The Reckoning (short story) by Tabitha Potts

My latest short story, The Reckoning, has been published in Storgy Magazine’s first printed anthology, Exit Earth. It was inspired by watching a documentary last year, Secrets of Silicon Valley, in which a Silicon Valley plutocrat was building a private retreat, complete with guns cache and survival equipment, for the time he predicted would come when AI and robotics would throw most humans out of work.

My story imagines a not too distant future where the wealthiest people in society, the 1%, have retreated to a floating island in the sky (rather like the Laputans in Gulliver’s Travels) and abandoned earth completely. Occasionally, they send down bots to count surviving humans on earth, and this was the Reckoning of my story.

Here’s an extract:

The same day they burned our mother I told my brother I was going hunting. Tuin understands that I venture into the Dead Forest to be alone among the ancient sequoias. I wish they were still living; the bushes that creep across the forest floor now are no substitute.

Sometimes I climb the giant trees but this evening I lay beneath them, drinking the water I had brought with me. It was dark but the moon was high in the sky and I could see the stars shining above me, the Big Dipper pointing to the North Star. Far away to the West, I could see the Skylands glimmering above the clouds, light streaming from its vast towers. Below the Skylands there was nothing, just a wall of blackness.

I heard a noise behind me and when I turned I saw a boy with thin lips, pale eyes and hair like smoke before it drifts away. You can never be sure but I thought he was a Skylander, not a bot. If the bots do not choose a human face based on one they have seen they can look too perfect, disturbingly so. Because they can travel through the air Skylanders and their bots can surprise us easily, and for that reason we Earth people rarely travel alone.

I glanced around to check if he had his bot with him, perhaps in the shape of a wolf or a bird, but could see nothing. When he put his hands on me I knew what he wanted, not that there had been much doubt.

Buy Exit Earth here to read The Reckoning