More Apocalypse Writings

Here is the other story that did not make it into the end of the world series, more because it did not strongly relate to the “wind” sub-theme than being a bad story.  This one hits a lot of the things I see as evil.  You decide.

 

A Taste of Armageddon

by

Robert Garbin

 

The great cauldron sat deep in the fire, shimmering waves of heat rising all around.  Flames licked the soot blackened metal almost to the rim.  What could be seen of the kitchen where it boiled was a nightmare of warped selves, darkened by millennia of cooking, filled to the brim with jars of all sizes and colors, jars that contained any number of rare delicacies for the tastes of the depraved.  Light flickered off jars of spurned love, betrayed trust, and glutinous lust.  Helen reached out a fine hand covered in smudges of vanity and grabbed a jar from a shelf.  Her exquisite hair clung to her scalp in oily strands, while the porcelain beauty of her face was hidden under layers of soot and sweat.

She opened the jar and smelled the powerful aroma of polished leather and expensive cigars wafting off the influential men who had guided humanity only for personal gains, men who were careless of the costs to others.  Helen reflected on how plentiful this particular spice was now.  She carefully shook only two screaming businessmen into the bubbling cauldron, knowing full well its overpowering nature.  Pursing her full lips, she perused the glass crocks from which blood smeared bodies writhed in the throes of agony.  The mistress of the cauldron reached up to the top shelf for a jar distinguished by a bloody red cross.  Opening the lid she inhaled the cloying smell of incense mixed with sacramental wine.  Letting a wicked grin twitch one side of her mouth, Helen pulled out a hefty squealing Catholic Bishop with several child molesting Priests clinging to his legs.  A quick flick sent the caterwauling bunch into the stew.  The Bishop should add a nice hint of hypocritical self-righteousness with a lingering aftertaste of restrictive dogma towards the female gender.

Ingredients from millennia of human history weighed down the shelves of Helen’s kitchen, which made the creation of each stew an art unto itself.  Every century carried a unique note that had to be accounted for if the final product was to be worthy.  Helen walked down the long line of shelves to where the light from the fire barely touched the dark shadows and the glass containers were smoky with age.  She selected a jar from near the bottom, rubbing away the accumulated dust of ages.  From within, Helen pulled out a golden statue of a cow.  She left the squirming orgy of the makers of this false idol in the jar; their unfinished orgasms holding them in an eternally unsatisfied agony of unreleased pleasure.  Resealing the jar she placed it back on the shelf.  From a nearby nook she pulled down a bottle filled with the blind arrogance of military leaders so set in their ways that the deaths of thousands could not change their useless methods.  The bottle swirled with broken bodies in a gravy of thick blood.  Helen returned to the bubbling cauldron to add her latest ingredients.

She tossed the golden cow into the stew and watched as it melted like butter, giving an oily film to the top of the concoction.  Helen lifted a paddle from the wall and gave the contents a stir before adding in the next ingredient; the comingled smell of sins tickled her nose.  Continuing to stir with her right hand, the mistress of the kitchen upended the entire contents of the bloody bottle.  The smell of scorched earth, decayed bodies, and dried blood rose strongly from the cauldron.  Young men dying on the battle fields of hypocrisy would form the base for the Master’s soup.  Helen hung the paddle back on the wall to allow the stew time to burn a little.

She brought a delicate finger to her lips.  The challenge was to create harmony in the stew without losing the distinctive notes of each individual spice.  The arrogance of ambitious officers, while overpowering, carried the desires of all the other spices to fruition and formed the tempo that organized them into a coherent symphony.  To dilute its presence too far would turn the mixture into a chaotic blend of competing players with no direction, every flavor trying to outdo the other.  Helen pulled a tarnished spoon from the pocket of her stained apron.  With a deft flick of her hand the spoon slipped just below the surface of the thick morass and carried a steaming sample to her ample lips.  She blew softly then placed the spoon into her mouth.  The rich blood of sacrificial lambs rolled over her tongue followed by the tang of secret meetings and religious doctrines, ending with the bitter taste of betrayal.  Not quite everything she was looking for yet.

