Short Stories

Friends and Children,

In the year 2101, humankind fell asleep. Most never woke again. The few that did scrambled to survive as their infrastructure rotted away. Power grids failed. Food sources dried up overnight. Flood and fire raged unchecked. We had no heat but what we could burn and no food but what we could steal from the dead. The remnants of humanity sat by fires fueled by our neighbors’ tables and chairs and bookcases, eating beans out of cans and telling sad stories.

Our technology was as decimated as our population. Generators helped us to go pretend for a time, but eventually the gasoline taps dried up. Alkaline batteries were used up and then tossed away by hundreds, thousands. We had nothing left but our solar-powered calculators and our iPods. We could comfort ourselves with the music of the old world, but we not call each from far away to say hello. For the first five years, we looked for a savior, a modern Messiah with knowledge and power to turn everything back on. None came. So we slogged along, always a little hungry, always a little cold, and always a little lonely.
We died in desperation, one at a time, until almost none survived.

We believed it was the end of the world.

And it was, in a way. But I’m sorry – I won’t bore you with the details. You’ve heard this story a thousand times from your parents and friends and textbooks.

You will remember, then, that thirty years later, most of America was wild and virtually unpopulated. Men clustered near the safest places – the Nova Lenape in Jersey, the Old Order Amish in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and they say, that a great peaceful commune once domesticated the mild jungles of San Diego, though I have no way to know if that was true. For the most part, empty suburbs and burnt hulls of cities dotted America’s landscape. But near the eastern shore, one small civilization budded in the ruins of New York City. In the boroughs of New York, a number of people had drawn together, enough to love and build and steal and kill. Enough to be classed and ruled. And so a council of seven men presided over the five boroughs as judges, decreeing right and wrong. Who could reside in safety and who had to leave? Who could work in peace and who had to hide in the shadows?
I was born at the same time that the judges convened. My mother and I, we were among those who lived in the shadows.

Today I will tell you the story of a man named Alexander Jackson, though history simply calls him Lux. Lux was the 7th of the judges, a single man among the council. The youngest. The least learned. The roughest of hands. The simplest of speech. He was a working man who sought to rebuild the Bronx with common sense and his own hands. Eventually the justice of the boroughs – and the fate of the world – would depend on him.

But first, he became my father.

And that’s the story I am going to tell you today.

July 4, 2176

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