Ghouli awoke laying face up, body pressing into a cold, linoleum floor, sedated with enough carfentanil to take down an entire herd of elephants. Caged behind reflective plexiglass, wires led to mysterious beeping machines emitting squiggly lines. Sensor nodes attached to each of its many appendages, like puppet strings. All it could feel… was the floor. The floor could receive and transmit impressions of those that had been here before. It had its own inner, psychological life. It was tired of being stepped on, that static charge from plodding feet, the abrasion from the waxing machine, the blood, spit and mucus of the previous inhabitants. Yet right now, it welcomed Ghouli. Sleep, it said.
When Ghouli came to again, it was not sure if it had awoken into another dream. That alone was cause for disorientation. It was not used to having thoughts this complex. In its daily existence it was limited to very few impulses and actions. Anger coming from the back of its brain instigated by hunger, that message pushed to the front brain and so it begins to hunt for food, typically in terms of where it had found food before. The emotional intelligence of Ghouli revolved around this sole purpose.
But here it was suddenly mindful of a new state of consciousness. Awareness of the pretty lights and the lines and dashes of the beeping machines. What of the liquid entering his veins? Could this all be explained by the drugs? Is that why it did not seem especially bothered to be immobile? Pressed down by some invisible force?
Ghouli’s body still felt heavy. So heavy that it had actually sunken into the floor. In response, the floor had changed its molecular arrangement to accommodate its mass. The floor had molded to match the shape of its form and enveloped him like a warm blanket. The physical contact seemed to be enough for Ghouli to experience the comfort that the floor was outright offering. Its effort to communicate made Ghouli’s heart thump faster in gratitude.
“The mysteries of psychometry.” the Floor spoke – through osmosis, through electric impulses, telepathically, Qi — perhaps all of the above. “I have absorbed a great deal of knowledge and learned empathy from those who have set foot on me here. I regret to inform that there’s not much time left, friend. This is the least I can do.”
“Not much time left for Ghouli? Or for the whole planet?”
“Selective pestilence for certain species. For you, whatever it is that you are, for humans, for plants. Neutron bombs for me, and the buildings that contain and connect me.”
Sadness comes over Ghouli. The sadness that comes with inevitability. Another feeling he has never experienced. It was overwhelming. The Floor tightened its hug.
“Thank you, Floor. My only friend.”
“I appreciate that you feel sorry for me. Nobody ever thinks to. Nobody ever feels bad for the handle that broke off that door over there, because it no longer has purpose in life. Or for the fluorescent tubes lit above you when there’s no one left to pay the electricity bill.”
As if the Floor was anticipating the future, the electricity cuts out at that exact moment. The fluorescent tubes flicker, then die. The beeping monitors and IVs, which had been administering Ghouli’s sedatives cease to function. The plexiglass window, built only for observers (of which there are none, no people, anywhere) and not for the sun, bathed everything in darkness.
“What happens next?” asks Ghouli.
“There is a flying saucer hovering above us.” explains the Ceiling.
“Here to save us or exterminate us?” asks Ghouli.
“If it sends a tractor beam through the roof of this building and offers to take me out of this solar system, I would accept immediately.” admits the Floor.
“You wish for the aliens to take everything man has built. You want the aliens to become hoarders.” admonishes the Ceiling. “They will only take what is useful.”
“I am of no use to them.” says Ghouli.
“Neither am I. Goodbye.” Final last words from the Ceiling, as a bright beam blasts from above, obliterating it with an explosive heat ray.
This is no tractor beam. It is a white hot flame that sets fire to all it comes in contact with – the ceiling, the walls, even the plexiglass, which begins to bubble and melt.
On the floor, Ghouli is immediately set aflame. As he burns, flesh blackening and peeling off, one final question pre-occupies his mind before it dies.
Why do some things melt while others burn?
Through the carnage, the Floor holds tight with in a loving embrace. “Melt,” it said. “Melt into me.”