Chronicles of Oblivion
In this world there is room for everyone.
And the good Earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful.
But we have lost the way. 1
The aftermath to this collapse perhaps was better than the world before. The Earth was rid of everything it had so ignorantly created for itself. No longer were there computers, or telephones. The only use they found for buses, cars, and trains was shelter from acid rain and putrid mist that would inflict a violent fever in a grown man, and remove life from an infant in a matter of moments. Electricity was only distant a memory to some, and a strange fable to others. They began this new era with the power of fire. Like electricity, capital was redundant. During the collapse, it was not unusual to see those who once were lawyers and stock brokers present mountains of paper money to those they referred to as ‘savages’ in return for a rabbit to cook or cloth to wear, only to be rejected with ridicule and laughter. No person knew exactly how long it had been since the collapse, with the only measurement of time being the aging process of the human itself. But even the nature of this had been manipulated. During the collapse, most material objects were pulverised either by the military or by violent storms that exterminated millions of humans and made entire islands crumble and dissolve into the ocean. The glowing sphere of fire that the survivors called the ‘Sun’ was a peculiar legend to the newer generations. The factories and motors of the previous world had caused the atmosphere to disintegrate, leaving the planet suspended in a static grey light that produced neither daytime nor night.
They had created many wars before the collapse, but nothing quite like this final one. It was the ultimate self-destruction; a necessary self-destruction at that. They had reproduced into a population of tens of billions, and their own planet was no longer able to support their needs. They killed in the name of soil and coal. Their imaginary electronic capital drove them to fire missiles from one hemisphere to another, inducing chemical explosions which annihilated and mutilated millions of civilians.
Ages passed and the ruins that devastated the globe soon became normal. Industrial buildings and even houses were all reduced to decrepit shells, but provided adequate shelter for all creatures. The war had ultimately resulted in the deaths of leaders and dictators, some by assassination, others from weariness and disease. But many eventually killed themselves, concluding after many years of the war that it was the only tangibly honourable thing left to do. Rid of international dictators, the world began to deglobalise to a degree that had seemed unimaginable in the ages before.
Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men.
With machine minds
And machine hearts 2
With thinning white hair and a spotted, sagging face, Astrid struggled to differentiate between her own memories, and the stories of others. She recalled bombs and guns and death. She was certain that those memories belonged to her. But they also belonged to every one of her generation. They were the few left to remember the War at its climax.
“I don’t remember the outbreak of the War too well, given I was only twelve years old.” She spoke slowly to Kibah as if it was difficult to grasp the concept of the past that Astrid had lived through. Kibah was thirteen and had been born into a world of simplicity and survival. It was indeed difficult for Kibah to comprehend Astrid’s old life. Stories of colossal mechanical birds or machines that could produce information as quickly as one could blink seemed so surreal, that at times Kibah had honest doubts about Astrid’s sanity as she began to approach the narrow end of her long life with increasingly peculiar mannerisms and the most bizarre stories. The most striking quirk however, was the pearl necklace draped around her neck four or five times. In all the years she had known Astrid, Kibah had never seen it away from Astrid’s bosom. As Astrid sat back against the trunk of the tree that Kibah concluded must be generations older than the frail woman before her, Astrid closed her eyes briefly and smiled her crooked and sleepy smile.
“I had a cat”. Astrid giggled and held her fingertips against her wrinkled forehead. “My dad brought her home for me. She was white all the way from her whiskers to her tail, with dark blue eyes that never looked away from me. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that she became the love of my life and the only living creature that I wanted to spend time with throughout my adolescence. I called her Zima. God knows why.”
The joyful creases around Astrid’s eyes softened as her vivid memories clambered to the surface.
“The night my father brought her home, he looked sick. All the moisture of his body had escaped to rest as a blanket of sweat that was draped grotesquely over his entire figure. He was almost as white as Zima, and he had red blotchy patches over his face. The dark rings that were always below his eyes had grown deeper and blacker. He didn’t seem to possess the strength to produce even one of his crooked smiles as I yelped with joy when he put Zima down in front of me. He went into his bedroom after he was sure I was preoccupied with my kitten. That proved to be the last time that I ever talked to my father. I woke up in the night to my mum screaming in the garage. Dad was dangling from the ceiling, one of the good dining chairs lying on the floor beneath him.”
