Truer Than Lies

Letters arranged into words arranged into sentences.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 21st CENTURY (A.K.A. “Prologue to a Non-Existent Sci-Fi Novel”) by Marx McNeill

It is from oblivion that we are born, and to oblivion we all return. In between, we struggle. How we deal with this struggle is what defines us as people. How we deal with these struggles as a society is what defines our world. More importantly, it’s what defines our timelines. A progressive society of liberal futurists will likely seek to utilize change and innovation as a means to escape the struggle, creating a rapidly accelerating timeline where one is constantly awakening to a new world. A traditionalist society of religious conservatives, however, will by definition seek a form of societal stasis, utilizing faith and tradition to shield themselves from an outside, evolving world which they are convinced will only bring about more struggle, thus creating a timeline that progresses so slowly that change is only really noticeable on a timespan longer than human lives. A society composed of both elements can only last so long as a functional whole. Eventually, and inevitably, the timelines of both elements of such a society will diverge. It happens slowly at first, but only at first, and as the divergence itself accelerates, both elements of society, progressive and traditionalist, will experience nothing but increased struggle until finally that society either violently implodes, or becomes two completely separate and unhindered societies, free to follow their own timelines. Free to deal with their own struggle, exactly how they want to. Free to find their own path to the oblivion we all return to.

That’s why the dream of globalization died. That’s also why its death was so gruesome and ugly, like an obese car crash victim who survives the impact due to the cushioning effects of his layers of blubber, only to have large portions of the same life-saving adipose tissue fuse to the cheap polyester upholstery in the heat of the resulting gasoline fire, then valiantly trying to avoid the fate of burning alive by summoning all of his might and ripping his body free of the flaming wreckage, tragically leaving behind roughly forty percent of his necessary tissues in the bonfire that was once his seat, while the rest of him hobbles far enough away to expire in a pile of gore on a filthy sidewalk surrounding by gawkers and trash.

As most things did in the middle of the 21st century, the death of globalization centered on the United States of America. Middle America had dug in their heels, and while dreaming of an idyllic 20th century capitalist paradise that never actually existed, the traditionalist culture of the so-called “red states” had veritably brought their entire country’s timeline to a halt in all the ways that really mattered. Eventually, the progressive futurists on the west coast and in the northeast grew tired of being frustrated, and did the only thing they could: they seceded from the U.S. The remaining states all claimed that the secession would never be successful, that the coastal states would never be able to support themselves, eventually threatening war if the seceding states would ever dare go through with it. But the numbers were on the side of the futurists, and numbers determine everything. A significant majority of the U.S. populace resided in the liberal cities that were the driving force of the secession. The sources of business and commerce that generated the vast majority of the gross national income of the U.S. were almost entirely rooted and encapsulated in those liberal cities, as well. Even the food that most Americans ate primarily came from the vertical hydroponic garden systems and laboratories of the coastal cities, more and more ever since the “heartland” started being ravaged by the man-made climate change that their conservative representatives continued to insist wasn’t real. Plus, the seceding states had already laid the groundwork for an automated world, and had labs in every one of their cities working on enormous scientific and technological breakthroughs that were no longer going to be held back by superstition and ignorance. It was time to trim the fat. And they didn’t come any fatter than Middle America in those days.

The fat got mad. So, the fat declared war on the seceding states, which made sense, seeing as how the inhabitants of the remaining states always did have a rather unhealthy obsession with the second amendment over all others. In fact, it made so much sense, that the seceding states had completely prepared for it. Just three minutes after the United States had declared war on those whom they had begun referring to as “socialist heathens” (which was technically a quite accurate usage of both terms), massive electromagnetic pulses devastatingly emanated from hidden devices in most of the U.S.’s remaining military facilities, completely debilitating the majority of their significant weaponry. The war was almost entirely over in that one instant. It would have went down in the history books as “The Three-Minute War” if only the seceding futurists had managed to completely disarm the United States of all its military might with their EMP’s, but they had not. However, they hadn’t expected to. The electromagnetic pulse generators were merely phase one.

