THE LAST HISTORY By Kevin Rigathi
It is the 3rd of October, 2017 AD. We are in Nairobi at a place we once called Langata. It is almost midnight and there is a woman lying in her bed; she is crying. It is an ugly kind of crying, loud and pained without restraint or decorum. It is the cry of someone who has abandoned all hope, someone who has accepted defeat. And Monica, for that is her name, certainly has. We do not know how, and in truth we have no way of knowing, but her life has fallen apart on this day. We suspect that something she wanted intensely has once again unfairly been put forever out of reach, but that is mere speculation. What we do know for sure is that her tears will change everything. Her tears are perhaps, without exaggeration, the most important tears that have ever been shed in human history. They are the tears that will start it all. The tears that signify the beginning of the end. The tears that will drown the world.
– Excerpt from the chapter “The Power of Tears” from “The Last History”
Tell me, have you ever wondered how much a secret can weigh? How hard it can push down on the one that holds it? This is something I think about a lot. I am certain the leaders who preceded me have pondered on it in one form or another. You see, secrets must surely weigh something. Why else would people find them so hard to carry? So hard to bear? Personally, I believe the bigger a secret is, the heavier it weighs on one’s shoulders. It’s why the important secrets have always been the hardest to keep. The longer one bears the burden, the stronger the need to share it — to lessen some of the weight on oneself. The revealing of a secret may not always be an act of betrayal, it might simply be a cry for help. A lack of strength.
My name is Amina Amaru and I’m the prime minister of the East African Republic. I’m sure you’ve heard of me. I am, after all, the most powerful person on the planet. I do not say this as a boast, I only wish to establish my credentials as the kind of person that knows secrets. Dangerous secrets. Secrets that I probably shouldn’t share if there is to be peace. But if you want the truth, I’m tired. I’m tired of hiding, I’m tired of this weight. And I’m about to do something that will anger a lot of people, but I cannot find it in myself to care anymore. I’m going to share my burden. I’m going to tell you, the people of Earth, everything. I think you deserve it. You deserve to know why all of this has happened, and you deserve to know all that is about to happen.
… Monica does not know it, but she has caused what will come to be known as the cataclysm. Countries that have never experienced hurricanes will see them, dormant volcanoes will erupt, fires that cannot be put out will rage in forests and on some days, the sun will not rise at all. But perhaps the most horrifying effect of the choice she will make is the one that nobody has ever associated with apocalypse or cataclysm. The one thing that no one has ever thought could be used as a threat. Very soon now, the human race will finally be freed from the inevitability of death. Everyone will live forever.
– Excerpt from the chapter “Monica’s Choice” from “The Last History”
My path to Prime Minister began the day we realised that people could no longer die. It’s almost funny when you think about it. Humanity had spent so many centuries reaching for immortality but when it fell right into our laps, we recoiled. Of all the horrible things that were happening, it was the end of death that broke people. It turns out that while death was feared and detested, it was also familiar. It was the one constant of human life. No matter what path you took or what choices you made, that was one thing that was always dependable, always certain. Everybody dies. Without that, we were without an anchor. Humanity had been set adrift and as we looked into this endless sea of devastation, we gained a new appreciation for death. An appreciation for endings. After all, what do you do with an endless life on a dying world?
But amid the despair and confusion, I saw opportunity. I have been called cold and calculating for it, but that is how my mind works. In the worst of times I have always been able to see how to come out on top. How to find my way to a win through the chaos. People saw horrors and cataclysm in those times, I saw a potential shift in the balance of power. I realised that the order of the world was in flux and just waiting for someone to mould it into something new.
You see, western power had largely rested on two pillars; military and economic strength. While it wasn’t evident to most people at the start of the cataclysm, both their values were about to greatly depreciate. What could you accomplish with an army that couldn’t kill anyone? What power did guns and bombs have in a world without death? While the function of the military was not always to kill, the threat of death was the primary tool it used to accomplish it’s goals. Now, not only could people not die, they could not truly be hurt by anything but the effects of the cataclysm. In a world where anyone could take a bullet and shake it off, what power could a military hold?