“I never found out precisely why he left us like that. What I learned was that he was one of many men that day that had escaped their lives in this manner. Hearing news reports the following morning, it was apparent that thousands of Globe Bankers around the world had forced countries into rapid economic contractions which would inevitably provoke war on a scale that at the time, nobody could comprehend. My father was a Globe Banker. He was in charge of the Australasia branch of Globe Bank, a massive financial corporation which was in a constant state of rapid expansion for years. I was only twelve then, and I am still in the dark as to what exactly happened, and how and why it happened. Greed I suppose. But from that day on, the economy was something to be feared. Humans created it, Kibah, but they could not control it. It grew to be so powerful and so feral that it controlled the people. The day after my father died, society was literally consumed by the system that once seemed to hold it all together. The powers had stockpiled nuclear and chemical weapons for decades and the economic collapse provoked them into a state of mania and panic. The sound of distant explosions in other countries resonated across the Earth for months, poisoning the atmosphere and destroying the land itself. The globe became a repulsive orb of filth and death.
“It was the week after my thirteenth birthday when I witnessed my first bomb. After my father’s death, my mother and I remained in the giant structure we had always called ‘home’. My school had shut down, so I was left to remain at home every day. I couldn’t get a job because nobody had the money, let alone the courage to pay wages. Most of our meals now consisted of meagre home grown vegetables, or stew cooked at the canteen of my old school by anybody who could spare the time to assist. I spent many nights there cooking. Zima and I were joined at the hip still. She was the only one that wasn’t bitter about what was happening to the world. As long as she had food and a warm lap on which to sleep, she was content.
“The first bomb hit late at night. I had helped out at the canteen that evening. It was especially cold, so we were busier than usual. We cleaned for a few hours before I began to walk the twenty minutes it took me to get home. Halfway there, the train station possessed its usual warm glow from the brightly illuminated signs indicating exits and ticket booths. Exhausted from the long night, I stopped there to eat my left-over stew. I sat down and something passed over my body. It was both a sound and a feeling. A sound with such low frequency that it shattered the bulbs inside the signs. My skull felt like it too was going to shatter. I was almost deafened by the noise. I looked around and saw nothing, but the sound and the feeling pulsed throughout the streets and inside my body. I fainted at this point.
“I opened my eyes and the sky was glowing a murky and sick green. I couldn’t pinpoint the sun, as it shed a dull and hazy light across the roads and buildings. The sound was still there, and the frequency of it made me vomit. It was too hard to move so I lay there watching the sky. It was becoming brighter, a scolding red was consuming the dirty green. Then there was a massive explosion. I had never before, and have never since heard such a sound. The bomb seemed to have struck a few kilometres beyond. I was still too ill and weak to move, and after lying down for hours under the blanket of that sickening noise, I passed out.
“I assume that days had passed when I woke again. The sky had cleared somewhat, but there remained a heavy grey smog. The air tasted bitter. It was the taste of coins and blood. All I could smell was the putrid stench of burning chemicals. I walked towards my house through a wasteland riddled with desolation. It was an empty battlefield in which the corner store once stood, and where my friends had lived. It was my childhood, my whole life up until that moment, devoid of life and disintegrated before me. The closer I got to my home, the sicker people were. Glass had shattered from every window and car, I walked through a landscape of domestic slaughter. There were dead dogs and cats on the road with blood stains plastered on the fur around their ears. I realised then that Zima would be no different. I saw only one person as I walked home, a man lying on the footpath against a lamp post. He was barely alive. Blood dribbled from his ears and nose as he vomited what looked like thick tar all over his body. I wanted to help him, but even in my adolescence, illness and distress, I knew he was soon to be another corpse amongst the animals. I just wanted to find my mother. My house was the same as the others around it. It stood tall and stable as it always had, but all the windows had been shattered. There was a terrible silence.
Inside, it looked like any other day in my house, apart from the shards of glass from cabinets, drinking glasses and light globes that had exploded into a shimmering carpet. I bent down to touch it. It pierced my fingertips and tiny drops of blood seeped their way through the gaps between the glass. Despite my fear and confused sickness of that moment, I noticed that the sparkling floor was the prettiest thing I had seen since laying my eyes on Zima.