Helen tapped the spoon in her open right hand as she contemplated what to add.  She moved to a set of shelves just behind the cauldron where newer hybrid varieties of older spices glistened in their shiny bottles.  She studied the shelves for several minutes before hooking a finger around a bottle of swirling grey mist and dancing sparks.  Removing the lid, Helen caught the strong aroma of gunpowder and deception from modern war profiteering.  This particular bottle carried a stronger variety gathered from the leading councils of the NRA who reaped wild profits for the corporations they represented by making it harder to stem the tide of guns sold to criminals, while using the fear of such weapons to sell more to the public they pretended to protect.  The refined hints of misdirection, duplicity, and rabid loyalty were intoxicating.  In combination with the blind Generals, the profiteering would add a satisfying base of rampant death and misguided trust.  Helen turned and sprinkled a liberal helping, almost sneezing from the pungent smell of spent gunpowder.  She returned to the cauldron and stirred for a while.

Inspiration came to her as she worked scorched mixture loose from the sides of the great pot.  She reached to the right for a jar wrapped in red velvet.  Pulling off the velvet, she revealed a jar filled with a thick golden substance that seemed to flash as it swirled inside the bottle.  Helen tugged the stopper out and sniffed the scent of floral perfumes, stale vomit, and leftover sex, Hollywood’s finest.   Women forced into visions of splendor by old men drunk on power and lust.  Girls who worshiped at Aphrodite’s Alter and suffered through the jealous goddess’s penance of anorexia, low self-esteem, and unrewarded trust.  Helen knew all too well the costs of following the dictates of this creature of legend.  The golden spice should add a nice touch of unobtainable anguish and foolish pride, affecting men, as well as women, since they would desire the illusion more than reality.  They would punish themselves for not obtaining the ideal, while they abused their lovers for failing their dreams.  Blending with the other spices, the golden essence would bind the others in a knot of tension that would explode upon the Master’s palate.

Helen added the essence of delusion then reached for the stirring paddle before sitting on the stool near the cauldron.  The only task left was to watch over the stew to keep it from burning too much as she allowed the concoction to reduce and concentrate the blend of sins into a conflagration of flavors.  Centuries passed as she tended the great cauldron.  Civilizations rose and fell.  Finally, Helen judged the mixture complete and extinguished the nether world fires beneath the charred cauldron.  She called out to the Master’s servant Adolf, while she searched the pantry for an appropriate vessel to carry the stew to his table.  Pulling down a large golden soup tureen she returned to her stew and neatly ladled the final product almost to the brim before replacing the lid.  Turning to the immaculately dressed servant, Helen carefully placed the Master’s dinner onto the intricately etched silver tray he held out.  Without a word, since he had no mouth, Adolf turned and left the kitchen through a heavy wooden door.

He walked down a short hall as quickly as possible though the fear of spilling even a single drop caused him to sweat profusely.  Opening the door at the end of the hall, he entered a room worked to a grand scale, several miles from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.   Thousands of fine crystal chandeliers with hundreds of candles filled the vast space with a soft burning glow.  A fireplace, five hundred feet wide and two hundred feet high, was placed in the wall opposite the entrance and before it was set a table half a mile long with hundreds of seats to a side.  The Master was seated on the end closest to the fireplace.  Without stopping, the servant moved as swiftly as he could to the Master’s side, the focus of the room weighing heavily upon him.

When he finally arrived at the near end of the table, Adolf refrained from looking at the ornate tableware set for the Master’s favored minions, whom would eat only after the Master had deemed the meal worthy.  Unfortunately, he could not tune out the orgy of lust, treachery, and murder, which played out continuously down the length of the table, droplets of various bodily fluids threatening to stain his spotlessly maintained outfit.  With great relief, Adolf finished his journey and bowed to his better before carefully filling the Master’s bowl with the steaming broth.  He then moved to his place behind and to the left of his Master.

