Thy will be done
In the last days before the Apocalypse, even the most advanced piece of human technology had a rather rudimentary fix-it: shut down, unplug, count to 20, re-plug, restart. (Depending on the equipment, a swift kick was also known to serve a purpose. Although repair may have been a secondary consideration in that case.)
And what is the earth and all life upon it if not the greatest piece of advanced programming and engineering ever developed: Consider the systemic intricacies of every living creature or plant, the water that covers the earth, the precise balance of the air that sustains life, along with the universe at large with our sun, the stars, the moon...With humankind as the pinnacle of that creative genius.
Sadly, at that time, humanity seemed to be careening, free-falling, towards a period reminiscent of the Dark Ages with all the ills of that time magnified by advances in communication that allowed truths and lies to be traded indiscriminately in seconds rather than days or weeks or months; modernized by the new ways people had learned to torture and kill one another; twisted by new and old reasons to justify killing; and, an incredible sense of Me and Mine Now, with scant attention to the larger community, little effort to think deeply, see all sides of any issue of contention, endeavor to cooperate, compromise, effect a meeting of minds. Pray.
This turbulence of human existence was reflected in the natural world. Globally, there were an unprecedented number of floods and fires, hurricanes and earthquakes, deadly illnesses and disease, indeed, more natural disasters than had ever been documented in history. A clear indication to many that the end was near. A “shutdown-restart” at the global level was on the horizon.
Just like in the time of Noah.
That day, the last or the first, depending on your perspective, it was as if the earth had one, centrally located breaker box which someone found and flipped the main switch from "on" to "off." The unnatural hum to which we had grown accustomed, indeed, that no one realized was there until it wasn't, ceased, and with it life as it had been ground to a definitive halt.
And, in that moment, life began anew; or, perhaps, returned, to a simpler time.
Wherever an electrical current once ran - including generators and the potential-laden battery - it ran no longer. The silence was deafening, but only for a moment. It was quickly drowned out by the symphonic sounds of terror that echoed across the globe.
One would have been forgiven if one had thought Judgement Day had arrived and that the flames of hell were licking their way towards the multitude of nonbelievers and faithless. That's how it sounded, unnatural and frightening, to those of us who lived in places that were not much more than a name on a map, havens really, surrounded as we were by God's green earth. (I don't know about other places, but around here, the resurgence of Life has been obvious: the green is greener, the air is clearer, and the creatures populating the lakes and woods are multitudinous. The handiwork of God is magnificent to behold.)
According to what we learned over time, millions died within minutes as all the equipment in
hospitals around the world ceased to function. The hiss of ventilation units transformed into the gasp and wheeze of imminent death. Myriad minor (and major) surgeries ended in tragedy as surgeons were plunged into darkness mid-slice. Patients receiving life-saving treatments while linked to miracle working machines for any number of curable or at least treatable illnesses perished within hours.
Within days, those stuck in elevators died either from suffocation, or at the bottom of the shaft if the metal box crashed, or when they themselves fell trying to climb out to safety.
As if safety was within their reach.
When the lights went out and emergency automatic stay-in-place locking systems were activated, prisoners were stuck in their last location - a cell, solitary confinement, a bathroom, a conjugal visiting room (in those few places that still allowed such things) - or, if they were in the Yard, climbing over no-longer-electrified fences to freedom (if they weren't shot down first by guards barricaded in towers). Without food or water, and confined with armed
guards (who did not equal even one one hundredth of the incarcerated population), who boasted a cache of ammunition limited to what they carried, the stench of death was strong within weeks.
As it was in the gyms and spas of the select few, where automation trapped wealthy clients in tanning beds, hydro chambers, saunas and steam rooms.
People were trampled trying to escape stalled subway cars in the pitch black of the subterranean tunnels, or even the elevated trains whose backdrop was now a city of shadows.
The streets of cities across the world, particularly what was called the developed world, were plunged into unrelieved darkness and all the hidden evils unleashed as moral compasses stuttered in the face of a fear and desperation that had been simmering for decades, and a skewed survival instinct long incapable of valuing the health and well-being of an entire community over that of a single individual.
