Prologue for The Aftermath: Walden Earth #1

November 15, 2009

Prologue

An old man sits above a field of bodies on a twisting, gnarled obsidian throne. He leafs through a massive volume. The wind propels black sand and debris through the air, but the old man and the figure kneeling before him remain untouched.

The figure questions the old man, “How is it possible, how do you know all this?”

The old man responds, “You will understand, as it is my purpose to make you understand, in time. We have important business between us.”

The figure looks up at the old man, silent, as if in a trance. “Please, tell as much as you can.”

The old man smiles, his intimidating countenance is broken with unexpected kindness. He turns a page.

“You may not know, but, following the catastrophe marked by the appearance of The Guest, the first great power to emerge on the planet was Walden. It’s origins go beyond even my lifetime. What is important to our purposes is what it became. In the hands of its shadowy leader, Captain Smile-A-Long, whose character will become clearer through the telling and whose exploits we will discuss more fully some other time, the family friendly and cartoon-centric international corporate entity turned into a real world power. Buying out what were the major developing cities of the time, and then annexing all other productive, resource rich real estate across this continent, Walden became an unchallenged, dominant nation. Exclusive to those who would pledge undying devotion to Captain Smile-A-Long and his Smile-A-Live-Long-Day-Directives, the poor, the sick, and the resistant were pushed to the frontier and their towns suffocated in shadow of the resort-style, escapist parks that were Walden’s specialty.”

“I’ve seen them. The grinning faces and old buildings. The men of metal and the men of stone.”

“Yes, their influence can be glimpsed only in their ruined state today, and in their novelty items.”

The old man holds up a whistle, and smiles. “I kept it to remind me of those dark days. But, in their heyday, how brightly Walden shone.”

He lets the kneeling man hold it. “It’s yours. The threat has passed.”

The kneeling man stares at the item in his hand.

“The Empire, increasing in its decadence and perversion, year by year, lasted nearly two centuries. Inexplicably, the sinister Smile-A-Long persisted as well, never aging, never slowing down – a fact that constituted much reverence from the Waldenites for their leader and the promised Walden Way. However, grim events were in store. As Walden grew it became increasingly dependent on automation. Soon, Waldenites merely took on titles. Their actual duties, their occupations, were carried out by the artificial intelligence that Smile-A-Long had developed to perfection in order to strip humanity of its influence in his Empire. Then he disappeared. Most people thought he finally succumbed to death after all these years as the new leadership told them, but I know this is not the case. Later, he told me himself his true reasons for abandoning his Empire at the apex of its power.”

“You met Captain Smile-A-Long?”

“That was one of the most frightening days of my life. Chaos itself – staring me in the face. The closest, well, actually, the second closest I ever came to death.”

“But, I digress. As you will see, this dependency on automation eventually led, perhaps deliberately, to Walden’s destruction, and to some of the bloodiest days this world has ever seen.”

The old man turns the page. “Here follows the tale of the last great Walden institution: Walden Earth, and the great men therein involved.”

Copyright Molen Brothers 2009

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