You could hear the wittering as they came. In seconds, the streets would empty, the only creatures left being mewling cats who would shrink into alleyways and disappear.
Today a pedestrian was left outside in the cold. He had his earphones on and didn’t hear everyone screaming and running away.
They swooshed into view, tiny, shrivelled-up figures hovering over the ground.
The man sensed movement and turned. Involuntarily, he raised his arms to protect himself. “C-C-C-C-CRITICS!” he screamed.
They stopped their hoverboards in a circle around him.
“Lookitim walk,” one critic said. “No finesse in his gait. You can’t be a professional with angles like those.”
“I agree,” another said. “Just because anyone can walk doesn’t mean they should. We are awash with amateurs. I remember a time just ten years ago when—”
“I disagree,” a third said. “I think not only does he have potential, there is a rawness to the way he moves his hips that’s almost endearing.”
“Nonsense. That left step of his is just demeaning to the senses. Now Klavinski—”
The pedestrian was a weeping husk when they left.
No one knew where they lived or when they might come. Some said they were actually descended from humans. Few believed this.
Others talked of the second coming. Legend said that one person had survived a review with all her senses intact. For the last two hundred years, she had been training an elite cadre who could face any kind of assault, including ad hominem. One day, the cadre would be unleashed, and that would be the end of the critics.
Not many believed this tale, but the number of faithfuls increased every year. Those that believed did so because they had to. It was, after all, humanity’s final hope.