There were numerous accidents on the streets and highways, followed by an explosion of untempered road rage as people desperately tried to reach their destinations in the hope that the nightmare was a mere blip on the grid.
They were not so blessed.
Supermarkets within 48 hours, superstores and malls within a week or two were emptied, with little hope of the shelves being restocked.
Emergency services were quickly incapable of offering assistance since hospitals were permanently dark and the only means of communication was word of mouth. Fortunately, we do have the written word and the pony express was reactivated eventually, but such communication requires patience and is not terribly effective in crises of such epic proportions.
First aid centers were set up swiftly around the major cities by forethinking medical personnel, but supplies were limited and finite, of course, with no means of rapid replenishment. A hot commodity. A much coveted commodity. As it turned out, something to fight for. To kill for. To die for.
Those of us in more rural areas were accustomed to making do with what we had. We were, as we continue to be, more self-sufficient. And more importantly, we never lost sight of that which truly matters.
Living closer to nature (and further from the cities), Grandpa and I were among the fortunate ones. We always had a full pantry, plenty of candles and an outdoor stove with wood up to the rafters in the shed and more to be had in the forest surrounding our land. Grandpa loved to fish in the lake up the road by that ancient oak. He wasn't a hunting man, but could fell a deer, a bear or a man, with ease, if the situation required it. And, of course, I always had a garden. That along with our berry bushes and apple and peach trees was plenty for us. I must say I do miss ice, though.
The delivery system in gas stations ceased to function so cars, buses, trucks, and trains became obsolete very quickly. Ships became floating tombs as GPS systems stopped working and they ran out of gas before docking anywhere. The technologically-advanced oxygen supply systems on submarines ensured immediate suffocation for all on board the sinking hulks of useless metal.
And airplanes? The lack of functioning air, communication and aviation systems aboard the planes meant certain death for all of those in flight at the moment electricity became extinct around the world. As if that were not enough, planes became bombs as they fell out of the sky onto the unsuspecting populations on the ground, wiping out thousands if not millions of people unlucky enough to find themselves on a busy flight route. Mass travel by air or sea has yet to be revived. One day, perhaps.
Or, perhaps not. The world that was once touted as so small, so interconnected, has grown vast once again, and with it, praise be, God's place in it.
As for us, Grandpa had the foresight to convert the back garage into a barn and to buy a couple of horses, some chickens and goats in cash before anyone realized paper money wasn't worth spit. (The plastic kind lost functionality when the lights went out, of course.) Banks closed temporarily, then indefinitely, and ultimately forever since no one could access any information (or bank accounts) at all. As time passed, people began to barter goods and services so that only that which was truly needed to survive had value.
In the blink of an eye, the high were made low.
We who lived in places city dwellers had heretofore deemed backwards or uncivilized, fared better and so it is we who have helped tilt the world back into the light: the small, self-sufficient, God-fearing communities, connected with others of like mind, helping the survivors, the abandoned, the lost find their way in this new - albeit old - way of being.
Before the Apocalypse, so many were too accustomed to immediate gratification of all their wants and needs, to obtain every piece of information sought in the time it took to type a query, that it was a challenge to begin life anew, as it were, reverting to life as one imagines it had been before electricity started humanity on the road to perdition.
The rhythm of life has slowed such that people are more in tune with the world around them, rising with the sun, making an effort to care for the land and animals that feed them, or nurturing skills that might permit them to be useful to those that might feed or clothe them.
Nurturing their relationships with each other.
Since news travels slowly, could be people are joining up, trying to create a new government and such. As long as they keep to themselves, makes no difference to us. We're fine here in our little town. Better even. No nonsense from beyond to influence our young, turn their heads to sin.
Every now and again some bedraggled refugee from nowhere passes through town, occasionally bringing a bit of news from elsewhere. We always send them on their way, though. Strangers, you know. Sometimes they leave with a basket of produce and a jar of my homemade raspberry preserves.
Sometimes, they leave running, hands as empty as their souls.
God's will be done.