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The Garden of Eden


The Garden of Eden


Scot McAtee



Published by Scot McAtee at Shakespir


Copyright 2016 Scot McAtee


Discover other titles by Scot McAtee at Shakespir.com



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The Garden of Eden


“Well, that’s it then,” said the old man to no one in particular as he pushed a single square red button on his console and leaned back in his seat. He watched the approaching planet ever so slowly fill the screen above his console and remarked on his achievement. “The ridding of man from the Universe.”


The massive colony ship "The Garden of Eden" hurtled silently through the void of space helmed by the only unfrozen human aboard- Oscar Bradfield- an old geezer pushing the ripe old age of 993. It was his job to insure the timely arrival and successful insertion of his cargo on their new home, an earthlike rock that went by the unassuming and unflattering name of its discoverer: Geb. They were nearing the end of the journey and Oscar, whom most Earthlings thought to be the craziest human in the history of humanity because he had willingly agreed to take the loneliest job ever created, had enjoyed himself thoroughly. Well, at least for the first few hundred years.

No one understood why he’d been so thrilled to have the position, even after it was made public that he was the only person to have even applied. He’d fielded so many questions about it and when he told them the real reason. “I think the prospect of spending a little time alone sounds fabulous,” he told them. Of course, they laughed at him and teased him. The internet trolled him and made incredibly rude, offensive—and funny—memes out of him so that after a while he started making up lies that sounded more probable just to avoid ridicule. And yet, the powers that were had still given him the job.

It was at his birthday party, the day after his 87th birthday—spent surrounded by friends and family, none of whom he really liked—that he received the news. The day after his birthday was the date upon which they traditionally celebrated Oscar’s birthday because his autistic namesake grandson, who was now nearing thirty, shared his birthday with his grandfather. Since he couldn’t understand why his birthday could possibly be shared with another person, they simply moved Grandfather’s birthday to the following day. In the early days it was two-day event and was enjoyed by the entire family. Lately though, it had been more of a burden. Every year the same purple dinosaur themed party rolled around and passed with the same childish games and sweets and was then followed by the old man’s curmudgeonly birthday, which more closely resembled a dour wake. Twenty-five years of the routine might have been great for the younger Oscar, but it had worn mighty thin for everyone else. And so what started as another exciting-as-watching-a-glacier ‘party’ grew more interesting when the screen of the old man’s tablet starting flashing a phone number.

Charlie, his favorite great-grandchild if it was to be known, had stolen his tablet and skipped happily away to some childish song she’d managed to get it to play for her. A few minutes after giving the child his tablet, one of his many nieces handed it back to him. Usually that meant a broken tablet, which incensed him, but as it was Charlie, he could forgive her anything. She looked like a Disney character, jet black hair and eyes, the personality of a happy little princess and incessantly lavished hugs and kisses upon anyone who showed the slightest affection towards her.

Oscar didn’t recognize the number and initially brushed it off. “I don’t know this person. I’m not going to take the call,” he told the niece.

“But grandpa,” the niece replied, “It might be da most po’tant call of your life.” 

“And it might be Satan calling, wanting his right hand man back in Hell.”

Charlie’s response was simply to punch the button to answer the call, hand him the tablet and skip away.

“You rotten turd,” he called after her. She ignored him, caught up in her own world. Oscar’s lips curled up imperceptibly. She was every bit the spitfire her grandma had been. One day, when she was old enough, she’d have any boy she wanted. Hopefully, she’d end up with someone just like himself.

“Oscar Bradfield?” asked a nerdy looking fellow whose uniform indicated he was from the Government’s Space Agency. 

“That would be me,” he snarled. “Who wants to know?”

The nerd furrowed his brow. “I’m the Project Director for The Geb Project, sir.” He adjusted himself in his seat, obviously uncomfortable at being challenged by others. “You applied for the position of-”

“AH! Yes, yes!” Oscar whooped with glee. “Caretaker of The Garden of Eden!”

His family, shocked at the old man’s sudden burst of energy, gathered around to see what had caused him to stir so.

“Well? Well?” Oscar demanded. “Have I got the job? I must have or you wouldn’t have bothered to call me directly, would you? Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!”

