Some of you by now might be wondering why certain people were changed more dramatically than others. Why can Peace Lenrow withstand attacks that crippled others and tear through toughened flesh like tissue? Why can Damian Smithson create beams of energy?
The answer is more simple, (or infinitely more complicated depending on your outlook), than you would ever think. The universe needs to get its shit together. Everything in existence is just so random that it only offers the visage of order. Mutated genes lead to evolution, taking a single cell and turning it into every animal and insect on the planet. Even in humans, random traits manifest themselves without explanation. One person can naturally remember every single thing they have ever read, seen or done while another could develop muscle at an accelerated rate. Someone else could be unable to move at birth or be inclined to gain excess fat.
So people like Peace and Damian are simply genetic abnormalities. This story could have been focussed on someone else but then, it wouldn’t be a very interesting story, would it? We are following these two individuals in particular because they are the centre points of upcoming events. They are the right people in the right place at the right time.
I suppose there was also the dog that single handedly, er pawedly, saved Africa from aliens during this time, but let’s not confuse things that much just yet.
For you see, things were moving quickly for the people of Earth. Society cannot be destroyed as easily as some people believe. View society as water. It can change and flow, even become ice or steam, but no matter how much you break it down, it will always pool into small groups that seek to become larger until the whole is once again reformed. Humans hate other humans yet cling to them for survival.
Groups had begun to emerge from the chaos that individuals flocked to for protection. Only, these groups then proceeded to fight one another in larger battles for control of lands or resources. This is how countries are forged and are usually viewed by historians as jolly exciting times.
One such group had made its home inside an old church that had been, rather redundantly, barricaded and fortified. This is the building where an empire began. As we look upon it we see Damian Smithson approaching the grand doors alone. At least, alone beside the giggling baby that was fastened into a harness on his chest.
He knocked on the door, careful to limit his strength and not damage the wood. It didn’t open. Instead a voice called out from within.
“Begone. These are the holy grounds of the Church of Redeemers. None may walk these hallowed halls without the Lord’s blessing.”
“And how would I gain your Lord’s blessing?”
“By worship, good deeds and a charitable donation to our organisation.”
“How is the amount deemed enough?”
“How much should I pray? How many good deeds should I accomplish? What good deeds could I even do as a single man in a world of chaos. How much money should I donate when money has become so devalued that it is all but worthless?”
Damian received no answer for several long seconds. “Erm…” started a voice before it trailed off. Hushed voices were just audible behind the door. More seconds passed.
Eventually the voice returned. “Look, just go away. We don’t want to let you in. Okay?”
Damian sighed. “That is such a shame. I quite liked this door. So much hard work must have gone into making it while such little effort will go into destroying it. That is the way of the world though I suppose.”
He placed the palm of his hand on the door and pushed. Metal screeched, stone broke away and wood buckled. The door collapsed inwards, revealing the interior of the church and two dozen or so faces torn between shock and anger.
“You will suffer for this sacrilege!” screamed a grey haired man in robes of white and gold. They were not the clothes of any position in the church that Damian knew of but sought to surpass even the Pope in their pompous grandeur.
“I suspect that we all will suffer before the end,” Damian said softly. He looked the white clad man directly in the eyes as he spoke.
Damian looked unimpressive compared to most of the men within the church. He was still scrawny and dressed like a paperpusher even now. He had thick glasses, thinning blond hair and a baby on his chest. What was not so visible obvious though was that in the two weeks since the Change, Damian had been training. He had pushed his body to heights that would have destroyed his old self. In such a short time there were few physical signs of this but he carried himself with a strength and dignity that he had never known in his life before.
“You heretic! Infidel! How dare you break into my sanctuary! I am the Grand Redeemer and I will not accept such blatant disrespect. You will be scourged from this world in the holy fires of redemption!” screeched the man, self-importance filling his every word.
“You mean like this?” Damian asked. He held out his hand. There was a spark then a blazing fire appeared in his grip.
The Grand Redeemer, (who was actually a stamp critic called Dave Smeg. Tragic, I know. With a name and occupation like that he was never going to be a balanced individual), stammered and gawped. He recovered amazingly fast though.
“You hold no sway here, conjuror. Your black magic of Hell passed to you by Satan does not intimidate me!”
Damian considered this. “Fires of Hell? Are they not pure enough for you?”
The flames grew fiercer until they burned with a blinding white light. Everyone in the room besides Damian covered their eyes from the painful glare. Amelia giggled happily and reached out a tiny hand toward the flames. The light faded, dulling back down to a gentle amber flame.
“This is what is going to happen,” Damian announced as the men began to lower their arms and reopen their eyes. “Your little group here represents the closest thing to order in this area. Society needs order, now more than ever. You are going to help me to spread this order.”
The Grand Redeemer sneered in a way that twisted his already ugly face. “Order is but a byproduct of our true ambition. The End is nigh and we must use what time we have left to spread the word and mercy of God!”
Damian shook his head. “About that. The whole religious angle is not in the world’s best interest. Religion has caused so much conflict throughout human history that it would be a poor decision to build a new society upon its back.”
A woman stepped forward who had kept well back before now. She was a stout woman with rough skin, the kind of woman you see in working class backgrounds who work all hours of the day to keep their family, community and the world in general running.
“But what about all the good that the church has ever done? The charity work and support? The hope that we give people?”
“But what about all the good that war has ever done? The advances in technology and medicine? The removal of corrupt regimes?” Damian replied calmly. “Do they make war a good thing?”
“That is not the same!”
“I believe to the contrary.
We have already witnessed what happens when common sense is ignored. Sometimes though, human stupidity extends beyond the simple breach of common sense and into the realms of downright objection to the survival instincts. Those people with fervent beliefs, whatever the beliefs may be, are unable to see past those beliefs at the bigger picture of the tiny picture of their own life.
“You have revealed yourself to be a Godless sinner!” Grand Redeemer Smeg howled. “The Lord will smite you down! It shall be me who rebuilds this world, not you, demon! I-AAAAARRRRRRGGGH!”
His ranting was cut short as his eyes burst into flames, which quickly erupted across his body. His skin melted and his bones cracked until only ash remained inside the robes. The robes themselves were completely undamaged.
“The name is Damian, not demon. Easy mistake to make,” Damian told the smouldering human remains in a level voice. He turned back to the others. “Sorry about that. He wouldn’t listen to reason. So, does anybody else have any issues with me taking command here?”
There was a brief moment of silence as the men and women shared horrified looks with one another.
“No, boss. No issues at all. Lead on.”
“Good,” Damian muttered. “Let us begin then. This world will not rebuild itself.”
Previous – Chapter 3. A Brave New World.
Next – Chapter 5.