Phase two was as much a brutally ironic satire as it was a brilliant synthesis of military tactics and space tech. In a state-of-the-art control room located in a secret underground facility beneath the southern edge of Seattle, a man with a great big smile yelled out, “This one’s for the Gipper!” as he stabbed a calloused, meaty finger into the glowing red button that brought Project: Reagan’s Wet Dream online. An instant later, in the earth’s upper atmosphere, an entire array of experimental laser-mounted satellites began targeting every remaining military threat in the heartland of America, and firing. Ronald Reagan’s absurd Star Wars program had finally become a reality, only to be used against the people who still, over half a century later, were uttering his name with reverence and waiting for the impossible capitalist Candyland that he had promised to come along and make their ignorant asses rich for no fucking reason at all.

With that, it all came to an end. The United States of America had committed hara kiri, and managed to take out the dream of globalization with it. “This one’s for the Gipper!” had been a rather fitting eulogy. The U.S. had dissolved. Its timeline had come to an end, and it had returned to the oblivion from which it came. New timelines had begun, and they could finally move forward as quickly, or as slowly, as they wanted to. The first challenge that needed to be addressed was that the states which had seceded formed two completely separate and unconnected geographic regions. Conferencing between both regions’ heads-of-state, however, quickly proved that the geographic problem was actually going to be a non-issue in moving forward from that point on. It seemed that, though the futurist cultures of both coastal regions could agree quite firmly on how quickly they wanted to move society and technology forward, they couldn’t quite agree on an overall end-goal, and they definitely couldn’t agree on the means and guidelines for reaching any of those goals, with colorful terms such as “uptight, neurotic control-freaks” and “cavalier slacker-cowboys” being tossed around like old-school lawn-darts being tossed around in a soon-to-be dead kid’s backyard. What was initially intended to be two new countries, became three new countries. After minor adjustments to previous state borders, based mainly on the locations of human habitation and naturally-occurring topographical borders, the west coast became Cascadia, the northeastern region became New Manhattan, and the remaining region in between began to call itself the Texas Confederacy.

Of course, none of this happened in a vacuum. The rest of the world sat watching in anticipation, waiting to see what would happen. Waiting to make their move. The designers of Project: Reagan’s Wet Dream had expected the entire array to be destroyed by either the Russians or the Chinese within twenty-four hours of its initial utilization, since it provided a huge tactical advantage to Cascadia and New Manhattan, and would likely only be vulnerable during the brief formative period that the two new countries were experiencing. However, it seemed that the remaining world powers were locked in an intense game of global chicken when it came to the space lasers, and neither side was going to show their hand and reveal what kind of new tech their latest arsenal was comprised of. Maybe it was the legendary patience of the Far East, or maybe it was just that special Gipper-hatred that could only be spawned by memories of the Cold War, but finally, 11 days after Project: Reagan’s Wet Dream was unveiled, Russia launched a full assault on the satellite array using their own cutting-edge technology, and wiped it out in less than an hour. Ten minutes into the assault, though, China declared war on Russia, and launched its own devastatingly well-timed assault on their newly declared enemy. Russia dealt with it, as China dealt with the retaliation, and back and forth it went for years, as wars between world powers often do, eventually deescalating into what has become known as the Asian Cold War, the pseudo-Manichaean, passive-aggressive, constant battle that the old-world behemoths use to power their military exploitation machines while the rest of the world moves on without them.

The citizens of Nippon, who a decade prior had proudly and defiantly renounced the usage of the western label “Japan”, quickly grew apprehensive as they watched the entire region of the Asian mainland directly adjacent to their little island nation erupt in war. For such a small country, however, Nippon was incredibly powerful and advanced, not to mention bold and calculating. Because of an incredibly dark period in American history, which incidentally happen to be disturbingly numerous, but in particular, one known as the Japanese internment camps, the population of Cascadia had a surprisingly large amount of citizen’s descended from Nipponese origins. The persona of the “samurai cowboy” had also become nearly as popular in Cascadian culture as it had in Nippon over recent years. Yet, even with all of this being quite well known, the Cascadian Council were still undeniably shocked when the holographic A.I.-Emperor of Nippon appeared seemingly out of thin air in the Council Hall, interrupting a Council session to offer the fledgling nation a political and technological alliance. One of the Council Members is on record giving a heartfelt “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” as a valediction to the A.I.-Emperor’s holographic form when the meeting eventually came to a close.

