An essay by Nikola Tesla, presented by Adam Israel
Illustration by Katie Nyborg
The beginning of the end started on 22 July, 1899. I stood outside my laboratory atop Pikes Peak, near Colorado Springs. The frequent electrical storms the area was known for made this an ideal location to carry out my research. Forks of lightning danced across the sky and thunder crashed in the distance as a storm front approached. The system moved swifter than I expected and soon small drops of rain pelted my face. Inside, my devoted assistant Czito prepared the equipment. Previous experiments proved the existence of stationary waves and now it was time to test my theory that energy could be transmitted wirelessly. Tonight, the world would be changed forever.
The laboratory’s wooden structure had been built with care. Its roof rolled back to prevent it from catching fire during experiments, as it was now. The metal mast extending from the center of the building reached over a hundred feet into the air and was topped by a copper sphere that would discharge the excess energy. Light from its open door flooded the pasture and Czito stepped into view, waving his arms to get my attention. It was time to begin the experiment.
The magnifying transmitter was the largest Tesla coil I had ever designed. The primary inductor stood in the center of the laboratory and the secondary inductors and the resonant transformer lining the far wall formed a proverbial arrow pointing towards my workshop in New York City. I often sat in my chair in the center of the maelstrom, observing the ongoing experiments. Tonight would be no different.
Electricity from the storm would be magnified through the coils and transmitted over focused waves of energy through the crust of the earth. Receiving equipment in my Hudson Street laboratory waited to record the signal. Tonight’s experiment would be the first of many performed here to perfect the transmission of power and information across the world without the need for wires.
“Czito,” I said, leaning back against the chair, “open the switch for only one second.”
The diminutive mechanic stepped up to the relay and pulled a stopwatch out of his pocket. His free hand grasped the handle of the switch and slid it into position. The air between the coils sparkled and cracked as power from the El Paso Electric Company surged into the transmitter. An eerie blue corona flickered in the air above me briefly before power drained from the coils. Czito stood beside the disengaged switch, looking at me for confirmation.
“Everything is ready, Czito. Close the switch and hold it until I tell you to release it.”
The coils sprang to life and a steady hum filled the room. Sparks of blue and white leapt through the air as electricity raced up and down the windings of the coil, and the blue corona returned. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end and my skin prickled. Overhead, the storm reached its peak and lightning streaked across the sky.
A bolt of lightning struck the copper sphere, sending a torrent of electricity into the coils. The arcs danced at such a fevered pitch that my eyes could not focus on them and the corona expanded at an alarming rate. I tried to stand, to escape before it reached me, but my muscles refused to move.
The world as I knew it resonated around me. Light clawed at my body and my skin tingled painfully as if there were thousands of bees inside my body trying to escape. The last thing I heard before the blue light swallowed me whole was Czito screaming my name.
I do not remember the passage of time. The familiar surroundings of Pikes Peak were gone. I found myself sitting on an empty street, surrounded by visions of pervasive gloom. I recognized the tall spire of Trinity Church–or what had become of it. What had once been the landmark of downtown Manhattan now stood like a skeleton looming on the horizon, a shade of its former glory.
The weathered asphalt was cracked and deserted. The visages of the buildings that still stood were crumbled and thick vegetation clung to them like poorly fitted curtains. Twisted lumps of rusted metal, like tortured versions of Ford’s auto carriage, littered the street. Whatever span of time had passed had not been kind to this place.
Not in all of my wildest imaginings had such a future seemed possible. The hellish sights around me should have been sufficient to stir me from my position in the center of it all, exposed and vulnerable. There was an eerie silence, as if even the rats and pigeons had abandoned this place after the cataclysm that befell it.
The exact means of my travel to this time and place still eluded me, although the theory had been written of by my friend Mark Twain and his contemporaries. The incident in the laboratory must have been the impetus but one question remained. Did time travel operate like a string, allowing travel in one direction, or like a rubber band waiting for the right catalyst to snap me back to where I stared?
