Doomsday – The First Night of the War…
We were standing at the edge of the end of the world. The taught thread suspended between a global community and the sovereign states that sought to control it finally snapped. The world descended into war just as it had almost a century ago. Soon the great powers would battle along a chaotic tangle of fronts in Eurasia, the South China Sea, the Pakistani-Indian border, and eventually the war would reach American shores. The spiraling gears of history had come full-circle in the 21st century, moving the hands of time towards Doomsday. Humanity held its collective breath, waiting as the tolling bells chimed, until the clock finally struck zero hour.
I rose from our bed as quietly as possible so I wouldn’t disturb Tina. I slipped on my sandals and pulled my robe over my pajamas, put on my glasses and made my way out of the bedroom. I gently latched the weathered oak door at the entrance of our villa and traversed the flagstone path lined with gardenia bushes to the stone chapel nestled in the corner of our vineyard. Tina had the chapel imported stone by stone from the Auvergne region of France a couple of years after we purchased the vineyard in wine country, and we had it re-assembled on our grounds. She liked it because of its Old World charm, I liked it because it reminded me of the kind of structures that dotted the countryside outside of my French hometown of Clermont-Ferrand. Magenta hues of bougainvillea plants climbed up the ancient rock walls of the chapel, muted in the pale light of a full moon. The warm Santa Ana breeze lifted the sweet scent of gardenia flowers out over the vineyard toward the chaparral-lined hills along the west end of our property. Had the winds been coming in from the west as they typically do in October, they would’ve carried the smoldering radiation from Los Angeles into the Inland Empire.
The pewter light of the moon poured through the blue mosaic of stained glass in the window at the front of the chapel. As I knelt next to one of the forward pews, I noticed the flowers from the wedding held on the grounds earlier that afternoon had not been cleared out. Immediately I thought of Christ’s words “For in the days before the flood people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day Noah had entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” Whispers of wrath echoed through the night and I wondered if the Day of the LORD was indeed upon us. Scores of fires burned around the world that night, but the most terrifying aspect of Divine judgement is not in the threat of fire. Wrath is most fearful when God simply gives humanity over to our basest inclinations and leaves us to our own devices. One needn’t dig too deeply into our violent history to see how easily this race becomes unhinged and descends into the chaos of war. Without mercy restraining our violent hearts we are left to our frailty and pride with nothing but madness and ashes and ruin.
As I wandered in the wilderness of prayer I fell into a deep sleep. It was not uncommon for my prayers to vividly shape my dreams. But, this was no ordinary dream. I was pulled into a vision beyond my understanding. Perhaps the holy men of old were equally baffled when they encountered God. The splendor and terror that unfolded before me on were forever burned in my mind.
I found myself standing in what appeared to be our vineyard, but the scenery I knew like the back of my hand was transformed into a strange and spiritual place. An imposing limestone watchtower occupied the place where our chapel stood. Beside the tower a circular winepress was elevated several feet above the ground. The silver moon had turned crimson, and the stars of the Milky Way seemed to hang so I could have scraped them with my fingers as they shone undimmed by the red moonlight. Two olive trees with ancient and gnarled trunks twisted skyward as they grew next to the tower. Atop the tower were two golden lamp-stands fed with oil from the trees and even flames sprouted from each lamp-stand, illuminating the vineyard below.
I saw a great white horse striding across the sky from horizon to horizon. His rider is called “Faithful and True, with justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.” He rode in the heavens, surveying the earth like a general who was surveying the field on the eve of battle.
Glory filled my bones as I heard a whisper in my ears, “Daniel, Daniel.”
“Yes, Lord,” I answered, overcome by terror and splendor.
“The Day of Salvation and Judgement draws near. Through the fire that soon shall fall I will make all things new”
I asked, voice still shaking, “When, Lord?”
“Soon,” he whispered.
And I looked and I saw the lamp-stands transform into two men standing atop the watchtower, they were clothed in sackcloth and ash covered their hair and beards.
“I am sending the Sons of Fire to you. These two will be my witnesses and they will prophesy at the end of the age. You will help them grow into what they must become in order to bear the burdens laid upon them.”