His oldest son coughed at him. Oscar shot him an angry glance. “Oh shut up, boy! I wasn’t talking about you-know-who! Good God!”

He turned his attention back to the Director. “Well?”

The Director cleared his throat and twitched slightly. “Well, yes, to be succinct, you have the job of Caretaker of The Garden of Eden if you so choose and if you pass the physical requirements.”

Somebody at the back of the room guffawed. “A job? At his age? Insanity.”

Oscar shushed him and quickly answered the Director. “I accept. Come get me. You know where I am.”

“Don’t you need to say your goodbyes? You know this is a one-way trip.”

Oscar looked around the room, raised his hand and waved. “Goodbye,” he smiled. “There we go. Now come get me.” Four hours later, he was headed to Space Command, grinning like a Cheshire cat. For the third time in his life, he was happy—truly happy.


There was no real astronaut training for Oscar. He did a few trips in the weightless trainer. He laughed through most of it. They were continually warning him he’d feel nausea and mild discomfort. “Hell, I feel dizzier than this just getting out of bed. And my back and legs have never felt better. Can’t wait for space!”

When the time came for the ship to launch, he was a little surprised to find that they were going to strap him atop a standard missile-style rocket like in the old days. They told him it was the quickest way to get him to the actual ship. “None of the flyers goes out that far into orbit. We’d have to relay you through three transfers and that would take a great deal longer than we have. We need to get you out there before the sedative wears off.”

“Sedative?” he’d asked.

The doctors nodded. “Of course, sedatives. Your old heart can’t withstand the pressure of the launch otherwise. So we’ll knock you out once the rocket’s ready to go and then you’ll wake up on the ship.”

“Who’s going to get me out of the chair?” he wondered.

“In space, you’re weightless remember?”

“Ah,” he grunted, “right. Ha! Well, okay then, knock me out!”

Mission Control prepped him for the launch. They checked and rechecked various complicated things that made no sense to him and to which he was told, “Doesn’t matter,” until he finally could hold his tongue no longer and waggled his arms back and forth chanting, “Check check check. Check check check. Cheeecccckk. CheeeeeCKKK! Checkity check check!”

One of the engineers on the other end dropped his jaw in astonishment and then summoned a colleague, who promptly summoned a supervisor, who called the Director, who came on the screen and demanded to know what was wrong with Oscar.

“Are you okay?” the Director asked him. “Are you having a seizure or something?”

“Let’s get the Hell outta here boys! I’m sick of waiting, let’s go!” Oscar roared back.

There was one big red button on the console labelled “Engage.” He pushed it, muttering something about Star Trek as he did.

The Director started to say something, but in the background Oscar could see the engineers scrambling and screaming at each other.

“Um, oops?” he mumbled, suddenly deciding he’d made a huge mistake.


The original launch had to be scrubbed due to the damage he caused to the dry dock platform. Luckily, things went much smoother on the second attempt. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they disabled the Engage button remotely so that he couldn’t have started the motors even if he’d wanted. Oscar wasn’t told that’s what they did, but the engineers didn’t want to have to resort to the less-than-optimal third launch window.

Oscar had learned his lesson and only did what he was told when he was instructed to do it. There weren’t very many times in his life that he did what he was told without at least shooting off his mouth, but as he’d been very afraid that after the first mistake they’d surely fire him and he would have to sluff off back to Earth and his old life and a very pitiful death, he’d put a few more mental checks in place. There was no way he was going back to his crappy old life if he could avoid it and he figured that he’d get no more second chances so he’d better make this count.


He didn’t understand the technical details of how he was supposed to stay alive for nearly a thousand years, but he got the gist of it. In effect, once he was in the command seat, they would slow his system down to the point where he was very nearly dead, but still alive. It wasn’t much different from the colonists who were in suspended animation in the cargo bays except that he would be awake while they were in sleep mode before they were ‘slowed down.’ They would sleep for a millennium; he would remain awake for it.

“The longest day ever,” he commented when they explained the process. The forty something year olds had gotten a kick out of that.

As far as duties onboard went, he understood that he was basically a Human Reset button for the ship. In the event of a catastrophic failure, he would be ‘wakened up’ immediately and then he could reactivate certain key colonists who could actually solve the problems encountered. He had almost asked why he was necessary, why the machine couldn’t have just awakened the slumbering colonists, but he thought better of it. You never wanted to work yourself out of a job. So he simply settled on the idea that he was the ultimate failsafe for the human race’s glorious expansion to the stars.

