I am Jack Daniels, momma was a hard drinker and I think you should know that the world has been very different since it ended.
This is my way of setting things to right. I try to record as much as possible. I am the ringleader of a carnival and as such enjoy some small freedoms that others in the world today do not. I still travel across the United States from the forbidden deserts of the southwest to the hostile border with Canada.
Things are no longer the same.
I am by trade a story-teller and I have one that you may have heard, but not, and this I’ll guarantee, told in a way you will have heard it.
The lights come on in a darkened tent and single figure stands against the darkness, lit as if by the hand of the Creator. He raises his stubbled face to the light and drinks of the majesty, which is broken by not a single child’s squall.
The line of his arm is straight as an arrow as it sweeps towards the crowd and the white-gloved hand stops with a single accusing finger focusing on me. This then is my queue to enter, but I can’t do it. I am terrified of the light and the man in it. He is not a harsh man, and unlike what people think the light and the audience are actually very forgiving. They all want things to end well.
That lone boy knew something no one under that tent then knew.
That boy knew the world had ended.
I was that boy.
My own peculiar talent was a precocious ability to know more than should be known. Often only shortly before it occurred, but occasionally something would occur to me that I could not bury deep enough or run fast enough from and unlike my mother I had yet to drown this knowledge in my namesake.
I didn’t really know when or how it ended, but something in my bones cried at all the laughing. I wanted to shatter the illusion. The illusion that everything was still alright and would continue to be all right.
The market collapse had shattered the world economy, though at the age of 15 I didn’t quite know what all of that meant. I certainly hadn’t tied it to the desperate look on people’s face or the lines that marred the once tranquil subdivisions of our once great country.
The market was neither the beginning nor the end. The drought, fires, global warming, bread lines, gas prices skyrocketing, and the plagues. All seemed to be signs or maybe just additional fuel for the fire that swept the world.
People kept pretending though.
People were sure the economy could fix itself, a market reset the economists called it. The hand of the market would prevail.
Even the blind faith of the billions around the world willing to spend based on a credit structure that no one could afford. Even the subsistence farmers in Equatorial Guinea didn’t escape the ruin.
The illusion held on for a little while. I even recall where I was when it broke.
A small thing really.
The death of man, a single man.
But he died at the hands of a God.
Not G-d as the Christians know him or that of the Jews. This man was somewhere in the southwest, Flagstaff or Albuquerque. He didn’t belong.
He was visiting the area and was upset that the tourism wasn’t faring better. The man had been better than middle class to still have the money or credit to be traveling for enjoyment at this point. A rich man. White.
And what does a rich white man do when he upset? He complains. He throws a fit, or so the story was told.
He argues and then spits on a waiter, or a manager depending on the story. But all the stories agree on one thing. The person wronged cursed this man with the wrath of an ancient deity. One most people wouldn’t recognize and certainly the white Christian man could not have cared less about.
The white man’s response?
He hit the offensive person. His world was already threatened, the economy and power structures he had built to support himself were collapsing, perhaps he was on the edge of ruin. Who can know what drives another seek violence against someone not even known to himself.
Blood was drawn and it was in blood that the deity answered. An unstoppable plague was born. It didn’t seem to follow normal rules, it didn’t spread touch or air, not through blood or saliva.
Some say it was more of a sickness of the soul that infected first the United States and then the rest of the world.
It was here the madness started though, that everyone agrees on.
I can’t trace all the details of how and when it spread. Don’t even recall the day when the borders were finally locked down to end immigration.
It wasn’t us that closed the borders though, Canada built a wall and Mexico had no need. The death began in the Southwest and state-by-state the area was quarantined from visitors, food, all travel.
There are places not meant to support much if any human population. Desserts are one of those places.
The footage from the mobs was graphic, but short-lived. The silence spoke volumes.
I have pieced together the stream of events since then through news articles and footage I’ve obtained on my travels.
Taxes didn’t exist, no one was making money. The plague was still spreading and all of our vaunted technology meant nothing.
The man who was cursed? He died, but before he did he announced that he was broke. It shouldn’t mean much the death of one man penniless and alone, but it did.
This man was the wealthiest man in the world. If he could go broke, what did that mean?
The government couldn’t quell any of it. Rumors though that is what killed the government.
There were rumors that faith healers were capable of halting the plague.
The reason the government was suddenly thrown under the bus.
The final act that ended our once great dream of democracy.
A child’s heart rending scream.
A little girl was murdered on the steps of the capital as she visited with her school group. Crime was running rampant and the government was stretched beyond all means.
A last call was sent for help from the government to its people, and the people broke their portion of the social contract. They were, as a whole, no longer willing to abide by the will of law.
The great cities began to empty of all save the weakest and the most predatory. Population levels fell to the plague and other more ordinary sicknesses that went untreated as the world came to a halt.
Without the complex activities undertaken to move food and supplies around the country people starved. The exodus from the cities continued up until five years ago. The last residents of the great metropolises were the carrion crows of society.
This was only the second phase, as I think of it, or the Migration. People escaped from the cities and destroyed large sections of suburbs to make room for farming communities again.
The first phase was less easily identified, but I simply call it the End.