Upstairs was the same. Silent and glimmering. It was eerie. My bedroom door was open and I walked inside to find Zima and my mother lying on my bed, with her pearls around her neck as always. They looked so similar, peacefully sleeping curled up with one another with tiny streams of dried blood etching their faces. I didn’t move them, but I gently pulled the necklace from my mother’s chest and draped it over my own limp and scrawny shoulders.
The nature of humans themselves had changed dramatically. They became less reliant on groups and organisations, and gained a trust within themselves. Mass organised religion had faded far into the background of what remained of structured human society, and faith existed purely within individuals. It was a revolutionary change, something which both disbanded and unified humanity. The word religion had become meaningless within society, a piece of history. Each individual had developed their own understanding and perception of faith and spirituality. Some abandoned it entirely, relying on their own logic and pragmatic will to live by, whilst others used their faith as a mechanism for individual hope and survival.
The hate of men will pass
And dictators die
And the power they took from the people will return to the people
And so long as men die
Liberty will never perish 3
Kibah had a peculiar story. She didn’t know this. No living person did.
Her mother, Nasim, was the product of two Jordanian reactionaries who were blind to what the War had done to the planet. They had devoted their lives to restoring the economy with the Globe Reactionary Party, a world-wide group which consisted predominantly of former shareholders of the Globe Bank, all of whom were largely unaffected by the War. When the Bankers reported that War was inevitable, immediate measures were taken to protect the shareholders at all costs, and they were sent into government bunkers and onto remote islands. The Globe Bank was under the impression that these people were essential in managing society throughout the War and rebuilding the economy once it had ceased. Kibah’s grandparents gave birth to Nasim, who grew to become a radical in the Party, before she was eventually disowned by the Party and by her parents when she was twenty-two.
Nasim fled Jordan with another young exile from the Party, Amir. He had promised her a new and safe life away from Jordan. They travelled at night so as to avoid detection from members of the Reactionary Party, who were after their lives. The Party took disloyalty very seriously. Nasim and Amir rode in the backs of trucks driven by men and women who were trading on the New Black Market, a new economic system in which drugs could be traded with or for blankets and food. When they finally arrived in Egypt, they stayed with Amir’s cousin for two years, making plans to move overseas to live safely and peacefully. They agreed that Australia was ideal. It had been affected by the War, just as everywhere else had, but the Globe leaders were few, and the most powerful of them had been assassinated. Smaller boats were one of the few things that still operated transnationally. The cash economy was rapidly losing its power, so Amir stockpiled heroin that he would trade for two tickets to Australia.
Two days before they were set to board the boat, Amir failed to return to his cousin’s home after a trip to the market. Nasim went to the market to look for him. She was confronted by a small crowd gathered by a glassware stall. Nasim approached the crowd. A girl, no older than six was holding hands with a man in the crowd, probably her father. Her face was bright red and she was crying hysterically. A woman was yelling at everybody to disperse. Nasim pushed through the crowd to find Amir’s body shredded by gunshots. All of the glass from the stall had been between Amir and the gun. He was covered in shattered glass which sliced his face and body so horrifically that Nasim was only sure it was Amir because of his clothing. And because of his circumstance. He had been found by the Globe. She walked towards the bloodied pulp that was once her partner and sat beside it. The crowd fell silent as she looked at him. His dead eyes stared back at her. They captured his horror and fearful disappointment as the gunmen had infiltrated the market, intent on making an example of him to Nasim.
Nasim sold Amir’s ticket to a fifteen-year-old boy called Mikael in return for tobacco. His family had been wiped out in a bombing that had happened five years prior. Since their deaths, he had been working for food and shelter as a prostitute. They boarded the boat together and Nasim got to know Mikael over the few months they spent on the journey to Australia. Mikael was not a particularly pleasant boy, but Nasim was forgiving, remembering his circumstances. He was unkind to everybody on the boat, and he had a very short temper. Some nights however, he would sit with Nasim and they would share stories. After many weeks on the boat, the few supplies they had brought with them were running out, so most people spent both the days and nights sleeping, whether they wanted to or not. A few children died of hypothermia, and everybody was sea-sick.
They arrived in Australia on a warm day, as expected. The weak and ill travellers disembarked slowly, and although they were relieved and somewhat happy, they looked like convicts who had been deported for the remainder of their natural lives. Mikael followed Nasim closely when they walked onto the shore. She could tell that he was intent on remaining with her. He felt safe with her, and she didn’t mind.