To alleviate his boredom, he would be patched into a satellite feed from Earth that would send him all the news that humanity deemed important enough to transmit.

“But if I’m slowed down,” he’d asked when they were explaining, “how am I going to understand what’s coming in? Won’t it be like listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks on meth?”

The resulting technical answer boiled down… the onboard computer would slow down the data to match his heart rate, so everything would seem normal speed to him and he could fast forward or rewind at wish.

“Okey dokey,” he replied happily, as if he understood anything more than the simplest bits of what they said.


The first decade of news came at such a rapid pace that he could hardly keep up. Here and there were ever-worsening disasters, most of them blamed on everything from human contribution to a moody Mother Earth letting loose. An undersea earthquake in the Indonesian Archipelago caused a massive tidal wave that claimed over a million lives despite the early warning system implemented nearly a century ago. El Niño’s, La Niña’s, and a few El Tios caused famine, droughts, floods and the like, claiming scads of human lives. Then there were the politics and wars, seemingly incessant and increasingly more bloody. Technology seemed to leap forward like it had a mind of its own. The things that earthbound humans could do by the end of that first decade amazed him. Perhaps there would be no need to colonize the stars. Perhaps tech advances could save the day.

Over the next half century three great pestilences obliterated several large cities around the world before scientists could get a handle on the cause. A great clamor arose, clergy calling the pestilences a sign of the Apocalypse, politicians blaming it on espionage, and everyone so terrified to leave their homes that the world economy collapsed. It took two generations for a semblance of the previous world order to come back online, but not before several more wars claimed a great many lives.

Then came the First Great Disconnect, which is what Oscar named the period of time in which the feed from Earth was cut. As near as he could gather, the funding for the program that kept the communications system alive between The Garden of Eden and Earth was cut. One short clip appeared before the feed went out, citing the lack of response from the ship as proof that the entire program had been nothing but a waste of time. It was believed that the ship had somehow met its end and therefore there was no need to continue to maintain the expensive, power hungry systems needed to broadcast news to a lost cause in deep space.

Oscar didn’t know what to do when the screen went black. He sat stunned for several minutes, waiting for it to come back on, but when it didn’t, he began to search through the last bits of the news articles, finally settling on the 100-word clip that explained the defunding.

He mulled over his choices. There had been something a long time ago about what to do if the feed went out, but his decrepit memory played with him, hiding that crucial piece of information from him. As he began to search for an instruction manual in the ship’s computer, the video feed came back on. The time and date stamp at the bottom of the screen indicated that twenty-one years had passed on Earth.

“Hmm, strange,” Oscar commented. Instead of news bits and articles, the only thing on the screen was a page of instructions, white letters on a red screen. He read the instructions. At the bottom of the page came the imperative to push a series of buttons in a particular manner in order to indicate that the ship was still alive and viable. He followed the instructions. A few minutes later the feed resumed. Another ten years or so had passed and mashed into the blob of news packets was an article about the ‘discovery’ of the great colony ship, which had been ‘lost’ for over thirty years.

Now that the machinery had been fixed, data to and from the ship was able to float both ways. The data from the ship simply indicated to Earth that the ship was alive and well. News to the ship was the same things over and over. Men fighting nature, nature fighting men, men fighting men. It was disheartening. When would people learn?

“Jump ahead,” he called out to the monitor and the next few Earth centuries passed by like he’d hit the fast forward button on the video player.

There were a couple of blips on the video feed where everything went black again but it only lasted for a few seconds. Earth was still tracking The Garden of Eden, passively monitoring its progress and each time the screen went black, it was quickly followed by a screen that read "Greetings Oscar, we had to replace some parts, but everything is working again." It made him feel good to know that he was not forgotten. Even he felt lonely sometimes- he, who hated most people, except Charlie- and it was nice to have someone acknowledge your existence. The greetings pages were always followed by a quick news blast, catching him up on everything that had happened in the gap. That only served to slide him into a depression. Nothing ever changed on Earth. Politics, wars, natural catastrophes. Deaths, births, marriages. It all just went on and on, repeating the cycle. Did God ever get bored watching his Creation tread the gerbil wheel of existence? He was beginning to think so but there was nothing for him to do but watch the screen and absorb humanity's celebration of repetition.