Satan inhaled the spicy mixture of lust, greed, and violence, making some guesses at the ingredients this particular cook had used.  Millennia had weathered the world bald as cook after cook had failed his expectations for the final feast, the screaming anguish of his starving horde gnawing away at his delicate temper.  Tentatively, the Master grasped an ornate spoon and broke the surface of the stew.  He closed his eyes as the smells of sins, new and old, rose from the disturbed surface, saturating his sinuses and causing his nostrils to dilate with anticipation.  Satan’s sensual lips parted as he brought the spoon slowly to his mouth.  Flavor burst upon his tongue with a release of spent tension that deposited the blood of millions to caress his palate in a celebration of carnal desires, causing his overheated skin to rise in excited response.  Subtle tones of abused childhood melded magnificently with betrayed youth and bitter old age.   Boy molesting priests, philandering husbands, and vindictive sirens merged with religious fervor, hush money, and tabloid headlines.  Blind trust answered by cruel manipulation.  Satan quivered as he tasted the slaughter of entire species and the desecration of almost all of God’s creation.  A long sigh of pleasure escaped his lips as the spoon fell to the table forgotten.

The servant twitched with fear at the cacophony of furious hunger that raced along the walls of the enormous hall, while hundreds of servants rushed forward to fill the table before the horde was freed.  Few were successful as the Master made a negligent flick of his wrist.  Even the Master’s personal servant was flung viciously to the side, ending in the great fire behind his Master, as the ravening pack annihilated anything in their path.  Most of the candles throughout the chamber were extinguished, sending the room into a nightmare of primitive sounds and fears.  Soft slurping sounds were punctuated with the snap of bones as even the centerpiece of human sinners was consumed.  The sharp staccato din of platters crashing to the floor echoed off the distant walls.  Overall, Satan’s satisfied chuckle could be heard.  Finally, at Satan’s command the candles relit, freezing the horde of demons in mid debauchery for which the Master smiled fondly at them.

Satan arose from his seat to walk
the length of the table, hundreds of gleaming red eyes and pointed ears tracking his every step.  A lazy hand caressed the spawn nearest as he progressed down the grand feast, letting the copious amounts of blood and bile drip from his delicate fingers.  When he reached the end of the table, Satan turned to address his minions.

“Beloved, at last our great task is at hand.  I held back your succor for millennia so that your perfection would not be sullied by an inferior product.  Tonight, you have supped on the sublime creation of all my dreams and are now prepared to unleash the fullest measure of your talents upon the flawed creations of the world.  Go, go and show the heavens the will of your Master!”

But for Satan, the room was empty.  He strode gracefully toward the kitchen entrance as a wicked grin creased his handsome face.  When he entered the kitchen, the walls were spotless, the shelves modern, and the kitchen fully outfitted.  Helen winced as her appearance changed from weary exhaustion to radiant beauty before her master had taken a single step into the room, grand illusions even unto the end.  The Prince of Lies entered his kitchen with a broad smile on his face and a cocky swagger to his step.

“My dear Helen, you have finally outdone yourself.  My minions would also give you their expressions of joy, if they did not have other business to attend to.”  Helen shuddered involuntarily.  “Soon all will be set right and I have you to thank.  I see now that I could not live another day without your delectable creations so I have decided to make your position permanent.”

“Noooooooo…,” Helen screamed as her legs buckled.

On the surface, cities fell.  Man knew that the apocalypse had come.

My thoughts on Armageddon

Let’s add a nice little tree!

As promised, here is the losing “end of the world story” I wrote.  I may get back to it some day and clean it up, but for now, just look at the ideas and ask questions.

Math

by

Robert Garbin

“Rapture my sweet ass,” thought Dillon!  Outside his window the world was gray and cold as snow continued to fall.  It had been two months since the nuclear fall of civilization; all was reduced to shades of dirty white and washed out gray in a never ending twilight.  Dillon was on the second floor of the house he had commandeered after spending two weeks putting distance between him and the vaporized city of Pittsburgh.  Lucky for him, Pittsburgh was not a high value target so the missiles had come later than cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, but they still came.  Snow had piled up so deep that he no longer could get out the front door; however, it did act as insulation from the never ending wind and he periodically carved out vents for air.

