THE LAST LIVING INDIAN
by Logan Giese
Tom Hartfield sat at his cubicle in one of many iridescent spiral towers scattered across Manhattan. He felt satisfied with his morning work crunching the daily numbers and took a drink of his scolding hot coffee he just poured himself.
“Damn it,” Tom said almost spitting out the scorching liquid that must have burnt away several hundred taste buds. He knew it was a fresh pot and that waiting a minute was the right move, but the aroma of the coffee beans was pure heaven.
His work was important to him. Helping predict and approximate the daily solar output from the sun. Then converting it to reusable energy for the world’s largest city was of great significance. Constructing a solar powered dome around New York City was the biggest human building project in existence.
Tom looked out the window at the edge of his cubicle, near the coveted corner office his current boss occupied. The corkscrew towers made of metallic glass reaching the heavens looked like spears, wedging war against the sky. The scene was awe-inspiring.
It was a blessing, and a curse, to work in a cubicle stationed so close to the boss. The blessing, the ineffable view, which happened to be on the 158th floor of Spiral Tower 3 in Midtown Manhattan. The curse, always having the boss around. No playing on the cyber communicator like everyone else because the boss could clearly see the holographic images projected in front of the eye when he passes.
An alarm hologram went off in front of his lower right eye viewing area, blinking ‘12:45 pm’ repeatedly in neon pink. Tom moved his right hand and clicked the home button connected to the cyber communicator attached to his right ear to turn off the alarm. It was a basic cyber communicator model, standard government issue black CC that looked like a rudimentary ear piece with a speaker sticking out.
The alarm was for an in-person live event that Tom had purchased tickets for in advance. He hoped to impress a traditionalist co-worker who canceled on him at the last second. He hated the idea of actually going to something in-person. All entertainment, such as rock concerts, movies, and travelling, was created as an enhanced personal experience through the cyber communicator.
Anything and everything was at Tom’s fingertips when he went home. Annoyingly enough, this event was in-person only at the Museum of Modern Art. He had already spent a thousand dollars getting the two tickets. Tom had closed his touchscreen before getting up to leave when his boss Jim interrupted.
“Tom, did you get the numbers yet for Solar Panel 43?”
“Yes, Sir.” Tom said glancing up at Jim’s raised brow.
“What was the output?”
Tom grew frustrated and turned on his touchscreen specifically for solar observation with great speed. Now he was going to be rushed trying to get to the museum and back before the afternoon conversion rates came in.
“Solar Panel 43 is reading at 8.65 Kilowatts,” Tom said. “Way below what we need it to be.”
Jim frowned and shook his head, “Not good enough, not good enough at all. These new Icarus nano-panels can magnify the 99.9% efficiency rate by ten. We are missing 1.35 Kilowatts. Find out where it went. Building a dome that lasts 100 millennia is a tremendous responsibility Tom.”
“I know sir.”
Everyone knows that your highness.
“Make sure to triple check the readings after lunch. This is a top priority,” Jim said while waving his hand to signify he was done with Tom.
Tom nodded while turning off the touchscreen to get ready to leave. Triple checking the numbers of Solar Panel 43 would be time consuming. He would have to work an extra couple of hours on top of his standard 12-hour shift. The constant deadlines needed to be met, and since they were 6 months behind in year 3 of a 10-year project, his free time would cease to exist. Using new tech comes with growing pains.
He got to the elevators, which had just opened to let some off. Half a dozen people with four-inch hologram displays in front of their right eyes stood facing the elevator doors. Tom thought it was like looking at a human Christmas tree with all the reds, blues and greens hanging on the occupants’ faces.
The elevator had stopped at the 143rd floor and an attractive brunette entered and stood in front of Tom. He noticed she was watching the latest episode of ‘Three’s a Crowd’, a popular sitcom about friends in their thirties meeting in a bar to complain about their insignificant lives. Tom liked the show and decided to turn it on as well. Maybe he could get three episodes in before he got to the Museum, since they ran 5 minutes a piece. Tom hoped she would take notice, and the show could spark a conversation. Tom was wrong.
