The Revolutions of Time, Chapter 13
The Big Bang
The Munams and I were all awoken at the same time late the next morning by a loud trumpet blast that shook the very air around us with its intense bass. For the first moment of our consciousness we were all dazed and could not fully comprehend the situation, and for a brief time we all sat unsteadily around the beach where we had fallen asleep. As we grew more awake, we began to understand what had happened, or at least I did, and I was frightened when I looked around and saw where the trumpet blast had come from: the entire Zardovian and Canitaurian armies were assembled around us, having somehow crossed over to the mainland in the night, while we slept peacefully, unaware of their presence.
My first thought was for myself, and what would become of me in the wrath brought on by my escape, but that soon vanished when I thought of the Munams, for they were the enemies of those on Daem, even more so than those on Daem were to each other. We were completely surrounded, with the ocean on one side and the Zards and Canitaurs circling us in the front, the former on the left and the latter on the right. All of them were equipped for war, with swords, spears, and shields held firmly in their hands, and thick, leather armor stretched across their chests. The Canitaurs had especially come prepared, for they had brought all of their atomic anionizers with them, enough combined fire power to level the entire world several times over.
Within five minutes, all of the Munams had assembled behind me and Ramma, who stood between them and the Daemians. They huddled closely together and quaked slightly in fear, for they evidently thought that their plans had been discovered and their enemies had come for revenge. I, myself, thought that they had come for me, and Ramma's opinion could not be guessed, for he was a statesman first and foremost, and when his people were in need he rose to the occasion with all the power and grace allotted to mortal beings.
Wagner and Bernibus broke the Canitaur's ranks and drew near to us in the center, as did the King from the Zard's. They reached us in silence, and for a long moment there was no talking, for all present knew that something grave was about to happen, something that would decide the fate of the men of this age, whether they would pass or fail the test. Bernibus looked at me with entreating eyes, showing his sorrow at my recapture and asking for forgiveness, but I had none to give him, for he had done no wrong to need it. He had no power among the Canitaurs, but was only a titled commoner, more like Wagner's groom than counsel.
I noticed that the Canitaurs were not wearing their anti-electron suits, which was strange, for they had brought a few hundred atomic anionizers, though I didn't question them about it, for the answer was evident enough when I had given it some thought: the Zards had no such suits, and were afraid that the Canitaurs would destroy them and Munams at the same time, for while they were allies against foreigners, they still did not trust each other. I still wore my suit given me for the raid on Nunami, though I had forgotten about it due to its comfort. That made me the only person on the earth still wearing one, the only one safe from the anionizers.
It was an overcast morning, and the air was damp with a cold, wet wind that blew in forlornly. The ocean's steady swoosh added to the scene, making it as depressing as the night before was joyous, and in the bluish half light all was colorless and hopeless. At length the King spoke, saying, "My dear Jehu, I am very disappointed in you. Not only did you flee from us irresponsibly, but you destroyed the Temple of Time and the altar to Temis. Without the White Eagle, the prophecy says that there is no hope for humanity."
Wagner added, "And now the only way left to bring about the completion of the world once more is to sacrifice you using the old methods." This he said with evident pleasure, no longer feigning to be my friend.
Here Bernibus entered the dialog, throwing away his timidness with one quick motion and saying to Wagner, "You scoundrel! You said that we came to retrieve Jehu, not to sacrifice him. How is it that you lied to me in such a manner?"
"You fool," Wagner said, "If I had had my way, you would have been dead long ago. You have no authority here, so begone."
Bernibus grew angrier, a terrifying state for a Canitaur to be in, and he was a strong and powerful one at that, though his meek nature had hidden it before. "You would never dare to kill me in the open, you coward, the council would banish you," he said.
Here the King joined in once more, laughing, "He wouldn't, no, but I would. Do you really think that we found your outpost on our own, oh Bernibus the 'deputy kibitzer'? You know that we have no tracking ability, and least of all in your own territory."
Bernibus grew more enraged, and the King was spurred on by it.