As soon as I blinked away the retinal echoes from my eyes, I was back in the chapel kneeling beside the pew just as I had been before the vision began. The fear of the world’s end has echoed through human stories and mythologies from time immemorial, but under the shadow of Doomsday, I saw the end of all things. Either I had lost my mind or God had truly spoken to me. Whatever might be said of my sanity, I was caught in the irresistible grip of that vision and was compelled beyond every rational bone in my body to simply believe.
By the time I made it back to our bedroom I Tina sitting up in our bed watching the news.
“Sorry for being out so long,” I said.
“Not to worry Danny, you’ve been gone for less than an hour,” she said, “I couldn’t sleep either so I turned on the news.”
From the other side of the room I heard the news anchor say solemnly, “This is the day our worst nightmares have come to pass – Doomsday has arrived. Today’s bombings mark the largest loss of human life of any day in humanity’s history. The staggering results of today’s sporadic nuclear bombings are not yet fully known…”
I asked her, “Do we know anything more about what’s happening?”
“It’s awful,” Tina said, “Most of Los Angeles has been destroyed. But it’s not just LA, it’s Boston, Manchester, Munich, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Tel Aviv, Tehran, Mumbai, Islamabad, Shanghai, Pyongyang, Seoul, and Tokyo. Millions are dead. NATO and the Eurasian Confederation are holding an emergency summit in Johannesburg to ensure that whoever uses nuclear weapons from here on out will be bombed by enemy and ally alike. It is probably not enough to keep war from breaking out between NATO and the EAC. I just can’t figure how on Earth it all came to this.”
I heard the news anchor continue, “It appears that the President and Vice-President were also targets of today’s attacks. The President was killed in Los Angeles along with the Vice-President in Boston as both were rallying support for the new Sustainable Energy Act that was due to be debated in congress in the upcoming weeks…”
“I don’t know either,” I said,
Tina and I watched in shock as the news poured in. How could it have come to this? Every new video feed of a ruined city made us feel like we were enduring a cruel, long, slow gut-punch. We tried to talk to each other about what was unfolding before our eyes, but what does one say when there are no words? Doomsday, the day humanity so feared, had come with blunt, unrelenting force; a whirlpool that would pull us all into the oblivion of total war. We were in a terminal spiral, descending toward the final act of a passing age.
We watched the news for another half-hour and prayed that the NATO-EAC accord would hold. Nevertheless, war was upon us and the world we would wake up to in the morning would be forever changed. I held my wife close, giving my arms to her as a crude, but loving, shelter from the stark brutality of the night’s news. I knew there was little that I could do to protect her from the cruel barbarism of the world, but I could love her and receive love and that was the only shelter I had to give. As she drifted to sleep, I brushed her black and silver streaked hair and kissed her cheek near the corner of her eye where a lifetime of smiles and laughter had left their marks. I rolled over and adjusted my pillow trying as best as I could to let tomorrow’s worries care for themselves in the morning.
Two and a Half Years Later, Weeks Before the End of the War…
Editorial for the San Diego Recorder
By: Editor-in-Chief, Henry Lewis
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
– WB Yeats, from The Second Coming
The bellicose impulse of human nature is one of the inviolate principles of our existence. This Third World War is not like the Second World War where we have hallowed in our collective mythology the righteous Allies against the evil empires of the Axis. No, this bloody conflagration is the dreadful grandchild of the First World War. In the halls of justice, every nation on this precious earth ought to be declared guilty for crimes committed with malice aforethought. The tangled allegiances and avarice of the nations drew them like helpless, wind-blown leaves into the violent tornado of war. The primeval spirits that drew us so eagerly to blood and ashes after the terrible advent of Doomsday have ground all hope of victory on any side to a powder so fine that we breathe it in as if those spirits were always part and parcel of the airs we respire. The outcry for peace echoes from every corner of the globe, yet no peace can be found. We find ourselves steaming upriver on the Congo and the Mekong and all the rivers in all the world, drowning in our angry tears, searching for Kurtz, only to find that his heart of darkness is our own and that the apocalypse is indeed now.
