The Imperial Firmament, somewhere near the Antartic circle. In the year of our Lord: 2140.
It was the darkest time of the year. It was the season of what they called “phainomenon” when everything electronic failed without failure. It occured exactly when the Imperial Clock-hands came together as if to greet each other at the bottom of the clock; thirty minutes after six in the evening. In such a world of self-proclaimed perfection and punctuality powered by the machines, even natural events tend to keep the time.
Noah walked on that land of frost which could easily boast of advanced nuclear weaponry under it. He was twenty seven years old, and had a flask full of tea which was supposed to be his food for lunch.
Noah was not of his age, for the life had made a black hole in him, and his heart was rusted iron. But only the sides of hole were made by the physical world, and the rest were metaphysical, or rather of the soul.
“You shouldn’t be here.” said the man at the gate. “You have no right to be here at this time. If you have any sense left, why didn’t you just come during the day or at least when it is not the darkest hour”.
Noah knew he wouldn’t get to enter his workplace, but the world had become mechanical for him, and to change the routine was for him to cease to exist. He can still drink the tea in the flask and go back home. He had become nothing other than a machine, and this had become worse in the last few months, as his favourite uncle had died. At least, he died a natural death, and that was something rare in Noah’s family.
It was twelve years ago, when he was sixteen, that they had taken away the last religious symbol from the city. Some of the villages of the nuclear wasteland belonging to the mainland might still have some of their faith left, but not the Imperial Firmament. The city was too developed to believe in God, they said. Noah never really had the option to go out of the city, as he was an orphan, thanks to the Seventh World War, the most devastating war in the history of Earth, challenged only by the Third World War which was more of a dumping of the nuclear warheads on whoever they considered “the other”.
The problem was not that people died; the greatest trouble was due to the survival of a few people who were instrumental in created more world wars. This year marks twenty five years without war, but actually there was nothing left to be fighting for. The Imperial Firmament remains the last city-state with enough firepower to create another global disaster. But they don’t want the radiation-affected mainland, and the people of the mainland are already nuked to the stone age, and have mutated too much to become an intellectual or physical threat. The city-state is clearly protected from any attack using a bow and arrow.
Noah had known stories about the mainland, were cannibalism and chaos prevail over technology and rationalism. But that has never affected his hidden desire to visit his hometown there. Neither did it affect his faith, but it has ventured so deep into his soul, that no trace of it can be found from his words or actions. The world has been mechanized, and it is now a crime and a sin to bite back at the machine who provides the man with enough sloth to contribute to the deadly sins.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you?” he asked softly. “Is this Soren’s handiwork? He brought you over to the other side?”
He was named after the nineteenth century Danish philosopher, and had just been caught and condemned to death for having faith. It was as much a crime as believing in miracles. A few hundred years ago, who would have believed that such a day would come? This man in picture was part of the armed forces and proclaimed his religion there – nothing could have been worse. Now, Soren’s death is certain, and Noah would have no part of it.
“No, I am more of a cynic” he exclaimed; “I am still not enough inclined towards religion even for despising it. I never even knew this man”.
He wondered how he learned to lie with so much perfection. His religious teaching had taught him not to lie, and now he is a master in doing the same. He knew Soren very well, as he was Noah’s senior both at school and college, and they even had a few cups of tea together as the representatives of their classes. But he is now good or bad enough to deny them all.
“That should work fine, kid” he said. “But be careful, as it is from extreme hatred, that love rises; you know the case of Soren – the more he hated that drug called religion, the more he fell into it”.
“I know, I know” said Noah walking away, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to hide his beliefs if the conversation goes deeper. The gate-keeper might be one of those secret informers of the Imperial Police. Even if he is not, there is enough reward for him to claim for finding someone who doesn’t think the way the government wants him to, especially someone who is sticking to what the people at the top hated the most. Fear is such a powerful weapon. Hope is also powerful, but for now, fear has the upperhand.
To be continued…