Traditional measures of wealth did not fare much better. Without death, the needs of society had been radically altered. The goal posts had been shifted. Hunger was no longer a concern. In the face of the cataclysm, the purchase of most products was the last thing on anyone’s mind. Nor was maintaining a job to survive. Living was starting to take on a new meaning. Or rather, without the confines of a limited life and the constant risks of survival, people were starting to live less carefully. Less bound by the systems of finance and society or even the law. The foundations that had held up the positions of powerful people and countries were starting to collapse. It was a new world.
The only thing to keep society from turning on itself was the cataclysm. It couldn’t kill you but it could hurt. It could make your life a living hell and it did. Fire rained down from the sky. The ground swallowed people whole and they stayed there, buried alive without the prospect of eventual death. The oceans reached far into countries and dragged people into them. No matter what measures you took, it adapted. There was no way to entirely avoid it. It was this one obstacle that the entire planet faced together regardless of their differences. And thus, the greatest form of power would inevitably rest in the hands that could return things to normal. Anyone who could convince the world that they could end the cataclysm would stand above all others. And I had a plan to make sure that everyone knew, beyond a reasonable doubt, that I was that person.
As Monica lies in her bed crying, there is a man seated beside her. He does not walk in or come from anywhere seen, he just appears and is. We do not know much of what is spoken between them. In fact, we will not know much of what transpires at this moment until much much later. What we do know for certain is the first few words spoken between these two. She asks this strange man, what he is doing in her house. To this, he simply replies “I have not come into your house Monica. It is you who have come into my dreams.”
– Excerpt from the chapter “The Power of Tears” from “The Last History”
Should things ever return to normal, I think our time will present an unsettling lesson to future students of history. I wonder what they will even make of us? Of the choices we made? You need only look at my rise to power to see how strange we are. I am likely the only person to have ever won the hearts of people by promising to kill their children and actually doing it. It sounds strange to say it like that but in the end, that is what it was. That is just how things were. Are. It is an attitude I suspect that mortals would struggle to understand.
In any case — it was late in 2018 when my name started to gain recognition. All around the world, there were so many people suffering. Bodies that had taken more damage than they could possibly heal from, but could not find solace in death. Perpetual agony promising to last until the end of time. So much pain. So many people. So many children. These sufferers were often called, The Lost. Many of their minds unravelled under the strain. Too much pain to be endured in one lifetime.
When I first promised to free the youngest of The Lost from the burden of living on, people were sceptical. How could this unknown woman bring death back into the world? How could someone be so heartless as to even joke about such a possibility? If they could, I think some people would have killed me. They only heard me out because my message wasn’t vague, it did not sound like politics. I had given an exact date for when it would happen and so they waited. Everybody had all the time in the world after all. When babies and toddlers among The Lost started to die, just as I had said they would, you could almost feel the mood of the planet shift. People started to listen. Some went so far as to worship me. In one of the cruel ways that life after the cataclysm had changed us, people found hope in the deaths of children.
Though they tried, no one could even guess how I had done it. And it was on the pivot of that secret that I rose to my current rank. When it was clear that I would never reveal my method, many of those who still held some measure of power eventually flocked around me. Some to try and learn what they could, some in actual reverence, but most because they could tell which way the wind was blowing. My star was rising and anyone with a brain knew there was no fighting it. When I suggested a coalition of 6 countries combine to form the East African Republic, a new base for the world’s power, I met no resistance. I was the only person who had shown that it was possible for death to return. For the cataclysm to be beaten. I was the only path to how things had been. Back when people could die, the miracle was resurrection. In the land of immortals, the saviour was the one who could kill.
Little did they know that my method was a simple one. When the cataclysm hit, it did not take me long to formulate a theory. As I saw it, while the horrors we experienced were terrible, they were also largely random. Natural and supernatural calamities that seemed to have no rhyme or reason to them. The only thing that stood out was the lack of death. The forced immortality. Something about it seemed not to fit in with everything else. It’s ill effects on the human psyche seemed unintended as opposed to the undeniable malevolence inherent in the rest of the ruination. In my mind, that discrepancy was the key to everything.
You see, our problem was that we knew too little about death. We knew it happened, we knew what led up to it, but that was it. The information we needed to finish this puzzle clearly lay on the other side of death. That was my great stroke of genius. The realisation that if we wanted to know more then we only had one choice. We had to ask those in the know. We had to ask the dead.
