Farmer Muldoon, whose leg had healed quickly after being nearly amputated by his plow, finished his plowing and started walking to the house. He was still limping slightly, holding the mule's bridle in his hand as he walked.
His wife was just finishing dinner preparations as he washed the field's grime off of himself, muscles aching in a good way and his injured leg aching in a not so good way. He'd gotten a lot done but was feeling a little ill, and his head was swimming. The air smelled funny, too.
There was a beautiful sunset as the Muldoons sat on the porch after they had eaten, enjoying the beauty God had given them and drinking the communion wine and munching the communion bread and watching the lightning bugs just starting to blink, and laughing for no apparent reason at all.
Dried leaves were playing tag in the whirlwinds, apparently enjoying themselves almost as much as the Muldoons were.
Reverend Smith pulled up in his buggy a while after Jonah had pointed out the beautiful Evening Star to Rebekkah as the sun sat just under the trees. The reverend's horse was panting and sweating as if he'd been run too hard and too long.
“Well, hello, John!” Jonah said lightheartedly. “What brings you out here this fine evening? You look troubled.”
“I am, Jonah, I am. We have serious trouble; serious bad trouble. Terrible trouble. Some devils have escaped from hell and have tunneled their way up here! Get your pitchforks, we may have a fight.”
“Pitchforks? Fight? John, are you ill?”
Jonah was worried; the reverend was more devoted to Yeshua than any man he'd ever known. He was not the sort of man to commit any violence at all, and in fact just a month earlier a drunken young man had punched him so hard it had knocked the preacher to the ground.
Rather than striking back in anger as Jonah feared he might have done had he been in the same situation, the pastor had gotten up, dusted himself off, and offered to let the youth hit him again!
The young man had started shaking, and fell to his knees, sobbing and begging forgiveness, and the holy man had forgiven him.
Now here was the Reverend Smith, all wild-eyed and screaming for blood. Had he gone mad? Was he possessed by a devil? Maybe one of the devils he had been spouting off about?
“Reverend,” said Jonah, “I don't understand. God Himself guards hell. Perhaps He's testing you?”
“You must come with me!” screamed the distraught preacher. “Please! Jonah, I'm begging you! Please!!”
“You go ahead and help the reverend,” Rebekkah said, patting Jonah on the arm. “He's mighty upset and God only knows what he's capable of in his state of mind. I'll stay here and pray.”
Jonah kissed her on the forehead, told her he loved her, got a pitchfork and left with the preacher.
The Muldoons nor any of the other of the other Amish knew that the entire southern hemisphere was dead. Nor did they know that humans had survived the apocalypse in the self-made prison that they had just discovered.
Nor did they even know that these humans even existed.
The Amish were more like protohumans than true humans; human evolution had been self-directed, while the Amish thought technology was evil and had shunned it since times long forgotten. Species only evolve when their environment changes, and unknown to them, the nobots had kept the Earth's surface in nearly perfect harmony. Life had changed very little in millions of years on the planet's surface.
They also didn't know that they had been known as “controls” when humans had started living in their nobot-constructed fantasies, fantasies that until now they thought were real.
But the underground humans had still striven to learn, and there were still people capable of programming nobots, and even getting information out of the trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of bits of data the nobots held. Their research, triggered by the destruction of half the nobots on Earth, uncovered the fact that they had been underground for millions of years and living mostly fantasies.
The rounding errors were understood now. Reality has no rounding errors, but digital devices do. It's especially pronounced when they're all networked together and half of them stop working all at once.
They had reprogrammed the matrix of cubes in a small section to slowly collapse, and a sinkhole had opened in McGregor's pasture and swallowed half his cattle. He was standing by the large hole when Smith and Muldoon arrived.
Rority had opted to actually travel, which he hadn't known he'd never really done, to the northern hemisphere to visit his partner, who he hadn't known he'd never really seen, until the catastrophe pulled the wool off of everyone's eyes.
He and Gumal, probably the world's best known of anthropologists, archeologists, and protohistorians were chosen to investigate life on the surface.
Life on the surface was holding crude weapons with pointed tines. “Garbouok are grato! Gutably!” one of them babbled.
“Protohumans? Now?” Rority thought.
“Oh shit,” Gumal thought.
Smith saw them and pointed McGregor's spare pitchfork at them. “Back to hell, devils! In Yeshua's name I command you!” he ordered.
Muldoon now understood what Reverend Smith had meant; this had been prophesied. The antichrist had come, followed by Christ, and Satan had been banished to hell, but the prophesies said he'd be back in a thousand years.
In actuality it had been more than a few million.
“Uh, I don't like the looks of this,” Gumal said.
“They're speaking in tongues, Reverend,” Jonah said.
“No,” replied the preacher, “tongues is the language of God, anyone can understand Him. These devils simply speak a different language than us, and one that seems clearly evil to me.”
“I can't understand them,” Gumal said. Rority held his hand out and a small rod appeared.
“Back to hell, devils! In Yeshua's name I command you!” the rod said out loud.
“They're speaking in tongues, Reverend,” the rod continued. “No,” it replied to itself, “tongues is the language of God, anyone can understand Him. These devils simply speak a different language, and one that seems clearly evil to me.”
“Shit!” exclaimed Gumal. “We're going about this the wrong way.”
“Agreed,” said Rority. “Lets go back down and figure out how to solve this. Nobots! Make it look to these creatures that everything is as it was!”
Smith, McGregor, and Muldoon stared in amazement as the swallowed cattle came back to the surface and the ground filled itself in and the vegetation that had been growing seemed to have never been disrupted.
All of them wondered if it had been a hallucination, since they had all felt so strange earlier, but none would ever wonder out loud if they had indeed been hallucinating.
“Thank you, Lord,” the preacher said to the sky, “for showing us this miracle. Help us to understand it! Amen.”
The other two echoed “Amen.”
“Well,” Gumal said to Rority, “we really fucked that one up.”
”Amen to that,” Rority said. “Now what?”
|29 - The Venusian Triumph
|31 - Morlocks