Apocalypse Then

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I've been to the Year 3000.
Not much has changed, but they live underwater...

Excerpts from a lecture given by Aquuq Manuvik, Professor of Ancient History at the Inuit University of New St Andrews.


In ancient time, so legend has it, Boosh laid waste to the World.

There is no reliable record of who, or what, Boosh was. Even the Chronicles are hazy and incomplete on this point. A minor scribe, Furious of Biggleswade, describes him as 'a wall-eyed moron who spewed perpetual vomit', but this seems physiologically improbable.

It is very likely, in fact, that the prehistoric inhabitants of the World were physically like us. In terms of intellect they were, of course, severely limited. Boosh was most probably a warlord in the last days before the Fall of the World, whose exploits were for some reason construed as instrumental to the catastrophe that ensued.

The only record of those final days are the Chronicles, known in their time as The Mail. Though we revere these writings today, we little understand them. Few experts believe that Dacre, the author of the Chronicles, was sane. Many of his assertions are proposterous. He claims that the followers of Boosh worshipped a World-Protector who had been nailed to a tree two thousand years previously. He suggests that the flesh of mankind was white.

Folk-tales recount that Boosh first froze the Earth and then burned it. The justification for these irresponsible undertakings is unclear. The Ancient Tales also claim that our Homelands were once clad in ice. We are apparently descended from a hardy people, resistant to numbing cold. But even they could not withstand Boosh's onslaught. As the Great Winter closed in, our forefathers were driven South. There they lived for many generations, in wondrous frost-bound palaces known as the Time-Shares, in the fabled Kingdom of Costa.

The original inhabitants had long-since died out. According to some, a terrible plague befell them. Others say that machines of destruction fell from the sky. Whatever the truth, nothing remains of this civilisation save their ornate gold jewellery and their teeth.

The significance of the Teeth of Costa is energetically contested, but the basic facts are irrefutable. For reasons lost in the mists of time, the Princes of Costa removed their real teeth and replaced them with artificial ones. Perhaps the most plausible explanation for this behaviour is a ritualistic pursuit of immortality through the rendering of indestructible dental facsimiles. Alternatively, it may have been a show of opulence, or even a form of penance for their hedonism.

The Costa did not provide respite for long. Our Inuit forebears were driven from this idyll, it is said, by the coming of Boosh's Summer and the Rising of the Seas. The Time-Shares vanished forever beneath the waves. The survivors sailed North, and found rocky archipelagos where ice once spanned the horizon. At first they built Shrines to the Ancient Teeth, but the Rain of a Hundred Years began, and so they threw the Teeth into the Polar Sea.

The World became lush and leathery green. It took many generations for the scalding fogs to clear, before temperatures began to fall and the lakes stopped steaming. Our ancestors came out from under the dripping canopy, and dared the naked sun. Life expectancy began to rise, reaching thirty years before the skin-cankers took hold. As the power of eyesight became commonplace beyond childhood, we rediscovered an ability to write things down. But humanity had long since forgotten the secrets of its past.

In these last few years, with the population of the Known World now close to two hundred thousand, we have begun to explore. We have resettled the Ancient Land of Scortlund, venturing as far as its southern seaboard and the awesome Ruins of Brum. We have recovered parts of the Chronicles, and through them we have begun to learn a little of a race of supermen in the sunken land known as Essex.

Essex and its Legends are a personal passion. I hope you will forgive my self-indulgence in referring to what we have learned of its Zenith and subsequent Fall.

The signs of decadence were there to see for many years before that Fall. Essex was, it seems, a deeply religious community, but the Observances were no longer so dutifully maintained by the beginning of the 21st Century.

The Men of Essex were a proud race, and had always considered themselves high-born. Their rituals were arcane and ostentatious. Although we know little about their Gods, we do know that they were diligent in their devotional offerings. These were made according to a mystical seven-day cycle. For the purpose, they used a hallowed vessel that they called the Whealeigh-Bin.

In the great days of his empire, during the legendary Magifatcha Dynasty, no self-respecting Essex Man would ever Wheal his Bin part-full. Its skyward-pointing lid was a signal to his neighbours, a sublime declaration of his prowess. Row upon row of these replete receptacles announced to the world that Essex was vigorous and blessed.

But by the Spring of 2003, so the records tell, bin-lids lay flat all over Essex. The stench of sacrificial entrails would be muted throughout the summer of that year, and of the next, and the next. Something had gone profoundly wrong with the Cult of Conspicuous Wealth. The End of Essex was coming, and the pace of its decline was to be terrible.

The documents that describe this turbulent period are the merest scraps of a Great Journal, now all but lost. Revered, of course, as the Chronicles of Dacre, this fabulous account of a long-lost time has been reassessed many times throughout the intervening centuries. Once it was dismissed as the rantings of a dissident lunatic. But today's scholars suspect that part of its purpose, perhaps even its primary purpose, was that of an information medium. We are now inclined to believe, improbable as it may seem, that this scarcely-credible collection of obtuse writings may have been produced to inform an entire community. The Daily Mail, they called it in their primitive tongue, and it seems quite possible that Essex Man lived by it.

Over those last years, the relics of Dacre's journal tell an increasingly desperate story of a civilisation's descent into anarchy. Recent research based on these writings thus challenges the conventional wisdom that Essex was destroyed by the Rising of the Seas. It is, of course, well-known that the southernmost shores of modern Scortlund roughly correspond with ancient Northampton-Shire. Beyond them, only the island-chains of the Chilterns and the Cotswolds reveal anything of the land that was once the seat of the monarchs of the fabled United Kingdom. But, according to Dacre, a full two-hundred years before the tides closed over it, the ancient empire of Essex was torn apart by unimaginable violence.

One of the chief reasons that we know so much about Essex Man is that he displayed his possessions with an assiduousness that bordered on vanity. Of all of the artefacts of ancient Essex, the most celebrated are, of course, the chariots. At first they were locally crafted, and furnished with the characteristic sun-visors, emblazoned with the cartouches of his concubines. In the later days, however, the ghoulish fashion of the Be-Yem displaced the sleek lines of the Fords of Dag'nam. These macabre jet-black leviathans appear to be associated with the funerary cult of deity known as Di.

The known fragments of the legend of Di are dark and forbidding. It is hard to believe that the brash and confident Essex of a generation earlier would have been drawn by it. The twilight of the empire seems to resonate perfectly, however, with this gruesome tale of a fallen queen who finds redemption in death.

I thank you for your patient attention to that brief insight into the society that has been the subject of my own particular research, but now I must return to our more general history.

In parallel with the revelation of these specific archeological wonders, we have realised something far more important. We have recognised our own place in the world. We are the survivors of the Inuit. Our forefathers had a long history in the Ancient World, even though it may not have been a significant one when set against the Glory That Was Essex. Our survival is most likely a coincidence of our remoteness, and of the rigours of our home environment. Whatever overtook the World did so swiftly and with terrible destructive power. It killed our southern brethren before they had time to react, but it spared us. We alone had time to respond.

But is this true? For the first time, we must recognise the shocking possibility that other societies may have survived and reformed, out there across the cooling oceans.

And these people, if they really exist, will be much like us. They may be savages, or they may be our equals. They may indeed surpass our simple civilisation.

We must hope that they will not persecute us. Whether or not they do so, we must not fight them. The Ancient Tales, unreliable though they may be, have taught us that much.

The Earth Lives On, but the Cult of Boosh is Dead Forever.

The Pinniped Portfolio


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