“There were so many beautiful people there, so many that no ugly person with high aesthetic standards was ever lonely, unless they were utterly insufferable—which was curable with wine.”
“There were so many beautiful people there, so many that no ugly person with high aesthetic standards was ever lonely, unless they were utterly insufferable—which was curable with wine.”
He looked around, scanning the overgrown fields and lonely, motionless, rusting agricultural machines, standing like grazing cattle, each idled by the radio flash over Eram the year before. The spaceship continued to rise…
One particular evening, a peculiar star became visible to those on earth who bothered to take notice. Increasing in brightness with each passing night, its details were soon discernible in the daylight hours. It grew larger and larger as it approached, becoming the dominant feature in the heavens as it finally settled into low earth orbit.
But because the giant thing in the sky was at first benign, and no one was instructed by the authorities to be concerned by its presence, humans carried on with their lives, becoming less and less aware of it and increasingly re-immersed in their many shiny, noisy, useful, interesting, helpful, and distracting things.
Then, out of the blue, the giant thing in the sky attempted to communicate with humanity by broadcasting messages in the form of kitsch advertising slogans. Unfortunately for mankind, the meaning of those cryptic transmissions could not be divined before world war three began.
The War to End All Wars to End War swept across the planet, and the cities and machines and screens all fell silent. Even the giant thing in the sky went dark. The survivors were scattered, and over time, their isolation, and the passing of the prewar generations, had a profound impact. The dwindling enclaves of humans were left to patch the holes in their culture and history with the crumbs left behind by the departed age of things.
Then the giant thing in the sky began to wake up…
The story is actually 3 short novellas that take place before, during, and after the War to End All Wars to End War. Although there is a smattering of commentary on colonialism, nationalism, crass consumerism, and bureaucracy, and spaceships and Nazis are prevalent throughout, the three novellas are actually love stories exploring the destructive impact of insecurity, pride, the insatiable pursuit of things, and the relentless search for a higher purpose.
The second and third novellas take place in a fictional country called Trans Amhara Oromo. It is a dysfunctional nation-state, the borders of which were clumsily crafted and imposed upon the native peoples there by colonial Belgium.
I hope you will check it out. I will send a review copy to anyone who asks for one…pdf OR paperback. Just send me a note.
Also, please check out Miguel Llanso’s excellent movie upon which this book is loosely based.
We’ve edited the edits and sent them back to the editor. We’re in final draft polishing mode, book cover design, and devising a marketing strategy.
Many historical accounts describe how it first became visible to the naked eye, shining low in the eastern sky in the predawn hours of early spring. It shown at first like a star, then, day by day, more brightly like that of a planet, and then as the brightest feature in the nightly heavens save for moon. There were at first many theories as to its origin, and many in those days were superstitious and prone to fevered panic and wild speculation at the onset of anything unexpected. This was the Third Century after all, and there were many, many people in those days who led busy, ordered lives punching keys on keyboards and sharing videos of their precocious cats via their handheld devices. Much of humanity had grown accustomed to predictability, abundance, and to the bliss of self-absorption.
Threat assessment was deferred to the experts appointed by the nobles the masses had elected to parent them. It was efficient to arrange society that way, in those technological days, and for the public to simply follow the perpetual stream of orders as they were beamed into their personal video screens. Just go with the flow. Any insufficiently accredited lay person, who had the audacity to attempt to question the experts and form his own personal opinion, would be quickly overwhelmed by a tsunami of data and find himself swept out of the warm sea of blissful ignorance and onto the cold, jagged rocks of mental paralysis. The Third Century was an unimaginably complex world—what with all the cat videos and cricket scores one had to process each day.
It was a widely held belief, at that time, that if an existential human crisis were ever to arise—such as the eruption of a super volcano, or the global proliferation of a deadly virus, or invasion by religious fanatics, or a massive solar flare, or a cosmic ray burst, or a reversal of the poles, or a runaway greenhouse effect, or the inevitable coming ice age, or a cataclysmic oil spill, or fascism, or an electro-magnetic pulse, or peak oil, or soil erosion, or Chinese imports, or extraterrestrial invasion— that the elected nobles would eschew their personal considerations for the sake of the greater good of all humanity, set about to solve the problem, and immediately instruct everyone as to their best course of action so that they could make proper arrangements. Regardless of how prevalent this view was, there were, nevertheless, many Ancients who absconded from this go-with-the-flow mentality and who would ask, “What in the hell is that shining light in the sky?”
This question was often either out-rightly dismissed as extremist lunacy, or reacted to by a condescending roll of the eyes by the unflappable mainstream. But occasionally, when pressed, or when the mood was right due to the ingestion of mind-numbing substances, these conspiratorial queries were entertained.
“What do you mean?” asked the unflappable mainstreamist.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Was I not clear? What I meant to ask was, what in the hell is that shining light in the sky?” replied the extremist.