This man that Monica is talking to is not actually a man. He is a being of unknown origin or title. But in many eras he has simply been called, The Enemy.
– Excerpt from the chapter “The Power of Tears” from “The Last History”
I find myself staring outside today. It’s strange to see so much green again. The grass is returning and the plants are sprouting to life — I really have missed them. They would fill me with joy were their roots not so firmly planted in my guilt. Outside of East Africa, the desolation remains. We are an oasis in an ashy grey wasteland. For the rest of the world, the terror rages on.
I know many of you believe that East Africa’s freedom from the cataclysm is just the start. That it is a ripple bound to spread across the earth and save you all. That’s what I told you it was after all. Unfortunately, like most politicians, I am a liar. I lied and I hope that you can forgive me for it. Whatever else you think of me, I want you to understand that I did not do this with any malice in my heart. I truly believed a version of what I said when I said it. But that’s the thing with great liars. Above all else, we know best how to lie to ourselves. We know what lies to stand behind to obscure our view of inconvenient truths. The truth is, we are no closer to normalcy than when the cataclysm started. More than that, I do not possess any magic as I have led many of you to believe. Everything I have accomplished, everything I have done, has been brought about simply because I have talked to the dead. And that required no magic on my part.
I think the reason nobody spoke to the dead before me is because they never even considered it a possibility. Too many attitudes from before the cataclysm carried on. Too much thinking based on a world that no longer existed. For centuries, all over the African continent, witchdoctors had claimed that they could speak to their ancestors. That they could speak to the dead. While these claims had been easy to dismiss before, things had changed. We lived in a world where nobody died and the sun could just vanish from the skies in the middle of the day. One had to change their perspective in the light of these new facts. The supernatural could no longer be denied and so I embraced it. Quietly and carefully, I researched and found the most credible of these witchdoctors to carry my questions to the land of the dead.
You’d think there’d be more to it than that, but no. Sometimes the correct solutions are the simplest ones. If you want to contact the dead, you go to a medium. It’s almost obvious when you think about it. Even separating the real ones from the charlatans was an easier task than you’d imagine. The real witchdoctors all had one thing in common — they were getting run out of the business. They had been the ones to admit that after the cataclysm, the dead rarely, if ever, spoke to them. For some reason, the dead were reducing the rate at which they answered summons. And if being a medium between the living and the dead was how you made your money, admitting that you could barely do it anymore was just bad for business. But it was also the kind of thing you didn’t say unless it was true.
As for the dead, they had been silent because they were guarding a secret. And of the few they talked to, nobody had asked the right questions. They all spoke of things the kind of people who want to talk to the dead speak of. Had they directly asked, they would have realised that the dead had a lot to say about the cataclysm. And, like I said, big secrets are the hardest to keep. Once you got them talking about it, they could hardly stop. They knew everything. How could they not? They were the ones who had caused it. Every step of it had been carefully engineered by them. Every single horror a product of their creation. Why? Because for some reason, the dead believed that the living had declared a war on them. The cataclysm was their response.
There is not much reliable evidence of The Enemy’s work but rumours of his machinations lie in the shadows of history. It is believed he spoke to Gavrilo Princip before he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, sparking off the First World War. That it was his words in the ears of Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Caligula, Genghis Khan, Vlad Dracula and many others that would eventually nudge them down their bloody paths. The Enemy’s interference has been blamed for the scramble for Africa, for genocides and massacres and the bloodiest wars. Some believers in the Judeo-Christian history have even claimed that The Enemy spoke to Lucifer just before his rebellion against the Almighty.
– Excerpt from the chapter “The Enemy” from “The Last History”
To understand how the dead created the cataclysm, you need to understand the origin and nature of life and death. The dead have told me that this is called the First History.
“In the beginning, there were many gods. Some of their names are still known to us, many are lost, but all of them played a part in the creation of the universe. Together, over a time so long that the human mind cannot conceive it, they created. They rend light from darkness and forged the stars and the void. Everything you have ever seen, everything you will ever see and things that no one but the gods will ever encounter, owe their existence to this time.
They created for the sake of creation. For the beauty, for the elegance. They approached the creation of the universe as a man would the creation of a grand painting; it was their art. The fires of genesis flourished in all corners of the universe filling it with wonder. But, amid all of this, a few gods secretly did something that was not in the plan. They made something that was not like the rest of creation. Something that did not align with the principles of beauty, something inelegant — an experiment of sorts.
