Day 80. 70 pages, 33,036 words. Suspending word count at this point.
The following excerpts come from the prologue to The Last Days of Earth. From here on out I’m focussing on my unexpected new short story anthology for a bit.
Not lightly does one kill a God.
There is always a price to pay. There is always an equal and opposite reaction, whether you speak of the most basic principles of physics or stalk the lofty halls of deicide. And so it was with Earth, which gasped its last in the estimated Eleventh Century after the Fall; called the 1322nd year ExE by the elders; called 3700 AD by the truly ancient.
And the last remnants of humanity, those left behind, those who had deserted the sinking ship, all came away from it with their own stories.
The Greater Fall of Man, as they called it in the Last Days, had been an unparalleled, unprecedented disaster. For a long time it was regarded with superstitious horror. For a long time after that, it was simply not spoken of. And this state of affairs endured for so long, eventually people simply did not remember what there was to speak of in the first place. They treated it like a war of bygone centuries, its precise nature clouded. Many people called it the Sundering, even though they didn’t really believe the world had once been part of some greater and unbroken whole.
It was the people of faith who retained the clearest idea of what had happened. Holding onto old truths in the face of largely irrelevant new facts might be said, after all, to be one of religion’s strengths. And so it was for the Last Days themselves.
But there were many religions. There were many different kinds of belief. And there were innumerable truths.
That was humans for you.
The wizened Uncles of the old religion said that, when the Earth died, it was the wrath of the Pinians that did it, and the Sundering – the Greater Fall – had been the origin of that doom. Humanity’s overweening hubris and lack of faith, they said, had finally exhausted even the boundless patience and love that the Firstmades had for their mortal children, and they had wiped the slate clean in despair. It had not, the Uncles said, been the first time this had happened. Nor was it likely to be the last.
The Cultists of Karl said that it was the demented howling ghost of the God the humans had slain, with the help of the Burning Knight. That the weak of faith, all helpless before the giela of the beast, had unravelled the world and let it bleed its last in the cold rather than face what they had done. Unable to live in a haunted crypt, they had torn it down around their own heads with mad, reckless abandon. But the Karlists were known to be dramatic.
The Ghoans and the Elevator People said that, when aliens appeared in the skies of Earth and the Godfang abandoned humanity, and when the blazing, noble body of Big Shooey fell upon Detroit, it spelled the beginning of the end. They said that the Sundered Earth, torn from the Four Realms, had been left vulnerable to the vengeance of the Damoraks. That it had been they, in their rage and their spite, who had poured out of the skies and consumed Aganéa in fire and unholy effluence. And they had come again, and again, until finally the human race was left alone and defenceless.
The Zhraakyn, who worshipped and governed by madness and the sword, said that the Fweig walked the bleached hardpan of the Last Days, and wrought the destruction of the world for reasons of His own. That the Greater Fall had been none of His doing, but when Earth finally burned and the false dominion of humanity was scattered to the cold winds of space, it was the Fweig who set the flame. It was Zhraak, they said, Zhraak of the Soliloquy who danced the last dance in the blinding, terrible fire.
The Áquila said that the damage had been done long ago. That the Earth’s power network had been teetering on the brink of collapse almost since its construction, and centuries of overuse, ill-conceived expansions and seat-of-the-pants repurposings had beaten the flatworld-spanning machine beyond the point of recovery. Humans had used the souls of their own dead as a power source and the poison of it had soaked into the stones. When the Greater Fall had struck and the Sundering had occurred, the souls had been freed but the poison had curdled, become something else – and that wasn’t all it had changed. Angels had Fallen, humans had become neversouled monsters, and the world had been reduced to a bleached slab of flesh mouldering under the spinning wheel of the stars, longing for death. They said that when it finally succumbed, its final exhalation was a sob of relief.
The Sixth Species Acolytes said that the humans were in league with a Demon of Castle Void, a servant of the Adversary.
The Sixth Species Recusants claimed that a dark and hostile force from space, known in latter-day myths as the Cancer in the Core, was working to tear the world apart and leave the very universe vulnerable to an enemy more hostile and terrible than any menace in history or legend.
The Sixth Species Forerunners said that the Cancer in the Core was nothing more or less than a Damorak force bent on the final eradication of their foes, and that with the death of Earth they finally succeeded.
The Sixth Species Inquisition said that the Demon, the Cancer, the Damoraks and the humans were in league with terrible Ogres who walked through the nightmares of mortals and puppeteered the fates of all.
The Sixth Species Vahoonites said that the Demon had crafted a veil to hide the universe from the unworthy, and when the Demon and its minions had what they wanted they burned the world behind them and cast the veil across the heavens, leaving their enemies to languish in Cursèd’s Playground for all eternity.
Fortunately, all of these groups spent most of their time trying to kill each other.