As We Know It.

by Erin Bell.

July 1

Dear Farroway,

I was so pleased to receive your last letter. In fact, as I write I am listening to the music module you sent, and I’m absolutely enamored of it. What a gift for you to have given me. It is all at once beautiful, terrible, haunting. Especially poignant, I dare say. How appropriate. How unexpected.

As usual, it seems that you have anticipated my thoughts. I was just ruminating the other day on how long it has been since I heard music—of any kind—other than that which I hum myself in the quiet places I find, when I know I am safe. That is becoming more and more rare. The ravaging bands have grown larger, split, multiplied, grown again… It’s nearly impossible to know the patterns anymore. They could be anywhere at any given time. The occasional basement, the rare cave, provide brief protection. My most recent respite has been found in the tiny, mostly intact back room of an otherwise crumbled cliff face ruin of some ancient, vanished civilization; the lost are rather bad at climbing. But I haven’t missed the dark comedy of it: hiding from the fall of civilization in a place where civilization formerly fell.

How grateful I am that I found the Tear when I did, and subsequently your first letter. Hindsight now demonstrates that it was indeed a fortuitous happenstance for me. You have rescued me from a terrible fate, and I dare not imagine how or why, but only express my gratitude that I have been granted the chance to remain sane at least a bit longer than the vast majority of us few who are left.

Who would have thought it would come to this, dear Farroway? After all, we thought what we were doing was going to save humankind. When we figured out how to instill perfect logic, perfectly reasonable intellect in the human mind, it was to be a new beginning—a Re-renaissance, so to speak, the peak of human growth and enlightenment. Business would boom, the hindrances of superstition would fall away, and we would at last become the true masters of our destiny, no longer subject to the whims and failures of unkempt minds. And yet…

When the first concert hall closed after the orchestra failed, no one really paid it much attention. That happened all the time. We went on. But fewer and fewer people were finding value in the pursuits of music and art; most honed in on logic, productivity, problem-solving. Unlike the ancient, extinct community in whose remains I have found solace for the past few days, we began to find ways to solve the crises facing us at that time—climate change, pollution, even the persistent beast of war. We worked past our biases, our blinders.

But something must have gone wrong with the way we applied the Remedy, as we called it then. The consuming desire for logic, for the efficient mind, somehow started to shut down the desire for those seemingly unreasonable, sentimental pastimes such as dance, music, literature. People just… stopped making art. Oh, at the time it didn’t seem to be a problem but…

How were we to know?

We knew that imagination and self-expression were important, that art was a wonderful leisure that provided new pathways to make the brain work, but the minds we created could somehow not find comfort in that concept. Reason—at least the reason we instilled in the whole world of human minds—dictated that art was simply adorning, rather than ancillary, to human existence, and was therefore wasteful.

Of course, people can’t live without a certain amount of dreaming. The sleeper who never goes deeply enough to dream can go mad, become ill, even die. But somehow the mental modifications created by the Remedy caused people to dismiss that idea. Even more, because some brains and bodies were immediately unable to handle the loss, those who didn’t go mad at first dismissed those who did as rare failures of the experiment. How ominous that quite the opposite was true. The first were simply harbingers of what was to come.

As is often the historic case when humanity tries to apply a narrow solution to a broad problem, we did not have all the information. We didn’t know what the Remedy would cause. We thought it would create a skeptical, reasoned, intelligent paradise. Instead, it created empty shells of human beings who lost their taste for the more spiritual, expressive aspects of their being, and subsequently whose mental processes began to degrade at a rate we couldn’t have anticipated.

It was amazing, the short amount of time in which this all took place. Even more amazing was how quickly it brought the first outburst. After that, the museums and theaters and concert halls fell at an ever quickening pace, dominoes in a whirlwind.

As more and more of the people went mad, society fell into chaos. It was no longer a matter of war and peace, but of survival. That’s what the Remedy resulted in. We lost our ability to be human in our rush to be perfect, lost our sense of play in the crazed rush for what we thought was reasonable. Who would have known that through losing our desire for the unreal, our need for the immaterial, the elusive concept of the soul, we would lose our very ability to be human?

Now we have learned.

I fear that my letters to you will be the only real record left. All the libraries have been burned. The madness has consumed everything that might bring about its end—art, music, the appreciation of beauty—except, now, for what you have sent me through the Tear. There is such a deep seated fear of non-material growth that all art, all religion, all semblance of culture has been erased, and the human is lost with it.

And now I sit on this precipice with this last page in my hand and I wonder what will happen next. I am certain that, without intervention, this will be the end. The loss of our stories, our expressive creativity, our songs is the loss of our unique humanity.

I fear I may be the only one left. I have not seen anyone else sane for months now. I am preparing to leave this place to continue my search for others who may remain who were somehow preserved from the whole terrible accident, as you preserved me.

I only wish I knew why. Why did you intervene, and why only with me? Where are you? How and why did you first break through, and how does the Tear always seem to follow, to find me, to drop your letters that have saved me?

Why am I worth saving from the very evil that I helped create?

I hold the hope that it was so that I could perhaps, in turn, save the rest of the world. That’s another fantasy, like the storybook heroes of so many fictions that I read in the years before the Remedy. And yet now I know—fantasy is important. So, I will hold on to this one with all my heart and I will continue seeking through the world to see if I can fulfill it before I either succeed, or succumb to a different sort of madness that will come of finding myself alone in this world where I alone retain my humanity.

I have seen no lights for a long time, other than the fires. I’m not sure I can survive the trek across the desert. I fear that your finding me was just an accident, that there’s truly nothing to be done. If my fantasy fails, I will succumb like the rest, become another one of the wandering mindless.

For all I know, this may be the last time I write you. If that is the case, I will miss you, my dear, thoughtful, artistic friend.

I will take your music module with me. Perhaps it will help.

Most sincerely yours,

Nadezhda

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