This experiment held no true purpose beyond their own curiosity. These gods wanted something with an unpredictable path, something they could not determine in advance. A wild thing they could place in the rest of creation and wait to see what would happen. They wanted something that gods so rarely get to experience. They wanted to be surprised. This experiment was called… humanity.
Humanity, unlike the rest of creation, was imbued with a trait of the gods. They were given free will. They could act as they pleased unbound by the shackles of predetermination. Whatever they did could remain unknown even to themselves until the moment they did it. Free will uncoupled from the infinite knowledge of the gods, it was a bold experiment. When it was done, it was hidden away from the eyes of the other gods in a small corner of the universe, on the planet Earth, and left to grow.
However, as the universe was coming to completion, the rebel gods realised they were faced with a problem. When the work was finished, all the gods needed to sleep before they could carry on. They had expended incredible amounts of energy and they would need to recover. But time passed differently for the gods. By the time they awoke, the humans would have been left unattended for hundreds of thousands of years. That could not be allowed to happen. It was obvious that someone would need to guide their experiment in that time. And thus, as a final act, they created the land of the dead.
The dead humans would serve a simple function in the afterlife. Having lived out their lives, they would be granted greater knowledge, greater sight and then charged with shepherding the fate of the living. They would be the caretakers of Earth and humanity in the absence of the gods. Who better than humans who had once been alive to discuss and determine the direction of those still living? Who knew better than anyone the needs of living humans? The dead could be trusted to maintain the interests of their descendants. And so it was decided. The conditions of the living would be determined by the democracy of the dead. And so, as the gods went to sleep, those in the know rested certain that this system would surely keep everything in order until their return.”
Every time I recite The First History, the last line jumps out at me. The idea that this system would maintain order and be good for everyone. These gods — for beings that claim infinite knowledge, they were so very, very stupid.
The Enemy tells Monica about the democracy of the dead. How the dead are responsible for every terrible thing that has ever happened in her life. How petty they are, bickering and agreeing on nothing; too lazy to pay attention to the lives of the living and make wise decisions. He tells her how many of them are so far removed from life that they do not care about the consequences of their actions. How for millennia, the world has suffered because of their apathy, their carelessness. He tells her that she need not cry about this. That she is not helpless. That if she wills it, he can show her how to make them pay for their crimes.
– Excerpt from the chapter “The Power of Tears” from “The Last History”
And here we are at last. Now you know what has been happening.
The dead believe that we are at war with them. They will not tell me why they believe this. Apparently, they think that this knowledge in itself will give something away. Reveal a secret that humanity could use against them. This is also why they will not let us die. They are paranoid. So certain that there are spies among us, people who want to sneak their way into the afterlife and carry on this war. It is also why they attack us. To make sure we know our place. That we know we are on the low end of a lopsided distribution of power.
In the face of this, perhaps you can see how the things I have accomplished are not all that wondrous. I convinced them to let the suffering children through because they could not be spies. I told them that if they freed East Africa from the cataclysm, I could leverage that into gaining influence. And with that influence, I could find the person or people who started this war. I could give them justice. That is all. Basic diplomacy. Cutting deals. But in the end, no real solutions.
Allow me to apologise again. Now that you know my secrets, the things I have kept hidden, I understand if you wish ill on me. I probably deserve it. I intended to find a fix to everything, I really did. But, what are intentions in the face of what you go through every day? What good have my intentions brought you thus far besides false hope? I have failed you. No, I have betrayed you. But, before you decide what you want to do with me — I have one more secret to share. I have told you all that has happened, but I promised to also tell you what is about to happen. Maybe the rest of my actions can serve to absolve me of some of my guilt. That is for you to decide. Here is the last piece of information. I do not know how to end the cataclysm — but I may know how to win the war.
While the dead can be harmed by nothing in the afterlife, dangers from the living world can still affect them. It was an oversight on the part of the gods. It did not occur to them that the worlds would ever meet or that the living would ever have reason to attack the dead. A fact that the Enemy and Monica exploit to great effect.