Centuries -Earth centuries- passed.


The computer would soon begin to speed him up to normal time in anticipation of the ship’s arrival at the colony planet. He pondered his future and humanity’s. He would die soon enough after arrival, as he was well aware, his contribution to humanity over. But he would most likely live in stories for a while, maybe centuries or even millennia, but after that, who would remember or care about an old man who simply drove the bus from one planet to another. In all reality, history would correct his contribution and relegate him to the redundancy that he was. Most likely, he wouldn’t even have to touch another button or execute a meaningful command to ensure that the great ship would enter into a successful orbit around its new home, so what real purpose did he serve? None.

Several times he wondered why he’d bothered to take on this assignment, why he hadn’t gone dutifully to his grave on Earth. Each time, something deep within him answered the question. He wanted to be immortal. Didn’t everyone? This was his ticket to immortality.


He continued to monitor the feeds from Earth as the distance closed between the Garden of Eden and Earth 2, as he called it. It never got any better. Two steps forward, two steps back, sometimes even three steps back. It was infuriating to know that humanity hadn’t really evolved over the last several hundred years. Indeed, it hadn’t evolved that much in the several thousands of years of its existence. It was no better than a parasite, leeching off its host and slowly killing it, and here he was, making it possible to restart that process on a new planet. Humanity was no better than a virus attempting to infect the universe. Maybe the Universe would be better off without humans and their drive to ruin things.


Eventually, the ship’s sensors picked up the new planet and were able to show it to him on his screen. Surprisingly, it grew quickly on the screen. A light lit up on the control panel in front of him. That meant, if he remembered correctly, that the ship would begin to slow. It would also begin to bring him closer to his normal active state. The journey had reached a crucial stage. It brought anxiety to his chest. Why?

Why am I anxious? Why?

That little voice that had shadowed him his whole life answered, as he knew it would. You’re anxious because you’re torn. You want to be immortal, but you don’t think humanity should be allowed to propagate its special brand of stupidity, that’s why. So what are you going to do about it?


He wrestled with that dilemma for what seemed to him to be weeks. There was no real way to tell how long he mulled it over. Time had no meaning when you were alone in a spaceship between the stars. And then a series of lights illuminated across his board. Then another board lit up, followed quickly by several more boards. The ship shivered slightly. Things were beginning to happen. What should he do?

He stared at the blinking boards like a little kid staring at Christmas lights. It was overwhelming. Flashes of Earth 2’s future hit him. They all looked like Earth 1’s past. More flashes of the future—many planets, all the same futures—the same as the past.

There was a button on the board, a big red one, the only one he’d been told to hit in case of emergency and he stared at it. Should he hit it?

What good would it do?

If he hit it, it would simply awaken the crew and they’d finish his job for him.

But there was something else he could do. He’d figured out that there were directional controls next to the override button. It was pretty obvious that’s what they were—they had arrows indicating directions. What else could they be? There was even a thrust or brake button, although he was guessing that’s what they were since the icons next to the buttons didn’t really make sense to him. It’s just that the placement of the buttons made it seem like the most logical choice.

Impulsively, he toggled one of the directional buttons for just a single second. Nothing seemed to happen. There was no shiver, no shimmy, no shake, no noise, nothing. Maybe the controls were locked out, just like the Engage button. It made sense.

Well, couldn’t sabotage anything if I wanted to, I guess.

He went back to watching the news feeds from Earth. His new home disappeared as the feed replaced it on screen. But after only several minutes, he was once again disgusted. He shut the feed off and the screen defaulted to the outside view. The planet was gone!

One near heart-attack and one hour of ‘realtime’ later, a tan sliver appeared at the left edge of the screen. Oscar thought he was seeing things, but the sliver slowly grew. It was the edge of the planet reappearing!

Oh thank God!

He watched as the planet crawled across the screen. For some silly reason, he assumed that the planet would stop moving once it was centered on the screen, but it didn’t. It kept going.

What the…?