Talking to strangers had become taboo because when people were in public, they were on their CC’s watching their latest shows or bands. The person interrupting them would be considered rude or an annoyance. Talking to and meeting people was done through the city’s exclusive Social Status Site ‘Tri-S’, which by law, everyone had to register on for census and population control reasons.
As the elevator landed on the main lobby of Spiral Tower 3, the doors opened and people started exiting. Tom waited his turn.
“Oh, well,” Tom said, missing his chance for conversation with her. He thought he could try to pin her later on Tri-S if he saw her again.
“Excuse me?” the attractive brunette said glancing his way.
Tom forgot he still stood next to her, and not on Tri-S’s swiping main page.
“Sorry, just thinking out loud,” He stammered.
Tom realized this was an un-taboo moment since her show revealed the end credits and started the process of loading the next episode. “It’s just I have these two tickets to go see this in-person event right now and my friend canceled.” Tom removed the tickets from his outer jacket pocket, showing them to her while they were exiting the elevator and entering the main lobby of Spiral Tower 3.
She peeked at the tickets. “Last Living Indian, sounds interesting.”
After accepting Tom’s invitation, he asked her for her name, and she responded with Rebecca. A pretty name, classic.
“What do you do, Rebecca?”
“I’m a civil engineering assistant over at Icarus Improvement,” Rebecca said. “It’s a sub-division of Icarus Corp that focuses on future construction of the city once the dome is up.”
Everything is Icarus, why even ask?
“Do you enjoy your job?” Tom asked while they exited Spiral Tower 3, and walked into the jarring summer heat New York had become accustomed to for over a century. Going from a comfortable, air conditioned 20 degrees Celsius to a malevolent heat index of 40 degree Celsius was a rough adjustment. The sunlight temporary blinded Tom for a second while his eyes adjusted.
“It’s challenging enough, but working on city planning 300 to 400 years from now, chances are you will never get to see the finished product, even if you keep up with all the bio-upgrades and gets to second-cent,” Rebecca replied.
“That’s for sure,” Tom said. “By then you will be 90% cyborg, pretty gross.” He had loosened his tie and wiped the beads of sweat already forming on his forehead with the standard handkerchief that had become fashionable again.
“Let’s walk instead of taking the tubes or the metro, shall we? I need some fresh air every now and again,” Rebecca said.
“Agreed,” Tom said reluctantly.
Instead of taking a left for the floating, Icarus-powered metro, they took a right on 7th avenue, right in the middle of Times Square.
“It’s busier than usual today,” Rebecca said while glancing up at the connecting buildings’ metallic glass tubes, passage ways filled with people.
“Yeah,” Tom said looking in the opposite direction, towards the beginnings of the dome construction Southwest of them. Icarus-made robots worked on metal scaffolds and could be seen from miles away. Some robots, viewed from such distance, were giants, using their crane arms to move and insert the panels. Other robots looked like ants searching for food, scurrying all across the panels.
They were human sized, a feature which allowed for the precision needed to attach the panels to each other.
They got to west 54th St and took a right. He had planned on catching up on all the new episodes of ‘Three’s a Crowd’ during his walk from Spiral Tower 3. That could be pushed back for the commute home.
“So, what do you do, Tom?” Rebecca asked.
“Quality Control, making sure the panels will work at max capacity,” Tom bragged. “Any work with the panels is considered prestigious, mediocrity notwithstanding.”
“Oh, that’s pretty cool.”
“I can’t wait until we have the panels up,” Tom said. “Getting out of this sun will be a blessing. They say that snow machines will be created to produce a winter, could you imagine that? An actual winter. It had been a century since New York has seen snow.” Tom paused and an awkward silence followed.
“I always thought winters would be romantic,” Tom said. “everything white and cold, feeling cold. To wear clothes to stay warm, it is unfathomable.”
