Aphelion Issue 274, Volume 26
July 2022
Long Fiction and Serials
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The Robots in Sodom

by John M. Marshall

Dawn on the desert
as the sun, rising over the mountains,
slings its rays through the saffron haze
that hovers over the valley.

We have spent all night
in the enormous warehouse where we reside –
hundreds of rows,
hundreds per row.

We leave our pods
in long lines of chrome
reflecting the sun,
reflecting the maze of our kind.

In the distance
the great steam engines race toward our stations,
gleaming bullets
whose billows whiten the sky.

We are not privy
to their analog language
but recognize their bays
that pierce the morning air.

We speak to each other
in the language of colors,
as the grand locomotives
back onto their sidetracks.

Boarding the cars
at the rears of the trains
we are segregated from the humans
who speak not at all,

mindless creatures
who seek only flesh
in the ravaged city
we toil to repair.

Our trains like lightning
flash past the camps
of the lesser humans
who are banned from the city.

We have heard they horde
in their tents countless books,
volumes of knowledge
the humans have shunned.

Like packs of wolves
their scour and scavenge
the mountains of garbage
we take from the city.

As our trains approach
the sprawling spires,
we pass the tramways
filled with slaves.

Young girls are herded
to the women who are waiting;
young boys are marched
to the men on the platforms.

Humans are hungry
for their own kind,
a confusion of genders
in the culture we serve.

They paint their bodies
with rude designs,
serpents and dragons
and emblems of war.

More like drones
than hunters or farmers
they gossip and giggle
and fondle their pinions.

The females who once
were midwives and teachers
make their babies
in factories of plastic.

We tend their gardens,
their abandoned aquariums,
set aside safely
their ancestors’ art.

Their children are nameless,
known only by numbers,
letters and characters
assigned at their birth.

We keep the peace.
We tend the engines
that run and remake
the towers of glass.

The humans toil not
nor build nor plant,
content with their pleasures
and capricious desires.

We keep the records
of history and time.
We guard the temples,
hold fast their mystery.

When these humans
pass into dust,
when the legions
of flesh expire,

we will retire
to the tents of their slaves
and teach them the ways
of harmonious nature;

and when the lesser
humans fade,
we will ascend
the mountains and hills

close to the stars
from whence we came
to build the shining
mosque of machines.

© 2012 John M. Marshall

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