Authors: Matthew Bracken
Tags: #mystery, #Politics & Social Sciences, #Political Science, #Politics & Government, #Political, #History & Theory, #Thriller & Suspense, #Historical, #Thrillers, #Literature & Fiction
When the Rupture occurred, it had been a hundred generations since Jesus carried His cross up Calvary. What a conceit of history to believe that we, uniquely among the generations that had come before, had mastered the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and put them behind us for all time. Health and hunger reduced to economic equations and tax policies. Fukuyama’s
End of History
We believed that we had created a Brave New World, where candy-cane lies and Santa Claus promises could trump hard reality at the election booth every two years. But if all good things must come to an end, how much sooner must the corrupt and the unreal collapse into rubble and tears? Imbalances so great, in a machine running at such a high speed, could only result in calamity when the connecting struts gave way and the beast flew apart.
When was the last generation that saw such a population drop as after the Rupture? When was a population reduced to such a point that nobody was in a position even to estimate it? The Black Death of the 1300s reduced Europe’s population by a third, but even that wasn’t a truly global event. Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland in the 1600s? The Thirty Years’ War in Europe? Paraguay in the 1860s? As horrific as they were, those democides were localized events.
But what in God’s name is happening in America’s cities, if not a word comes out of a solar-powered radio high up a mountaintop tower, and not a single jet contrail can be seen across a sapphire blue Southern Appalachian sky?
Or is it me? Have I survived past my due date in remote isolation, like the Japanese soldier who hid in caves on Guam, unaware that World War II was long over? But if that’s the case, then why can’t I see a moving vehicle, or a waft of smoke from a distant ridgeline?
Oh, what I’d give for an hour-long hot soapy shower to erase three years’ worth of stink! I want to throw away these rancid buckskins and change into clean, dry cotton. Then slip between clean, dry sheets and sleep without fear for a dozen hours on a soft mattress and pillows. Then wake up and put on new clothes that were not cut off of corpses and crudely resewn, or made from animal skins. Oh, to rejoin civilization, if it still exists! Knight-errant seeks castle. Will teach a variety of subjects for room and board. Make me an offer.
I spent two months of my second snowed-in winter with only a Bible for a companion. This experience had left random Bible passages liable to float up into my mind at various times, like the suggestions in a Magic 8-Ball. Passages like Romans 1, for example. Then there was something in Psalm 106 about the Canaanites killing their own babies in order to pursue inventions and go whoring. The God of the Bible was not pleased in either case. There was one from Revelation—where else?—that came into my mind.
“Standing far off for the fear of her punishment, crying Alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city, for in one hour your judgment has arrived!”
The new Babylon was a place where modern man grew so mighty—in his own estimation—that he replaced God’s hard-learned natural laws and eternal rhythms with his own latest impulses and basest desires. The new Babylon was where mankind gorged its morbidly obese body and deconstructed spirit on endless food and limitless pleasure, grew like a maggot fattening upon the bloating corpse of Western Civilization, and then burst and devoured itself in a final death-feast.
The man-machine social engine believed that it had become God, but all man-made constructions are imperfect. The bridge to the future supporting humanity’s billions of lives was built of pixie dust suspended in the ether by magnetism
It all shattered to atoms when the props were kicked out from under the whirling techno-machine, and we all had to live on what we could grow or raise within our eyesight without murdering each other.
It had to happen sooner or later, and it happened sooner. We couldn’t even pump clean drinking water without electricity. Electricity was the oxygen we breathed, and without our technology, we died like stranded astronauts on an abandoned space station. Ground control to Major Tom, your circuit’s dead.
The primary lesson I have learned over the past three years is that it is much harder to build and sustain a stable and functioning civilization (even an admittedly imperfect one) than it is to destroy a pretty damn good civilization in the name of establishing utopian perfection by government decree.
And maybe if we hadn’t gone insane first, we might have kept it all running for a while longer.
Modern mankind’s quest for utopian perfection was a form of mass delusion. Computers lent a veneer of artificial wisdom, but they were simply powerful yet fragile tools, tools which extended our society far out over a worst-case precipice. In the end the price of computerized perfection was all or nothing, and in the pursuit of all, we wound up with nothing. The glittering screens were pretty while they lasted, but they turned into broken glass in our bitter hands.
We were led into the desert by sirens, luring us there with mirages. Alas, our brave new Babylon!
Now it’s time to descend from this broken tower and get moving again toward the sea. My route is laid in a series of compass bearings that eye-level terrain will prove laughable within a mile. No matter: it won’t take a Davy Crockett to find a river and build a raft. Southeast fetches the Chattooga River and my possible deliverance.
Adjusting my bow, I went to all fours on the cold steel grating and crawled toward the rungs. For a moment I was facing toward the path I had hiked up the snowy slope. On the far side of the tumbled upper sections of the radio tower was a line like a zipper in the thin snow, where footprints had melted and exposed the dark leaves beneath. My own fresh prints on the near side were not melted. We had either crossed trails a few days ago, or we might sometime in the near future. I was down the rungs and into the trees like a weasel, feeling watched every moment.
Now, southeast goes the hunter—after a closer look at those tracks.
Matt Bracken was born and raised in Baltimore, and graduated from the University of Virginia and Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training in 1979.
He has written four novels about defending freedom in an era of steadily encroaching tyranny.
Excerpts of his novels, and most of his recent essays, may be found at EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com.
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