"Oh yes, you know what I speak of. Your brother-in-law told us where you and your wife were living, and not only that, for he also told us when you would be there."
Bernibus became even more flushed with anger and vehemently asked Wagner, "Why, you heartless brute? What could you possibly value more than your own sister's life?"
"It was a pledge to the Zards of our intention to abide by the agreement, what more precious thing could I give then my own sister?" He spoke calmly and spitefully, enjoying the end of his long charade of nicety, "Besides, the council was falling for her peace talk, as they always give great heed to every member of the royal family, and I was not strong enough at that time to control them, as I do now. Unfortunately for me you were out at the moment of the attack and able to escape, but still it was a favorable outcome," Wagner said, sneering at Bernibus' outrage.
But Bernibus was not to be taken lightly, and neither was he to let the love of his life go undefended. He leapt at Wagner and grabbed the remote to the atomic anionizers from his belt, where it was always clipped. Wagner tried to get it back, but Bernibus was too strong and hurled him to the ground. Then he took a few steps backwards and stood his ground far enough from everyone to have at least a moment to react before they could reach him. He held the remote out towards Wagner, pointing it at him as if it were itself a weapon, with his thumb and forefinger in position to set it off at a moment's notice.
"Bow before me now, Wagner, or I shall destroy us all," he demanded with a grim smile that showed his resolution.
Wagner did as he commanded and fell to his knees in front of Bernibus, saying in the same gentle, appeasing voice that he had first used on me, "My dear Bernibus, do not be rash, do not act in anger. Let's talk this over, and see ... and see if we can't find a peaceful solution," his fear of death evidently caused him to stammer.
"You fool, do you think that I haven't heard that voice a thousand times before? Do you think that I will fall for your same trick once more?"
Wagner put his face to the ground and groveled like the filthy swine that he was, for he knew full well that if Bernibus set off the atomic anionizers he would die. His life was completely out of his hands and there was nothing that he could do to reclaim it, except to beg for forgiveness. This he did, saying, "Bernibus, you do not understand, the situation was more complex than you realize, and I had no choice but to act as I did. Do you not think that it was as hard on me as yourself? She was my sister, my only sibling. But there was no other way, I had to put the advancement of our people over the life of anyone, even my own sister, as you must do now, putting the advancement of our people over petty differences."
Here the King interjected, "Bernibus, do not act rashly, I beg of you, for if you set off the anionizers, than all is lost. Do you not realize that if you do that, all that we have worked for all of our lives is lost?"
It was Bernibus' turn to sneer, and he did, raising the skin above his teeth and scowling fiercely at the King. "What is it that we have worked for all of our lives? Do you still not understand? You and Wagner plot to return the world to its former glory, each by his own way, but take a look around you. The trees on Daem are taller and stronger than any known before, the grasses are thicker and livelier, the waters are purer and cleaner, the wind is fresher. You know no suffering. The prophecy had nothing to do with you, and nothing at all to do with the restoration of the world! Can you not see that what you have is far more than you have need of, that there is no desire left unfilled in your lives, except that of ultimate power? This world does not need to be restored. Only your hearts have need of that.
"The prophecy was given for the Munams, who were left stranded here in this desert wasteland, while across the ocean they could see the great paradise of Daem, the great paradise that you took for granted. There is to be no restoration of Daem to its original form, but a restoration of the Munams to Daem. You struggle to restore Daem, but have no compassion for the suffering of humanity across the sea. You are the fools, not me, and you are the ones who have brought us all to the very brink of destruction, to the ice ages which you have tried so hard to prevent. Do you not see that Daem is already the paradise, that the only thing that it needs for completion is the residence of the Munams? Jehu is not our kinsman redeemer at all, he is theirs." Here Bernibus seemed to lose his anger and passion and become meek once more, saying humbly, "You have destroyed the life of one whom I held more dear than myself, but that is past, and I will not destroy us all for vengeance.
