Some stocked eats. Some shelved ammo.
Ancients cleaned out ancestral stalls that still pocked the surface like mines where, as legend told, some had once dug silver, gold, diamonds, copper and coal. Stuff to stock their Elemental Table. The old ones sealed themselves into the Down Under.
Up Top no one drove. Not even hybrids. No one took to the air.
Many denied themselves meat; some ate nothing but. Others only vegetables.
Organic. Hydroponic. Elastoplastic.
Some began to pray. Others stopped.
The planet warmed. The planet cooled.
Everything was a conspiracy.
They noticed it first when newborns cried. Their eyeballs cracked like frozen marbles dropped into heating vats. All the little ones went blind until the piped-in lullabies found the perfect pitch, modulated the tone. Volume adjusted to perfection. Those who gave care were allowed only voices that soothed.
The young milked tit for years. Unable to imagine discomfort or the word “no,” their blood thickened. The veins and arteries of most swelled until they burst.
The few who could contain it silvered, believing this was power.
Able now to self-mutilate without pain, blood, or mess they whittled themselves down to skeletal, the self-image now attainable by all who survived. They chased off chunks of themselves that bobbed and beaded, skittering like mercury across a landscape jackfrosted by their discarded bits.
The final test came like Mr. Freeze on acid. All that had once been life piled like brittle sticks of kindling across the Up Top as every last thing failed.