A Coronation in Fire

May 25, 2012
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It was fuel, of course, that finally began the Dark Age. Some had said that it would be war, and had painted us a bloody picture of a nuclear holocaust that would decimate the planet’s surface and crack the world like an egg. But no, in reality the answer that proved true, was never the exciting fantasy story that the authors of old had painted us, of our race decimated by a war of our own creation, leaving only a handful of survivors that pranced proudly into the horizon. No, the truth was never as exciting as fiction. I had seen the pictures of the old electric cars that used to out-compete their gas-powered cousins at every turn, and yet, for the most part were rejected by American society. I have often tried to wonder what the world might be like if only our reliance on our precious fossil fuels had died, but it hadn’t and the world was still the same chaotic mess that it had been before my dream, as when the fantasy stopped. It was 2018 when we had finally run out of our precious fuel. The tanks were drained, until not a drop of the substance, now as precious as gold, remained. The reserves ran dry, the governments collapsed and the world had just slowly died. With no vehicles, the power plants couldn’t be maintained and now just lay as forgotten homes for outlaws and strays. I had been told that an old author named T.S. Elliot had once said a famous quote: So this is how humanity dies, not with a bang but with a whimper. At least that’s what I had been told. The last copies of his books had been burned for a few seconds of precious warmth.
Then came my father. He was a great man, my dad, seeing beyond the hopeless dread within the streets, to the potential of the remnants of our once great civilization. He was a pioneer in engineering that the world had not seen the likes of since the old days. He had a dream one day that would soon forever alter the course of man’s destiny. He saw, on that fateful night, a utopia, even greater than the great country that had crumbled down into us. I remember, as a child, him rocking me on his lap and telling me of the future in which he would be king of the world, after bringing order back to the shattered society. I remember how safe I felt in my king’s arms as he told me of when I would be a prince after he had restored power to the scattered men and women of our world. I knew nothing would ever hurt me in his arms, and whenever I was attacked by other boys, for the food I carried, I knew I could always be safe again in his precious embrace. I came to understand his vision as I grew into a young man. He made our home in the tower that stretched up to the sky, its stone walls making an excellent palace for a king. He told me that the windowless structure, which he so generously shared with his subjects, was built to commemorate an ancient king named Washington, but I knew in my heart that it was really his throne. One day he took me by the old nuclear power plant that had been abandoned for so many years. He described to me each of the moving parts, he planned to replace, each swinging in never-ending clockwork, pumping out the endless power that would return to the people what the dark ages had bereft of them. It had taken him years, and had robbed Mom of her life, when I was only one, but piece by piece, the plant sprung up again, like a phoenix from its own ashes. It was the proudest moment of my young life when he took me up to the dusty control room that had once been used to control the dangerous reactions that took place within the inner chambers of the building. I remember him placing the final piece into a readout display and promising me that the Dark Age would be over in the blink of an eye. It was then that he had held me up to a panel to flip the switch to the future.

Then, from the outside, I saw the world explode with a fabulous display of lit colors, that shown like the sun fallen to Earth. I thought the world had ended as the old power lines pumped electricity to the poor starving townsfolk, who had longed for it for so many years. I knew that my dad’s subjects would love him for the miracle he had just preformed for them. He told me how proud Mom would be of us, and I smiled for the first time in a long time. I spent every night for the next week fantasizing of our coronation in the town square. But he was prometheious, snatching fire from the heavens above and bringing light to the planet’s barbaric people. But they took the gift without thanks, and left their savior chained to a great rock. The people came to his door hundreds at a time to beg for his precious gift, only to be turned away, not understanding the limitations of the plant. Some grew sad; others grew angry. In one event, forever burned into my young brain, I recall a group of men who had lay siege to our home, laying our home with a barrage of gun fire, demanding the power be brought to their homes. Our neighbors had risen up and slain our attackers, but not out of gratitude, but out of greed for the electricity my father wielded so carefully, like the tool it was. And when he had to refuse their pleas they grew angry, swearing to never protect our family again. Even the precious few chosen to receive my dad’s gift rejected him, using him as a tool to get what they wanted. I could not understand in my young mind how this could happen. Could they not see how great a king my father was? How could they be so blind to what he had done for them and reject him like pond scum?

“Will you restore the plumbing next Mr. Clayton?” they would ask, and after being turned down by my father, who could bare no other load, they would spit in his face and walk away. Yes, my father was a king but one rejected by his people.

Then came the fateful morning when the water-level got to low to risk activating the rods, and after nearly a year of continuous use our power plant finally stopped giving the craved power it once had produced. He tried to encourage his subjects but none would listen, demanding that the power be restored immediately. The cry finally grew so loud that my father barred us in the plant, with a thousand enemies hammering on the door and not one friend to help defend it. I remembered my dad’s embrace from when I was a child and longed for him to hold me again. I wanted the safety in his arms that had once calmed me as a child, but we were far to busy defending the walls of our palace to take the time for such an action.

They, of course, eventually broke down the door, and tore their way to the control room, destroying all that my father and I had worked so hard to build. When they finally reached the control room, my father and I hid in the shadows, praying for a miracle from God. They gave cries of joy, as they flipped on the switches at random, trying to restore the power.

The air was filled with the cries of men and women begging on their knees for a couple more days of power.

My dad tried to stop the barbarians yelling his warnings

“Stop you fools, you’ll expose the rods!” But the barbarians refused to listen, and instead grabbed him to prevent him from interfering with their work.

“You maniacs, you don’t know what you’re doing!” His cry fell on deaf ears, as the desperate men and women started the rusted gears, which sprang again to life, delivering with it the metallic hum that my father had once regarded as music, but now took as a sign of his impending doom. He collapsed to the floor in a horrible cry of defeat that I had never expected from a man as strong as my dad. How could the king be stripped of his power by the monsters he had set out to help. How could a man who could have reunited the world, be reduced to the low stature of begging for his life to the barbarians who had taken his kingdom and crushed his precious crown, tossing the remnants of the gold and jewels to pigs to be trampled. It was an outbreak of the pure thoughtless anarchy that lay so deep within each of us, hidden behind the mask of civilized men. They weren’t thinking at all, just letting their most basic instinct of greed lead them to certain death.

My father was their king.

In the minutes that the barbarians had had access to the power room, they had exposed the rods, and as the brilliant, radioactive light burst forth from the building, carrying with it the souls of hundreds, the last hope of reigniting the fire of humanity was stomped out as an ember, and left as dust in the wind. T.S. Elliot had been wrong. It had been a bang that had been the final hit of the judge’s gavel, as humanity finally presented the court with the evidence that would earn it the death penalty.

All hail the king…





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