"Zards, Canitaurs, and Munams, hear me now and listen to my words," he continued, speaking to the amassed groups of the armies that had been listening closely to his words, "We are not separate people at all, we are not different races. We are not Zards, or Canitaurs, or Munams, we are Daemians, and it is time that we came together, to help each other instead of hindering. Look at how much blood has been shed, how many lives have been lost, must we all be drowned in the blood of our brothers before we realize that we are one people? Must we suffer more than we already have in an attempt to undo what has already been done? More pain will not negate the pain that has already been felt, it will only result in more suffering than we have known up to this time. My friends, we need not look for our redemption in the past, for it has gone and though it influences us, we are not bound to its suffering. And we need not look for our redemption in the future, for it is not yet here, and when it comes it will only be what we make it. Instead let us look for our redemption in the present, where it can be found, let us put aside our hate and our divisions and become one flesh and blood, one body. People of Daem, let us live in peace!" As he said this, the Zards and the Canitaurs and the Munams all let out a joyous shout of agreement, and there was seen on every face a remnant of the happiness that had so long alluded them in their wars.
To emphasize his point of harmony and trust, Bernibus dropped the remote to the atomic anionizers to the ground. But it would never land. Wagner leapt forward from his groveling position and grabbed for it as it fell, reaching out with all his strength. There was a sudden silence that overtook everyone as they saw what was happening. Bernibus looked down and saw Wagner leap, but he was too late to prevent him from reaching the remote. There was no noise at all, for everyone looked in horror at Wagner's plunging form. As if in slow motion, his hand wrapped around the remote and he squeezed it so as not to let it go. But as he did so, there was a loud beeping sound that came from his fist: he had triggered the anionizers.
The eager faces of everyone there, of everyone alive on the earth, was turned towards Wagner. The remote had a five second delay built into it, and those five seconds were the longest of my life. Bernibus' eyes met mine, and we experienced an intra-personal deja vu, the converging of the presents of two minds. His face showed the depths of his being in that split second, and he was peaceful. Though he was about to be destroyed, he had no fear, no regrets, and in those five seconds, while Wagner and the King were frightened and frantic at their impending doom, Bernibus was as calm as ever. As I looked Bernibus in the eyes, I could hear Wagner break the dead silence with a shrill scream that echoed across the horizon and ripped through the hearts of every hearer. When faced with death he had no courage, no strength to face the unknown beyond the veil that separates life from death.
As I turned and cast my eyes across the horizon, I saw the faces of hundreds of men, whether Zard, Canitaur, or Munam, and written on everyone of them was a great despair, for they stood unprotected in the presence of death. It was like the calm before the storm, those five seconds, and through them time seemed to stop, to be non-existent, and there was not a sound to be heard, except for Wagner's scream. Oh, what anguish was written on the faces of all around, standing defenselessly before the end with neither will nor way to stop its terrible approach, oh, what fear filled their eyes as their mortality was made manifest before them like a vulture's approach, oh, the pain, as fate stood before their distraught faces and silently whispered, "And to dust shalt thou return."
But then even that was silenced. There was no noise. As I looked upon them they were destroyed, before my very eyes they breathed their last and were no more. One moment they were normal and healthy, and the next they disintegrated, falling into little heaps of limp skin and bones. In that moment I felt a horror such as I have never felt before, a complete loneliness, like a night that never ends. There was no one, nothing, around me. The force of the blast had leveled the already flat terrain completely. The ocean was suddenly solidified into the same lifeless, inorganic mass that the land had become. Across the channel, Daem was no more. There were no more trees, no more grasses, no more cities, no more mountains, everything was leveled, decimated. The sky began to turn a dark, bloody red, and the sun was hidden behind it. Like a disease it spread across the horizon, devouring the light hearted blue and leaving only red: lifeless, deathless red. There was no wind, no sound. I was all alone, I alone had survived the blast because of my anti-electron suit. I gazed in absolute horror across the field where only seconds before thousands souls had been congregated. I looked at its emptiness and I saw nothing, for there was nothing. They were all dead. Every single one of them.