The bright sunlit day created an illusion of warmth and wellbeing, but insidious reality could not be so easily ignored. Beyond the sunny rays, softly rustling leaves, and morning-quiet street, the world was not right.
It was apparent in the lack of people taking their dogs on daily walks, the absence of traffic on the roads, the lonely, empty grocery store aisles, boasting all the produce but none of the buyers. These sights, which had been so common, had slowly disappeared in the past months, and now they were completely gone. Nobody stepped outdoors, nobody drove, nobody shopped in stores. One might think this was all yet another after-effect of the pandemic of 2020, but it’s worse than that – this was a result of the cure.
* * *
Everyone remembers how the pandemic started – the virus that traveled worldwide in a matter of a few short months, with every safety measure enacted after it was too late to control the spread. As a global community, the world was too interconnected to reliably isolate and contain the disease, and the death toll rose daily. In those early days, rife with restrictions and health protocols, all everyone talked about was the vaccine. Scores of pharmaceutical companies worked on developing an effective countermeasure that could immunize the population and defeat the pandemic. Politicians campaigned on promises of the vaccine becoming widely available before the end of the year, and everyone bated their breath and kept sane by thinking about how life would return to normal soon.
But 2021 arrived with little fanfare and delays in the medical trials, and safety measures continued to be the only, if minimally effective, way to curb the virus. Soon, automation replaced most non-emergency essential jobs, with robots stocking food stores and kiosks replacing salespeople. Unemployment grew steadily and the government was forced to offer universal income to stop the daily riots of people who had nothing left to lose. The election in late 2020 had gone in a way nobody could have predicted, and the “elected” government consisted of nobody who had been on the ballot. Everything felt hopeless and returning to normal seemed like a cruel joke that enraged every time it was repeated.
And then, the most unexpected thing happened. After endless delays and countless setbacks that made the whole endeavor seem like a lost cause, a vaccine was approved. The trials had been enormously successful, with 99.9% immunity, and all recorded side-effects were so mild as to seem negligible. Production was fast-tracked worldwide, and lotteries assisted with fair distribution. Within 6 months of vaccine approval, 60% of the world’s population had been immunized, with the rest slated for vaccination before the new year.
2022: The world brought in the new year with rabid excitement, finally able to partake in activities that had been banned for nearly two years. Huge celebrations erupted in all major cities, and people felt like they were truly alive again, as if they had woken from the deepest sleep, Snow White-style. Of course, there were many pandemic changes to adjust to normal world functioning, including employment and education restructuring, governmental role implications, and so forth, but nothing seemed insurmountable after conquering the pandemic.
The death surge was just a trickle at first, scattered across the globe and therefore harder to place within the emerging pattern. But just like the virus, it seemed to spread exponentially. Yet unlike the virus, it appeared to leave no survivors. In short order, communities worldwide deduced that the deaths were associated with the vaccine – but not everyone who had been immunized died, just most of them. The unpredictable nature of the cause-of-death pattern among vaccinated individuals caused a blinding panic. People were used to taking precautions when the threat was outside of themselves, but they had no idea what to do when the danger was already inside.
* * *
The dawn of a new humanity provided chaos, and opportunity. With the majority of the world’s progressive thinkers either dead or banished, the foundations of civilization began to crumble. Religious leaders worldwide preached the evils of scientific progress with a renewed zeal, prosecuting even their own who dared suggest that research had its place. Many claimed the death toll was in fact the rapture, but in reverse – the survivors being God’s chosen.
At an alarming pace, civilians who had not been innoculated turned on those who had, fearing contagion. Unmarked vans began patrolling in the dead of night, violently collecting the vocal few who were so bold as to stand against the church. Camps were constructed for those who had taken the vaccine without complications, victims of a growing certainty that their presence in society was both unholy and dangerous.
As public services ended, cities failed. The once proud monuments of progressive metropoli fell to disrepair, and then just fell. Those who had enough to barter commissioned transport to what the church had deemed Holy Cities, only to arrive to unbridled masses of refugees. Within the massive walls that were being erected, life became a struggle for all, as most of the tech and health care professionals had perished.
The belief that the virus was a boon was soon common, and those who had not yet been infected were so, intentionally. The people who would not submit were murdered or exiled, and their children injected with the disease. Over time, the smell of garbage and death in the streets slowly turned from revolting, to annoying, to normal. In spite of it all, humanity tenuously held on.
* * *
It was subtle at first, undetectable at a young age. The health care professionals that remained had few theories and even fewer answers, and medical discovery as a whole had been all but abandoned. One thing, however, was clear. Something was wrong with the babies.