Nasim and Mikael lived in a commune in an old theatre with about a hundred other people. Nasim worked there as a nurse, despite her lack of experience and qualifications. She cared as best as she could for anybody who needed her. Mikael spent his time sewing clothes and blankets as they were required. The value of time was diminishing, but they all grew older.
Throughout one summer, probably eight or ten years after arriving in Australia, Mikael grew increasingly aggressive towards everybody in the commune. Nasim attempted to console him on many occasions, but he responded with rage, and often violence. He began having nightmares about his childhood back in Egypt, and he would take his trauma and anger out on those around him. He stopped working, and spent almost all his time isolated from the commune. When he did return, he sat alone and silent. Despite his violent rejection, Nasim persisted with him. She would leave the commune at night and try to find him. She was always unsuccessful.
There was one night however, that Nasim fell asleep late, she had waited up to see whether Mikael would return. And eventually he did. He woke her gently and asked her to follow him outside. He told her he wanted to talk to her. Anxious, she followed closely until they arrived outside an abandoned grocery store. He began telling her of one of his experiences as a child prostitute. Her eyes began to tear. She placed her hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. He grabbed her by the waist and began to kiss her face and neck. Nasim tried to push him away gently, believing that he was simply in a state of vulnerability and confusion. He refused to release her, and she begged, but he was too angry, and he raped her. Mikael didn’t return to the commune again.
Nasim never felt anger towards Mikael after what he had done to her. She was changed by it, and for months had experienced nightmares and panic attacks, but she maintained the belief that Mikael’s actions were out of his control. Whether she honestly believed this was not important to her, but it was the only way she could forgive him enough to love his child that was growing inside her. As Nasim’s pregnancy progressed, the others in the commune cared for her and made sure she was safe. They had become her family, and she felt no desire for a father for the child. Mikael soon became a painful, yet distant memory, a piece of history.
Nasim gave birth to her daughter in the middle of summer, with the assistance of several older women of the commune. She named her Kibah, meaning ‘protector’. Nasim believed that she and Kibah were now each other’s guardians, the only family they both had. Until Kibah was six, she lived with Nasim in the commune. The community there helped to fill the void that was left by Mikael, helping Nasim care for Kibah. This was a practice common within the commune when a child was born. When the mother or father of a child was absent, working, or ill, others would never hesitate to care for the child. With the gradual depletion of modern medicine and healthcare after the collapse, illness frequently infiltrated the commune, as it did around the world. Diseases once minor and easily-treated had become painful and even life-threatening. Treatment for any disease could be found only within nature, or for some, in faith. Nasim was one of the people who lived by their faith. This had helped her cope when she became ill, with the knowledge that Kibah would soon lose her mother. Nasim’s health had begun to deteriorate soon after Kibah’s sixth birthday. Within months, she was confined to her bed, only summoning the strength to open her eyes when Kibah was by her side. During spring, Nasim gave in to the peace of her death, after asking Astrid, one of the older women who had delivered Kibah, and who had helped Nasim with motherhood, to now care for Kibah as her own child. With Nasim’s left hand in Kibah’s, and her right in Astrid’s, Astrid promised to nurture and protect Kibah for the remainder of her life. At this, Nasim’s grip tightened briefly, and then became limp as she entered her final and most peaceful sleep.
Let us fight for a new world
A decent world
That will give men a chance to work
That will give youth a future
And old age a security 4
“For days, I walked throughout what was once my hometown. I didn’t go hungry or anything like that, nobody was around to scold me for taking what I pleased from the strangely silent supermarket. The only people who had survived the blast were those who were working in the kitchen with me that evening, and for the first few days, that’s where they remained. They were mostly old women and a few mothers of some of my friends. I had initially become the messenger, bearing the terrible news that the entire town had been decimated and lay now in a frozen graveyard, blanketed in the mist of shattered glass.
