We imagine humanity to be immortal, it seems. In every story we tell and every image we build of the future, we strive to demonstrate the human knack for survival. Post-apocalyptic sagas ravage the industry, and people fill the theatres as they watch the heroes of mankind rebuilding history. But one has to wonder what happens if we don’t survive? What would happen if the Red Sea were to come crashing down on us? Would Moses lend a hand, or would he too be swept far off into the abyss?
“All I fear is nothing.”
These words were marked in spattered black paint across the old council walls. It would be difficult to determine when it was so adorned, or by which unfortunate soul. The CCTV cameras had all been shut down by that stage of the chaos, or shattered by rifles in the night. Shop fronts had been kicked in and ravaged up the main street, some doors swinging on their hinges and others in pieces like the shells of chickens who didn’t care. Spaces once marked by windows alternated with crack ridden bullet-resistant glass – an artwork almost – a memoir of a city gone mad.
Yet this city was one of the last to fall. Even when the capital broke into disarray, they remained strong. Even as former politicians rose as self appointed leaders – even as their forces were systematically crushed and scattered to the wind – even as anarchy travelled in her hordes to plunder and desolate the entire continent. Throughout all these tragedies, the residents forged together to protect their humble city from the darkness.
As the sun began to set at the passing of one particularly unremarkable day, an eight year old girl looked up into her mother’s eyes and asked when the birds were coming back. There was something in the comfort of their song. Her mother couldn’t give an answer, shoulders crumbling to dust as the she retreated inside. The little girl sighed and looked across the hills into the distance, sighting an oddly shaped tree. Twisted like a whirlwind, she imagined it forging to life, swift as the rushing of a thousand wings, to carry her into the sky. Night fell and she slumped into peaceful slumber.
It was a week later that the first men began to rebel. The Mayor had been binding the town together until that point, somehow remaining just and fair to his flock in the face of limited resources and mounting fears. Perhaps he could have held them together longer and brought them through the tribulation, if it weren’t for his pride.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” they carved into his forehead before they hung him in the main street, where criminals had died in centuries past. It was designed as a warning to all with fantasies of power, but the deceased leader instead served as morbid inspiration for those seeking to take his place. In the days that followed, three rival parties were formed. The Deputy Mayor was the weakest of the leaders, barely able to command his force of police officers. When they revolted, it was his blood that painted the central park and tainted the duck pond.
The next was a small but well organised group identified as Panthers, a title proudly stolen from a local football team. Focussed on taking hostages and ‘eliminating’ threats, it was them who systematically erased the tens of other would-be leaders from the record. Whether through direct violence, cold blooded murder or the limbs of loved ones delivered in the night, their methods were unfeeling but effective, striking fear into the hearts of thousands.
Finally there was ‘The President’, a man who rose up in command of a large and frightened army, under a the hammer and sickle of a bastardised flag. It was him who believed in fighting violence with violence, and he who decreed “Either you’re with us, or you’re with them!” In those days, he commanded that the streets be littered with bodies and drenched in blood. In fear his armies obeyed, and those who would not enlist perished.
It was in those days that the council walls were marked, and in those days that the final traces of humanity were brought to their knees.
In the end a few hundred survivors remained in the city, hands bloodied and hearts burned to the core. The President smiled, eyes full of pride. Beneath him were those he deemed worthy to rebuild mankind. At this time an eight year old girl shuffled toward him. In her hands was a bird, its throat wet with blood.
“Did you do this?” he asked after a long pause.
She looked down and didn’t say a word.
*Note: Apologies for misspellings or if it feels chaotic at points. I threw this together at 2 in the morning for a class, and didn’t get a chance to edit it properly.