Hollywood had it right all those years ago when they made films about robots destroying the world; however, the robots were not made of wires and electronics but flesh and DNA.  No one realized that to God we are just robots built from mathematics stored in the code of our DNA, a code corrupted by the forbidden apple.  Genetic programs based in chaotic theory and statistical analysis.  Dillon had spent years pondering the issue while the world slowly devolved and the pressure broke in a nuclear frenzy that swept away all he had known.  Now he had nothing but time to think about his ideas.   A soft meow drew his attention to the window seal.  Dillon wondered how long he would be able to keep his new friend alive with little meat to spare.  At least the house he had found contained a fully stocked cellar with commercial and home grown canned goods.  Unfortunately, although fearing the worst, the Henderson’s must have felt secure enough to go on a trip at the wrong time.  He hoped they weren’t suffering somewhere considering the salvation they had provided him.

Sighing, Dillon scratched the gray tiger striped cat.  Talk about irony he thought.  Starving for color, the companion that shows up on his doorstep is shades of the same world he found himself trapped in.  He wasn’t quite sure but sometimes he thought he caught shades of cream underneath the cat’s silky fur.  Of course, he could be losing it too.  His stomach chose then to let out a loud growl, which elicited a meow from his companion.

“Ready for some food little man?”

In answer the cat bumped his head into Dillon’s hand.  Dillon shook his head and walked out of the room heading for the stairs.  His jacket barely kept out the cold, which is why he rarely left the makeshift fireplace he had managed to create inside the kitchen.  The Henderson’s had stock piled a large quantity of wood and coal in a shed not too far behind the house that made it possible for Dillon to make a short snow tunnel for resupply.  Occasional cave-ins provided a welcome change to the monotony.  Reaching the kitchen and the warmth of the fireplace, he took off his gloves, setting them on the stove near the heat.

Dillon went to the cupboard near the useless sink.  With the loss of power from the EMP and destruction of miles of interconnected water lines, the water pressure had dropped too low to allow water to flow into the house.  He figured that, except for surviving reservoirs and water towers, the system had just drained away.  At least he didn’t have to worry about burst pipes.  The same went for the gas lines but the fuel probably was burning at damaged wells or exposed pipe lines.  Digging out a cold can of tuna, Dillon placed it near the fire to thaw out enough to open.  He then grabbed a plastic pitcher to take outside for snow to melt.  When he came back in, he dumped the snow into a pot he had rigged to hang in the hearth.  Sitting down to wait, his thoughts began to drift.

Like many Dillon had been drawn to the predictions of the end days.  Some believed in an omnipotent God with a grand plan that included this desolate hell.  He began to believe otherwise.  Dillon believed in a creator that had started man on his journey, but the maker wasn’t omnipotent.  The creator had designed the code that would bring life to a conglomeration of elements and understood the principle motivators of that life, which allowed a level of predictability.  However, no being could foresee every possible action in even one such chaotic being, let alone, individual choices of large numbers of them.  The truth of our end was written in the corrupted genetic code after man’s fall from the Garden of Eden and it came down to the mathematics of chaos and probability.

Dillon rested his legs on another chair, which proved to make an ideal invitation for a cat nap.  Kneading his legs for a minute before settling down, the gray cat burst into a loud purr.  Absently stroking the warm furry back, he continued to think.  To our maker we were nothing more than complex self-replicating robots whose programming was stored in DNA, robots that replicated through a complex series of rituals as well as the physical requirements of the process.  Rituals they could learn to manipulate.  Robots designed with mathematics for emotions and interactions, for conscious and automatic functions, and for wants and needs.  Such a system would be a complex conundrum of variables from physical constraints to program directives that would make predicting the actions of even a few challenging.

Small changes in any variable would create drastically different outcomes, which would result in many branching possibilities.  This was the very definition of a chaotic system.  Dillon had taken a course in mathematical modeling that had included the study of chaotic systems and gotten an A on his final project, which was the analysis of a chaotic system through computer modeling.  The system he studied had an interesting characteristic that lodged itself in his subconscious, waiting to join other bits of information.  Living for years, reading science fiction, and watching society had filled in the missing pieces.