“Most of them had lost their children in the same way I lost Zima and my mother, and their husbands had either died that way, or were vaporised in the city, where the bomb itself had struck. The image of their faces when I had returned days after the bomb to deliver the news will never leave my mind, it will always be as vivid as they day it happened. It was confronting, approaching the collection of women who had only remained in the kitchen because they merely thought the sound and the sky was a bad storm provoked by the build-up of nuclear waste, a common occurrence of the time. They looked at me quizzically, expecting that I would relieve them with the news that the storm had passed. Instead, I had to explain that their whole lives had been destroyed, their families were dead, and their world as they knew it, no longer existed. “The women stayed in the kitchen for weeks, mourning the loss of their families and their homes. Perhaps I was still in shock, but I never did feel the grief that they did. I never collapsed in a wailing mess like they did frequently. I felt sad at the loss of Zima and my mother, but I did not mourn them then. I somehow knew I had to put it behind me and survive. I had lost my family and friends, and my home, and the world had become humanity’s refuse of war and disease. At that point, there was little left for me to live for, but I had the strongest will to keep going, believing that someday the world would resurrect itself. Weeks after the bomb, I had decided that these hopeless women had no desire to survive, their lives had been ruined, and I understood that. So just before dawn on a winter morning, I wrote a note to them, explaining my absence, hoping they would understand, and perhaps somehow gain some hope for themselves from the news of my endeavours.
“How exactly I would survive this, I was not sure, but my first instinct was to travel further from the city, where I would surely find human life. The death gradually faded behind me as I ventured through the suburbs and away from the city. Smaller animals like birds and possums still lay dead like they did at home, but they were now little more than carcasses, infiltrated with maggots. But human voices could be heard. I soon discovered that the majority of people in the suburbs had evacuated, but some people remained, caring for sick family members who had been affected by the radiation, or packing up belongings to go inland, the safest conceivable place. No government or military force would target inland Australia, there was nothing there to target.
“I spent about an hour roaming around the streets, watching people as they prepared for the uncertainty of their future. In a playground, I sat on a bench, exhausted from walking about the streets, not having slept for days. There, I lay down and rested. When I woke, a boy about three years older my senior was standing above me, staring down at me, his scrawny body frozen and terrified. His face grew pale and he stumbled back in shock as I sat up to speak to him. He spoke to me timidly, afraid of something, but I didn’t know what. He looked awkward and uncomfortable at the sight of me, and he was so thin.
“I thought you were dead… I’m sorry.” His voice quivered as he found the courage to step closer to me. I focused my eyes on him, and in his left hand was my backpack.
“What the hell are you doing?” I snapped at him, then his eyes became damp and his bottom lip began to tremble yet again.
“I’m sorry! I said I’m sorry. I told you, I thought you were dead. You know what’s happened, don’t you? Nobody can afford to waste anything now. I didn’t mean it. It’s yours, have it back. I’m sorry, honestly.” He handed the bag back to me and turned his back, and with a peculiar and awkward half-run, began to make his escape.
“Wait!” I shouted at him, my voice still hostile, though I didn’t mean it.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so angry. Yes, I know there was a bomb, in the city I figured. Most people near my house are dying or dead, including my mum and my cat. I just figured it was safest to walk this way.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” He stared at his feet. “The city has been completely demolished. Nobody’s alive there. According to the radio, we’re meant to go inland. Apparently that’s the smartest thing to do to avoid radiation sickness or another missile. Most people left a week or two ago.”
He kept his eyes on the ground as he spoke. Despite the fact he was explaining the collapse of our world as we knew it, his monotonous recount made the most surreal and unimaginable things sound mundane, making it hard for me to actually comprehend what he was telling me.
“Who is we? Are you with your family?”
“Me and my mother. It’s always just us two. I was out here trying to salvage what I could off the streets before we left…but you probably figured that out already. Are you alone?”
Was I alone? With that question, I was silenced. At that point, I had realised that I was so completely and horribly alone. I had no family or friends, this awkward and strange boy was the closest person to me, and I didn’t even know his name. Even if I had extended family, or distant relatives, it would be nearly impossible to contact them with the technological capabilities being gradually consumed by the ravages of the missiles. It was now clear to me that my world no longer existed. I really had no choice but to rip out those first chapters of my story and start again. It’s quite a daunting prospect, a thirteen year old starting a new life all alone, with no family or friends or home. But as a stubborn adolescent, I had no doubts at that moment that I could, and that I would succeed. Failure was not an option.
“Do you have a name?” I asked, still, for some reason sounding snappy and frustrated with him.