“Oh that? That star up there?”
“Is it a star? I’ve never noticed it until recently.”
“Oh Jesus. Don’t start. That is just Venus.”
“No. I don’t believe that is Venus. Venus is over there, in the west, about to set. See?”
“I am quite certain it is Venus.”
“No. It is not in the right place for this time of night. Not only that,” continued the extremist, “Venus follows a trajectory across the sky along a band known as the celestial ecliptic. See that bright star over there? That is Venus. That shining light there is not.”
“Then it is something else. It must be another planet. Maybe it is Jupiter.”
“No. Jupiter traverses the ecliptic in the same manner as Venus. That shining light is in the wrong place.”
“Then perhaps it is Saturn.”
“Saturn is a planet, too.”
“Then maybe it’s a comet.”
“But it has no tail.”
“Maybe its tail is pointing directly away from us.”
“Hmm, perhaps. Or maybe it is a meteor heading right for us.”
“Ha ha ha! Are you seriously suggesting that the earth is about to be destroyed by a meteor?” asked the mainstreamist. “Because I’m sure that if it was a meteor, on a collision course with earth, I would have heard about it on CNN by now.”
“Are you certain they would have told you?”
“It’s probably the international space station. It’s very bright, you know.”
“Moving so slowly in the sky? It’s just hanging there. Satellites tend to move.”
“Maybe it’s in a geosynchronous orbit?”
“No, I don’t think that is it.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. What you don’t know won’t hurt you. I have neither seen nor heard any mention of it in the news. If it was something to worry about, the authorities would have told us. Try not to think too much, it will make you paranoid.”
And that was how inquiries as to the approaching light’s origin were handled, at least up until the end of April when the thing became visible during the daylight hours, setting in the west around midday. By then, there were wild speculations from members of fundamentalist sects who suggested that the star was an omen, perhaps portending the second coming of our Lord and Savior Michael Jordan.
Around that same time, all the princes and presidents of the earth had been informed by their court scholars as to what it most likely was. They had heard explanations that, based upon Newtonian calculations, laser spectrometries, and direct observations by orbiting telescopes, that there was a ninety five percent level of confidence that the approaching light was actually a metallic object, constructed by some form of extraterrestrial intelligence, that had traversed the unimaginably vast distances of space to reach earth, and that it appeared to be decelerating into a trajectory that would take it into a low earth orbit.
“And what if you’re wrong?” asked the princes and presidents of the world’s nations as they were known at the time.
“What do you mean?” replied the scholars.
“You said that there was only a ‘ninety five percent confidence’. You’re scientists. You certainly must know that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What if you are wrong? What if it turns out that it is not what you so confidently believe it to be? And if you are wrong, what else might it be?”
“What else might it be?”
“Yes. What else might it be?”
“Well, if we are wrong, which is not statistically probable in lieu of the thing’s decelerating trajectory and complex symmetrical form, than the thing we have observed would therefore be classified as some heretofore, unexplained, astrological phenomenon.”
“What do you mean ‘like what’?”
“Like what classification of unexplained, astrological phenomenon?”
“I imagine we would have to apply the Kulkarni-Torkleson scale.”
“The Kulkarni-Torkelson scale. It is a method for identifying classes of orbiting things. If, based upon new evidence, we were unconvinced that it was of intelligent design, than we would be compelled to classify it as a: Type 1, Non-Organically-shaped, Self-Propelled, Metallic Thing.”
“But for now you are proposing that it is of intelligent design.”
“Yes. We believe the evidence strongly suggests it is, with a 95% level of confidence.”
“So would it be classified as a ‘Type 1, Non-Organically-Shaped, Self-Propelled, Metallic Thing’ regardless?”
“Regardless of what?”
“Regardless of whether it was of intelligent design or not?”
“If it was deemed to be of human design, it would be a Type 2. And if it was deemed to be of extraterrestrial intelligent design, then it would be classified as Type 3.”
“I have a question,” asked a counselor from France who was known to be difficult at times. “What if its origin was of unintelligent human design?”
“Then we suppose we would classify it as ‘Type 1.5’,” responded the scholars, patiently.
“So allow us to play the devil’s advocate for a moment,” interjected another counselor. “Would you consider crystals to be non-organically shaped?”
“Hmm, well they occur organically but they can also be symmetrical which makes their Kulkarni-Torkelson classification somewhat problematic.”
“Aha! So would a giant, naturally-formed, symmetrical crystal, floating in space, be definitively classified as a Type 1 thing?”
“We suppose technically, yes,” answered the scholars.
“So you’re saying the spaceship…er…uh, the thing, if it was a sort of a celestial crystal, than it would be classified as a Type 1?”
“The thing approaching the earth does not resemble any known crystal. Crystals have a predictable, repeatable molecular organization which…”
“What if it was made of an unknown type of crystal—an exotic, complex, fractal-based geometry?”