– Excerpt from the chapter “Monica’s Choice” from “The Last History”
What is the most important thing in all of humanity? What do we value above all else? I’m sure there are a lot of possible answers but if I had to stake something on it, I would say it was survival. Survival has stood above all things in the human hierarchy. For as long as we have existed, everything else we deem important has been set aside, time and time again, in the name of survival. Across societies, continents and eras. Our personal survival, the survival of our children, of our communities — this is humanity’s oldest and most cherished goal.
So what happens when survival is no longer a concern? When it is guaranteed? What happens when the thing a species has chased from its very inception is finally achieved? What do you do now? Perhaps this is why humanity buckled at the absence of death. It left us without a unified purpose, without a goal. Our lives and our societies were all in one way or another geared towards ensuring survival. It was the fuel that drove so much of what we did. Without that need, so many of our habits and instincts were empty. Hollow. Wanting something has always held more purpose than having what you once wanted.
This is what I want to do. I want to give humanity a new purpose, a new direction. Right now, we are under the heel of the dead. They control the quality of our lives. They punish us because they have power. But here’s the thing, so do we. We are no longer what we once were. Though they did not think of it as they did it, but by taking away death, they transformed us. Elevated us. We are something that they are not. We are survivors. True survivors. It is a gift the dead gave us and they cannot take it away now, not without great risk to themselves. They will not let us into their realm after all they have done to us. This is who we are and who we will continue to be.
Now, tell me this; why should we submit to the dead’s power? Why have we ever submitted to any power before? If you think about it, there has only ever been one reason. To survive. We did it to survive. A need we no longer have. No matter what happens now, we will endure. Therefore, if we have a purpose in this new order, it is to stand tall. It is to grasp further for greatness now that our reach has no limit. It is to bow to no one. If the dead wish to stand in the way of that, then we should take the fight to them. We are survivors now and the dead, by very definition, are not.
The natural question to ask I suppose, would be, how? How do we fight? I have received new information that tells me there is a way. Throughout history, there are places that have gained certain reputations. They have been named as, or believed to be, passages to the afterlife. Fengdu ghost city in China, Mount Hekla in Iceland, Murgo, The Gateway of Death, in India and The Door to Hell in Turkmenistan number among many others. While the vast majority of the stories that surround these places are fabricated and embellished, they all spring from a grain of truth. Some undeniable, intangible quality that gives birth to their reputations and names. Something people cannot help but sense no matter how hidden. You see, the world of the living and that of the dead are connected. Gateways intended for souls to pass through. Seams between worlds where, with some knowledge, passage between the worlds is possible.
I have confirmed that the dead have taken measures to keep these places unreachable. While they have tried to be discreet, the desolation is always worse near one of these seams. Always raging to discourage any visitors. Unfortunately for the dead, they had to leave one unguarded. When they freed East Africa of the cataclysm, they also left one seam within reach. Perhaps they thought it a worthy risk. That it would draw too much attention if they freed everything else and left it alone. I do not know. Either way, through this, we can reach into their world through it. We can make our stand in the Kenyan National Park we once called — Hell’s Gate.
And there was a war like nothing this universe had ever seen before..
– Excerpt from the the chapter “The Last History of Humanity” from “The Last History”
Tell me, what do you know about napalm? It is an interesting substance. In truth, it is nothing much to look at. Of all the harmless and innocent things to resemble, it looks like jelly. But do not let that deceive you. It is one of the most dangerous things we have ever created. A moderately sized napalm bomb can carpet every combustible thing for more than 20,000 feet squared in fire. And not just any fire; the flames have been known to burn as hot as 1200 degrees Celsius and rage for as long as 10 minutes. And should you avoid the fire, napalm is not so merciful as to let you get away so easily. Carbon monoxide will paralyse and kill you even faster than the flames would. It is a truly wicked invention.
Why am I telling you about napalm? Because I finally understand the dead. I understand why they are so afraid of us. Why the cataclysm was designed the way it was. You see, The funny thing about the afterlife is that it was an afterthought. The First History makes it very clear that it was not a part of the plan. It was quick patch, a last minute fix. And you must remember that everything about humanity was a secret. It was never meant to be discovered. So if you had the afterlife, a place whose population could only grow over time with zero reduction, a place that could only expand and you had to keep it hidden, how would you do it? How could you keep something so massive hidden? The answer the gods settled on was exceedingly simple. Don’t make it massive.