Nippon wasn’t the only island nation to become a tech powerhouse in the 21st century. Ireland had also become a high-tech metropolis, Nippon’s only real competition prior to the American Secession War, and since the economy of the United Kingdom had collapsed a little over a decade after the U.K. left the European Union, Ireland had expanded to incorporate the entirety of the British Isles, now known as West Ireland and East Ireland, respectively. As the political power of the E.U. had started to become centralized in the economic hub nation of Germany, and Ireland reincorporated the former U.K. while simultaneously beginning the automation of Europe, the European Union restructured itself as the United Nations of Deutsch-Ire. Any objections from the other European nations quickly fell away as the new citizens of Deutsch-Ire watched a veritably instantaneous economic and technological surge improve every aspect of their quality of life without infringing on their sovereignty or cultural expression in any noticeable way. It was a paradise, of sorts. Some would even say it was a utopia. In fact, the citizens of the U.N.D.I., finding their acronym to be perhaps the one part of their advanced society that was tragically lacking, and also not being able to come to a complete and unanimous consensus on how “Deutsch-Ire” would be properly converted into an adjective form, have actually referred to themselves as “Utopians” ever since.

It wasn’t long after the Cascadians and the Nipponese officially announced their alliance that New Manhattan and Deutsch-Ire entered into an alliance of their own, and it wasn’t long afterward that the New Manhattanites started referring to themselves as “Nu-topians”.

While Cascadia and New Manhattan thrived, the Texas Confederacy dealt with the disaster of economic ruin coupled with an infrastructure that was tragically lacking and continually crumbling at an alarming rate. The rotting husk of an old world power, now dead, seeming to twitch and shudder due to the writhing of the maggots beneath its hollow flesh. The Texas Confederacy was a land of traditionalists, and they weren’t going to move forward, no matter what. They were going to solve things the old-fashioned way, no matter what. The problem, however, was that the old-fashioned way had always been exploitation and war, and the Confederacy had nothing left to exploit but its own citizens, while their treacherous neighbors to the East and West not only had munitions that the Texans simply weren’t a match for, but also, both fledgling coastal nations had also begun work on two completely different types of automated security walls designed to fully neutralize any threat that the Texas Confederacy, or any of its citizens, may ever pose in the future.

The Texans needed a war, a big, glorious war… that they could win. Utilizing demagoguery, overt bigotry, and classic anti-Hispanic propaganda, the appointed officials of the Texas Confederacy swiftly convinced the portions of its populace that weren’t hiding away in the numerous “uncharted” rural regions to support a war with Mexico. The Confederacy began its Mexican invasion without any official declaration of war, and the Texans hit with the all the ferocity you’d expect from a horde of starving racists empowered by big fucking guns to take whatever the hell they wanted from someone with brown skin and a different language. When their Canadian neighbors to the north objected to their senseless brutality, the Texas Confederacy began attacking Canada, as well. With their capitalist war machines back up and running, and their exploitation engines turned up to the maximum on its own desperate and increasingly-ignorant citizenry, the Confederacy actually managed to take over the remainder of North America that fell outside the borders of Cascadia and New Manhattan after only several years of constant war and severe casualties. Of course, this was after Cascadia absorbed British Columbia and New Manhattan incorporated all the Canadian cities east of Toronto, but it was still a big win for the Texans. They had expanded the reaches of their impoverished, hate-fueled nightmare world to the Arctic Circle in the north and nearly to the Isthmus of Panama in the south.

It was that last part that had become particularly troubling to the citizens of the various countries of South America, many of which had developed strong, moderately socialistic economies and growing technological infrastructures over the prior decade, favoring a more moderately advancing timeline that, for some reason, had never really seemed to come up as an option in North America. As they witnessed the somewhat shocking fall of Mexico, and saw the bloodthirsty armies of the Texas Confederacy beginning to stab into Central America, the leaders of every country in South America hastily convened, and decided that the only rational option left to them was to take a page directly from their new enemy’s history books (though to be completely accurate, it should be noted that the Confederacy no longer had schools, history books, or even a mostly literate population) and rub it right in their ignorant faces; Los Estados Unidos del Sudamerica (the United States of South America) was subsequently formed in the hopes of keeping the Texan threat from ever advancing beyond the Panama Canal, and the citizens of the suffering Central American countries were promptly offered refugee status as their homelands were offered up to the chopping block of guerra. So far, the plan has worked, and the Texans have been kept at bay, despite the Confederacy’s constant refocusing of resources down to their southern border, sadly allowing its more northern territories, areas which had already degraded into barren wastelands, to descend even further into the lawlessness of vicious mob rule.