“Yea, but at what cost?” Rebecca replied as the anti-gravity metro train flew overhead with a sonorous roar.
“What do you mean, Rebecca?”
“That Icarus will own this city and everything in it, including us. Pretty steep price if you ask me. Who knows what Icarus will be like generations from now? They might create the perfect utopia everyone dreams about, or they might enslave all our children’s children. With robots handling everything, one has to wonder, what is the future of humanity?”
Rebecca turned her head to hide her flushed cheeks. “Sorry Tom. Sometimes I get carried away.”
“You have every right to. We are living in a crazy time.” Tom said. “I do agree though, it is scary if you think about it since this will be the first corporate dome.”
So far, all the world’s domes were slated to be run by democracies. But that was what people assumed, considering they had become self-contained units after construction with limited access from entering or leaving. Everything was included in the design from hydroponic crops, research development, and manufacturing to sewage recycling.
As they reached the museum, Tom reached up and tapped his CC to access his avatar. A small man with a bow tie and suit appeared in the bottom right corner of Tom’s viewing area. Rebecca preceded to do the same. Her avatar seemed to be the standard library lady avatar.
“Good day, Sir,” the avatar said with an English accent. “How may I assist you?”
“One minute, Henry,” Tom said putting his avatar, Henry in freeze mode. “Look at this archaic glass building, Rebecca.” He had to use her name so she knew he was talking to her while his avatar was turned on. Standard etiquette, since only the person with the CC could hear their own avatar. “What a space waster this place is. There could be, maybe, a thousand residence units placed above it. They really need to tear this down.”
“Didn’t you hear? I guess not since the civil engineering department has not shared the press release yet, but that is exactly what Icarus is doing once they get full city rights in a couple of years,” Rebecca said.
“Good riddance,” Tom stated while holding the door open for Rebecca to enter. Still has manual doors, this place is ancient.
“Yeah, maybe,” Rebecca said.
The couple entered room 315. Tom was taken aback by what he saw. The room had two dozen or so chairs facing a long red velvet curtain with red velvet ropes separating the audience from the curtain. It was like the paintings in the lobby area. How absurd. What also startled Tom were all the rich and old people there. Rebecca and Tom, the youngest people by a good 50 years, took two seats near the back.
“Do you think we are in the right place?” Rebecca whispered jokingly.
“No kidding,” Tom muttered back while he surveyed the small crowd. “It’s much easier to tell who is second-cent up close isn’t it? Not that it matters, but they blend in so well, my co-workers and I play a game on trying to figure out who is second-cent and who isn’t while watching inside the tubes.” Since the tubes were the best spot in the city to people watch, a lot of other people must do it too.
“I’m not from a big city originally, so seeing people over two hundred years of age is still new to me.” Rebecca said quietly.
“If you can afford it,” Tom said. “A person can live until they are 250 easily, some even push 270. You can tell by their skin.” Tom looked at Rebecca and then signaled with his eyes over to an older lady that sat 10 feet in front of them. “Their skin is made of a translucent synthetic wax that was melted on first, then molded with whatever color you want added later. So, from afar, they look normal, but when you get close you can tell something wasn’t natural. Pretty pathetic. People pretending to be in their twenties and thirties but are two hundred years older.” He chuckled.
The new aristocrat class stood out from the crowd like a sore thumb, but this was common knowledge Rebecca had to already know. Gene splicing and editing had become so mainstream, even Tom’s parents could afford to add one race to his genes, which was Korean. Tom felt lucky his natural family already had two of the more expensive races in it. His West African grandfather, mixed with his Italian grandmother made for a great combination. Adding an Asian race to the lineage was the next common step. His mom wanted Japanese but couldn’t afford it. Tom would need to add one more race, Australian Aboriginal, for his future children, and his lineage would then be completed with all 4 major race classifications. Australian Aboriginal genes were the most expensive to add. People who only had one of the four major races were typically poor, and considered to be at the bottom of the social economic ladder.
