One. Hundred. Kind of amazing, isn’t it? And we’re not (quite) finished…
Friday, June 23, 2045
The Final Vision
That much closer, I guess. I’m glad this is the last one; they kept getting worse.
In my dream, I stood in a long-abandoned city. The sky was this burnt brown color, and the sun barely made its way through. Nevertheless, it was hot. I was surrounded by mounds of what looked like lumpy dirt at first; when I looked closer I saw that it was the trash of ages, slowly returning to the earth from whence it came. The quiet nearly hurt my ears… no wind whispered, no bugs buzzed around. I didn’t even see a roach.
I started walking. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to walk around the trash heaps, so I tried walking over them. They were soft, and I sank sometimes halfway to my knees, but I somehow made progress. Each step stirred up the trash, releasing odors of decay, but somehow old and weak. Down the street, between the crumbling skyscrapers, the sea turned city blocks into an archipelago of square islands. The water called to me, as always, so I waded through the garbage toward the filthy new shoreline.
The Prophet was waiting for me near the water, perched on the remnants of a crumbling pedestal. Things bobbed in the murky water, things I didn’t want to look at too closely. An oily film covered the water, and it was on everything that the water had touched. “Here we are, at the end of all things,” he said.
“This was the worse fate you warned me about,” I said, pretty sure I was right. “So we nuked each other over the oil? Or some other resource?”
He shook his head. “No. A nuclear war would have been a lesser harm to the earth. After the first few bombs, the command and network structures would have failed and they could not have launched more. The world would have cooled, then healed.”
“So what happened?”
“This is the endpoint of humanity’s deepest wish: that the party would never end. This is what would have happened had we been given unlimited energy resources: we would have choked and drowned in our own waste. And we would have destroyed nearly everything else.”
“But maybe some of the people got into space?”
He nodded. “Of course. With boundless energy, launching a space colony would have been a small matter. The difficult part, at which they failed, was to make it self-sustaining. Each year, their population grows a little smaller. Each year, the dwindling food supply is barely enough to feed even the lessened numbers. Each year, more of their machinery stops. The spares are gone, and none of them know how to craft replacements. In a few years, the colony will fail and the last human will go to her final reward.”
I wiped a tear away. “But we were saved from this fate — by the very limits we strained against?”
“Truly. In a body, an unlimited growth is called a cancer. Even cancer is not unlimited though: when the host dies, the cancer dies as well.”
“So why do you show me this vision? If we could not come this far, what’s the point?”
He stepped down, dipped a clear glass into the gunk, and handed it to me. “The Living Water.”
“You’re kidding,” I said. “Drink this?”
He gave me the “get with it” look. “What was Peter told in his vision?”
I laughed. “What God has called clean, you shall not call unclean.” And as I spoke, the murk sank to the bottom of the glass and disappeared, leaving the water looking and smelling (and tasting) pure and sweet.
The Prophet smiled. “But you asked about the point of this: even now, there are those who believe we can return to what they might call the ‘glory days,’ without the understanding of what they wish for. Tell them of this vision, that they might put aside their folly and work within the world that The Lord has given them.
“But come, I show you a mystery.” He held out his hand. I took it, and we were… elsewhere. A mountaintop, where the brown sky was closer and darker. There was no trash here, only rocks streaked with soot and whatever else the rain carried out of the sky. A few gnarled trees dotted the summit. “What do you see?”
“Rocks. Stunted trees.”
He crouched next to one of the rocks. “Look closer.”
I did, and saw it: a tiny patch of green, with a few bright yellow specks, sheltered under the rock. The rock itself was split above the plant, and I saw that much of the rain that fell on that side of the rock would be carried down that split to the plants. A tiny insect, maybe a gnat, lit on one yellow spot or another, making the thin stalks nod and bob.
“And there.” He pointed toward another rock, where a small thin creature, maybe a mouse or vole, nibbled at something.
“So there’s still life.”
“Yes. The Lord does not throw away His creation lightly. There are other islands of life, in other parts of the wide world. In time, as the earth heals, they will expand and evolution will bring forth diversity and perhaps intelligence.”
“But… this world is imaginary, I thought?”
Again, the Prophet gave me the “get with it” look. “What The Lord has imagined is no less real than the world in which you live. But you will understand this, and will know the answers to all things, soon enough. Go now. Go in peace and in joy. I will greet you when you find your way to Heaven.”
Again the jumble, but I think I finally understood what it was. I had been right: it was both chaos, and beyond my comprehension. What I saw was a parade of possible worlds, too quick to catch and hold any single one — and about as useful as ignoring the beach to study a single grain of sand.
When I awoke this time, I was again hot and thirsty. But perhaps I understand better: my spirit, which is the actual me for which my old body is only a container, had actually gone to that other place — that impossible world of unlimited energy and unlimited destruction. Even in my youth, my physical body may not have been able to withstand the toxic soup our desires would have made of the air in that world, but the spirit is less concerned with physical matters. Now I was simply warmer than usual on the sleeping porch.
So that’s that. I don’t expect to keel over today or this week, but I hoofed it over to the center and sent my vitals in. They told me I’m doing fine for being 86… I’ll bet they say that to all the geezers, though. I suppose the only thing to do, and I’m sure The Prophet would agree, is to enjoy whatever time I’ve got left.