On the other side of the globe in the eastern hemisphere, the Middle East had been experiencing something that it hadn’t experienced in centuries: it was being completely left alone. No one used oil anymore. It was archaic and inefficient, and had been systematically abandoned for a mixture of superior power sources. The Asian Cold War was also being played out on a completely different stage than the original Cold War was, and the Middle East had simply become an “outdated” venue with too much baggage. The area was left to find its own path, and to select its own timelines. Unfortunately, the region stabilized slowly, restricted by the amber-like, traditionalist timelines of the religious zealots that assumed power. Small, yet impressive, rebel groups of progressive futurists overcame nearly insurmountable odds and carved out small pockets of secret scientific enclaves operating out of clandestine laboratories scattered throughout the Middle East’s major cities, stirring up a modest, but indomitable, revolution by utilizing impassioned rhetoric invoking the memory of an age in which the Middle East was the center of the scientific and academic world. Everything seemed so up in the air there. So much oppression. So much hope. So much potential. For wonders, and for tragedy.

Nobody knows whether the series of 300-megaton nuclear explosions that rocked the Middle East were the result of newly designed, astoundingly powerful hydrogen bombs or the result of catastrophic meltdowns in a secret, interconnected network of what may have almost been the world’s first cold fusion reactors, but there’s plenty of potential evidence for either. Maybe even both. It’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever know for certain, though. This stops absolutely no one from forming an opinion on the topic, however.

The situation in Africa is even more mysterious. It has literally become “the Dark Continent”. Prior to the event, regional African trade alliances had grown into stable, thriving socialist economies somewhat similar to South America. But, approximately six years ago, the whole of the African continent just… vanished. It’s a phenomenon not unlike the Bermuda Triangle, in a manner of speaking, but of a much greater magnitude and severity. The region where the continent should be found seems… enshrouded, or perhaps… distorted, maybe… by something that all too often is described as some sort of event horizon, simply due to lack of a better term. No senses or instruments of any variety seem capable of penetrating the phenomenon, and nothing that has ventured in has ever noticeably returned. It’s like there’s nothing there anymore, but there’s still space for what no longer exists.

If there was any doubt that the rest of the world had never really cared about Africa, it disappeared just like the continent had after that. Within months, the entire world, with the exception of a few admirably curious research crews, had forgotten about Africa and simply moved on with their lives. In fact, the word “Africa” is rarely even used at all anymore. Society as a whole just subconsciously moved on to calling the region (or perhaps, more accurately, the phenomenon that occupies what was once the region): the Dark Continent. There are currently no plans to do anything about anything in regards to the Dark Continent. Everyone seems alright with that somehow.

With just a few years left until the beginning of the 22nd century, that’s pretty much the state of the world. Once, globalization had seemed all but inevitable, only to eventually demonstrate itself all but impossible, time and time again. Perhaps what once was thought to be merely an issue of space had simply proceeded to demonstrate itself to be an issue of space-time, a sort of social science correlate to general relativity, and it had been our blindness to the entrenched timelines hidden in plain sight that had led to us calculating ourselves into a grandiosely naïve delusion destined to be shattered by the unyielding insistence of reality. For now, Cascadia and New Manhattan, along with Nippon and Deutsch-Ire, set the pace for a shattered and fragmented world filled with many diverging timelines moving at all speeds, even, perhaps zero… or maybe negative? The t-axis of the Dark Continent still remains a total mystery, after all. Yet one thing remains certain: Oblivion hangs in the distance for all of us, and the struggle continues. How we deal with that will always define us.

That’s it. Well, that’s enough. History lesson over. Welcome to the fucking future, princess.

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