On the other hand, the wealthy could be up to all 30 different subgroup races, which start looking like a different race all of their own. They could pick and choose the best features from all the races in the world to create what they say was the perfect human. A race that represents the entire planet earth. The elite wanted to add the native North American genes, but the Indians, as whole, resisted saying it would taint their legacy and won certain protections against it.
“I am sure you know this already, but if you ever meet someone who is tall, dark, and has blonde curly hair and blue Japanese eyes, they are very wealthy.” Tom said with a hint of jealousy.
“Of course,” Rebecca said. “Just because I am not from the city does not mean I am stupid.”
“Sorry,” Tom said.
Rebecca motioned to the front row. “Look who is here.”
Tom moved to his right to get a better view. “Oh my God,” Tom said. “That’s Thane Icarus.” Sitting in the center of the front row, surrounded by other high-net-worth individuals, in very expensive suits was the Founder and President of Icarus Corporation. He was more attractive in person. Tom had sat five rows behind Thane so all he saw was his long blond curls that tied in a lengthy ponytail resting on his back, and what looked like the beginnings of a blonde bushy beard on his dark, strong jawline chin.
Tom found his bearings and started to reassess the situation. He noticed the whole room was staring at Thane Icarus. All the people that were sitting by Mr. Icarus, must be his business associates, or more realistically, his servile followers Tom assumed.
“The man is a genius Quadrillionaire,” Tom whispered. “What is he doing here?”
“No idea, but this sure got interesting quick.” Rebecca said.
Everyone’s avatars all turned on at once. “Good day and welcome to ‘The Last Living Indian’,” Henry said. “Today, we are here to witness the last living Native American, and to hear a short speech followed by questions you may have for her.”
“Thousands of years ago,” Henry said. “late in the last Ice Age, human beings traveled across the great Bering land bridge, from Asia to Alaska. They migrated across both North America and South America and established great farming techniques to cultivate the land for optimal production. The European Invasion started with Columbus and his voyages to what they called the ‘New World’, and started one of the worst human holocausts the world had ever witnessed. The effort to eradicate American Indian culture in the 19th and 20th century by the United States government reduced what was once 12 million North American Indian inhabitants in the 16th century, down to 200,000 by early 20th century.”
Tom rolled his eyes and boredom started to seeped in.
“How much longer is this introduction going to take?” he whispered to Rebecca.
Rebecca didn’t respond.
“…concentration camps called Reservations where all the North American Indians were placed. Two hundred years after the first inception of the concentration camps in 1851, the United States government deemed Reservations unconstitutional because of the dwindling Indian population rate, and the culture worship that hindered the progress of their society. The government had disbanded the concentration camps and forced the occupants into all the major cities across the country. Through this integration process, there had been a few holdouts that had clung to their Old Ways. With years of integration, and the rise of interracial breeding, the race of the North American Indian will cease to exist after the passing of ‘The Last Living Indian’ who had no children. Her name, Silver Birdsong and her tribe is Lakota. Her parents were practitioners of the Old Ways and came from the same tribe that produced the legends of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Let us introduce to you all, ‘Silver Birdsong’.”
The avatars all turned off at once. There was a small applause from the audience as the red velvet curtain started to rise. Tom noticed behind the curtain was the same thick metallic glass, creating a cage for whomever was inside it. With the curtains fully drawn, he got a better look. There was an empty, standard, black, rocking chair front in center with a door to its left. That’s a weird looking chair, it had limited functionally and does not help one’s posture like the ball shape, Anti-Grav chairs we use at work. The door slowly opened and the last living Indian made her appearance.
She was at best 5 feet tall, but judging by her hunched back and fragile appearance, she much taller in her youth. Her face was buried in wrinkles and her skin was a deep, dark, sun burnt brown-red. Her eyes were sunken and her hair, a long thick grey braid. She was revolting to Tom, but he couldn’t deny that the woman had an ethereal glow about her. This was the first time he had seen what a person would look like if they aged naturally.
“Do you see that?” Rebecca said.
