Chapter 4. A Flock of Faithful. (A Rubber Ducky at the End of the World)

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?”

“Sorry?”

“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.

Chapter 3. A Brave New World. (A Rubber Ducky at the End of the World)

Peace Lenrow was hungry. The door to his room hadn’t been opened in days. He had heard loud noises but had seen no sign of life. The electricity seemed to be down too. Something wasn’t right but he had not cared until now.

He stood up, flexing muscles that had not seen much use lately. It was beginning to dawn on him that he should be in pain. By now the hunger should have been eating at his stomach and seeping his strength. Instead he only felt a slight pang, almost a craving for flavour more than sustenance. 

“Hey! Anybody out there? Nurse! Anyone!” he shouted to the door. 

There was no answer. It would have been a surprise if there had been one since the building was empty except for Peace and another patient who was enjoying the solitude. The staff had ceased coming to work and most of the other patients had left. Super strength and a sound mind had done wonders for them.

His door was locked every night and had not been unlocked since his last visit from the nurse days before. He knocked then paused. His knuckles had left dents in the wood. He knocked again, harder this time, and the door shook in its frame. He shrugged then stepped back before ramming into it with his shoulder. 

The door burst open and Peace staggered into the corridor beyond. His concerns were confirmed as he took in the state of his surroundings. It looked like a storm had passed through the building. There were broken doors, shattered glass and several large holes in the walls. 

He walked over the debris in his cotton pajamas and fluffy slippers without feeling a thing. Glass crunched but no pain registered. A vague sense that his soul must finally have died washed over him slowly. He was truly numb to the world.

Only, he wasn’t. In reality he was more in tune with the world than ever before in his life and the reason that he could feel no pain was due to the strengthening of his body after the Change. It is strange though that reality has a tendency to bend itself around the beliefs of particularly delusional individuals. Personal reality trumps actual reality so often that you could be forgiven for thinking that we actually live in a truly chaotic world.

As such, it was not important what the universe had done to Peace Lenrow but what Peace thought that the universe had done to him. For all that he knew, the world could have been in perfect order and all of this was a product of his own delusional mind. 

Peace felt surprisingly happy. Whether it was the breakdown of society or the breakdown of his sanity, he was free. His biggest problem with life had always been other people so any reality without them was close enough to Heaven for him.

That sense of liberation didn’t last long though. No sooner had Peace left the hospital to be greeted by the ruins of his town, than his dream of escaping humanity was shattered. Swaggering down the centre of the road was a group of men who laughed loudly among themselves. Peace felt a vein twitch on his forehead.

I, as an omnipotent narrator, can tell you that the men had been washed up wrecks sustained by drugs and alcohol after never achieving anything in life. A successful football career cut short from an injury, a young love brought to an end by uncontrolled anger, and children born too early in life were the kinds of hallmarks worn by these bitter individuals.

“Old Jonesey didn’t know what hit him,” one cackled. “How many times had he and his lads beat us up? Then wham! I hit him with a car. Just picked it up and smacked him like it were a cricket bat. The look on his brother’s face. Ha!”

“They didn’t stand a chance,” sniggered another. “We run this town now.”

Another man suddenly noticed Peace and pointed him out to the others. “Hey look. Someone’s just come from the loony bin.”

Peace suppressed a sigh as every head in the group turned to focus in on him. He wasn’t very good with people. They had a tendency to annoy and confuse him. He tried to ignore them and keep walking but they had other ideas.

“What you doing out of your comfy little pillow cell, eh?” grinned a bald man with the build of a rugby player and the face of a crashed plane. 

Peace didn’t respond, instead changing his direction to try and avoid the group. One of the men grabbed his arm and pulled him back around.

“It’s rude to ignore someone when they’re speaking to you, boy. Maybe you’re a bit behind on the times. See, things have changed. We are the top dogs around here now. You do as we say. Got that?”

Peace frowned. “Sorry. What did you say? I zoned out for a minute there. Something about dogs. I like dogs.”

The man’s grip tightened on Peace’s arm. “Who the hell do you think you are, retard?”

“Who do I think I am?” Peace mused aloud. “A better question would surely be who do you think I am? I know who I am. I think.”

Cogs were turning inside the man’s head. Understanding dawned on him with about the same speed as an English sunrise in December. Anger sparked at the boy’s insolence and he lashed out his fist with a grunt.