The mortality rate was disheartening to say the least, and certainly the resurgence of smallpox and polio in the overpopulated cities had taken its toll, but this was different. The first wave of children since covid had spread were happy, healthy, and broken in ways that could never be anticipated.
Few would speak before five years of age. Many lacked the focus to learn to read and write, and most were incapable of basic mathematics. While distressing, the world’s powers declared these children “marked by God”, unburdened by the trivial matters of humanity.
The church, behind closed doors, employed what scientists remained to find the cause. It did not take them long, but their work would never find the light of day.
* * *
A 20% loss in higher brain function in the first generation. That’s what the numbers said. The technology no longer existed to properly account for the drop, but it was heavily theorized that the dormant covid virus was capable of editing the genetic makeup of humans. 20% was horrid, but acceptable. These people were functional, able to complete simple tasks, and didn’t ask many questions; that was, until the second generation came.
The issue was compounded. Children were born unable to breathe, some didn’t know how to blink, or swallow. Parents who were barely competent enough to tend to their own needs couldn’t raise their children, and the death camps that had been deserted for decades reopened as “care centers” for abandoned or difficult cases. Those with all their faculties looked on in horror as millions of children were shipped off to live in captivity as feral animals.
The churches, which had enjoyed relative omnipotence for several decades, fell. Entire generations of people incapable of processing the idea of an all-powerful being led to their demise, and with it, the last semblance of centralized power on Earth. With every sunset, mankind was sliding closer to the brink.
After 3 more generations, people forgot how to use basic technology. 3-more generations after that the use of crude hand tools was practically impossible and cities and infrastructure, no longer being maintained, fell into disrepair and eventually succumbed to the natural environment. Jungles took over cities formerly teeming with human life and 3-generations later, human kind had died off to such an extent that they were in fact outnumbered by many other land mammals on the planet.
Human intelligence had regressed to the point of being less intelligent than the least intelligent of the higher primates. Being outcompeted for food, and shelter, humankind was all but lost.
Humans rooting around in the dirt, two naked Neanderthal-like men begin fighting over one half eaten mushroom lying on the slimy ground. Pavement covered with moss and slick algae. Their bare feet making a sick sucking noise as they lift them from the ground and try to obtain leverage on each other. One man, we’ll call him Grunt, grabs the mushroom and shoves it into his mouth quickly. The second man, we’ll call him Groan, grabs Grunt and puts him into a crude sleeper hold. And tries to make Grunt spit out the mushroom.
Which he ultimately does, with a cough and you guessed it, a grunt.
Groan, triumphant, puts the mushroom in his mouth and chews, well… triumphantly. With a huge half-toothy smile on his face he chews and chews. And then he swallows. And nearly immediately his face shows a Neanderthal version of regret. For he was too dumb now to remember. But he realized he just saved his non friend’s life.
Groan, groaned terribly, clutched his stomach and fell over stiffly on the ground. Dead.
Grunt, scared for a moment, approached cautiously. Sniffing the now corpse tentatively he finally grew bold, and took a bite of Groan’s bicep. Chewing happily. Smiling spitefully down at Groan. Once he’d eaten a few bites. He too suddenly got a look of the Neanderthal version of regret on his face.
Clutching his stomach, eyes wide. Grunted one last time before he, too, began to fall over.
The next second, Grunt froze mid-air, mid-fall, already basically dead.
“Well that was a huge fat failure wasn’t it Gabriel?” God said with disdain on her face. And a beautiful woman, with flowing black hair, and ebony skin stepped over Groan, in her high heels and pristine white suit, and grabbed the now mostly dead but frozen jaw of Grunt.
“Look at this face. Just look at it… “ she commanded Gabriel. “What do you see?”
Gabriel answered, a chided childlike quality to his voice “Another failure. But Goooooodddd…”
God cut him off with a warning finger wag “No. No more excuses. Covid-19 is a failure. Just like the last 18. Total failures.”
She dropped the lifeless face of Grunt and he finished his now slow, feather-like fall to the ground.
* * *
We needed to start again, that much was certain. But where to begin? The beginning was beautiful, unmarred by humanity and its conflicts, full of lush greenery and the ever-evolving cycle of life, blooming happily and undisturbed. God considered this for a moment, leaning back and quietly remembering how lovely beginnings are. A small smile traveled across Her face.
Then again, beginnings take forever. Life, while lovely and untouched, was downright boring before humanity came along, bumbling and discovering and learning so rapidly. Once they erectused themselves, they were a mess, starting wars and hating everything they didn’t understand, but damn if they weren’t an entertaining bunch. How could you possibly start from the beginning, knowing the juicy drama to come?
