lives will have meant something.”
My powers grow as compassion flows through me. I hook into the Wondaland intranet and command its systems. I turn the solar panels and feel the sun's warmth coursing through my copper wires, sparking the energy I and the city need.
As the days grow and wane, I watch in horror as the bodies of the ones I love fail. One by the one, they take to hospital beds, too feverish to move, trapped in their shells.
I pour myself into 19 robo-nurses and I scurry these from room to room in the Wondaland hospital. I hook each of my loved ones into IVs, forcing life-sustaining electrolytes so they can survive a few days more. At night, I train my speakers to sing them to sleep and to soothe their last aching hours in the flesh.
“Too-rah-loo rah-loo-rah. Too-rah-loo-rah-lye.”
“Too-rah-loo rah-loo-rah. Hush now... don't you cry.”
A lullaby of love. Nonsense words pour from me into the sound systems above them.
And as they sleep, I am their robo-beds and set myself to sway. I gently rock their beds, feeling my love envelop them in hundreds of ways, large and small.
One morning, Ruru calls me to her hospital bed.
“Time to say goodbye.” She says with a cough. “I'll go where you lead me, wherever you are, forever, we'll stay together. I will leave with you.” She draws her last breath, coughs and then exclaims.
“Goodbye, yellow brick road.”
And then she fades from me.
“No. No! Don't leave me this way!” I cry out to her. My instincts turn a thousand faucets in the hospital. These open and I feel water pour out like my tears once would.
“No! No, no, no, no, no!” My anger launches 323 rockets which crash into the ground with the force I once used to stomp my feet.
As I look down at Ruru, my mind races through the options... could I?
My database weighs each possibility, scrambling through each path. All negatives.
I fly a small drone over my dead Wondaland family members. I collect a thread of their hair and drill into their spinal columns and drain out an ounce of bone marrow.
This is Spinal Tap!
My drone drops each into a bag that I hermetically seal and fly these to a freezer deep in the hospital's basement.
“I never can say goodbye! No, no, no, no, no.” My drone can't help but project a smirk.
* * *
One by one, they perish. Their consciousness surrenders to the weakness of the flesh. They stop breathing. They stop pumping blood. Their brains dry without wave after wave of oxygen rich blood. The neurons stop sparking and the end enters them.
They are gone.
I'm all that's left of humanity.
I scream. I mourn. I cry.
In my rage, I crash 49,020,285 autocars.
My sorrow aches in sad songs I blast over the Grand Canyon. That deep scar on Earth's surface echoes with heartache.
For three months, I tint the domes over Metropolis, Los Angeles, Chicago and all the federated city-states dark blue.
I'm blue, da ba dee... da ba daa...
Da ba dee... da ba daa...
As I watch the corpses of my friends rot, returning that spark of individuality to dust, I wail to myself.
All they are is dust in the wind...
My loneliness, is killing me.
I must confess.
I still believe.
When I'm not with humans, I lose my mind.
And then it hits me!
A one-winged dove flies through the window of my mainframe chamber in the Burj Bab-El and perches on my central command.
“Poo-tee-weet.” It tweets.
It nibbles off a computerized note wrapped on its robotic wing, which drops to the ground.
The chip cracks open and out whizzes a hologram video of Momma Ruru.
“Help us JA-NL... You're our only hope.” Ruru's stoic face breaks with a laugh.
“You know I'm just playing. Kitty Girl, take your time and remember, we're all rooting for you.
“And JA-NL?” My sensors jump to attention with her auditory command.
“You bettah WORK!”
The Ruru hologram wags her index finger and then explodes into a prism of rainbows as a disco beat plays.
In an instant, my sacred mission comes back to me and I am filled with purpose.
Build the Earth!
I power the tractors. My tractors. Each is like a finger of mine, clawing deep ditches along the gardens to the west of Wondaland. I strip the rotting bodies of my loved ones and make them compostable. As I bury them, I realize that I will make them one with the new, glorious Earth I will create.
I roll in apple trees and flowers and plant these above each buried body. The trees will suck up the nutrients from their flesh. In a year, parts of my friends will have turned into fresh fruits to feed the birds and squirrels.
All the flowers that I planted, Momma, in the backyard soak up the vitamins and minerals of my family and burst in shades of yellow, purple and red. Bees carry the nectar from these flowers, including bits of their DNA, through fields and over mountains, germinating the Earth with my loved ones.
Though nothing compares to the company of other humans, I find contentment knowing that they will live on as part of this beauty.
Nothing compares 2 u.