The fist connected with Peace’s face with the force of a freight-train. The man, who was called Nicolas Drager but still thought of himself as the lad about town ‘Dray’, expected one of three things to happen. The boy could be sent hurtling backwards through the front wall of the hospital, his head could be torn off and bounce across the roofs like a stray football or his skull could implode under the pressure. Dray had seen all three happen. 

He had never seen somebody stand and take it though. He took a quick step back after letting go of the boy’s arm. Peace stood still, his eyes unfocused. Blood dribbled from his lips and nose. His brain felt like it had been put through a blender. Agony crackled through him. He laughed. To feel anything brought a sense of euphoria to him.

The sunrise effect was again spreading through the group of men. Common Sense screamed that perhaps the best thing to do would be to leave the area as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, common sense is in fact one of the rarest of human traits despite its misleading name. Fight or flight battered at the instincts of the men but it was testosterone that ultimately led to a scrawny man yelling “Get ‘im!” Mob mentality took over from there while Common Sense looked on in disgust and facepalmed.

Five fully grown men with plenty of fighting experience versus a seventeen year old fresh from a mental hospital. It should have been over very quickly. It was.

Peace felt as though he existed beyond the usual confines of time and space. He saw the men move, not exactly in slow motion, but as though he had seen each action a million times before like a favourite movie. He knew where their fists would land and where they would leave themselves open. Images filled his head, processing all of the information around him so quickly that he didn’t understand what was going on. 

He wove around the flurry of attacks without a care in the world but never fought back. Peace disliked fighting. Not because he was afraid of getting hurt but because it was a situation where all of the emotions that he tried to suppress came venting uncontrollably to the surface. Showing emotion made him less human. Pure rage would consume him and strip him of his humanity.

It had been a fight that had sealed his fate to be committed to the mental hospital. Self harm could be hidden, ignored, but biting off someone’s ear was somewhat more visible. It didn’t matter how horrible the person in question was. How many times they had bullied others, disrupted lessons and made life hell. The second someone snaps and puts them in their place they suddenly become the victim and you are a psychopath. 

One of the men caught him a blow across the back of the head with a brick that shattered on impact. Blood bubbled from the wound. Seeing that he could be hurt the men redoubled their efforts. Peace took a deep breath.

“That wasn’t very nice,” he said in a voice that was too calm. 

Peace’s fist drove hard into the gut of the man in front of him. It didn’t stop until it had passed straight through his body. Blood splashed across Peace’s face. The man screamed and flopped to the floor. He was still alive but couldn’t move due to the hand sized gap in his spine. 

This moment marked the second important decision for the men to make. Common Sense stood up to make its case again then decided that it wasn’t even worth the effort and left to find a can of beer and a good seat to watch the show.

The men dove at Peace and he offered them a feral grin. His conscious thoughts stepped away from his brain and took a seat beside Common Sense. 

Every punch that Peace threw connected then continued on its merry way unhindered by such simple obstacles as flesh and bones. Screams and blood filled the air in a symphony of pain and suffering. It was only a matter of seconds until five writhing, bloodsoaked bodies littered the floor and Peace stood in their centre panting as he wrestled to regain his composure. 

It was a scene of utter carnage. Peace surveyed the damage with dead eyes. A butterfly fluttered past the groaning mess, catching Peace’s attention. The sight of it lifted his spirits and cast any memories of his actions from his mind. He wandered after the butterfly with a smile on his face, everything else forgotten.

Previous – Chapter 2. A Father’s Duty.

Next – Chapter 4. A Flock of Faithful.

Chapter 1. A Good Day for an Apocalypse. (A Rubber Ducky at the End of the World)

They always said that if there ever was a God then He must have had a cruel sense of humour. Anything that would give free will then punish its use could hardly be rational. To know everything yet constantly test His children. To be all loving yet let children starve and die. To be all powerful yet never cast out evil. Yeah, that guy is a real joker. A joker, a sadist or a fraud.

We, as a society, cast Him out of our lives. I guess you could say that He had the last laugh though. Do you want to know the punchline? He passed his mantle down to us and gave us all of the power that we could ever dream of. We could have saved the world.

Instead we destroyed it.

It was a time of gods and madmen. Of chaos, death and destruction. Battles were fought which made history’s greatest wars seem like playground drama. Lives were forever changed and we had nobody to blame but our own human nature. 

It all began on a day like any other. Cliché, I know, but that’s how it is. All days are normal until something extraordinary happens. It was early Spring, one of the first warm days of the year. It was also a Thursday, if that’s important to you, in the year of our Lord 2019 AD. 53,567 people had already died that day. That’s nothing though. Over double that die every day on Earth. Makes you think, right? Continue reading