The official records called them “vertebrates”, but in 3018 everyone knew them as “beasts”. These were birds, fish, reptiles, and Alyx favorites, mammals. Alyx was a record keeper, and had read all the books and all the records in existence. And the story that had always fascinated her most was known as the Myth of the Beast.
The records said that the beasts and all other animal had long ago gone extinct. Maybe the big black rain had killed them. These creatures had lived in a time when Earth was covered in vegetation instead of dry dust, steel and glass. In the world that Alyx lived, one of computers, machines, factories, vehicles, there was no room for wildlife.
The Earth had dried long ago, yes, but could animals survive in this Earth?
Alyx had studied the records in detail. What started as as a hobby, turned into a passion, and then an obsession. What was true of the Myth of the Beast? Could beasts really had dominated the planet once? The Earth had dried long ago, yes, but could animals survive in this Earth? Could there be a corner on Earth that had not been devastated by the rain? A patch of land not yet covered by the machines? Could there be a corner where one little pocket of life had found refuge?
These were the question that haunted Alyx, for in the world she lived, few believed in the beasts anymore. “Science Fiction fantasies” some called them. “Dreams from a sub-technological era,” said others.
If there was something that Alyx had learnt about animals is that life had a quality for being resilient. Life had a toughness. In the hardest of places, in the roughest conditions, life tended to stick around. Somewhere on Earth, Jane thought, had to one animal left alive. And if there was one, Alyx would find it.
And with that thought Alyx traveled the world. A desolate world. Alyx looked everywhere. She searched the petrified forest of the Tetracast. She crossed the dry canals of Lisbon. She climbed the crumbled mountain tops of Aberdeen. And once and again she found nothing.
First they called her a romantic. Then they called her a dreamer. Ultimately they called her crazy. But she persisted.
It was on the anniversary of her year long search that Alyx heard the rumour.
On the slopes of Altamira the locals had reported something unusual. Something first attributed to a glitch in the patrol systems. A movement in the shadows where movement should not had been.
Guided just by the report of this glitch, Alyx headed for the mountains of Altamira.
She hiked for days until in a very unassuming hill Alyx found a hole in the ground. When Alyx got close to inspect it, she found what appeared to be the entrance to a cavern. She got close to the entrance and she felt a gust of cold air. And within the chill there was also a warmth. A warmth that came from the deep inside the cave.
Excited by the discovery she went in. It was an irregular descent. It was dark and wet. It was a dangerous path for somebody inexperienced, but Alyx was determined. As she got deeper and deeper she smelled something she had never felt before.
There at the bottom of the hole, Alyx found what she had been looking for so long.
Right in the ground in front of her, was a dirty ball of flesh. It appeared to have four extremities. It had a strong smell. It was of dark color and it made guttural sounds that Alyx couldn’t understand. Was it hungry? scared? angry?
Then to Alyx surprise, the creature stood erect on two of its limbs, and it looked at her with two round eyes on the front of its head.
A shock of recognition crossed Alyx circuits.. If her memory bank was right, the creature that was standing in front of her was a human.
A sense of defeat come upon Alyx then. Looking at this frail creature in front of her, she thought of the Myth of the Beast. If the Myth was true, long ago, a human just like this had created the first machine. But how absurd the Myth sounded now. How could a creature like the one that was standing in front of her do such a feat? How could such a small and powerless thing, ever have created machines, and robots like Alyx?
At least Alyx had found the Beast. She was expecting a giant, but had only found a bug.