Tales of the Quiet Earth: Martyn’s Story
Author’s Note: What follows is some brainstorming/intro material I wrote regarding a post-apocalypse-ish setting I’ve been developing for the last year or two. Tentatively titled ‘Tales of the Quiet Earth’, even though there was a novel of a similar title (one of those ‘last man on Earth’ stories, from the 70s, I think). Perhaps I’ll think of a better one, in time. Still, I hope you enjoy.
Of the world I once knew, almost nothing remains, just as nothing remained of the world that came before mine. So few remember the scope of history. I and my brethren regretted this bitterly, once, but now I am unsure whether regret is of any use anymore. We are so near to the end. What would it matter?
We were the last, best chance for this planet. Those of us among the Generation were to bring a new era of understanding and prosperity to the Earth, to raise up our lesser cousins, to inspire the hordes of men to achieve great things in the name of unity. We failed, of course. Much blame can be laid at the feet of many parties, but the failure remains unchanged for all that. All I know is that the wars seemed to stretch on forever. In some ways, they still continue, though the commanders are all dead and gone.
That world will not come again. It was our chance, and we missed it. Humanity is now locked into a very slow, very gradual spiral towards extinction. None of them realize this, of course. They refuse to see the tenuous nature of their continued existence, as has been the habit of humans since life began. Perhaps, to be fair, this is the failing of all life—miserable, misguided optimism. Trust in the bounty of nature.
The world is quiet now. The teeming masses of humanity are gone forever. The great sprawling cities that once touched the clouds are cast down, left as little more than twisted wreckage and lakes of broken glass. The knowledge and culture and learning of that far-off time have been warped and compromised into the crudest reflections of themselves; a child’s replicas of adult tools. Even nature itself has shriveled up; like seeds before the winter, the bounty of this planet has been withdrawn. It waits for a dawning of a new age—an age where humanity no longer troubles it, and it may move on without us.
I have come to appreciate the simplicity of this time. The silence is a thing of beauty, in its way. Magnificent in its power and breadth, I can stand outside my small hut and gaze across the endless dunes and let the silence speak to me. It has more wisdom than a billion human voices in it. It has taken me centuries to learn this.
I am visited by small parties of nomads—scavengers who live among the bones of the past. With them I trade for food and give them wisdom and healing. They call me ‘wizard’. They bring to me tales of the Enclaves to the south and to the east—‘great cities’ they claim, ‘wealthy and blessed people’. I smile at the irony; those that were once cast out as backward, antiquated fools are now, on their acres of sealed-off farmland, the very pinnacle of human civilization. Their little cluster of a few thousand souls here and there are the most powerful settlements of which humanity can boast. To them I do not go and from them I do not accept visitors. I never agreed with their forebears, and I doubt their descendants are more agreeable. Let the fools live in their holes whilst they may. Someday it will end badly for them, just as I told them it would.
No, the only ones with whom I might converse as an equal are the denizens of Everscape, and they are no longer human by even the generous definition I ascribe to myself. They likely know more of what goes on in the world than I do myself, but their understanding of it is warped through a lens I cannot hope to comprehend. They are older than I, older even than the society that gave me birth, and their ageless lives of comfort and amusement have rendered them mercurial, fickle, and cruelly apathetic. No, with them I will only parley under duress.
Beyond them, there is no one. No one of consequence. There are ancient secrets buried, no doubt, and so-called wonders hidden that would amaze the remnants of my species, but they hold little interest for me. I am, for the first time in my long life, content. Some day soon, I shall die—killed, I expect—and I am ready for it. I bear my eventual killer no ill-will; my death has been a long time coming. The silence of this Quiet Earth, above and beyond all other things, has taught me how to accept the infinite and welcome the unknown with dignity, peace, and the knowledge that I, Martyn, have done all that could be expected of me. In the end, that is all any of us can hope for.