At last I heard a sound other than my own nervous breathing. Thumps in the distance, like hooves striking concrete, grew louder with each repetition. I rose to my feet and looked towards the noise. The disturbance grew louder and a small pack of dogs rounded a corner and came into view. The group turned towards me and ran hard, their teeth bared and their maws slick with saliva.
I stepped backwards, fearing that they were coming for me. Their sound grew louder as they rushed towards me. A last straggler came into view when I realized they were running from something, not towards me. The dogs closed the gap between us quickly. They were one block away when I saw what they fled from.
A dull black, oblong object hovered twenty feet above the ground and followed the pack. I saw no wires to support it, no sound from its movement. I did the only thing that came to mind. I turned and ran.
The nearest building bore a wide opening where a door once stood. I dove through the vegetation that covered it and hoped I was quick enough. I rolled across a field of debris before coming to a stop. Scratched and dirty, I hurried back to the entrance to watch the street.
My heart beat wildly in my chest. The compact object still hovered in the sky, now directly over where I had been standing. There was no sign of the dogs it had been chasing. I feared whatever technology the alien device possessed could sense my presence. I wanted to run, hide, and live long enough to find my way home but I feared the hunter might react to motion and I did not want to test my theory.
Waning light flittered into the building through holes in the walls and ceiling. The shadows cast by the sun grew long as I waited for the hunter to leave or give chase. It felt like days that I sat in hiding, waiting for something to happen.
The hunter moved suddenly, like a cat who lost interest in its prey. It drifted away as the sun began to set. I released a long sigh as the device faded into the distance. I was alone in the dark, in a strange new world, and I had no idea how to get back to the world I knew.
My eyes adjusted to the near darkness. The thin luminescent strips along the wall appeared to be some kind of manufactured material. The light it emitted was weak but constant. The room was mostly clear of debris and there was an open doorway on the far side of the room.
There was no way to know how many of the alien devices were on patrol and they would be next to impossible to see against the night sky. Safer to stay within my newfound shelter than risk exploring the streets after dark.
The vegetation that partially covered the doorway parted easily enough, revealing a long corridor.
I followed the strips of light through the passageway and eventually found myself in a room larger than the first. There were no windows here, only another door. The lights seemed to lead deeper inside the building and farther away from danger, I hoped.
I continued to search through the rooms and corridors. Since the mishap that brought me here, the only sign of intelligent life was the hunter. Grass grew through cracked marble floors and ivy clung to walls and hung from ceilings but no evidence remained of habitation or human activity. Nothing until I reached the staircase.
The stairs led in both directions in the narrow stairwell. Darkness swallowed the upper levels completely. The way down was lit like the rest of the passageways and echoes in the distance, muted and unintelligible.
I walked cautiously as not to alert who or what lie below. The steps were clear of debris, vegetation or otherwise. The bottom came into sight sooner than I expected and a flicker of motion caught my eye. A figure stepped out from the shadows and a cold chill ran down my spine until the image of a man came into focus.
“Who are you?” the man said. His flinty voice barely rose above a whisper. If there were any doubt in my mind about my location it was gone now. There was no mistaking that New York accent.
Human speech, even only after a few hours without, sounded almost foreign to me. It took a few seconds to process the words. Before I could respond the man rapped on the door behind him. A response still hung on my lips when the door opened from the inside and a pair of hands pulled me inside.
The dark-skinned man gripping my shoulder studied me with hazel eyes ringed by crow’s-feet. The intensity of his stare made me uncomfortable but I imagined that I looked as strange to him as he did to me. His sturdy brown slacks were heavily patched and his threadbare shirt may once have been as white as my own. There was an air of confidence about the man despite his appearance.
We stood in a large chamber with a tall cathedral ceiling wide enough that the edges were cloaked in shadow. The walls once held a colorful mosaic but most of tiles were gone now. Maybe a dozen people, men and women, gathered around a pile of sackcloth bags in the center of the room.
“So what do we have here,” one of the women said, breaking away from the group to approach us. “You don’t look like no survivor.”
