It’s somehow November again. I’m not going to hugely go into what NaNoWriMo is, as I have spoken about it before in far greater depth.
In short, it’s the encouragement to spend November attempting to bash out 50,000 words on a story. There is an official site, but as with the last couple of years, I will be participating without using it, and instead rambling on and on over here in my little corner of the internet.
50,000 words comes out to 2,272 words per day (if one wants the weekends off), so fingers crossed I can manage it again this year, on my newest project!
‘Fickle’… and a Disclaimer
For NaNo’18, I will be working on a little story called ‘Fickle’. It’s a story I have been thinking about while my husband and I were on our Grand Hole Tour 2018, during our move across the country/continent.
In general, ‘Fickle’ is a fairly light-hearted tale about the apocalypse, whose blurb and opening you can read below. But I do feel a disclaimer is needed before I post it, especially as I know quite a few of my most kind followers are religious… and Fickle is not.
First, please know I am not against people having faith. I am far from intolerant of religious people, and while I may not share the beliefs of some, I am always, always on board with kindness and compassion in the world, irrespective of where it comes from or what/who it is in service to.
I have a lot of respect for the dedication some people put into their lives for their faith, and I would under no circumstances want anyone to think I make light of that.
But I have to admit, I do have an issue with organized religion a lot of the time, especially as someone who very much believes in a separation of church and state.
I mention this only because ‘Fickle’ is very much birthed out of my negative views, and a certain degree of anger for the troubles our world faces thanks to the influence of some religious precepts.
I’m not going to turn this into an essay on what I feel is wrong with organized religion – I generally don’t talk about polarizing topics, and I don’t feel it will help anyone for me to do so here and now, anyway. But I do very much want my followers of faith to know I respect and care about you and to make the point that ‘Fickle’ may not be for everyone.
With that said, let us blurb away and dive straight into the horribly rough cut of the apocalypse!
‘In a fractured world where the gods have been banished to go and fix physics, a new god has taken up residence in the shattered ruins of Earth.
The cults call him ‘Fickle’, and they say he can grant you any wish you want, without a fee.
They are, of course, wrong.
Fickle is nothing if not hard to find, harder to reach, patently evil (he says) and takes creative liberties in granting requests.
While he might be able to move the heavens and earth to accommodate his (unwanted) acolytes, he’d really rather be left alone with a nice cup of tea and his slippers, and maybe finally convince his reticent concubine to give him a back massage.
Still, if you don’t mind lava in your shoes or a plague of snails, Fickle might be just the man you need to get through the apocalypse in one piece. And you never know. He might just save the world.’
My Name is John
I never asked to be born.
I mean, no one does, it just kinda happens, right? But I didn’t even get that whole complication of male bits and female bits at least enjoying themselves for five minutes. No, I just… turned up.
On the day the world broke.
The very first memories I have, on opening my eyes, are of fire in the sky and broken rock on the ground. I saw the Grand Spire, cracked and crumbled, and heard the screaming of thousands of voices as an ocean scoured clean what had once been land.
Maybe that’s the sort of beginning that defines a person. Maybe that’s why I ended up the way I am. Maybe that’s why people think I can fix what’s broken.
If, from this, you are expecting a dramatic story of a hero in a post-apocalyptic land, I feel it’s only fair to disabuse you immediately. I’m no hero, and if I had things my way, drama would be outlawed.
All I want is to be left alone, maybe occasionally plied with strawberries and peeled grapes by a concubine when someone asks me to do them a favor. A backrub.
Instead, I’m lucky to go a whole day without being bothered, strawberries refuse to grow here, my concubine is a sarcastic wench… and now I’m being accused of saving the world.
I call myself John, but the people currently chanting outside my window… they call me Fickle.
I guess this is my story.
Not many archives survived the apocalypse when it hit, but there are a few complete repositories of human knowledge and wit left. In these, I have found the words of great authors musing on the nature of just what constitutes a beginning.
‘There is always something before, an event that happened first’. On and on, back to the very start of everything.
In my case, I guess my story literally starts there. When nothing became something. When non-existence exploded and filled the universe with stars and time and planets and elements and hot and cold.
With light, and with dark.
Originally, that was fine. A whole universe, spinning in place, just doing its thing.
And on this little rock, orbiting a flashing and spectacular sun, some fickle ur-entity let life begin. Bacteria, plants, trilobites, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals… the grand experiment went on and on, wiggling its way down the millennia while the planet spun, sometimes light and sometimes dark.
Then it happened. Maybe by accident, maybe on purpose by some mischieful hand, or maybe it was just something that had to happen somewhere in the universe, and there was no reason why it shouldn’t happen here.
Someone started to think.
It happened to the apes, of course, and it wasn’t quick, but once it started, it snowballed fast. Hairy little simian things began to really notice the world, beyond just day to day survival and pack behavior, and began to truly know stuff.
They worked out fire. And wheels. And farming. And all the while, they started defining everything around them, giving things names and descriptions and artistic representations. By the time the first man-thing worked out how to make the first artwork, made purely for aesthetics and nothing else, it was too late. The bloody creatures had earned the right to have a ‘soul’.
Even now, even knowing what I am and where I came from, I still don’t know quite what a soul is. Some powerful, enigmatic force of self inside every thinking being that can create great wonders in its time, or wreak deep destruction.
If nothing else, souls changed the world.
They named the sun, about a thousand times over, and the moon too. Day, night, hot, cold, summer, winter, these are all human words to pin down concepts and give them edges. Maybe if it had stopped there, everything would have been alright. Maybe just knowing what you’re dealing with is wise, and talking and advising about these things coulda worked.