Dillon had begun to suspect the truth when he had read the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov.  He understood that it was a work of fiction; however, an education heavy in mathematics had exposed him to statistical analysis, while years of learning the emerging roll it would play in every aspect of modern society had opened his mind to real world possibilities.  He began to wonder, if man had been created by some ancient being, would they have used statistical analysis to make broad predictions of our actions given the complexity of our design.  This led Dillon to ponder aspects of the Bible from a new perspective.

One issue that had fascinated him was the predictions of the bible prophets and later Nostradamus.  He noticed how they seemed to be able to paint somewhat accurate pictures of the future but could not pin down exact years.  His study of chaotic systems shed light on the problem.  The final project in his modeling class had dealt with a system that was chaotic yet showed a cyclical nature.  Basically, his team had modeled system outputs for a range of changes in one input.  Each change resulted in drastically different paths that cycled around a central point.  While the paths were different for each input change, when overlapped, they created a fuzzy circle around a center point called a strange attractor.  Dillon now considered man’s constant warfare and the end times predicted by many prophets with chaos in mind.  None seemed able to accurately foretell the dates for these events, which their followers explained away as misinterpretations once they had occurred.  What if the problem was, instead, our chaotic nature?  What if our need for conflict cycled around a strange attractor that was hard to predict for individuals and groups but, nonetheless, could be predicted in broad terms within limits and through statistical knowledge of our DNA?  What if our creator had analyzed our corrupted nature after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit looking at possible outcomes.  Could his directive to go forth and multiply have been intended to result in the Apocalypse Dillon now lived in?

Dillon decided that Asimov’s Psychohistory had some merits considering how much statistical analysis was used to predict human actions before the end; twentieth century man had just begun seriously using such math to make predictions.  Insurance companies planned for the cost of claims as opposed to premiums charged from calculations of complex probability equations relating to customer’s habits.  Wall Street used probability mathematics to make buy, sell, or hold decisions based on trends of mass populations.  When Adam and Eve failed Eden and were cast out, the creator must have looked for a way to fix the problem.  Understanding our nature through probability mathematics and chaos theory, they must have searched for a way to purge the darker character of our new nature.  I now understand their answer.  They chose to burn it out of us by placing us in a pressure cooker, filling the world to the breaking point with humanity and letting the corrupted program run its course.  Each person added would follow their own path; however, the course of the whole would be cyclical and devastating.

Revelations told us the future; we just misinterpreted it thought Dillon.  We kept searching for Angels to warn us Armageddon was coming; however, the answer really lay all around us.  The disasters, diseases, and deaths were not the hands of Angels upon the earth but our own hands following the mathematics of our genetics.  The increase in all of these signs could be directly linked to our modern world and seemed to increase unexpectedly only because we blinded ourselves to the truth.  Communication and travel were the keys.  By the beginning of the 21st century, we had filled every corner of the world.  Events that previously affected no one could not now avoid affecting someone and; thus, through the media, everyone.  News that would have taken months to reach parts of the world now took mere minutes, which meant our blissfully unaware lives were shattered daily.  The pain of one nation became the pain of all nations.  What we took as an increase in destruction was nothing much more than an inundation of instant communication from a large population.   As for plagues, fast, cheap transportation made it easy for diseases to circle the world as humans crossed borders constantly near the end.  Natural barriers could not hold diseases in check anymore and viruses crossed the globe in a matter of days.  Epidemics became pandemics.

Further compounding the problem, we had nowhere else to go; no more could we hide from ourselves.  In ancient times the world seemed limitless; when pushed by an aggressor, we moved to an unpopulated area and started again.  However, by the end, moving to a new area meant casting someone else out of theirs.  Countries made war for the resources they did not have or had drained out of their own lands.  We couldn’t even run away from our garbage anymore.  Waste dropped here ended up there and when one place filled up, we shipped it somewhere else until there were more places for garbage than for man.  The situation was so bad that in some countries citizens lived on the garbage, making meager livelihoods off finding salvage, from such cesspools of desperation came the new plagues.  Thus, the four horsemen strode upon the earth, not as avenging Angels but as the human sins of sloth, greed, lust, and jealousy.  The equations governing these sins were amplified by the sheer volume of humanity upon the earth.  A mass of humanity initiated by our creator’s words, “Be fruitful and multiply”.