“Yea, very disturbing.” Tom replied while he readjusted in his chair. He was feeling very uneasy about his whole situation.
“No, her cane,” Rebecca said nodding her head in the direction of the old lady’s walking stick. “I bet it’s made of real wood.”
“Must be worth a fortune.” Tom said as he still shifted in his chair. He noticed the cerulean necklace of a cross she wore across her shriveled chest which was weird since religion had been outlawed for decades. She must have had certain protections he thought, but he couldn’t get over her fragile appearance.
“Why didn’t she get any of the upgrades?” Tom said. “The basic economy ones are free for the public. Why wouldn’t she at least accept the free hip and back upgrades, I mean.”
“Shhh” Rebecca said holding her finger to her mouth looking annoyed.
The last living Indian sat down and laid her walking cane on her lap. “Mithawa chaze mazaskaska zintkala olowan,” she said with a toothless grin. “My name is Silver Birdsong and I am Lakota.”
Rebecca started clapping but stopped once she realized no one else was going to follow. She noticed there was a weird tension filling the room and started to get agitated.
“Let me tell you a story,” she said still grinning with amusement. “A story about creation. There was another world before the one you see now. But the people of that world did not behave the way they were supposed to,” she said, gently rocking in her chair. “Being very displeased with this, the Great Spirit decided to make a new world and he started to sing several songs to bring rain. Each song brought more and more rain, splitting the earth apart with water gushing up through the cracks, drowning all the people and animals with only one simple animal surviving, a crow. The crow flew around for days, weeks, years, and decided to plead with the Great Spirit to make him a new place to rest his wings. The Great Spirit decided to help the crow and to create a new world.”
Tom looked over at Rebecca to see if she bought this hogwash. Rebecca was entranced, with her eyes wide open and her stern figure sitting straight up. Just then, Thane Icarus stood up and proceeded for the door.
“What a waste of time,” Thane muttered under his breath as all his budding assistants got up to follow. Tom agreed.
“Did you see that she was wearing a cross?” one of the fawning subordinates said to the other.
“Yeah, seems she is still a savage.”
“No wonder why they went extinct,” he replied. They both chuckled as they departed, leaving the room half full of people.
Tom both admired and envied Thane for leaving. If it wasn’t for Rebecca, he would be leaving as well. The crowd started to murmur.
Silver Birdsong did not look fazed and kept going. The audience quieted down and brought their attention from the greatest man in the world leaving, back to the little old lady sitting in the rocking chair.
“The Great Spirit grabbed his huge pipe bag containing all the animals of the world and selected four of them known for their ability to remain under water for a long time. He took out a wise loon, a proud otter, a clever beaver and lastly the slow turtle. He told each of them to retrieve a lump of mud from beneath the flood waters. The proud otter, with its strong webbed feet tried first but failed, followed by the wise loon and clever beaver, who both brought back nothing. Finally, it was the slow Turtle’s turn. The Turtle disappeared into the great waters and was under water so long that everyone thought it had drowned. Then, with a giant leap, the turtle sprung from the waters holding mud in its mouth and claws. Singing, the Great Spirit shaped the mud into land and it spread the land all across the world. Feeling sadness for the lonely dry land, the Great Spirit cried tears of lakes and rivers. The Great Spirit took handfuls of different animals from his pipe bag and spread them across the earth. He grabbed red, white, black and yellow earth and turned it into men and women. The Great Spirit gave them his scared pipe and told them to listen to it. The Great Spirit also warned them about the fate of the previous world and the blunders the people had made. He promised the people if they lived in harmony with all living things, all would be well. But if they decided to make the world bad and ugly, he will destroy the Earth again.”
Silver Birdsong stopped rocking in her chair and looked into the eyes of everyone in attendance. When she got to Tom, he had to look away. Such direct eye contact was very uncomfortable.
“Any questions?” Birdsong asked.