But a snowball, once set loose on a steep slope, can cause an avalanche, and Men weren’t going to stop at just what they could see and hear and smell and touch. They started defining their internal thoughts and feelings too, and things no one can ever lay a finger on.
Good, bad, right, wrong, happy, sad… justice, evil.
In ancient books, steeped in magic before science became a thing, men at least grasped some basic concept of the power their souls bore. ‘To name a thing is to have power over it’. They weren’t far wrong, and defining a thing is even more dangerous. But you know how it is – give a child a fork and you can count the seconds before they try to stick it in a plug socket.
If I really wanted to blame anyone for my existence, it would be the first jackass who came up with ‘religion’. Now, I’m not against people having beliefs. Whatever gets you through the day and lets you sleep at night makes sense to me, I’m just saying its a shame people didn’t discover coffee way, way, sooner. It woulda saved a whole lot of trouble.
The old religions were OK, I guess. Lots of fire and violence and people with animals for heads. But then some bright spark started equating ‘good’ with light, and ‘evil’ with dark. After that, it was only a matter of time before everything collapsed into a rancid sea of stupidity.
If you want to know how to create a monster, just ask people to write down the creed of their god. Get enough people believing in something like that, with all those edges, and it isn’t long before you can cut an entire continent in half with it.
Fighting is a pretty normal part of being alive – I mean, I’m so annoyed by it every day I wake up I could happily skin the nearest tribe were it not for the noise the other three in the area would make if I did so. But humans managed to mess even this up.
Fighting for food, shelter, sex, these are all kind of hard-coded into most animals. But Men were the first ones to start having wars just for the fun of it. Over which version of good was correct, or what color hat God wears. Wars over the nature of justice, or what name the God of Darkness should have.
Defining something and naming it gives it edges. Naming the light, and the dark, made them real. Defining what they stood for only made them more so. Having fifty different iterations of what they were, and how they should act, only made them neurotic. And one thing you do not want as a squishy flesh-based species on a crazy rock spinning through the improbability of space… is a pair of neurotic gods watching over you, with only one consistently defined feature – opposing each other.
For the longest time, it really only manifested itself as groups of men fighting each other in the names of their faith, with increasingly stupid reasons and restrictions in place. Some subconscious part of the species seemed to know what was going on, as I can’t think of any other reason why a species would write down rules for war. But that was really only a stop-gap measure, delaying the inevitable.
Steadily, the number of religions being thrust across the planet diminished until there were just a handful of really serious contenders, with many adherents to each. Enough so, the God of Light and the God of Dark started personally getting their hands dirty.
The records that survived the End have plenty of evidence if you know what to look for. My best guess is the turning point happened in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Sure, everyone alive back then thought all those celebrity deaths were happenstance, but you can’t trade in Bin-Laden and Bowie that close together and expect me not to call shenanigans, is all I’m saying. 2017 was a hell of a year, literally. God of Dark certainly kept himself busy for that one.
After that, you just have to leaf through the political annals from any country of your choosing to see the hand of God (either one, take your pick) riling things up. Between the election cycles of the western world, people jumping up and down in Asian nations over bombs, sandbars, and culture and Europe imploding like a gaggle of toddlers over a candy club, it’s no wonder the apocalypse turned up almost on a schedule.
The final war started in Iraq, but not the way anyone imagined.
The news assumed terrorism, of course, but to say that was a trained response would be an understatement. Besides, last time I checked, there was never any terrorist organization that could summon sandstorms and earthquakes to order.
Men got involved at first because of course they did. Confusion breeds aggression until someone works out what is going on, but this time, no one ever really did.
You can’t reason with a storm, a flood, and certainly not with the bedrock when it decides to move up one hundred feet. Nor can you reason with these phenomena and more across three different continents, all in a rolling wave, with everyone screaming in a thousand languages and dialects.
There wasn’t enough emergency aid in the world to handle it all, and perhaps the loss of international communications should be seen as a boon seeing as all systems went down, including the ones attached to certain large bombs the world could do without. Didn’t save anything, of course, but small mercies, right?
Matters came to a head in the Sunda Strait. Anak Krakatau blew its top in a very paltry eruption compared to its namesake, but unlike Krakatoa itself, Anak just… kept going.
It took about two years to build what became known as The Grand Spire, but no one was really recording it. No one was recording anything really, which means I have no idea exactly what year it was when the Spire broke and took everything else with it.
I do know though that the world was barely recognizable by then. Some continents ran together so fast and hard we got new mountain ranges in a matter of weeks, while other areas plunged to the bottom of the sea in a manner that would’ve made Atlantis blush. Forests burned down and covered countries in smoke, while other more barren areas got a sudden deluge of water and brand new plant life out of the blue.
The Antartic quasi-melted, while the Arctic grew and then Doggerland hauled itself back out of the water to screw up all of Europe’s maps and sensibilities, connecting the United Kingdom to Ireland and the rest of the Continent.
Any other time, the event would have caused a no doubt entertaining redrawing of European politeness and politique, but sadly everyone was too busy trying not to die to make a show of it.
It didn’t take too many years of all this chaos to let even the most hardcore atheist realize the gods were not pleased, but it wasn’t exactly a realization the religious got to gloat over – the gods were hardly following the script of any documented religion currently being practiced and for a while there was a brief resurgence in some of the older and more… brutal… religions.
That just added fuel to the neurotic fire of Light and Dark though, as near seven billion people dwindled steadily toward two billion.
Two billion really unhappy, scared, desperate people. With a single, unified thought.
Fuck the gods.
And that’s how I was ‘born’.