As the 21st century dawned, the pressure cooker squealed from the steam of our arrogance.  The loudest voices in every government were the zealots who found fault in everyone but themselves and pushed almost continuous war upon their neighbors.  Self-righteous people who chose to follow their own ideals no matter the costs or the lessons of the past.  Sin built upon sin, outcome upon outcome.  Thus, the equations of our sullied bodies fed upon the increasing volume of humanity, like too much yeast in a loaf of bread, until it exploded.

On that day, something did fall from heaven and lift mankind into the great rapture spoken of in the Bible, but it had no wings.  Instead, it carried the equivalent of hundreds of megatons of TNT, releasing the wrath of God upon the face of the earth.  Millions of people vanished in an instant of thermonuclear rapture, while the rest were left to seek forgiveness in the desolate wasteland of our foolishness.  No human, or God, could have told you the exact day of Armageddon but they could have easily told you how it was going to look.  All the waves rippling in the pond from billions of stones continuously tossed in over millennia turned into a tsunami that wiped out most of the human race.  The heavens opened and man saw the face of God, which none should stare upon directly.  Millions were turned to ash, leaving this realm forever.

In our pride, we should never have tried to make machines in our own image.  The time we wasted could have been used to understand the designs our creator had left in us; maybe we could have seen a better way to correct our problems from the inside.  Instead, Dillon sits in a frozen shelter clinging to the scraps consigned to him, while nuclear winter settles upon the earth.  What damned equation fated him as its remainder he thinks?  What happens now?  The Rapture had come.  Where do the survivors fit into the grand equation of mankind?  Are we now clean or were only those that passed through the holocaust redeemed?  Who can say?  Dillon’s memory says that the rapture was not the end, but only the beginning of the end.  Maybe the forces released by our human equation will have an effect on the universe, which will result in the final end of the flawed creation that is man.

He found little comfort in these thoughts as dirty grey snow flutters in the chaotic winds outside his shelter.  Ash and dirt fill the air, hiding the sun, moon, and stars.  The ground, which was mud for several weeks after the Rapture, is now frozen solid with feet of snow on top, which will grow deeper in the years to come.  Nothing green is left.  Luckily Dillon found a house in the woods where the owners had prepared for the end.  He had plenty of fruit and vegetables to last a year or so and more canned meat than he probably can stomach.  He didn’t know where the owners were, but, if they were lucky, they went into the city on that faithful day and were set free of this earthly hell.

Dillon shook the cat from is sleep numbed leg and hobbled over to the fireplace.  The can of tuna was warm so he grabbed a can opener, dumped half on a plate for the cat, and, with a little salt and pepper, ate the rest.  He used some of the hot water to clean the plate and fork they had used then made some hot tea.  He decided he was going to miss tea when he finally ran out.  Dillon tossed another couple of logs onto the fire before settling down in the bed he had placed in the kitchen.

A deathly silence engulfs the world now that cars, robots, and communication equipment are gone and the roar of destruction has ended; the pressure has been released in a big sticky mess all over Mother Nature’s kitchen.   Mankind is spent and ready to curl up for a long winters nap as the world lies at its feet licking its wounds.  Dillon had stopped liking winter when he became a salesman traveling thousands of miles a year, but cars no longer work and there really isn’t anywhere to go anymore so, maybe he thought, he could find joy in it again.

The only hopes Dillon clung to were the theories scientists contemplated shortly before the Rapture.  Theories that hinted at a universe far more vibrant and diverse than anyone dared to imagine, leaving room for even the more fanciful interpretations of our religions.  Parallel and multiple dimensions, once scoffed at, became possible answers to century old problems.  Black holes previously thought to be the end of everything changed into doorways into alternate universes.  If our creator knew such theories, could they not have incorporated them into our genetics and given some part of us greater longevity than that of our physical bodies.  While he held no truck with the religious zealots that helped stoke the fire that became the Rapture, he also possessed contempt for those scientists who completely rejected any possibility of a creator’s hand in the universe.  We just knew too little and were blinded by our own desires.  For now, he decided to keep his faith in man’s miniscule understanding of the vast universe around him and face the days to come as best he can.