“Leon.” That was the first time he had actually looked at me directly. His grey eyes staring straight through me.
“Then I’m not alone. I have nobody else Leon. Let me come with you and your mother, at least until we find others or somewhere to stay, then I’ll fend for myself.”
“How old are you?” His gaze had turned colder, and it made me feel like a helpless infant, scolded by its parents. I felt embarrassed and exposed, like he was interrogating me, and I wished he would look again at his shoes. I felt sick as I tried to open my mouth and speak. I tried to calm myself. As if age would make a difference now. Nothing made a difference anymore; humanity, in a moment of madness had changed irrevocably. I believed I had no choice but to stay with Leon and his mother. I would stop at nothing to have him agree with me. It gave me a feeling of strength, summoning the courage to almost demand to start a new life with this stranger and his mother. Age was of no consequence.
“I’m thirteen. But I will cook and help out. Anything you need me to do.”
At that, Leon took me back to his home where I met his mother Judith as she was packing their belongings. She was suspicious at my presence initially, but as Leon and I explained my circumstances to her, she warmed to me, deeply sympathetic at the loss of my family. The three of us set off in Judith’s car towards the country. After days of constant and silent driving, we stopped in a little town where life seemed like normal, with no evidence of airborne terror, or even of the war itself.
“It turned out that we had followed the same path as hundreds of others from near the city. We were directed towards the local public school hall. Inside it looked just like the emergency refuges that I used to see on the news, where communities were set up after floods and bushfires. There were stretcher beds in long rows, and men and women were distributing bread and soup from tents. We stayed there for several months, and often crowded around a tiny transistor radio to listen to the end of the world. Eventually, the news of disaster became less frequent and less hostile. This is when people began to seriously plan for the future. We all remained in the town for a year, planning and making sure it was safe to head back towards the coast, because the town was too small to sustain so many people for much longer. Supplies were running low, and the welcoming local hospitality that greeted us many months before, soon became annoyance and irritation. During this time, nature succumbed to the toxins in the air and waterways. The sky was grey, and the sun was a blur of light behind the smog that had taken up residence across the entire planet.
“Eventually we were divided into groups, directed to one designated area each, back towards the city. We were to build suburbs out of the rubble as. The locals were glad to regain their territory, and provided food and essential supplies as best they could. Upon arrival in our new area, we planned to feed off the few non-perishables we could find in ruined shops until we had the capacity to produce our own food. The near future didn’t sound particularly idealistic, but nobody complained. We had no choice.
“There were about a hundred of us, some even younger than me, and some whose age prevented them from living for much longer after we arrived. We began to start our new lives. We developed this commune together, and began to build our own little society within it. I grew up there, with the people that had become my family. Eventually, new families were formed, replenishing the population and even welcoming refugees from countries like Jordan, where your mother was from. The war was still raging in Jordan, making it too dangerous to live there.
“Leon and I had managed to stick together since we met. Whether or not we were actually in love, I’ll probably never be sure. But he was somebody I could trust, somebody to father my children. We argued a lot, but we were family, and together we gave life to a baby girl named Maeve. We had reason to hope.”
Astrid’s eyes looked away from Kibah and towards the horizon. She had never heard of Maeve before. Astrid’s voice became quieter and deeper as she began to tell her about the daughter who had until now, had been consigned to a compartment in Astrid’s vast memory.
“She was a blessing. Maeve brought to me a feeling which I hadn’t experienced for years. After losing my parents, I didn’t realise how much I longed for somebody who shared my blood, somebody who I knew would be with me for as long as we both lived, regardless of the struggles of war and hunger. Like the other children born into our new society, Maeve brought with her a sense of hope to us and the rest of the community. But like a lot of other children, she got sick. My generation was given vaccinations for ordinary diseases, but with the depletion of medical science, came diseases which affected infants. Many of them had weak immune systems that had almost no chance against illnesses which we thought were harmless. Maeve was three when she got sick. We didn’t think anything of it. She was just sniffling and had a cough, it didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary at the time. But after many sleepless weeks, Maeve declined rapidly. She could no longer walk, and eventually she could hardly talk or open her eyes to look at me. This was happening to a few children at the time, so we weren’t alone. But it didn’t make it any easier. After everything we had experienced in our few years on Earth, it seemed unreasonable that these children, our hope and future, were dying slowly and cruelly before us.