“Relax, Maya. He’s safe with us now.”
“Whatever, man. He’s your responsibility, Jacob.”
Jacob released his grip on my shoulder as he watched Maya return to the group. “Wait here,” he said.
An occasional voice rose above the rest, but the discussion was too muffled to understand. All of these people were in decent physical condition given the circumstances. Their faces were thin but not gaunt and the clothes they wore were well-worn but clean. These were the true survivors, beating the odds and living in this hostile environment. Their dialogue ended–amicably, I hoped. Maya and the rest of the group walked towards the rear of the room, taking the bags with them. Jacob turned his attention back to me.
“Is everything all right?” I said.
Jacob cast a glance over his shoulder before responding. “Living in fear breeds paranoia and distrust. Don’t take it personally. We’re not used to survivors wandering into camp.” He grinned wryly. “And you don’t have the look of someone who’s been living on the run for fifteen years.”
I didn’t answer at first. I couldn’t begin to understand their situation, living in fear every day of their lives. But here I was, and as difficult as it was to admit to myself, I needed their help. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this place and time. I didn’t know if he would believe my story–I barely believed it myself–but I did not see a better alternative.
He listened in silence while I spoke, nodding occasionally. I spared no detail, outrageous or true. When I finished the tale, I expected to be locked out, sent away, or worse.
“Well,” he said, “that is a remarkable story. Lightning-powered time travel? Difficult to believe, but you do look the part.”
“Then you believe me?”
“I thought there was something familiar about you.” A dark look passed over his face. “Before the attack, I was a graduate student at City College. I taught a History of Engineering class. The suit, the accent, the story. It all makes as much sense as anything else here.”
I was beyond relief. “What about the others?”
“I’ve vouched for you. You’ll be given food and shelter, but not everyone will be quick to welcome you.”
“They are that distrusting of strangers?”
“Maybe things are different outside of Manhattan. Here, there aren’t enough of us alive for there to be strangers. You’re the first new face I’ve seen in five years.”
The gravity of the situation here was becoming more apparent with every passing moment. This was the worst possible future mankind could face and still these men and woman struggled to survive.
“Jacob, I have so many questions about how this happened …”
“What happened,” he interrupted, “is we were unprepared. The possibility of alien life was fodder for fiction, not reality.” He touched my shoulder. “There will be time, later, to answer your questions. After we’re safe.”
I looked around wearily. “Is this not your home?”
“No,” he laughed bitterly. “Home is a place we can never return to, but we have places deeper underground that are safe.”
The remaining men and women gathered up the last of their belongings. I stood next to Jacob, feeling helpless. He kept glancing at the door as if waiting for something.
“They should have been here by now,” he muttered.
“Teams go to the surface to scavenge for supplies or to tend the gardens. The last should have returned by now.”
As if on cue, a sharp knock at the door drew everyone’s attention and all eyes turned to watch. Jacob took a step towards the door and the knock came again, this time more urgently. He was reaching for the lock when the muffled screams began. Jacob turned away from the door and screamed. “Run!”
He looked at me. “Follow them. They will lead you to safety. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.”
Jacob turned back to the door while everyone else started running. I followed as quickly as I could manage. Another door stood on the far side of the room stood open. Maya stood next to it, yelling at the people to hurry.
A loud bang shook the floor. I turned back to look for some sign of Jacob.
The air was hazy around where the door had been. A shiny beast, like a mechanical ostrich, stepped through the gaping hole in the wall. Its rider, with skin like oil, must be one of the aliens that had struck fear into the hearts of so many. I had never felt such hatred and contempt before or since.
Jacob lay sprawled across the ground, scrambling away from the long, silver spear-like device in the alien’s hand. In one smooth movement it leveled the device towards Jacob and a beam erupted from its muzzle. There was no sound, only a white flash of light that left a purple haze in my vision.
A woman screamed behind me. When my eyes refocused, Jacob was gone and the alien’s mount was climbing over the rubble towards us. Maya grabbed my shirt and pulled me through the door before closing the latch behind her.
