Next! by Preston Dennett [sci-fi]
Just in case you’re wondering, you don’t dream in cryosleep. At least I didn’t. It was black mold that killed me. I never really expected to wake back up. I had just fallen asleep when–what felt like seconds later–I woke up to see several seven-foot-tall cockroaches dressed in white coats surrounding my cryotank.
True to my nature, I began screaming in utter horror. You have to understand, this was my first exposure to seven-foot-tall intelligent cockroaches, and I’m a sensitive guy.
“Do not be afraid, little human,” the ugly one said with a distinct cockroachy accent. “We won’t hurt you. In fact, we have worked very hard to revive you. We are so glad that you have survived. Please, do not be afraid.”
“But I am afraid!” I shouted, and I thrashed around weakly in my tank, unable to get up. “Where am I? Who are you? Where is everyone?”
I was in some sort of hospital room. To my left were all kinds of weird-looking medical equipment. To my right was a large picture window. More tall cockroaches stood there with computer pads and voice-recorders–each of them staring at me.
“If you mean the other humans,” said Head Roach, “they’re all gone. Humans have been extinct for almost a million years. I’m sorry. You are the only human we know of. It’s a miracle we were able to bring you to life.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Then it’s true? Cockroaches have taken over the Earth. I knew this would happen. We all did. We knew it!”
“Oh, no,” said Mr. Bug-Eyes. “You misunderstand. We here,” he waved one of his many arms, “we are like you. We have also been revived from cryosleep. Yes, we ruled the Earth for hundreds of thousands of years, after you humans destroyed yourselves. But unfortunately, now our numbers are few. Only a small handful of us still survive.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling suddenly sorry for Mr. Buggerstein. “Then who rules Earth now? Oh God, please don’t tell me it’s the apes.”
“Well…” Bug-Breath seemed to hesitate.
At that moment, the door to the room opened, and in walked an eight-foot, five-hundred-pound bipedal rat, dressed in a soft purple robe.
It waddled forward and put its paw gently in my hand. “Very nice to meet you,” it said. “I’m so happy the roaches were able to revive you. An actual human! Our masters will be so proud. They are very excited to meet you.”
“Masters?” I squeaked. “You mean, rats don’t rule the Earth?”
“No. Oh, we used to. Perhaps it’s best we just introduce you.”
And in walked one of the new rulers of planet Earth. I recognized it immediately from my shower. Needless to say, I began screaming in horror. Like I said, I’m sensitive.
The roaches all bowed in unison. His Ratness waved his paw with great flourish and said, “May I introduce you to Black Mold.”
We’ve met, I thought, and I continued screaming.
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