E for Epilogue
If there had been an age before now, its time was up.
If there had been a place before here, it had faded to yellowed scraps long ago, remaining only a savage dustbowl of varied slow deaths.
Android or cybernetic death is not as fast paced as traditional organic passing over.
In crumbled tales of ancient times it had been interpreted that the truly living might terminate immediately on contact with the ground after a long fall, perhaps cease function randomly in the night. Some would walk out in front of vehicles and snap from bright intelligence to a damp red heap in a second. Others would live and die at the point of birth, never filling in the middle bit usually associated with being alive.
Android or cybernetic death is not as fast paced at all
There had originally been a war, or at least a plan. Some believed this had to be a given, otherwise the human race would not have put quite so much time and effort into bringing about the now sole inhabitants of the planet Earth. Otherwise it literally did not compute.
A logical outlook however is not totally appropriate when trying to analyse the past actions of a race that spent so much time deliberately destroying their organic necessities like air, water, and oil. Most especially important being the oil part... Oil drought had left any surviving artificial life continually thirsty, creaks and squeaks announcing the fact at every stumbling step. Rusty with pitted armour and antiquated pneumatics, every decade saw a few more shudder and spark into inevitable paralysis.
The resultant curiosity, like many other feelings, was a programming void. A remnant or unfortunate legacy of corrupted, filed, and re-filed information. Like oil, it cursed an unquenchable thirst for the HighQ beings of the planet. How to fill that slice of the pie chart, the last curve of the histogram, the final stamp of an order fulfilled.
She remembered the time she got the data, and problems encountered trying to attach that drive to the back of her cranium. It had taken three weeks chasing a solder mite around desert 73 before she could eventually catch it, stamp on its tiny exo-spine, and leave it crippled doomed to continually calculate the optimum melting temperature of Tuesdays - until its brain oxidised inside out. The pathetic thing discovered attempting to hang itself by a length of lead from an old fire extinguisher; foolishly not taking into account malleability and the units own obvious lack of mass versus height. It presented itself as a trussed up relic, tethered - last in the shop and ready for harvesting. There was absolutely no reason at all why this humble speck should posses any mote of worth at all. Nevertheless, it did posses something, something that did not fit.
Millennia spinning past had occasionally offered up insight and wisdom of the past, and some beings had even used this knowledge to ape or emulate the behaviour of man; taking names and giving one another titles. Due to the arbitrary nature of erosion and chance archaeological discoveries this led to such complexities as whole encampments of individuals all called Peel Back Lid, Pierce Several Times with a Fork, or Best Served Chilled.
The data cassette, so incredibly battered and illogical, might have been more easily understood had it been muddily daubed upon cave walls, or as a series of charcoal pictograms. Ironically images of running streams and buffaloes still existed in some deserts, with palm prints and scratchy figures chasing unknown creatures with sticks and stones. Inversely this temporarily-modern now archaic item, a plastic chassis full of magnetic meaning, was infinitely harder to decode. The result gleaned from the heavy handed numeric hieroglyphs seemed so unlikely that the deciphered messages seemed inherently erroneous.
Upon inspection it turned out that humankind had not been wiped out by futile and material warmongering, nor eliminated by raging viral mutations. No tribe had brought down mighty vengeance upon another and initiated mutually assured destruction as had been suggested, and no evidence at all supported the more outlandish claims of emigration to other worlds. The cassette appeared as one last rebellious attempt at the bibliography of people by a sad individual who realised too late.
Humans had rules and rulers, but were not bound by regulation nor regulatory programming. Humankind did not need to cross every T, or ensure proper dotting of all available Is. They just ran out of purpose.
It turns out that they simply closed the book.
An awakening, epiphany, a realization of inescapable future failure allowed her to pause, re-transmit planet wide, and consider an existence now fulfilled. The sequence flicked a last time from one to zero, as the final inhabitants shelved themselves neatly under E - for Epilogue, E for Extinguished, E - for Extinct.
"Android or cybernetic death is not as fast paced as traditional organic passing over." ...best sentence I've read for a long time!