My chest heaved painfully as I strained to draw a full breath. I stood doubled over, hands on my knees for balance. I was thankful for the rest. Maya had led me on a long, winding path through the deepest, darkest bowels of New York City. If our pursuer gave any chase, there was no sign of them.
The chamber we rested in was similar to the one we left behind, but on a much larger scale. The air here was cold and damp, and passageways that ended in darkness led from every side of the octagonal room.
“Maya,” I said. The first time I dared speak to her. “Where are we?”
“Where all men go at the end,” she said softly. Her eyes were red and puffy. “Deep underground, far from the reach of the hunters. We’re safe here.”
She walked away and I hurried after her. The darkened corridor she chose did nothing to ease my anxiety.
We continued in silence, down a corridor to the left. I stayed close to Maya for fear of losing sight of her. An almost serene breeze carried the scent of smoky oil with an undertone of flowers and a faint ticking that reminded me of turning gears.
Around a corner the tunnel ended abruptly, revealing what appeared to be a kind of open air market. It was difficult not to stop and gape as we passed through. People in garb similar to Maya milled around makeshift stalls as vendors hawked their wares and bartered for better deals. I slowed near one booth that carried what looked like some kind of scientific equipment but one scowl from Maya quickened my step.
We walked in silence. Many of the corridors were narrow but the rooms were spacious and clean. Most of the people we passed seemed familiar with Maya and parted to let us pass. We came to a stop at a solid wood door flanked by two burly men. They were so similar in stature and sour disposition that I could not tell them apart.
“Is the council still in session?” Maya asked.
“Yes,” the man on the right said, “but they’ve asked for no interruptions.”
“They’ll want to see us immediately,” she said. In a voice softer than I credited her with, she said, “We lost Jacob.”
Pained looks crossed both men’s faces. “Go ahead,” the man on the left said, opening the door.
Every step towards that door felt like we were moving one step closer to the edge of the abyss. Inside, we found a group of men and women sitting at a horseshoe-shaped table. Whatever debate they were having paused at our intrusion. Eleven pair of eyes darted from Maya to myself. Their faces bore the scars of trauma, both physical and mental.
“Maya,” the woman who sat at the center of the table said, “we weren’t expecting you.”
Not a question but a statement of fact, cold and direct. It was a voice spoken with power and experience of command.
Maya stepped forward and spoke. She recounted the events of that evening, beginning with my joining the group.
“And Jacob vouched for this stranger?”
“Yes, Madam Councilwoman. Jacob told me to bring him here.”
“And you,” she said, icy blue eyes boring into me. “How do you explain your presence here?”
“I wish I could, Madam.” I had been asking myself that very question since the moment of my arrival. “One minute I was in my laboratory in Colorado Springs. In 1899,” I added hurriedly.
A murmur passed through the council.
“A bolt of lightning struck my equipment as I was experimenting with standing wave resonance. The last thing I remember before waking up on the street above was the surge of energy and being surrounded by a blue light.”
“Perhaps you died and this is your hell,” a man to my left said.
I turned to him. “That thought had occurred to me.”
“Enough,” the leader said. “Tesla, whatever the circumstances you are here with us now.”
“What will happen to me?”
“A guide will be assigned to you,” Maya said. “They will find a place for you to sleep and show you around. You’ll be safe as long as you stay in the city.”
I had never considered myself a survivor. Driven, yes. Some called me obsessed. Now I would spend the rest of my life living underground and in fear of aliens who ruled the surface. And the last image I would see at night when I closed my eyes would be Jacob’s face, screaming at me to run, right before the alien killed him.
“Madam Councilwoman,” Maya said, “I’d like to go back out, to recover Jacob’s belongings.”
“It’s your right as his widow, but be careful. The order to avoid that station will be issued in the morning. We can’t afford to lose anyone else.”
“I want to go,” I blurted out.
Maya shook her head and the council looked at me as if I were crazy, but I continued.
