STORY: 38° and the End of The World
Elliot paced his bedroom. Large windows looked out over the vast wasteland that had been Pyongyang, North Korea. In 2025 America (now called Post-America) had retaliated with nuclear weapons to what had been called the Eastern uprising. And now, in 2045 Elliot and his partner lived in this isolated outpost. He had been a general with a distinguished career. But he was old, and did not have the energy to lead men. So the new Post-America/Uni-Euro council placed them here, for they needed a presence here, even in this desolated region.
“Make it warmer in here, please. 38°C”
Two quick beeps let him know the room had heard him and the quiet heaters kicked on. Melady preferred 15°C but in his 80’s Elliot couldn’t get warm in anything below 35°C. He always felt cold, and he knew it was signs that his body was beginning to fail him.
“Give me the updated news on the World Cleansing Killings.”
A woman’s proper british voice chimed in from the ceiling, “The killings have been reported throughout most of the Post-America continents, as well as every region in Pan-Europe. Reports from Asia, Africa and China have been recently updated to affirm it is advancing rapidly there as well. The group or nation with whom the killers are associated is still unknown. They still only call themselves, Army of the Most High God.”
“Are they killing Christians?”
“Are they killing Muslims?”
“Are they killing all Post-Americans, or Uni-Euro members?”
“Only some of each.”
“Is there any country they are not killing? Or any geographical region? Or culture?”
“No strong geographic patterns have been correlated to cause.”
Or is there a religion they aren’t killing? Even any small religious sect that might be behind this?” Elliot had drifted quite a bit from his evangelical Christian roots. The denomination had leaned toward power and just didn’t feel right anymore. Melady was Jewish, but was extremely open to the idea that Jesus might have been the savior.
“There are 21% fewer deaths among populations below the poverty lines, adjusted for each regional definitions of poverty. That is the only correlation found thus far.”
“Interesting. But what races are those that they are killing?”
A small moment of calculation. “So far, some of all races have been killed. I am having troubles drawing any correlations in the killings besides poverty.”
“Carpet, 20 percent softer.” He said and heard a small hiss as the foam under his feet released pressure. He crumpled to his knees by his bed. He had no idea if he had lived his life for the right side. How could he know which side they were on if these killers stated no national or religious allegiance. He didn’t know if or how soon they would find them here in isolated Post-Korea. But it could be any time.
But right now, he had something more important he had to deal with. It was a bad day for Melady’s Alzheimers. He had tried to cater to her for so long and he was just so tired of it. Her little requests to eat plain old peas again when he far preferred the red-rimmed corn chowder. Just little things like that. She wouldn’t even know the difference tomorrow. Why did it even matter if he made them eat the prepp-meals with the corn that he liked instead?
“God, I don’t like her lately. She asks the same thing over and over. I don’t have time for this. I am a five star general watching over a whole region.” He was very aware of the medals and honors he had accrued, displayed around this bedroom.
He sighed and pulled out his digital journal and stylus. He turned them on and wrote. “God, Melady can’t even remember our kids’ names. She asks me over and over what day of the week it is. She can’t handle her own emotions. Laughing one minutes and crying the next. I shouldn’t have to deal with this. I’ve held the fate of whole kingdoms before.”
He paused, like he was thinking, maybe listening. Then he switched colors and wrote, as if someone had told him to write something, “Why do you think she cries?” After many years of prayer he had recognized this small voice inside of him. He had always assumed it was the holy spirit, or Jesus, from how he was raised. But the way Melady used to talk about prayer, it sounded like she heard from the voice too.
He slowly switched back to his color as he thought. He restated the question, “Why do I think she cries.” Then he wrote. “It’s probably really frustrating for her not to be able to remember her kids’ names. She loves them so much.”
He stopped as emotion overwhelmed him. He whispered under his breath, “I’m sorry Melady. I’m sorry God.”
A minute later he switched back to the other color and wrote in big bold letters, “Be with your wife NOT for what you will get out of it. Be with her for what you can give to her.”
He took a deep, wavering breath and sniffed. This felt real. Yes. He could do this.
He heard Melady call from the other room. “Elliot. Are you ready for dinner, Dear?”
“Yes, hunny I’m coming.”
He braced for the cold room and emerged into the common area. A blast of heat met him. It would be enough to keep even him warm. “Melady, you must be burning up! Why did you turn the heat up so high?!”
She glanced at him as she walked to the kitchen counter to look at their dinner options. “I know you get cold these days.”
