There was a day that the sun was too hot, the ground too dry, and there wasn’t enough money to make it right. We had almost made it. We had colonies across the stars, science like magic, and our bodies were glimpsing immortality. One day, one riot, one trigger happy fool. One day is all it took, and the world changed.
The December World Protest: a third of the population linked in the Cloud. It was supposed to be beautiful— the ultimate zeitgeist moment of emotional evolution. Through the power of digital empathy, a billion people would share one feeling, one need, one goal. Finally, the powerful and the weak would all, for one moment, feel the same.
But, that’s not what happened.
One shot, one death, one well planned suicide sabotage, and like a maze of carefully placed dominoes it toppled. All of humanity watched itself end in live-stream. Faces locked onto little screens and HUDs, until they all went dark or were covered in their own blood. Trampled by their peers, blinded by their distractions, killed like cattle driven from a cliff.
No one knew who planned it. There were no claims of victory, no flags planted. The entirety of the cloud had collapsed and it was never coming back.
By the time the governments had gained some semblance of control, it was too little, too late. Skills were lost, millions were dead and entire branches of technology and culture deleted. The world was broken, and there was no one left to fix it.
Where one world ends, another begins. This is the story of America after the cloud collapse, of a people that lost everything, but would rise higher than any that had come before…
MGySg; Kilday, Grant, GMP/SBF-01: NC 38.07.22
Kendrick stumbled in the dark, the waning crescent Moon watching him apathetically. He fell abruptly to his knees. the Palo Verde desert bit though his ragged denim pants and into his skin. His clouded mind focused on one thought– ‘Do not throw up’. A sour swell, the precursor of regurgitation, rolled in his mouth. He tried to shout defiantly but was abruptly interrupted with a drawn-out grunt, a spraying flow of bitter bile, and half-digested food.
He fell face first on the sharp desert floor and sat there with dirt and vomit smearing into his face. He then shoved himself away from the puddle of puke. Each movement a victory of immense effort. The rot-gut gin he had spent all his bank-trade on had been barely drinkable and he would be lucky if he didn’t go blind.
He had to get back to town, back to his bike. Soon the Sun would rise, the caravan would leave, and pirates would steal her. Celerus was the fastest bike on the run, and without it he would be stuck as a roadie forever, shooting, and looting, survive or die; kill or be killed. He couldn’t take it anymore.
Dry heaves took him, washing across his body in waves of regret. Maybe he’d bake out here in the morning or get eaten and be too drunk feel it. The numbness was exactly what he wanted; to be so fucked up that he disconnected from the world. And in the sinking, drowning sorrow, in the midst of his thick asphyxiating misery, maybe he could, for one fragile moment, forget.
The Moon silently watched him as it crossed the sky. Its blue green, ever-present, watery aura, encircling the crescent in the night. The coarse desert held him, bleeding what little warmth it had left as he passed slowly in-and-out of consciousness.
Kendrick looked to the village that he had wandered from. A small riverside outpost between Phoenix and Loma Linda. It was a drive port called Blythe. It was the center of the Resurrection Run, an important stop for a caravan roadie like himself. A celebration was going strong for the completion of a 10-day run. People danced to ancient music that echoed across the cold wasteland.
‘They earned it,’ he thought to himself. They deserved it, but he didn’t.
With gin-breath, and increasing dizziness, he made another try to get back. Clumsily rising, he took small zombie steps forward. Had he come here to die? If he did, what would happen to Grey and Jim? Did they still need him? If they knew what he had done, they wouldn’t. Flashes of horror from the war slapped him sober. A screaming anxiety exploded in his head and chest, dropping him again into the sharp desert floor.
He closed his eyes against the spinning night sky and thought that this was the end. It was a better death than he deserved. A better death than he had offered.
In the drunken stupor, pellet-shots hissed that only he could hear. The smell of ozone from his rifle and a taste of blood that wouldn’t leave his memory. The pleading fear in dying eyes; ‘Stay with me even though you killed me”.
“One more drink to drown me please,” he spat as he fell into his own lonely blackness.
He was dead to the world till the burning sun teased him into consciousness. His painful resurrection came with tingles and stings in his hand. Had he slept on it? Why was it burning, maybe the sun? He knew it couldn’t ‘t be both. Then, the sensation of tiny things crawling on his skin woke him.
Kendrick leapt to his feet and scanned his swollen right hand, now covered in red fire ants. Screaming like a child he used his shirt and tried to wipe away as many as he could. He stumbled back and fell on his ass ripping his shirt in the process. He was hungover, still dizzy, and sick.
Twenty years of life, all ended here, drunk, shirtless, and doomed in the desert. He collapsed again and began to cry, slobber dirt and tears, muddying his face.