15 April 2011

Spark of Apocalypse

It all started with a girl, as so many things do. She was young, beautiful, curious, slightly naive and idealistic, and such women have been the downfall of nations. So proved this woman to be. She had a name, once, something ordinary and forgotten. Now, her only name is Pandora. This Pandora, like the one from ancient mythology, opened a box and let evil loose upon the world. Only, this Pandora was the box. The evil she loosed wasn't contained in a clay amphora, no, this box was far more commonplace: the human mind. In the oldest stories, Pandora was given a sealed jar and told not not open it under any circumstances. So, of course, consumed by natural curiosity, Pandora opened it. When she did so, out rushed all the evils of the world.

This new Pandora was a chemical engineering major, back when such quaint things as universities still existed. She found a way to do something incredible, like J. Robert Oppenheimer and Alfred Nobel. It had been said that people only used 30% of their brain, so this girl, being young and idealistic, found a way to unlock that elusive 70%. She tested it on herself, being young and naïve. She was right, in that she unlocked the rest of her brain using her chemicals and compounds, and she was right in that she found herself capable of things far beyond imagination. People had theorized in books and movies what would happen: telekinesis, telepathy, empathy, perfection, terrible and wonderful things.

Terrible, and wonderful, indeed. Telepathy, telekinesis...yes, she discovered these, and found them to be burdens; the weightiest burden Pandora unlocked was immortality. She created the ability to put off sickness, invented regenerative techniques to stave away Death's specter, she developed all this, and more. But, like the ancient Pandora, what she opened couldn't then be closed. She took a lover, our postmodern Pandora, a courageous, foolish man, and together they conceived a child, and that child had control over its entire brain. And so it went. Children born thereafter were able to do nearly anything they wished...except exercise restraint.

The purpose, it became clear, for that millennial restriction on the human brain was to protect mankind from itself, to protect men from themselves and each other: nearly infinite power, but no understanding of the forces wielded...the result was apocalypse. Not by nuclear holocaust, or melted polar caps, or meteoroids, but because of one ambitious girl who thought she could unlock the mysteries of the human brain. So then, men murdered each other with bare hands, with lasers and plasma rifles and fission bombs and empath hunters, with hate and hunger and overcrowding.

See her now: stumbling across a blasted plateau, bare feet catching on bleached bones buried in the soil, hair thick and youthful still, lovely face unlined by age, yet heavy and haunted with grief. She carries in her gut the thickest of gall stones: the knowledge that she wreaked this havoc, she created this hell, the road to which was paved by that commonest of stones, good intention. She cannot forget and she cannot die, while her lover lays long rotted in the wind-scoured soil, her descendants stare out from caves in hillsides, lope through empty streets of skeletal cities, gaunt and gangrenous apparitions. Pandora, who carried in her synapses the spark of Apocalypse, now wanders Earth trailing the ghosts of mankind behind her in an ethereal skein of sorrow, palpable to her senses as voices singing elegies and curses to her ceaselessly. She weeps, and regrets, but she cannot close the box she has opened.

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