A writing exercise from a long time ago. -sk

The world ended at 10:23 AM today, going by Central Time since that’s technically all that’s left. The Dow Jones, which had become meaningless, had been up ten-thousand points, the oceans were still blue (most of the time), and people, for the most part, still looked, talked, and acted like normal people. But that was two hours ago; now all that’s left is a small house – and it’s well-tended backyard – in what used to be the town of Claflin, Kansas.

Now, before you ask, yes mankind did this to themselves just as you probably expected. Some people blamed god or nature and the like when things started to degenerate, but when it comes right down to it humans are gone – well most humans – because humans screwed up. Whenever they get a little too much power it goes right to their head, so give them way, way too much power and it’s sure to be a recipe for disaster. The question then is what exactly happened. Normally, disaster and calamity caused by humans requires a pretty broad understanding of the background situation to really make things clear. Distilling it down to “political strife” or “money” makes it easier to comprehend, but conflict can’t usually be confined by one or two words. It’s always much more complex than that. Except this time it wasn’t. This time there was just one problem that caused everything, the downfall of an entire species, taking a whole, perfectly good planet with them.

Prayer.

Prayer. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Maybe you’re thinking that this has something to do with religious extremists or territorial disagreement along racial lines, but not literally prayer, prayer is harmless and benign. But no, you are wrong. The reason you’re wrong is because four weeks ago – well actually twenty six days – some small religious group in Georgia (that’s the country, not the state) discovered the secret to having their prayers answered. Not just the metaphorical “all your prayers will be answered” line that all religions always offer on the doors to their particular type of holy place, but actual physical manifestation of their requests. Holy hell! or heaven! right? It seems all we were doing wrong was we weren’t asking nicely enough, just had to throw a few specific words into a prayer and, poof, out came your wish. As you can imagine, the rest of the world didn’t give a damn about this announcement because no one had time to pay attention to a few monks living in a country that Europe didn’t really care about, and the free world thought had stolen the Peach State’s name. So no one listened. And the monks, being devout and not worldly, to their credit, didn’t ask for too much from whoever or whatever was answering these prayers, mostly asking for small things like happiness for a few troubled souls, injuries to be healed, disasters to be mended quickly but definitely not instantly and magically. They weren’t greedy or flashy, they just asked for slow fixes and small tweaks, real gentlemen as far as the requests went.

So for a week or so things were great. Countries almost inexplicably set aside old feuds, disaster response was magnificently orderly and prompt, there was a general sense of calm and peace that most people really stood up and noticed. It didn’t feel forced, just a natural, soothing happiness. But after that week went by, the monastic boys with the genie bottle suddenly realized there was one thing they could do that would make everyone even /happier/, and that was to let /everyone/ share their gift. Because if everyone knew about their religion, then everyone would be happy like them, no doubt, and much closer to the divine. Well, unfortunately they didn’t just force everyone to be /like/ them, which might have resulted in a strange, but potentially stable and enlightened world peace, albeit a bit on the brainwashed side. No, instead they decided the best way to handle things would be to give the world the /knowledge/ of their religion, and let each person make the choice for themselves. Because forcing people to think in a certain way would remove free will, and that would be evil. The road to hell was paved, angled and greased with good intentions.

Just one prayer, and in an instant people all around the world gained the ability to pray for whatever they wanted and got it. Now, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but at that point I opted out of the service. Just didn’t sound like a good idea. Have you ever seen two drunks fight over the same girl at a bar in small-town Kansas? Well, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head for some reason, and I was in a bit of a bad mood at the time, so I just wished, or prayed to be forgotten and me and my house hidden away where no one would find it. /If/ a girl had put me in that bad mood, I sure as heck wasn’t going to wish her – sorry, pray her – to love me, that’d be like some kind of rape or something, so I just decided a little immaturely that there was nothing else I wanted. Simple as that, and I just brooded and drank a lot while I watched the TV. That’s my part of the story, back to the world.

Everyone else though had just won the lottery, and were spending like it. Money lost meaning almost immediately what with so many trillionaires popping up all over the world, dead loved ones popped back into existence, everyone had a puppy and a kitten, and the male to female skew of the earth’s population suddenly shifted heavily gorgeous female. The world was a giant pleasure palace and as chaotic as a boiling pot the changes were happening so fast. It seemed everything was still going pretty well, but then, what governments remained, noticed that wars were being won and lost in hours at a time thanks to impossible miracles, and disliked ethnic minorities were dying by the millions of virulent diseases, horrific infighting, or simply ceasing to exist depending on how some particular prayer went. It didn’t take long at all for prayers to get viscous. Pleasure became pointless when you could have whatever you wanted whenever you wanted, but dealing with a hatred was a pleasure that could only be experienced once, so in just a few days it became the last interesting pastime.

The government of China was the first to really stumble to what was happening, and realize that the only way to counter prayer was with /more/ prayer. First strike capability wasn’t something that a few countries had anymore, every person on the planet now had the ability to exterminate on an unimaginable scale. Surprisingly, they actually shared this fact with the other major governments that still existed (the good ol’ U S of A was always in enough Southern prayers to protect it). Governments respond slowly to most threats, but they are damnably spry when the balance of power is shifting around them. China publicly stated that, as the largest population in the world they would act to protect the “existence sovereignty” of the rest of the world, in accordance with their non-interference diplomatic policy. They had assembled a massive team of prayees who could counter any external prayer threat from another country. Two days later, China disappeared. Literally disappeared, just stopped existing, only a black void where the whole country used to be. How is that possible? Same way prayers are answered, doesn’t have to make a whole lot of sense, just two and a half billion people were now dead, or gone, or whatever being in a black void made you.

The rest of the world had gotten spooked that China had so many disciplined people ready to pray for their country if that was what it took to protect China. So they had prayed it gone, in a policy of prayer preemption. Everywhere people were praying around the clock, making sure that they wouldn’t be the next to go. It was a full time job and then some, because even one slip or one unnecessary break might mean that your prayers were being outweighed by the guy across the ocean who wanted things their way. Of course there were people – a lot of people in fact – who abstained, but when prayer was real and exceptionally deadly they were just dooming themselves to be victims of those who were just fine with praying them dead. There was a brief stalemate as potentials and capabilities were felt out, but this was a war of instantaneous thought and result. The US was the next to go, then all of Europe and the Middle East, then Russia, South America, and Africa. It got down to India and Australia – I think India mostly just forgot about the Aussies – because an eye-blink later the Australian continent was gone. Finally, a week or so later India began to dissolve in class and religious warfare through prayer and the last remaining people vanished at 10:23 AM.

So now it’s just one house and a very nice yard in what used to be the town of Claflin, Kansas. As much as the silence is nice after constant state-run pleas for more damned wishing, it’s getting old pretty fast. It’s also dark, and getting pretty cold and I don’t think the grass will survive much longer right next to all that endless void out there. So I’m going to reset this thing, but this time get rid of that whole prayer-actually-working business for everyone’s own good. That’s not coming back again, sorry all. If you read this then I guess it worked, so feel free to come down and visit Claflin, Kansas, home of the Origin of the Entire World and soon to be home of The Nicest Yard in America as a little thank you gift to myself.

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