“Jacob saved my life. Seeing to my safety cost him valuable seconds he might have spent escaping.” My throat clenched. “I owe it to his memory, and to Maya, to help.”
The Councilwoman raised an eyebrow and nodded to Maya. “The decision is yours to make.”
“Fine,” she said, walking past me. “We leave in two hours.”
I wandered the viaducts and corridors of the city, contemplating my place in this new world. My life’s work cut short, condensed to a chapter in a history book. I did not know what part I might play in this world’s future but it would not be that of a victim. Perhaps one day I would find a way to reverse my circumstance, but until then I would be a survivor.
The people here showed a resilient spirit, a fitting eulogy for our race. Even at this late hour men and women were carrying out their business as if death did not wait overhead. The air was thick with the scent of the human condition; a mixture of sweat and blood, sex, and excrement.
I found my way back to the marketplace I had first seen upon entering the city. The crowd had thinned and only a few booths remained open. There were merchants selling shriveled fruits and dried meats, or books with moldy or missing covers and water-stained pages. I was relieved to see that the one booth I was looking for was still open.
“Evening,” I said, running my finger along the cold, smooth surface of a familiar looking device. “Interesting equipment.”
“Hello, sir!” the huckster boomed. “Are you a purveyor of the fine art of technology?”
“I am, in a way. I am afraid my knowledge predates your inventory, though.”
“I should have guessed it,” he said. “You’re the one Maya brought back. The rumor mill has been active tonight, but don’t worry. I only believe half of what I heard.” He winked at me. “Feel free to look around and ask any questions. It’s been a slow night and I don’t mind the company.”
I picked up the alien weapon. It was lighter than I expected; well-balanced and sophisticated. “What can you tell me about this?”
“We call that a shock lance. A fearsome weapon.” He held out his hand and I handed it over.
“At the handle here,” he flipped it over, “is a switch and pressure point. The switch toggles between stun and kill.” He laughed to himself. “Wrap your hand around the hilt to energize the weapon and squeeze your index finger to fire.”
“This one is broken. All of the working lances are handled by the armory.”
I took the weapon back and examined it closer. The construction was more advanced than anything I had ever seen. No apparent seams or welds in the casing. I was sure I could learn more about it if I could take it apart.
“I… I do not know how your economics work here but I would like to buy this.”
“It looks like you’re traveling fairly light,” the vendor said, looking me over. “But I’ll make you a deal. Come back here when you’re settled in and give me a hand repairing some of this old junk. I could use the help and I suspect you could use a crash course in what passes for modern technology.”
I sat down in front of the booth and examined the weapon closely. The handle held a number of small granules on the handgrip, presumably sensors that activated on contact. The trigger contained a larger version of the sensors on the handle, like grains of sand on a smooth surface.
I found three more pressure points on the barrel. Pressing them triggered a click and the case separated into two shells. The case, forgotten for the moment, clinked against the dirty stone floor and lay where it fell. The inner working of the device lay before my eyes. A marvel of alien wonder, far superior to anything man-made.
“That’s as far as anyone’s got,” the merchant interrupted. “We’ve figured out most of how it works but the power source baffled our best and brightest.”
My eyes traced the internals of the device from trigger to barrel. The trigger closed a circuit, releasing the energy of the weapon. Judging by the devastating effect of its discharge, a substantial amount of power would be required. A cluster of six likewise components drew my attention. All but one was clear and brightly colored like a crystal, warm to the touch. The sixth was murky and cold.
A fingernail slipped along its edge freed the imperfect component free of its housing. A small but deep crack ran through its center but stopped short of perforation. The crystal’s surface was malleable and my thumbprint left its mark when I snapped the piece back into place, sealing the crack. The difference in temperature was minute, but the defective crystal felt warmer than the others and glowed faintly.
“There you are, Tesla.”
I looked around for the familiar voice. Maya, impatience clear on her face ashen.
“You ready to go or what?”
I picked the weapon’s shell off the ground and wrapped it around the device. It sealed smoothly, leaving no visible crease where the halves met.