No, we couldn’t start right from the beginning. The wait would be too much, not fun at all. God, while all-knowing and all-powerful (well, mostly), was not known for Her patience. She considered Her world reset options, turning toward Gabriel in a blink, making him jump.
“How about when they first discovered tools? They were so cute with those rudimentary little hammers!”
“No! The Renaissance! Oh, the sheer volume of creativity that poured out of those artists. Some of them even brought a tear to My Eye. What a time.”
“I think that’s-“
“Ugh, but that means we’d have to sit through another Black Death. Don’t tell me they wouldn’t go through it again, I know Rafael can’t resist wreaking havoc among them just to swoop in as Healer. Transparent little fuck. No, that won’t do. I just don’t know what to pick!”
“If I may suggest-“
“I wish you’d speak up once in a while, I’m trying to have a conversation with you, Gabriel. Why are you even here if you won’t contribute?”
Gabriel sighed, used to being talked over, and paused for a moment while God looked at him expectantly. He straightened up, adjusting his white tie.
“I think, Madame God, that we should start them over in 2019. Right before Raf slipped them that new strain of COVID.”
God looked at him, unblinking.
He continued, clearing his throat. “I know he’s a mischief maker (You made him that way) but we can distract him elsewhere for a while, or maybe even convince him to go extra hard with allergy season as a compromise.”
He paused and looked at Her, waiting for some sort of hint of feedback. She blinked, slowly, and crossed one Leg over the other, before gesturing for him to continue.
“I’d really like to see what they do if they get a chance to approach this differently. You’re always talking about second chances! What about free will, Raf didn’t let them get too far, come on, just give them a chance-“
“I don’t see why you’re raising your voice at Me.” She looked at Her Nails as he sputtered to a halt. “Give them another chance at 2019? You mean just before the virus hit? Interesting…”
She paused for 53 years and 2 months before turning back to him with a glint in Her Eye.
“I knew I made you for a reason. Good idea, Gabriel.”
She lifted Her Hand and waved.
Gabriel woke up with a start. He hadn’t been asleep in 2000 years, as part of his everliving blessing it simply wasn’t required. He shook the sleep from his eyes and squinted at the blaring sunlight coming through a window. … how odd.
He got up and immediately knew that something wasn’t right. He wasn’t in the Opulent Fountain at the base of the Mount. The soft duvet fell from his waist as he languidly walked to the large floor to ceiling window where the sun was bathing in from. Looking out horror combined with a dawning realization as he immediately understood the situation before him.
New York City, in what he was sure would be December 2019. A penthouse apartment in what appeared to be a high rise building, sheltered his fragile ears from the almost certain sound of horns blaring and New Yorkers screaming at one another in a way only they could.
He watched in mild amusement and soft adoration at the tiny bodies roaming the street below. “Madame,” he said, testing the environment of his new surroundings.
“Yes, my darling Gabriel.” came the sultry voice of God behind him.
Without turning from his view he replied, “Is this a punishment for some slight?”
“No, my dear. This is a chance for you to assist humanity in what continues to be their innate desire to stray from the Light.”
“You are not alone. As the Seraphim have long since abandoned their post as the guardians of this planet, I’ve decided that in order to assist our feeble minded creatures, all of my arch angels will be placed upon the Earth in order to seek to provide aid.”
“Well, at least it isn’t just me.”
“No, of course not my dear. Raphael is in Wuhan, Michael has been posted in Bergamo. These are the most acutely and early hit cities with the disease. You have 1 more chance to aid the humans, or we let them fall and I will move on to the Andromeda experiment.”
“Understood, Madame.” But the room was silent, and Gabriel knew that he’d been left on his own.
He left his post at the window, and sauntered over to the bathroom to prepare. He had a mission to complete.
Several hours later and an extensive search of his new temporary abode, provided him with the information at his disposal.
34 year old male
Born in Brazil
A diplomat for Brasilia
Currently stationed at the World Trade Center
Having dawned his suit and gathered several documents he’d scanned and memorized, he left his building and made his way to the tower.
“Gabriel! Gabe!” came a shout from his left as soon as he crossed the security threshold of the entrance.
“Yes.” came his reply as he followed the signs surreptitiously to his floor. A young man ran up in a rush, carrying several files and a coffee. “Here is your morning coffee, sir. You have a meeting at 9am with the diplomat from England and another meeting at 11:30 with Raphael and Michael from our corresponding branches in China and Italy.”