The afterlife was not part of the experiment — not really. It did not need to obey the same rules which is to say, it did not need to be on the same scale. It could be smaller. Tiny even. Once dead, every human that had ever lived could occupy a space that to a living human would seem no larger than a moderately sized city; nothing more. Perhaps it would help to think of the living world as a great ocean around an island. There are small rivers and streams sourcing from the ocean and all draining into a lake at the centre of the island. The streams are the gates between worlds and this lake is the afterlife. It holds the power to reduce the water. To make sure it all fits into that tiny space. But it only does this for water, for human souls. If someone were to send in something else…
Do you see it now? Why the cataclysm was meant to seem overpowering. To be overwhelming. To appear … larger than life. It was all designed to make sure that even if we discovered who our enemy was, we would be distracted. We were never to realise that we were the giants. That we were the greater. That the power to hurt them was always within our hands. And so, napalm. That is the key. The democracy of the dead cannot vote new horrors upon us if they are always burning. Always paralysed. If they have no chance to speak, no chance to even think, then they can do no more. We will give the dead exactly what they deserve. We will give them fire. We will give them hell.
Let it be known that this is not a decision I take lightly. I know that people you know lay beyond the veil. The older among you likely have parents and grandparents there. Friends and colleagues. Relatives of all kinds. People you once cared about. But this is war. Those very people stood by and did nothing as you were punished for crimes you knew nothing about. They chose their side. They do not deserve your pity. Let them learn what they made us endure.
Still, there are the children. The children who died. The children I organised to send to the other side. Those we wished to spare more suffering. Unfortunately, tragic as it is, we cannot bring them back — and I do not intend to stop this plan. This is why I did not ask you all for permission. Why I did not bring the decision to you. By the time you read this, it will have already begun. It was not a vote, it was me. The blame lies entirely in my hands. Everything wrong with this, I place upon myself. You are not responsible. You could not have known. And, once I start to drop the napalm, you know you cannot stop. The denizens of the hell I plan to create will show no mercy to those they blame for lighting the flame, even if you free them. They will never let you have peace now that you have read this and you have an idea how to hurt them. The wheel has been set in motion and you must go where it leads. I am sorry.
Perhaps this was always the path for me. I have lied and cheated, schemed and deceived. I have kept secrets from the living as I consorted with the dead. That it is in my hands to create hell is no surprise. It is becoming exceedingly clear that I was always meant to play the devil. But then again, maybe the devil was always necessary to maintain the balance; the order of things.
Mind you, I did not accomplish this by myself. I have had allies. Allies who came to me at my lowest moment. Visionaries who showed me how to access the afterlife, the danger the dead would always pose and the way in which this war could be won. They say they have spent years discovering what to do. They are like me. Curious and perceptive people who saw things differently early on. No, they are smarter than me. While I was foolishly clinging to power and negotiating, they spent years planning a resistance. Putting together the resources necessary. It is only because of the two of them that this resistance is possible at all. They are heroes. I would tell you to celebrate them, but they do not like to use their names. The woman likes to be called M and the man uses no name. He says I can call him whatever I like. Very paranoid. They are a strange pair, especially the man. There is something — other about him. No matter. Because of them, our time is now. The three of us will show the dead our true mettle. The living will finally get to stand tall.
As Monica was used, so is Amina. Their low moments are directed into atrocities beyond naming. As they fall into the Enemy’s web, they do not know what they are doing. They do not know that far away, the gods are about to wake up. That they will rise and look upon their creation. That Amina has sparked a fire across planes that even the most inattentive of gods cannot miss. Gods who do not think humans should exist and thus, must be destroyed, will see it. Gods who will want to protect their precious experiment will see it. And as the gods feel this seed of conflict rise within their ranks, the Enemy will finally smile. For the Last History of Humanity is the beginning of the very last history of all.
– Excerpt from the chapter “The Last History of Humanity” from “The Last History”
Kevin Rigathi is a system analyst (that’s what they actually pay him to do), a writer (that’s what he hopes a mysterious they will pay him to do) and a freelance artist (that’s what even more mysterious theys occasionally pay him to do). Basically, he is a guy who sits in front a computer and creates things.
He has written for Storymoja, Brainstorm and is the co-creator of Will This Be A problem.