Dice Games Prompt #6: Write about something ugly but find the beauty in it
The media had dubbed it The Reaping. It was a surprisingly innocuous name for such a truly horrendous thing. Many names could have been chosen for the decimating plague that was inexhoribly sweeping all of humanity from off the face of the planet like so many scattered food crumbs. In the final analysis, what the specter was named was quite immaterial. It stalked across the land, leaving rot, putrescence and death in its wake.
The talking heads droned endlessly and fruitlessly on, speculating on the source of the contagion. Their vaunted expose journalists and tabloid-trash medical correspondents were as clueless on Day 100 of the ordeal as they had been when the pandemic had first been officially declared. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the United Nations Medical Panel were only the most prestigious of the seemingly-endless laundry list of alphabet agencies embarassingly incapable of determining any source whatsoever for the syndrome.
Perhaps more disconcerting than the failure of the medical community to ascertain how the plague had even begun, was their abject inability to formulate a treatment that showed the slightest inclination of halting the progression of the disease. In terms that even the least-educated of humanity could understand, the inescapable truth was that no treatment known to the best and brightest medical minds of mankind was working...period.
In retrospect, it was a sad testament to the pettiness of the species that so much valuable time was wasted in pointless academic bickering. It was clearly viral. No, it was bacterial. It was an airborne pathogen. No, it was spread by physical contact. Broad spectrum antibiotics were the treatment most indicated. No, recombinant DNA manipulation would be proven the best route to pursue. Teleconferences between colleagues and rivals alike degenerated into little more than prolonged shouting matches and endless recriminations. And as the arguments railed on and the bickering continued, people died.
They died in the greatest cities and they died in the meanest villages. They died in great teeming masses of humanity and they died alone. The elderly, the infants and those of any age in between all died with seeming equality. Whether their skins were white, black, brown or yellow mattered not a whit. They all died the same. It was, the philosophers down through the ages maintained, the lot of man to die. The Reaping stood prepared to fulfill that premise as all died before It.
The Reaping cut a broad swath across the populations of all lands. It was inevitable that, as time passed, among the dead would be those most key to maintaining the infrastructure of society. Utility and transportation services became the first and most noticeable shortcomings. Food production, processing and distribution means followed closely behind. The descent from plentitude to marginal sustainability to complete collapse took a surprisingly short time. Few had understood how fragile the links of supply and demand of humanity were until those links were strained and finally broken.
The collapse of essential services seemed to be echoed by the collapse of all societal restraint. As diverse as mankind itself were the reactions to the demise of the world. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues were filled to overflowing as the devout besought succor from their respective deities. The bars, clubs and meccas of pleasure had their collective hands full with those determined to meet the end in a last flurry of overindulgence. The descent to barbarism was far too easy for far too many. Raping, murder and worse crimes went on unchecked without the traditional safeguards against such things in place. It was the twilight of Mans' reign over the Earth and as night fell, so did the last vestiges of civilization.
History would record that it was on Day 242 of The Reaping that They appeared and began what came to be known as the Age of the Seraphim Band. They descended from the skies in golden ships of immense size. They were everywhere about the planet in the merest blink of an eye. As one, it seemed, all activity of any sort stopped as a sense of calmness, serenity and limitless power seized the attention of every remaning living being of Earth.
Every eye on the planet beheld the same vision of a personage of exceptional stature towering over them. A man, it seemed, surrounded in a dazzling aura of light that shifted and swirled about him. The being was strongly built and above his shoulders could be glimpsed, at times, what appeared to be gargantuan...wings.
Every ear heard the same deep, sonorous voice that spoke to the entirety of the world. "We are the Seraphim Band. Though our numbers are not what they once were, they are sufficient to your needs. Sleep now as we labor to do that which must be done. Sleep, children, sleep." And, as one, Mankind slept.
Since there were none to measure, it was unknown how long Humanity slept. But, as one, all awoke with a contented sigh and rose to their feet. The figure that had bid them all to lie down awaited them as they arose.
"Arise, children, and behold what we have wrought. Behold the gift we freely give unto you. Cleansed is your world. Purified is the earth, the air, the waters. Replenished are the resources so depleted in your quest for dominance of this world. This gift we give willingly and without conditions. We offer this admonition only. What we have done here we can not do again. We have other responsibilities and other worlds to aid. This we tell you by way of direction. Remember what was before and go forth into a new age. Lay aside the aggression, the fear and the animosity that hinder your kind. Treasure each other and live your lives for the betterment of others. Your path already trod is gone. Your path into the future must be of your choosing. We charge you to choose that path both carefully and wisely. Be well and prosper, children."
The figure vanished in a burst of golden light and with it the Seraphim Band were gone. As one, Mankind joined hands and set themselves forward on the first tentative steps of a new path.