He couldn’t comprehend why the bells and whistles and alarms and thingies hadn’t screamed into life. If they were off target, then surely the system would have tried to correct itself or alert him of the danger.

“So if the alarms haven’t gone off, then we aren’t off target?” He guessed. Maybe I hit the “spin left” button. The impulse to try other buttons welled up within him and became an imperative urge. He wrestled with the urge but he was weak. He had always been weak when it came to controlling his urges. It’s how he ended up with eleven children.

He hit a button, counted to three and hit the button again. Lighted buttons on the board sprang into life. An alarm sounded.

“Well, that’s it then,” said the old man to no one in particular as he pushed a single square red button on his console and leaned back in his seat. He watched the approaching planet ever so slowly fill the screen above his console and remarked on his achievement. “The ridding of man from the Universe.”

It was happening! Oscar found it exciting and dreadful. What a terrible thing he’d done. Terrible but necessary. Mankind was a destroyer of worlds. Flora, fauna, it didn’t matter. Humanity would kill it all just like they’d done on Earth, which necessitated the Garden of Eden in the first place.

A deep hum rose within the guts of the ship. He could feel it in his chair. Something was happening. He knew not what, nor did he care.

More buttons lit up on the dash. One of them blinked off and on. It was an angry, urgent red color. He pushed it. It stayed on.

“Hmm,” he shrugged. “Wonder what that did.” A minute later it seemed to him that the planet was shifting to the left again in his viewer. Three minutes more and the planet had slid off the screen entirely. It never came back.

He played with the directional controls until he had the ship aimed directly at the planet once again. Then he pushed the button at the center of the directional controls, which he assumed was the acceleration button, and waited, watching the planet grow bigger and bigger on screen. It was simply a matter of time. His mind drifted off, replaying happy memories from his Earth life. He smiled.


When the planet was so large that he could begin to make out mountain ranges, a klaxon began to wail and several more panels lit up angrily. His heart leapt into his throat at the sudden shock. He grabbed his chest, calling out for his maker.

Then he noticed a yellow light on a panel above him and to his left. It was the crew panel. The ship was waking up the real pilots. How long would it take, he wondered? Minutes? Hours? He wasn’t sure how much time was left till impact. Perhaps one of the crew would actually be able to thwart his plan. Perhaps not.

Anxiety coursed through his veins. But why? Why should he be anxious about ridding the universe of a truly pestilential species-- a galactic cockroach that could survive anything?

It makes me anxious because I’m afraid it won’t actually happen.

For a second, he wondered if that made him evil.

Probably. I don’t care. Humans suck. Better to crush them now before they populate the galaxy.

Oscar sat back in his chair and watched the planet grow, a little quicker than before, but not quickly enough for his liking.

“Que sera sera,” he hummed, tapping his heel nervously on the floor.

Did he have any regrets? Maybe one or two. His little niece, long dead now, was really about the only reason he might have a regret. But he had to push that away now. Humanity didn’t deserve to live, even if it meant killing a million Charlies before they ever had the chance to live. 

She was such a darling, though, he thought. Crazy hair, impish eyes, a smile to charm the Devil. Ornery as the day was long. She was all that and more. And he loved her.

Images of her dancing and singing in his house rotated through his head, softening his heart. He was losing the desire to carry out his goal and he knew it, but the decision had been made. The plan had been executed. Charlie was dead anyway. Still, there was doubt.


The planet was now so close that he knew there was no way to back out. The Grinch that Stole Christmas popped into his head and he saw himself for what he was—selfish. An old selfish bastard who was trying to steal not just Christmas, but every Christmas, and it wasn’t just the town of Whoville he was punishing, but every human who was and who would be. And that’s the moment that his heart, like the Grinch’s—and to his own dismay—suddenly grew two sizes.

As he leaned forward, not knowing exactly what buttons to push to abort this heinous, ridiculous scheme of his, there was a voice behind him.

“What’s happening?”

He spun his chair around and was face to face with a middle aged but well-shaped man arrayed in a form fitting sleep suit.

“I…” Oscar started, wearing a guilty face like a child caught stealing cookies.

The pilot sized up the situation and rushed to the instrument panel. He pushed a few buttons, swiped at a few switches. Nothing happened.