Tom looked at Rebecca, who he thought would be the only person in the room to asked a question, but she fell silent. Silver Birdsong waited a minute in case anyone wanted to ask a question and then slowly got up using her cane. Rebecca stood up with a ferocity, “Does the Great Spirit come back? Does he return in your story?”
The old lady crackled looking at Rebecca with amusement, “You tell me?” The red velvet curtain dropped and everyone’s avatars turned on.
“Thank you for attending ‘The Last Living Indian’,” Henry said. “Please check out the other upcoming events at…” Tom turned off his CC.
“Thank God that is over with. I thought it was going to last for eternity,” Tom said.
Tom and Rebecca both decided to take the tubes back to Spiral Tower 3 because of the heat. They both entered the main lobby.
“That was interesting,” Rebecca said while they were entering the elevator, back to their respected floors.
“Well, I hope you enjoyed it,” Tom said. “Because it didn’t hold my interest in the slightest.”
Rebecca sighed. “Thanks for the ticket. I really got to get back to work now. I am swamped with revisions,” she said while punching the 143rd floor button.
“I need to get back to it too.” Tom said while hitting the 158th white circle turning it yellow. He looked awkwardly at Rebecca than back to the elevator door. “Maybe we can do this again.”
“Yea, maybe.” Rebecca turned on her CC to start the next episode of ‘Three’s a Crowd’.
Tom, defeated, uttered “Can I pin you on Tri-S?”
“Sure,” Rebecca said disinterestedly looking up to see the floor number they were on. The elevator doors opened for the 143rd floor. “Thanks for the tickets again, it was fun. But on second thought, don’t pin me, OK?” she said with a fake smile.
That surprised Tom and he did not know how to process the question. “Um, OK.” Rebecca bolted and the elevator doors closed. The limerence leaving Tom, he shrugged and waited his turn to depart. The elevator doors opened to the 158th floor and Tom headed straight to his desk and turned on all his touchscreens. “That took way too long,” Tom said to himself as he noticed his boss, Jim, approaching.
“You triple checked those numbers then?” Jim asked.
“No, Sir. I just got back from lunch and I…”
“Jesus Christ Tom!” Jim yelled. “I said this was top priority. I need it done yesterday.”
“…will do it now, Sir.”
“Get it together Tom. There are plenty of people who would kill for your job. You know that?”
“Icarus can only give you so much. Get those numbers done.” Jim said while retreating to his corner office.
Tom looked back to make sure Jim left and sighed. He had so much work ahead of him that to catch up, he had to start working 16 hour days. With his burden of work in front of him, he decided to take a minute to peer outside his window. The dozens of coiled, circular metallic glass buildings with thousands of protruding lights surrounded his field of vision. They were all connected by glass tubes that reached the hundreds of equally sized, rectangle residential units.
Tom had wondered what it was like, roaming the empty, grass flat lands on horseback, running against the wind. Touching the bare earth against his toes, feeling wet grass after a rain, to breathe uncirculated air. “Must have felt free,” he whispered to himself. “What have we done?”
Tom realized he was being ridiculous but didn’t care. Maybe it was the world that has gone bat-shit crazy, not him. Birdsong was right, the reckoning is upon us. If this dome was humanity’s last stand against an Earth that wants to kill it, what was the point? Just to survive?
“So, Tom, about those-,” Jim said.
“You know what Jim, screw it, screw you, screw Icarus. I quit!” Tom rose from his desk and starred directly into Jim’s shocked eyes. “If I have to waste my life answering to people like you, I’d rather die free, on the outside. Being stuck in this prison, working most my waking hours, then becoming a zombie watching the same garbage over and over again is not life. Pretending to be twenty for two hundred years is not living. I don’t know what it is.”
The silence of Jim and the entire office was deafening.
Tom went straight to the elevators and punched the button for the 143rd floor. While he waited he reached up and tore off his CC and threw it on the ground. The rewarding sense of freedom from the confines of the CC was intoxicating. The doors opened to the 143rd floor.
“She was not only the last living Indian, she was the last living human,” Tom whispered.