“Maeve died as winter peaked. Everybody was cold, and most of us got some sort of flu virus. But the sick children’s bodies could no longer fight, and within two weeks, we lost eight of them. I think that in other circumstances, families would have been crushed beyond repair at the loss that we had experienced. But since tragedy had been our constant companion, it had become an instinct to simply survive, regardless of the wreckage we were forced to negotiate. We ultimately had to put it all behind us and resumed our lives, building and learning as a community. Eventually, those of us who were still young and had decades before us, opted to travel away from our community, to experience other parts of the country and learn from others. I was one of them. I travelled for years on foot with a small group from the original community. But in the end, all of us followed our own paths and split up, and that led me to this commune, where I met your mother.”
At only thirteen, Kibah didn’t know exactly how to respond to Astrid’s story. She had indeed been born into a world quite different from that which Astrid grew up in. A world which Astrid witnessed a colossal transformation of, from when she was even younger than Kibah. She sat next to Astrid, tracing with her eyes each defined wrinkle that wrapped around Astrid’s face. She imagined each one represented a small victory, or the overcoming of some instance of adversity. Kibah sat silently, contemplating all that Astrid had revealed. She came to her own uneasy and confused conclusion about the former humanity, considering what Astrid had described. It was a corrupted and damaged society, and it had lost its integrity, something which in Kibah’s experience, was central to human nature. But somehow with their weapons and currency, they forgot that they had the common quality of humanity. Yet Kibah noted Astrid’s general demeanour and her comfort with her own existence. Perhaps they weren’t the insensitive and selfish beings she believed them to be, but rather, fragile creatures, susceptible to great conflict and self-destruction. Kibah wondered whether it could happen again, far in the future.
Human society had begun to reconstruct itself from the ashes and rubble. After its near obliteration, the population thrived, growing rapidly across the globe. People first started to rebuild their homes, as well as institutions like schools and hospitals. The destruction and devastation that humanity had evoked during the collapse was being mended.
The grey fog that had once choked the atmosphere was slowly releasing its grip, revealing a bright blue that enveloped the Earth. This was a phenomenon which, centuries after the collapse, no living person had ever witnessed. The fiery and lively brightness that was the sun revealed itself after generations of suffocation beneath thick chemical pollution, giving new life to the soil and health to surviving species. A blanket of green once again graced the Earth, providing humans with an abundance of natural medicines and materials to continue with their reconstruction. They rebuilt roads to use for their wagons and carts, but as the generations progressed, they learned to create motorised vehicles, allowing them to communicate with communes across the country, and eventually with the creation of boats, they could communicate transnationally, sharing ideas and working together to further progress with their new world.
They created a market, where they would trade goods for goods and this provoked many people to begin manufacturing whatever it was they had expertise in, some produced food, whilst others made clothing. Soon, they perceived some inequality in the nature of the market. They gave value to rocks and began to trade with those. That value was later transferred to metals, then to coins, to paper and to plastic.
The disease of humanity was to recur. They had progressed too far, but they had nobody to warn them of the dangers that their machinery and their technology and their economy would bring. It had been centuries since the first collapse, and the stories they had heard were so incomprehensible to them. They could not appreciate that their progressive and efficient society could eventually bring about their own downfall, and once again wreak destruction upon their Earth. So they continued with their society founded on technology and science, disregarding the ancient legends of the collapse of humanity and the environment. There were small civil wars in the beginning, but even this did not warn them away from their rampant globalisation. However, there were many people that had taken the stories of the collapse seriously, and dedicated their lives to attempting to educate the masses about the consequences of their actions, but they were ultimately ridiculed, trivialised, and ignored. Their force was simply a feeble irritation to the rest of humanity, and nothing ever came of their efforts.
Wars erupted across the globe once again, and the hunger for power in some grew so tenacious that their morality became jaded, and eventually crumbled beneath an amalgamation of selfishness and greed. They ultimately lost their ability to see reason and rationality. Once again, humanity was heading towards inevitable self-destruction, confirming that there was little which would ever change the violent cycle that was human nature.
In this world there is room for everyone.
And the good Earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful.
But we have lost the way. 5
1. The Great Dictator (1940) – Charlie Chaplin