Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Upon This Fragile Thread

Kate sat on a cot in the basement of her store, a flickering flourescent bulb causing a mild strobe effect that gave the room a sense of the unreal. One could pretend it was all a dream, or a sad drug trip, rather than the grim reality they'd all been forced to face in the past few days.

She had been fortunate. After 9/11, her boyfriend at the time, Zack, had converted the unused basement of her shop into a survival shelter. A series of large yacht batteries would provide power for decades if need be, and there was enough food to last even longer. Zack had been a bit strange, and something of a prick, but she felt grateful to him then, and hoped he was okay.

When the riots started, she led the customers in her shop down to the basement shelter. They assumed the authorities would restore order soon, but they hadn't counted on the severity of the riots. Before the phones went dead completely, one of the customers had managed to contact her husband. He was holed up in their house with their son, keeping the rioters at bay with a shotgun. He'd told her not to count on help from the police, as many of the rioters were in uniform. Or, the remnants of uniform, anyway.

That was one of the first things the rioters had done; tear their clothing to shreds, or simply discard them completely. They were part of a growing movement called The Prehistorics, and their mission seemed to be nothing less than the total eradication of all human civilization. Fortunately, in escewing the trappings of modern civilization, they were restricting their choice of weapons. Rocks and sticks were all they would use, so a few people armed with guns were usually able to fight them off. The problem was, more people joined them every day, leaving less people to fight them.

It was the Video, of course. That's what had started this whole thing. The damn Video. It had been broadcast over the Web the previous week, and the result had been rapidly escalating anarchy.

The sound of tearing paper roused her from her reverie. She looked over at Dave, one of the customers who'd taken refuge with them. He was slowly tearing pages out of his Bible, crumpling them up and tossing them in the corner. She couldn't blame him. After the Video, religion meant nothing.

The woman who'd called her husband held her little girl close. The little girl had been weeping intermittently since they'd taken refuge here, and her mother had spent most of her time comforting her. Kate smiled. There was something the Video couldn't change: a mother's love for her child.

Unfortunately, it had changed most everything else. No one could say for certain who it was who had leaked the Video in the first place, but all evidence pointed to a NASA employee. He had been part of a secret project devoted to deciphering and decoding data that had been stored on a strange collection of disks found on the moon over 30 years ago.

Once the Video had been leaked, top NASA officials had verified its authenticity, and revealed its source. During one of the manned flights to the moon, astronauts had discovered a cave, and the remains of an alien being inside. The being had not been dead long, and it was later determined that it was the astronauts' breaching of its environment that had caused the alien to asphixiate. The astronauts found an elaborate collection of highly advanced recording devices, along with what they assumed to be the storage media. They brought the disks back to Earth with them, along with as much of the equipment as would fit. Later missions retrieved the rest. Attempts to decipher the data on the disks led to reverse engineering of the equipment, which in turn led to many of the advances in digital media over the recent decades. Finally, after many years of hard work, scientists managed to decipher the data. What they found shocked them so profoundly that they decided to destroy it, thereby keeping it from discovery.

But one of the scientists, likely a low-level technician, stole a copy of the data and broadcast it worldwide. It seemed the alien had been recording the development of the human race from its earliest existence, to what purpose no one could guess. With the release of the Video, the people of the world were given a definitive account of human history, from their earliest days up to the late 1960s. It disproved every pre-existing historical account, both religious and scientific. It proved beyond all doubt that the greatness of human civilization was a lie, and the true history of the world was so disturbing that most people immediately lost their minds.

Others did not. They saw the footage, and were understandably distrubed by it, but believed that the world they lived in was real enough, despite the fallacy of its origins. They were determined to continue living their lives, the revelations of the Video be damned.

Unfortunately, such people were few, and becoming fewer. In the wake of the Video, houses of worship around the world were burned to the ground, religious leaders were lynched, and the great holy sites were either destroyed or vandalized. The Vatican was still burning, as far as anyone knew, and the Middle East had been laid waste when Israel, India and Pakistan emptied their nuclear silos. The Prehistoric movement had started up soon after, and was growing exponentially each day. With all of human history proved a lie, they decided to revert to a time before history and start the process of human development all over again. Kate wondered how long they would need to hide until the movement burned itself out and reason was restored to--

She noticed then that Dave had stopped tearing his Bible. She looked up and saw that the mother and her daughter were crouched next to his body, eating pieces of his flesh. They were naked and smeared with his blood, a wild gleam in their eyes. In the far corner, Lila and Jack, two others who'd taken refuge with her, began tearing at their clothes. She gasped in horror, drawing the attention of her savage companions. The mother picked up the large can she'd bludgeoned Dave with and, with a low growl, began to creep toward Kate. Jack looked on her with an animal lust, while Lila began grooming him.

Kate knew reasoning with them would be futile, so she did the only thing she could to stay alive. She smacked the can away from the young mother, and clawed deep gouges in the other woman's face. Then, ripping her clothing to shreds, she tore a hunk of meat from Dave's corpse and offered it to Jack, assuming a submissive posture at his feet. Jack ate it hungrily, allowing Kate to join Lila in grooming him. The mother and her daughter would join them later. After that, they would destroy the lights and the batteries, finally venturing outside to add their small tribe to the growing mob.

Kate would eventually bear Jack three children, before dying a few years later from exposure during a harsh winter.

6 comments:

Kat said...

harsh. but what was the secret?

Rae Ann said...

That's very grim, but considering what's happening in New Orleans now it might not be all that fictional. I'm deeply disturbed by what's going on down there. It breaks my heart.

Chris said...

I am also disturbed by it, but not surprised. As suggested by the title of this story, it is a very slender thread that keeps us bound to the codes of civilized society.

I think we're all just one bad day, one disaster, from brutal savagery. Take away the trappings of the social order, and we fall back on our base instincts. That's not a condemnation, either. What's happening in New Orleans is the natural result of a collapse of civilization. You do what you must to survive, even if that means killing and stealing.

And Kat, you really don't want to know. ;)

Hope-So said...

Whoa.

LadyKate said...

Yeah, I was disturbed by this one.

purplesimon said...

I'm reminded of that Radiohead video where the chap is lying down and tells others something and they lie down with him. What he says, no one knows!

In the same way, I really want to know what was on that video! That's what makes this such a good story, the not-knowing.

Nicely portrayed and just that little bit close to everyday life, as Rae Ann says.