“Uh. Hmm. Well, fractal-based geometry is not our area of scientific expertise as we are all astronomers and exobiologists and physicists, but perhaps it could possibly be that, albeit a very, very exotic, undiscovered type of crystal, that is also thirty miles long and has a self-contained propulsion mechanism allowing it to decelerate, and one that has a statistically improbable human hand shape affixed to one end of it.”
“Great. Terrific. Thank you,” replied the counselors.
And the counselors excused the scholars and then briefed the princes and presidents of the world’s nations who then congregated in a great blue hall in a place called Manhattan and discussed matters amongst themselves. They talked for some time before the delegate from Iceland finally rose to address the gathering.
“We simply must tell the people of the world what we have learned, today!” he insisted.
“Yes we must!” shouted some.
“Here, here!” shouted others.
“Without delay!” shouted more.
This caused a great commotion, and before long, the secretary general was compelled to pound his gavel to restore order.
“Do I have a motion on the floor to vote to discuss drafting a preliminary resolution to document our intent to debate the potential dissemination of this arguably important information to the citizens of the world?”
“Not so fast!” shouted the chancellor of Europa. He was a tall, portly, and balding fellow with thick glasses, who looked only slightly less menacing than the grand vizier of the United States, but had a pointier nose and was regrettably from a place called Belgium. “Before we relay this very significant information, shouldn’t we consider the economic ramifications?”
“I agree!” shouted some.
“Absolutely!” shouted others.
“Without delay!” shouted more.
“What economic ramifications are you referring to?” asked the secretary general.
“For instance,” continued the chancellor, “have we considered the possibility that announcing the arrival of an extra-terrestrial spacecraft might result in unreasonable worker demands—perhaps up to and including a widespread and pervasive call for taking time off to prepare for the possibility of alien invasion and human annihilation? Have we even considered how this worker idleness will negatively affect gross domestic product in the third quarter? We are already teetering on the brink of global recession.”
“Hold on,” objected the king of Kenya. “I don’t recall the scholars indicating that the spaceship was definitely of extra terrestrial origin. They merely said they were 95% certain.”
“What else would it be?” asked the imperatore of Indonesia.
“I have tremendous reservations regarding the effect of announcing the arrival of alien invaders,” decried the grand vizier of the United States. “Alien arrival could be very detrimental to the performance of our stock markets.”
“We should consider that the arrival of extraterrestrial beings raises many significant, philosophical and spiritual questions,” suggested the chairman of Sri Lanka.
“Like for instance?”
“Like for instance, will confirmation of the existence of aliens undermine the belief in God?” asked the prime minister of the Vatican.
“Do we even have a plan to contain them so they don’t try to take over the world or be a bad influence on China?” asked the grand vizier of the United States.
“We object!” replied the president of China.
“It seems it would be prudent to discuss these matters before informing the public,” suggested the sultan of Turkey. “Since we have not reported this earlier, it might appear to the public that we have been covering something up. Telling them now might greatly damage our credibility. It is probably best to continue the policy of avoiding the matter indefinitely…in order to preserve our legitimacy.”
“What do we tell the people, then?”
“We tell them,” advised the first lord of Canada, “that our expert scholars have studied the thing extensively and determined that it is, with nearly one-hundred percent certainty, a ‘Type 1, Non-Organically-Shaped, Self-Propelled, Metallic Thing.”
“Does someone have an acronym for that?”
“Yeah, you know, an acronym. Like: SETI for the ‘Search-for-Extra-Terrestrial-Intelligence’ or ELE for ‘Extinction-Level-Event’ or…”
“Or ACBAR for ‘Arcminute-Cosmology-Barometer-Array-Receiver’ or BOOJUMS for ‘Blue-shifted-Objects-Observed-Just-Undergoing-Moderate-Starbursts’…”
“How about TONENOSSPROMT?” someone suggested.
“Should we even reveal that it’s self-propelled?” asked another.
“We’ll just leave that part out and say that we are awaiting further scientific confirmation.”
“And what about the fact that it has a giant human hand shape affixed to one end?”
“We’ll describe that as a coincidental, complex, fractal-based geometry, for now.”
“Or a CCFG for short.”
…And so the world continued as it was, blissfully ignorant and essentially the same, save for the giant, extraterrestrial thing that finally decelerated into low earth orbit, rotating slowly in the sky. The entire massive object, including the human hand shape affixed to one end, was plainly visible to everyone on the planet, eight times per day, except to those who lived beyond plus or minus forty degrees latitude.