“Perfect.” he replied with a smooth drawl. Retrieving the coffee from the assistant and sipping it, wondering how coffee would taste after more than 2000 years without any food or drink on his tongue. The silky tones covered his tongue and the heat warmed him up from the chill of a New York winter. He had forgotten what chocolate and coffee tasted like, and this had a hint of leather and smoke.
He waved off his assistant as the elevator doors closed behind them on their floor. Allowing his feet to guide him he reached his office with nary a concern and settled his suitcase on the desk to prepare for the day.
11:30 came quickly and with it a flurry of movement and an uproar in the outer office as two exceptionally tall beings waltzed through the low slung walls separating the staff from one another.
One a tall, statuesque female with red tinted blond hair and soft hazel eyes.
The other equally as tall but male, skin dark like well worn leather and braids down to his lower back.
They stepped across the threshold and closed the door before either spoke.
“Gabe, what the fuck is going on?”
“Gabriel darling, do you know?”
He smiled at them both, and felt a wave of relief. He hadn’t allowed himself to dwell too overly much on the idea he would be stuck on Earth for the foreseeable future and the sadness at that, but seeing them both brought a gentle lapping wave of comfort.
“Madame God has decided that humanity simply cannot survive the coming disease without our assistance. This is the last opportunity we have, before She will turn Her back officially on the Alpha Experiment and turn to focus Her entire gaze upon the Andromeda one.”
He leaned back in his chair and put his feet on the desk.
“It seems we have some work to do then.” Michael said as she walked over to the bar cart and poured some water from the tumbler, paying no mind as it turned from water to wine in the glass before she took a sip.
“The hell we will! I created this disease. There is no surviving it with the feeble minded way that humans choose to be! Let them rot!” Came Raf’s voice coated with a tinge of ennui.
“Now now… we’ve been given a task. It seems to me, you created the disease, what better way to one up yourself, than to design a cure for it.”
Mild contemplation filled Raf’s face as he leaned back in his chair. “Let’s say I bite. How could we be prepared to handle this in time? The Americans have the demon in the human suit as a leader, and nearly the entire of their leading governing body is riddled with the beasties.”
“He has a point Gabe, there are only 3 of us. There are untold demonic influences on the human race right now, and we only have 17 days until the first of the virus hits Wuhan.”
He leaned back and closed his eyes, allowing the visage of the demon in the body suit that was posing as President of the Americans to fill his minds’ eye. A niggling idea floated from the back of his mind and filled him with an almost absurd sense of glee.
“Oh no… no no no… I know that smirk.” came Michael’s voice from the window.
“Well, do you want an answer or not?” he replied, keeping his eyes closed and the smirk still on his face.
“Go on with it. You are the maestro of strategy.” Raf replied.
“It seems it’s finally time to call the meeting with the Nephilim.”
There was a general shock at having voiced the forbidden aloud. Having been banished from the eyes of the Mistress since they fell from Heaven more than 7000 years prior. He let the weight of his words settle before he continued.
“We know where at least two of them currently are. The other 5 will come when called.”
“Hold on, we do?” Michael replied, sauntering over and sitting on the edge of the old oak desk.
“Yeah, one of them is in Los Angeles, his memories dormant and his body timeless.” Raphael said, a slight smile heard in his tone.
“Really, and I missed this?” Michael replied.
“When I say the name, it will click for you.” came Raf’s response.
“Go on then.” Gabriel pushed, his dimple almost aching if it could, from the sheer glee of his plan as it coalesced around him.
“A human named Keanu Reeves.”
“Wha…” silence and then, “Oh, wow. It works.”
“Yep. Odd how he looked like Di Angelo and Vitruvi, from both the centuries before, right?”
“How is he doing it?”
“Well, let’s clear up the other more concerning one that I know of, and then we can discuss the how later, suffice to say the Golem cursed them a couple millenia back and they do not know their continued fate.”
Raf and Michael looked on in barely concealed interest.
“Hitsune Miku, I believe is how you say her name.”
“Absolutely the fuck not. This has got to be a prank. Even I know that she’s an AI.” Raf scoffed.
“You are not wrong. Back in the early 2000’s her human form came to realize what she was. Rather than risk the Golem coming for her to re-curse her, she found a way to upload her consciousness to the internet, which is rather brilliantly poetic, as the demonic forces have overthrown the technology across the planet, and having an AI posing as a animated young female child, which can block the disinformation would be appropo.”
A shocked hush fell across the three of them as Gebriel let that information settle.
“We can discuss at length later, but for now we need to get them both and open their third eye and remove the Golem’s curse. Only they can overthrow the demonic influence that plagues the Earth, and we are only able to do so much. Murder is below our moral compass.”