“Oh… Yeah… Thank you. Are you sure?” He looked and on the kitchen table was the pad she used for her prayer journal as well.
She nodded. “Come here. What dinner should we have?”
He smiled tenderly as his heart melted for his wife again. He walked over to her. He noticed her eyes were moist as well. They looked at the freeze dried dinner packets for two.
They both paused an extra moment. Then Melady spoke, “What if this is our last meal?” She knew about the Cleansing Killings and understood this much. He put his hand on her back. She was so thin and frail. She asked him, “Which is your favorite again, my Love?”
He saw the red-rimmed corn chowder and it looked so good. It was the gourmet option, the premiere dinner. The most expensive and by far the most complex taste. They had plenty of them; money was not an issue. He wanted that more than anything but he said, “My favorite is that one. The butter chicken.” He glanced at her. Her face sweating from the heat and she was genuinely concerned.
“Oh the one with the peas. Good. I’m glad that was it because I love the peas. You like the peas don’t you? I’m sorry… I’m sorry I can’t remember.”
“They’re probably my favorite.”He said feigning just enough sincerity that she wouldn't be able to tell it wasn't true.
“Okay good.” She placed them in the hydrator and 15 seconds later pulled out a steaming tray with a meal for two.
They were finishing dinner when the front door chimed. Both of them looked at each other in fear. They never got guests, being so isolated from the world.
Elliot stood slowly and faced the door. Melady walked around the table and held his hand. Hers was moist He knew she would have held more of him if it wasn’t so hot in this room.
“Open front door.”
The front door slid open and there were two well-built men, one in front of the other, standing outside the door. They were beautifully handsome. Both of them. Their eyes were so sharp, covered by such distinct brows, and their hair was dark. They wore light armor that looked more symbolic than functional, fabric pads on the shoulders and their lapels arrayed with medals.
The front one spoke, an eloquent voice. It was firm, full of resolve, “Do you affirm that you are Elliot and Melady Tranthum?”
“And you confirm that you are the placed official from Post-America to the post-Korean continent and his wife?” There was a confidence in his voice, he already knew the answer.
“Yes. That is us.” Elliot’s voice quivering.
The man pulled a sword from his sheath, the silver blade was about the size of his leg. “We bring the sword of God to the people, for the end of this world has come.” They walked toward Elliot and Melady and looked around as if something surprised them. The man looked at Melady who was perspiring. “Why is it so hot in here?”
Melady replied, “Elliot gets cold in his old age.”
The man heard in her voice that it was she who had raised the temperature for her husband. They walked in further. The other man stepped to the table beside them and looked at the remaining food on their plates. He looked over at the dispenser that held all of their dried meals. He could see the stack of obviously finer meals that had not been touched. “Did you not believe we would come? You did not think it was time to eat your finest meals?”
Elliot whispered, “We like the peas.”
The man looked with a burning eye at Elliot. Elliot knew he could see right through his half-truth. What type of men were these? Where could they be from?
The man at the table looked at his partner with the sword and nodded so slightly.
“On your knees, if you are able.” He lifted the tip of the sword.
Elliot and Melady did the best they could with their frail bodies. The soldier with the sword then said, this time being the first hint of hesitancy in his voice, “Carpet… softer. As soft as you can go.” It hissed and Elliot and Melady knelt on a soft surface.
“I only ask you to kneel because that is the proper way to receive this.” There was a moment’s pause as the two waited, hand in hand with their necks bared to the blade of the sword. The cool flat of the blade tapped both of their shoulders slowly. And at each touch, a small dash of new energy and life shot through their bodies. “I commission you to the Lord’s service in His new kingdom. Wait for the rest of the cleansing and others of us will come and stay with you as the world transforms. Our great captain is coming to spread a blanket of blood and fire on this world. Beware it will burn but hold to your allegiance like an anchor, and it will pull you through as your impurities are burned away. After a few hours all that will be left in both of you will be pure eternal life you have fostered within you. And the new kingdom will begin. Shalom to you.” The men dismissed themselves and turned. They walked briskly out the door but before they were gone, Elliot called out to them. “Wait, who are you with? Where does your allegiance lie?”
The man paused and kindly said, “We told you. We are the army of the Most High God.”
“I mean, what religion? What allegiance of ours told you we were your allies.”
“It was because you were allies of each other. Your allegiance is to that voice within each of you that teaches you to love.”