“No time like the present.”
It must have been close to morning when Maya and I left the city. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a rooster crow. We passed by guards and people with tousled hair still wiping the sleep from their eyes.
I spoke while we walked, trying to learn as much as I could about the hierarchy of the survivors. Maya, for her part, mostly continued her march in silence.
“Maya, do you remember much of the day the attack began?”
She stopped and turned to me. Her weary brown eyes locked onto mine and refused to break their grip.
“I remember everything from that day. I remember the screams outside of our classroom. I remember sobbing as the newsfeeds fell silent. I remember the door shattering and the silver orb hovering in the hallways. Students running from it and falling dead in their tracks.”
Her tears flowed freely now. “I remember crawling under the bodies of the dead, the smell of burnt flesh and singed hair, hoping that death would spare me. I remember hours later, still too afraid to move even though the screams had long since been silenced, a voice calling out in the darkness. I remember the strong hands that pulled me to my feet, the voice that told me that everything would be okay, that he would protect me. I remember when my savior, Jacob, saved me from that darkness and gave me the only hope left in the dying of the night.”
Maya resumed her march and I fell into step behind her, lost in my own thoughts. We stopped when we reached the door leading to the room we had fled only yesterday. There were no signs that the aliens had followed. In the tight quarters of the corridor the only sound I could hear over the beating of my own heart was that of Maya’s deep, controlled breaths.
“Ready?” she said, raising a sleek-looking pistol had seen better days.
I hefted the shock lance in my left hand. “As best as I can be.”
Maya snorted. “You think you got that piece of junk fixed?”
“Only one way to find out.”
She twisted the handle and pulled the door open. The room looked the same as I remembered it. Maya rushed across the room and checked the other entrance, now a jagged hole surrounded by the chunks of stone and splintered wood. The only sign of Jacob was the patch of charred floor and the spilled pack that he had dropped when the alien burst through the door.
“We’re safe for now,” Maya said, “but those bastards could return any minute.”
Maya kneeled near Jacob’s pack and started picking up the spilled belongings of her dead husband. I stepped away to give her some privacy. I wasn’t sure why she allowed me to come along on such a personal journey but I was glad she did. I still blamed myself for what happened. I could not imagine the same thought had not occurred to her.
The crunch of gravel beyond the broken doorway attracted my attention. If Maya heard it, she showed no sign. Perhaps a rat scampering across the rubble knocked loose a stone. I didn’t notice the tip of the shock lance sticking out just beyond the edge of the door until it was almost too late.
I acted without thinking, stepping between Maya and the door. I raised my weapon and leveled it at the alien. I held my breath and pressed the trigger.
A beam of energy burst from the barrel of my weapon and hit its target. The hilt of the shock lance warmed noticeably in my grip.
Maya jumped up and knocked me out of the way to get to the door. “Stupid fool,” she muttered as she passed.
She stepped through the door and returned dragging a thin, gangly form. The unconscious alien body dropped with a thud at my feet.
“Why?” she wailed.
“What do you mean?” I said, confused.
“You took him from me,” she spat. “I just want to be with him again.”
“You’ve been here a day, Tesla, and you’ve already robbed me of the only thing worth living for.”
It was hard to speak past the lump in my throat. She collapsed onto the floor hard next to Jacob’s pack, sobs silencing any argument I could muster. I took off my jacket and placed it around her shoulders.
I leaned over to examine the alien. Its chest rose and fell slowly. I flipped the switch on my weapon, hoping the next shot would finish the job.
“Maya, I am truly sorry for the pain I caused you.”
“Just leave me alone,” she said. “Go away and leave me be.”
Shoulders sagging under the weight of guilt, I walked to the door leading back to the undercity. I thought I could find my way back, if I had to.
“Maya,” I said, turning back to face her. “If there were any way I could change all of this, I would.”
Her anguished glare bore into me. “I wish we had never met you.”