He peered at Oscar, unsure of what to make of the old man and asked, “Why didn’t you wake us?”

Oscar just stared at him, too ashamed to respond.

The pilot turned back to the board and attacked the directional controls.

“Dammit!” he cursed. “No response.”

Oscar sat dumbly on the verge of tears.

The pilot explained, or rather questioned the Universe, “When did the controls go dead?”

Oscar shrugged meekly. “I don’t know, I…”

“Yes, yes, I know, You’re no pilot, you don’t know anything. It’s why I was against having you onboard. It should have been a real pilot. Well, Hell’s Bells! Can you at least move? I need your seat.”

Then he more or less shoved Oscar out of the seat, sending him crumpling to the floor. It was one of the few times Oscar wished for no gravity.

The pilot ranted to himself, furiously working the dashboard. He gave no thought or attention to Oscar, who stunned as he was by the apparent rudeness of the pilot, was picking himself up and surveying the room.

He spied a fire extinguisher, not something he’d noticed till that moment, and shuffled over to it. It was much lighter here in space than back on Earth.

He carried it with one hand, moving towards the pilot. When he was within arm’s length of the man, he raised the steel canister above his head and with all his might he brought it down.

“Good God!” screamed the pilot as the extinguisher crashed into the edge of the dashboard, scaring the daylights out of him. “You damn near gave me a heart attack! And at the worst moment of…” He flipped a switch. It responded. He flipped another. It responded too. Buttons. They worked.

“Oh my God,” the pilot whispered incredulously. “I think you’ve just saved us all!”

Sure enough, Oscar had managed to bring the very control panel he’d locked out back to life with a single smash of thousand-year-old technology. What luck!

I wonder if I somehow caused the lockout?

“Ha! Haha! Typical American technology!” the pilot roared. He burst into a full belly laugh even as he worked feverishly to bring the ship back into its proper trajectory. He quickly pushed the ship into an orbit, one that was much lower than they’d aimed for, which heated the ship a little more than its tolerances were built for, but not so much that the ship would be damaged beyond repair, and then he slumped into the seat.

“What the Hell happened, anyway?” he finally asked.

Oscar shrugged. He didn’t know what to say. Should he tell the truth? There was no point to it. No one had to know. He would simply have to live with the shameful knowledge of his actions for however long God saw fit to make him suffer. And the question he would ask himself, for the rest of his life, was, “Did I intend to hit the pilot with the extinguisher, or the board?”

And live he did—for another twenty years—every day being regarded as the ‘Hero who saved the Human Race.” Every statue, every school, every street named in his honor, it was all a stinging stab in the heart and conscience. Death by a thousand paper cuts, as the saying went. Shame was his punishment for his behavior. Shame for pretending to have the power of a God. Shame for attempting to murder trillions of Charlies. Every shameful moment of every celebration and accolade was more miserable than if he’d just stayed on Earth and died like the tiny, insignificant old man he was. He never smiled at any of the celebrations. No one understood why. They assumed he was just humble.

Oscar’s dying breath, which no one understood but which was recorded for all times, was simply, “How ironic.” It was noted in all the histories of the planet how his face instantly relaxed into the sweetest of smiles. Images of his smiling face eventually made it into the histories too, along with admiring captions such as, “Oscar Bradfield – Savior of the Human Race—upon his death, knowing he insured the survival of the human race for eternity.”


The End




About the Author


Scot McAtee started out his professional life teaching High School English in Northern Indiana. After a yearlong stint in Inchon, Korea, teaching English to native Koreans, he returned to Indiana where he teaches High School classes in Business and Computer Sciences. He spends his free time creating movies, video games, digital music and writing other sci-fi and horror novels. His favorite authors are George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, Aldous Huxley and Clive Cussler. And although it may be hard for Westerners to see the likeness, his Korean students frequently called him Brad Pitt.

The Garden of Eden

Finally able to reach the stars, humanity has entrusted its survival in Oscar Bradfield, an 87 year cynic who wants nothing more than to spend the thousand year journey by himself. What could possibly go wrong? A Vonnegut style tale of irony set in mankind's future.

  • Author: Scot McAtee
  • Published: 2016-12-02 18:20:08
  • Words: 5462
The Garden of Eden The Garden of Eden