“This is a momentous day for all of humanity. The question of whether or not intelligent life exists anywhere in the universe has finally been answered. Fermi’s cruel paradox–the notion that if extraterrestrial life exists, we would have been visited and vaporized by it long ago–has now been officially debunked…We have nothing to fear by their arrival because everything worth fearing would have been done to us already. ”
Check out the Crumbs FB page…
From Chapter 17:
In addition to the unimaginable loss of life, there were billions of man hours of human effort invested in the construction of roads and bridges and railways and skyscrapers and canals and factories and homes that were simply obliterated when they were turned to rubble by smart bombs or turned to glass by nuclear chain reactions. There are some learned people who have suggested, quite adamantly, that war is good for the economy, that war creates employment and demand and that demand foments economic growth. Perhaps they had a point! For those who had survived the bombs and then the subsequent disease, and then the hopelessness and despair, there were quite a few well paying jobs to be had because there were many, many jobs to be done and vast, vast numbers of laborers had been removed from the available workforce.
Of course, the exorbitant wages paid to these remaining workers didn’t really buy anything because there was nothing worth buying that was being made, few roads or trucks left to deliver any of it, and few storefronts left standing from which to merchandise it. The things that were still being made were mostly just more bombs, gunships, bullets, tanks, planes, missiles, helmets, and body bags. No civilians really wanted to spend their hard earned wages on that kind of stuff, so the gainfully employed survivors deposited their exorbitant checks and went home to their three standing walls and partially roofed, bombed out houses, ate their rutabaga pies, stared at test patterns on their 225 inch, high definition televisions, and talked about how good the war had been for the economy.
With nothing to buy and their money stashed in their bank accounts, the bankers turned around and lent that money back to the governments to build even more bombs, gunships, bullets, tanks, planes, missiles, helmets, and body bags. So in a sense, everyone ended up buying war materiel whether they wanted to or not. It should not go without mention that the very people who suggested that “war was good for the economy” were, with few exceptions, also employed by the very same people who declared the wars in the first place.
“It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.” –Frank Zappa
…methinks a fitting epigraph for Crumbs.
From Chapter 19:
Tegende awoke to the gurgling of a vulture hopping on the dashboard of the abandoned ice cream wagon. He shooed at it and it fluttered off through the frame where the windshield once was. He noticed the present sat on the opposite corner of the dashboard, still wrapped in its glittering bow. Then he noticed that Birdy wasn’t there. He looked at his hands and they had returned to a more youthful state. It must have all been a dream, he thought. He gathered his things and stumbled out of the truck onto the sandy, barren dirt. He heard his canteen slosh. He was sure it was empty, but now he found it nearly full. He thought maybe he was finally losing it. Feeling a renewed vigor from the rest and the fluids, he started north. By late that afternoon he spotted the greenery of an oasis with red iron scaffolding rising up out of it. He had finally returned to the Eagle’s Nest.
A fire filled his veins which propelled his legs over the hot sand towards his destination. He reached into his belt and clutched the hilt of his machete and unsheathed it. The sweat rolled down his skin, dropping into the sand as he marched. His grip upon the hilt tightened and his muscles grew taut.
Sand filled his boots and penetrated his socks, grinding in between his toes with each step. The vultures circled overhead in a wide ring, and the ship, so much farther above, hung for a moment, exactly within the halo of the carrion fowl. The rhythm of his footfalls and breaths quickened as he made a straight line towards the foliage—disappearing and reappearing behind the waves of dusty dunes.
A hot wind whipped the sand up which lashed at his exposed skin. The green oasis rippled and danced and shimmered in the undulations of hot air rising off the surface. He tasted the moisture between the dry gusts.
His teeth ground. His blisters opened. The whites of his eyes filled with threads of pulsing blood. His veins thickened and throbbed. His hair raised. His fear dissipated.
Tegende stepped off the sand and onto stones and over them and into the lush greenery of the oasis. The palms before him bent and the branches bowed as if clearing the way. The insects—the chiggering, chattering, clicking, stinging, buzzing—all fell silent. As he advanced, steam vented in plumes from the stones behind him. The colorful birds in their perches turned their heads to watch him with one eye—their beaks pointing the way forward…into the Eagle’s Nest…to Birdy and Selam. He finally reached the iron gate, guarded by a single sentry wearing a spiked helmet and reflective motorcycle goggles.
“Open the gate!” Tegende commanded.
The guard sized him up, sighed, then replied, “Do you have an appointment?”
“I said open the gate or I will hack you to pieces and feed your entrails to the vultures.” Tegende raised his rusty machete, his bloody eyes so filled with intensity that they nearly popped out of his skull.
The guard lifted his goggles up off his eyes to take a closer look at this skinny, angry man.
“Do as I say or prepare to die!” Tegende ordered.
The next instant, Tegende heard the cocking of guns. He turned to find four Nazis aiming their Lugers at him. Still holding his blade aloft, he turned back to the guard and found him scanning through the yellow pages on a clipboard.
“Don’t you read Kung Fu?” asked the guard as he scanned. “It is unwise to bring a scimitar to a gunfight?”