The Genesis Project
“Hey Eve, have you ever met the boss?”
Eve glances nervously at her colleague Adam. He is tall and upright with a square jaw and pale, mobile eyes always looking for something better.
“Nope,” she says with a self-deprecating smile that voids the ambition from her face. “I wouldn’t know them from, well, you.”
Adam guffaws. “Oh they’re nothing like me. If you haven’t seen them before, it’s a little unsettling.”
Eve chuckles politely, although what Adam said wasn’t funny. “I suppose I’ll have to see for myself.”
“No time like the present,” he says, swiping a plastic pass card and opening the frosted door. He nods curtly, as if to say you first. She takes a shallow breath and steps forward. It’s just an office, she reminds herself. It’s just an office.
She blinks and tries to grasp the enormity of it all. The space is vast and empty, a quivering, tensile gray. A plume of dark smoke hovers at the far horizon, twisting itself into complicated shapes and roiling dreams. Eve is transfixed until something lands on her shoulder like a warm, heavy bug.
“What?” she snaps.
“That’s them,” whispers Adam, suddenly behind her. “You should say hello.”
Dutifully, Eve approaches the smoke, which is now a swirling, tornadic vortex. She’s from the wastes of western Oklahoma. Her parents died in an F5 twister when she was twelve.
“Um, hello. I’m Eve, I’m here for the Virtual Reality meeting.”
Eve, get to the storm cellar. Your dad and I will be right behind you.
Her mother’s last words echo in her ears. The smoke briefly morphs into a careworn face before curling into a complex fractal.
Eve. Adam. Thank you for joining me today.
“Always a pleasure,” says Adam, his voice light and jocular.
“Me too,” mutters Eve.
I have a project for you. Build a new world. Populate it with male and female. Yin and yang. Light and dark.
Make it irresistible. Inescapable.
Eve blinks, and Adam is rapt. The boss becomes a slowly rotating cyclone with an empty eye. “Um, when do you want to see a prototype?” asks Eve.
You have seven days.
“We’re on it!” says Adam eagerly. Eve nods.
Just one more thing. Others have built worlds and failed. I want a fresh perspective, a new take.
Don’t look at the old data. It is forbidden.
Eve is in her cubicle, designing a gently rolling topography, when Drake puts his cold, dry hand on her neck. An inveterate backstabber known as the snake, Drake is a narrow man with a loose, springy grace. He is playful, charming, and entirely untrustworthy.
“Hello Eve,” he says, thin lips curving into an oddly sensual smile. “Working hard or hardly working?”
Eve sighs. “You know I’m working on the new world. We’re going to demo the prototype on Friday. I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
“Oh, sweet Eve, naïve Eve,” murmurs Drake. “The boss has destroyed every world anyone has ever made for them. And their developers, too. Wouldn’t you like to know why?”
The old data, the data she isn’t supposed to look at. For a moment, Eve is curious. The data could give her an edge. Or it could give Adam an edge, something sharp to hold over her if the demo goes bad.
“No thanks, Drake,” she says tartly. “I’m not going to bite this time.”
As Adam and Eve craft their world, soft screams echo from the production server. For every gentle, vegetable-planting culture Eve designs, Adam releases a ruthless, hungry army. There is blood and pain and bile and even more blood.
“What about adding a religion that values peaceful conflict resolution?” asks Eve, her voice dull with exhaustion. “The way we’re going now, the entire population will be dead before Friday’s demo.”
“Don’t worry about it,” replies Adam, his voice calm and breezy. “I’ve got it all under control.”
Eve frowns. The prototype is unrelentingly violent and grim. “Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I’m positive.” He winks in a way that makes her certain he studied the forbidden data. She sighs, putting the final touches on a desert sunrise. Perhaps Adam is right, after all. The boss is kind of a sick fuck.
The demo of the new world isn’t going well at all. The boss is manifesting as a ball of wriggling adders. Eve steps back while Adam, oblivious to the boss’ body language, lovingly describes every last plague and battle.
“So, what do you think?”
The snakes dissolve, and the smoke arranges itself into a thundercloud flashing with eerie light.
I think you looked at the old data. The forbidden data.
Adam blusters while Eve continues to move slowly and carefully towards the exit. “It was her! Eve did it. She manipulated me. I had no idea what was happening. She seduced me and then…”
CRACK! A bolt of lightning explodes out of the cloud. For a moment, Adam glows like a million stars. And then he is gone, except for the dull, metallic smell of ash.
Eve, I know he was lying. I know everything.
Eve nods, her hands shaking. Direct contact with management is often fatal. The thundercloud contracts and changes, birthing a slender tornado. The vortex reaches across the room, its whirling funnel of death arcing towards Eve.
I have a new project for you.
Eve swallows. Hard. “Yes boss?”
Build a replacement for Adam.