[In my very first post on this blog, I mentioned that it was my intention to share some of my fictional writings with you. Since then, you have probably noticed that I have shared very little, for the very simple reasons that (a) I’ve written very little fiction since I started this blog, (b) most of the fiction that I’d written earlier I’d written using a pencil and paper, and (c) I tend to be a fairly harsh critic of my own work. But as it happened, I’ve come up with I think to be an interesting germ of a story, the very first part of the very first chapter of which I have written down tonight. I’m still not entirely certain what will happen in this story, but this is what I’ve written so far. Needless to say, this work is my intellectual property.]
The Gods Below
Chapter One: The Last Free Human
At his perpetual vigil high above the world, Eddie Plasburg fell to his knees and prayed that the Gods wouldn’t notice him. And for the six thousand, two hundred and eighty-first day in a row, his prayers were answered. The Gods didn’t notice him; no one noticed him, or at least nobody cared. And for that small mercy, Plasburg was profoundly thankful.
His prayers were simple things, and he never varied them from one day to the next. First he would recite the Lord’s Prayer—the Protestant version, in spite of his Catholic upbringing, as he found the phrasing to be more poetic—followed by the ‘Hail Mary’ and capped-off by a verse of his own devising: “and, please, O God, deliver me from those false idols down below, those proud villains who hath overrun thy creation, and twisted it against thy Holy laws and against Nature. Amen.” He had no idea whether or not he was using Shakespearean English properly (there was no one around who could correct him), and frankly he didn’t care; it was just that it seemed vulgar, somehow, to address the Almighty in modern English.
Having finished praying, Plasburg rose to his feet (as he had risen every day before for over seventeen years), picked up a piece of charcoal and drew a short, black line on the wall behind him, the newest instalment on a daily tally to rival that of any prisoner. I’m running short on space, he noted, not for the first time (he pretty much never had any thoughts ‘for the first time’ anymore). He supposed he could always move on to the next wall, but that, like everything to do with the future, was really not worth his contemplation.
Solemnly, he placed the stick of charcoal back on his bureau. Then he turned by ninety degrees and faced the shuttered porthole of his room. He inhaled sharply; he loathed this part of his morning routine above any other part of his entire day, but had long since accepted its emotional and spiritual necessity. At last, he stabbed-out his index finger and pressed the button to the left of that circle of uninspiring grey blandness. With a mechanical whir, the metal shutters retreated, allowing him an unimpeded view of the Earth…or what was left of it.
The Earth— that cradle of all known life in the universe, whereupon all of Human history prior to 1957 had exclusively taken place— had not been reduced to rubble or atoms; nor had it been corrupted beyond all recognition, with its beautiful blue-green features masked beneath a layer of sickly yellow clouds. Rather, the ruin of the Earth was a far more subtle thing to behold—so subtle, in fact, that if one squinted or didn’t look terribly closely, one might not notice it at all. But once it had been seen, it could never be unseen; for the Earth had become a patchwork quilt, a mess of several dozen discontinuous tiles tessellating its spherical surface. It might have been day in one tile, and night in the very next tile over; or one tile might be completely covered in the very densest of thunderclouds, with these clouds stopping directly at its borders. Tropical jungles bordered arctic tundra with no evident conflict between them; clumps of mountains rose in the midsts of deserts. And though the image that this planet-sized three dimensional jigsaw puzzle constructed corresponded roughly to the broad outlines of what Plasburg thought of as the world map (although this changed day-by-day; coastlines altered, continents rose and fell and entire regions became flooded), it was clear that this was not the world as he knew it.
Even now, after almost two decades spent living alone on a space station following the End of the World, it was a difficult and painful sight to behold. Plasburg forced himself to continue watching, unblinking, for several more seconds, feeling like an eternity. Then, with the same solemnity with which he had opened them, he shuttered the window,
His sacred duties were now completed, and so he was now free to move on to his mundane ones.