One need only to see the mangled boys shipped in from the front-lines of the war to surmise that there is no purpose in the whole enterprise, and possibly in our existence as a species. Perhaps we should not expect more, owing our existence to the happy accident of evolution and random mutations that made men of apes. What cannot be denied is that our belief in human decency, both as a collective and as the individual, has failed, and maybe we had no right to believe in such decency in the first place.
So we are reduced to stammering rage with the institutions and individuals that kept the precarious world order intact. The nationalists clung with a nihilistic nostalgia to a past that never existed in reality, while refusing to recognize how interconnected the world has become, wishing to hide in the comfortable alcoves of provincialism. The so-called globalists were long on arrogance and short on competence in their maniacal project of controlling the global society. One might be tempted to cast a pox on both houses if we did not live in their respective back yards. Modern industrial economies, developed and developing, pushed us to the brink of ecological disaster by our criminal indifference. The rich prey upon the poor and extract and leverage debts that can only be settled by the highest and most kinetic form of economics – war, which only further enriches the powerful and ensures that the masses remain powerless. But, the disregard for decency does not stop with the elites who have steered us into disaster, the poor and powerless devour themselves for want of food and dignity.
There are few choices put before the citizens of this once proud country. The vaunted dream of a roaring war-time economy turned out to be no more than a ghost of past wars. The efficiencies of robotics no longer require a human touch to beat plowshares into swords. Perhaps one could defect to China, whose productive capacities outstrip ours by orders of magnitude, or turn to mine the rich resources held in Russia’s iron grip on the Eurasian continent, but there are oceans boiling with conflict and airways clogged with ballistics that make such options impossible. There is the choice that some enterprising individuals have made to scratch out an existence on the frontiers that have appeared where strip malls and suburbs once dwelled in all their smug ugliness. Many choose the comfortable poverty of government subsidies in the urban centers. And there are the poor bastards who find themselves on the front lines facing the death of their minds or their bodies or both for the promise of three square meals a day in a military that does not even hide the pretense that these young Americans are anything more than cannon-fodder for a war that more likely than not cannot be won.
Still, there are a precious few who have the gumption to point out the fact that modernity has been devouring itself even while she grew. The unsustainability of modern life has run aground on the unassailable fact that that which cannot last won’t. We made a Faustian bargain for the collective heart of humanity, that economies could always grow on a finite planet and that the promise of more could be held out in perpetuity. This damned conflagration is a symptom, not the cause, of the current state of affairs. The War, it would seem, has been baked in the cake across every stop on the supply chain marked by ethical malfeasance, environmental neglect, political incompetence bordering on hubris, and of course, the all-too-human proclivity toward unchecked greed. We no longer believe in dignity or peace because we no longer believe in ourselves, and we cannot believe in ourselves because we no longer believe in anything at all.
Hot-blooded clergymen across the world are claiming that this portends the Second Coming. While I am not a religious man, and I find the very notion of religion to be near the root of our present malady, they could perhaps be right. But, my own instincts say that if they are, they are only right in part. Too many are desperate for peace, and are not willing to countenance what a sturdy peace might require. So, civilians who seem too terrified to take up the burden of citizenship might be all too willing to sell this peace to the highest bidder, even if they, like the natives of Manhattan, yield their homeland for so many beads. If there is to be a Second Coming, it could likely be much darker, so I ask, again in the words of Yeats:
…what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Whatever the case may be, our editorial board at the San Diego Recorder has come to the collective agreement to no longer serve as a propagandistic megaphone for our government. From this point on, we will report on the war with an effort to capture the cold calculus of fact, and the compassion that seeks to recover some dignity for the millions who fight in the War and the billions who suffer and die under it. If this government has any shred of respect for the Constitution that allowed this Republic to brush up against the edges of greatness, it will not see our actions as seditious, but ensure that the freedom of the press continues. If the Republic can be saved, and there are many reasonable doubts that it can be, it must be salvaged by a commitment to understand and tell the truth. Lies are not becoming of a free and just society; inasmuch as we can escape them, we will. For the sake of our readers, we shall seek to disseminate the truth, however ugly it can be, in the hope that it can, even in some small way, restore sanity in a world bent on such reckless and cruel insanity. Maybe in doing so, we can lend courage to others in the pursuit of reform. So, in the spirit of the great reformers of the past, we say, here we stand; we can do no other.