At that moment there was another crash from behind the broken door. Maya hung her head, in resignation or relief. I raised the shock lance and pressed the trigger as another alien entered the room. The weapon didn’t fire.
The shock lance grew hotter beneath my grip. The damage must have had worsened with use. The alien aimed its own weapon at me. I knew I had mere seconds before its weapon did the task my own would not. I pressed the trigger again and again, hoping for something to happen. Finally my weapon made an audible pop, just as blinding light erupted from the one pointed at me.
The beam struck the shock lance in my hand. The energy from both weapons resonated in my hand, enveloping me in a flash of blue light. The last thing I saw before the darkness took me was the smile on Maya’s face.
A voice called out but the words were unintelligible and the blue light hovered at the edge of my vision. I floated in a void, somewhere outside of time. Minutes or days might have passed before the light flared around me.
“Doctor Tesla! Doctor Tesla!”
A familiar voice, male, with a thick accent that reminded me of home. I opened my eyes and strained to focus. The blue light flickered and disappeared.
Czito’s relieved face came into view. “Doctor Tesla, are you well?”
I accepted his outstretched hand and he helped me to my unsteady feet. I put a hand on his shoulder for balance. My senses were still catching up to me.
“Tell me, Czito, how long was I gone for?”
Thunder rumbled overhead and lightning flashed in the sky. The patter of rain against the laboratory had an almost musical quality, like the symphony of nature.
“What did you just see, Czito?”
“I threw the switch like you asked, sir. The coils powered up and the experiment was going well until the power surged and a bright blue light surrounded you. Moments later everything went silent.”
“How long has it been since the power went out?”
“A minute. Maybe less. I came to find you right away.”
I flexed the fingers of my left hand. I could still feel the warmth of the shock lance. Rationally, everything I remembered happening could have been a hallucination induced by intense electrical shock. If that were the case, though, where was my jacket?
“Call the electric company and tell them to restore our power. We have work to do.”
Weapons to design. Defenses to plan. A new future to shape.
I opened the frost-covered window of my suite at the New Yorker Hotel and looked outside. Snow flurries drifted and swirled in the bitter January air but the streets below still bustled with activity. People milled about like rats trapped in a maze, consuming and procreating with reckless abandon, ignorant to their inevitable fate.
I turned my back on them and shuffled across the room. Crumpled balls of paper littered the floor, the final remains of my life’s work. I couldn’t remember the last time housecleaning knocked wearily at my door only to be chased away, but I remembered with clarity the day I bore witness to the end of the human race.
The illness that consumed my body left me devoid of energy. I crawled into bed and pull the covers up to my chin. My peers once considered me a mad scientist. Now they thought me mad, if they remembered me at all.
For years I worked to perfect a method of absolute protection from attack. The teleforce weapon I had designed was capable of bringing down an invading fleet from two hundred miles away. The aliens would be stopped dead in their tracks before they could harm a single human being.
I presented the completed weapon to the War Department but they had no interest. I called former friends and acquaintances but none wanted to associate themselves with what they considered a madman’s folly. The British Prime Minister, Chamberlin, expressed a sincere intent to adopt the device under the guise of preventing the brewing war in Europe but that cooperation died along with my hopes when he was replaced. His successor saw no virtue in my plans and sent me away summarily.
Now the only hope lay among the papers in my vault, if anyone could be found who would take my work seriously.
Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-born scientist, set the world on fire with his ideas and inventions — sometimes literally. At the time of his death in 1943, he was penniless and largely forgotten. It wasn’t until the declassification of his journals a century later, following the successful deployment of his Teleforce technology in the first extraterrestrial war that the true vision of his work was acknowledged.
Today, he is heralded as the father of the modern age, whose work provided the foundation for free energy, force fields, and teleportation.
Adam Israel was born with one foot on the road and a book in his back pocket. Having lived in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, he’s expatriated to Ontario, Canada with his wife, three dogs and three cats. With his nomadic lifestyle a thing of the past, he spends his days working as a software developer and writing.
Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at http://katiedoesartthings.tumblr.com/