From the author: What will society become at the end of the world?
To those coming upon it from the outside, the Edifice is said to loom up abruptly after the last bend in the road, like an insect buzzing into your face from nowhere. It has the forbidding air of every yellowing mental hospital with its high concrete wall, barred windows, and rotting vines. Some see a prison camp with small guard houses posted high in four corners, each with trained watch-apes. Its wide, laser-eyed gates are patrolled by our teacher-clergy, ever-vigilant in their caps and gowns, swinging their taser-bludgeons.
Yet others say the building looks like a giant castle, because of the deep water circling it like a moat and the corporate creed flags flying high above the crenellated ramparts, bearing the symbol of the Edifice— a pointed gold cross thrust into a bleeding brain.
Each night the banging, sizzling green coils of the snake aurora caused by our dim failing sun look ready to strike us. But they cannot harm us because we are within the Edifice.
I have been here so long I have forgotten how I got here and if I had a name, but it does not matter for I know I am one of the lucky interned conscripted students. I remember the first day I arrived---how they took my clothes away, burned them, and stamped my head with a blue radiating light that seared lines onto my forehead, cut and covered my hair with an electrified wimple like a nun’s and gave me a white hospital gown to wear.
Then I was told because it was Monday, I was to go to service in the chapel, which was also the school. After I was registered by having blood and fecal samples taken, I was evaluated by our Dr. Father Reverend Holy Imam, psychologist-priest of the Human Relations Dept. and CEO.
“Do you know why you are here?”
Father’s voice came from above me, as he sat on the spindly, gilt-encrusted papal throne towering over the leather sofa I was fastened to. The straps around my arms and ankles were tied securely, but not so tight as to hurt.
“Good. Don’t let that worry you-- none of us do, me included.” He made a check in a box with a stylus on his screen device.
“Do you know who you are?”
“I don't know my name, but I know I am a Remnant like the others here.”
“Yes, that’s right,” he nodded. “How do you feel about crucifixion and algebra?”
“I’m not sure—I guess it depends on the circumstances. I never was good at math, but with an incentive like that, I’m sure I can change .…”
“And how do you feel about history and insanity?
“History is insanity. Insanity is the only sanity,” I chanted. “Rules keep us sane.”
He looked at me intently, checked another box on his screen, then pointed to a bright red fractal shape on a screen.
“What do you see?”
“I see the destruction of civilization by the sun’s blood. I see chaos, and the new rules of society that have arisen from it. I see Recombinant civilization--reason freed from memory.”
He looked satisfied, then released me and ordered me to kneel and recite my prayers to His Greenness in the chapel. We pray to Green Od, who is new in the sky. His echoing jade coils in the sky call to us every night to repent on these last Earth days.
I must have passed the tests, because I was taken to my first class on hospital religion. Here we learned to how to pray to the doctor-teacher-priests (DTPs) of the Edifice, and were graded according to our piety, fervor and rote memory.
My brain was jabbed with a large gleaming Algebra inoculation, followed by a large pious one to increase my religious observance. After the pain subsided, I was able to recite the square roots of the twenty numbers the teacher asked for in rapid succession. We were caned in front of the board of directors if we did not recite the psalms and memorize the daily no-futures market prices correctly.
Our assigned books are the Bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Malleus Maleficarum, our Corporate Governance and Identity handbook, an Astrological Ephemeris from when there were years, Dow Jones Stock Index, The Complete Guide to DOS 6.22, Robert’s Rules of Order, Dictionary of Occupational Titles and Acroynyms, and some ancient Farmer’s Almanacs.
We must memorize, then kneel and recite from these while mock-crucified to an ancient ATM.
This is where the mutated after the post-Conflagration live, sleeping in segregated dormitories—men, women, the undetermined, and the diseased. Sometime in the very early morning before dawn, the teachers wake us for the ceremony of the Saint Lucia. We hear their heavy steps as they come in procession down the hallway.
Each wears a white robe and a crown of laser pointers on his head. They check to see if we are in our proper beds and clean by lifting our nightshirts and smelling us. If so, one of the Teacher-Nurse-Priests (TNPs) will reward the worthy students with coitus or cookies. The lucky ones get both.
These nightly events are recorded on film by the overhead Eyes in our dormitories. The resulting films are used as instructional videos to inform new students about the ceremony and to allow us all to learn the sexual techniques that most please the TNPs.
We are assigned seats according to our blood type, stigmata, and how well we do on the STDs--standardized tests of comprehension and dogma. If we have pleased our teacher with an orgasm the night before, we are allowed to sit up front, so we can gaze at their holiness, and learn from proximity to their business savvy. Sometimes they let us help them cane the inattentive students.
Everyone has their proper place. If we stay in our place, and follow the rules, we will be safe and happy.
I think I have forgotten the difference.
Twice a day, we file into the cafeteria. After the bitter fibrous holy wafer is blessed by the corporate-teacher-priest (CTP) and put between our teeth, we must swallow it-- if we spit it out, we are punished, and not allowed to eat. We genuflect to the nun-cooks, then pick up our trays, and head toward the steam tables, behind which stand CTP women in starched caps and black heels ready to dole out food to the good and productive. Those who have not been good, get gruel that tastes like the wafers.
The Water Closet
We must raise our hands to get a pass from the CTP to go to the water closet. It has a lovely pictogram of Christ using a urinal. A picture of a bleeding saint hangs over the toilet.
There are small knives placed on the shelves next to the sink for those who want to cut themselves, so it can be done easily, precisely and then the dark rivuleting mess can be washed away with cold tap water run in the sink. Evidence of stigmata is rewarded with extra scones at tea time or colon cleanses.
The Correction Chamber
Those who don’t follow the rules, get straitjacketed and put in isolation rooms, expelled or excommunicated. The unruliest have a small piece of their brain removed by the DTPs to help them obey. Every other day, some are dunk-drowned like witches in the deep moat around the Edifice.
My gown has become my skin. We are bled with leeches regularly. They slurp at my flesh as I lay in my bed-desk in class, or kneel in the corporate McDonalds-Starbucks church, looking up at Our Green Lady of the Two Tails, who holds a Hamburger in each one.
I hear the bell for first period Electroshock--I must punch my timecard and go. I must not be late. Lateness is a venial sin, punishable by fecal immersion.
The Exit Door
We’ve been taught that the only way out is to become fired, expelled, or excommunicated. Or to become so diseased you are contagious, and then banished for the protection of all.
But I have heard rumors that there is an exit door. There must be, because I know that some of us Remnants are no longer here. It is said to be a bolted wooden door that was built long before the Conflagration, at the end of a secret underground passage that leads to the sea. There is a gold key hanging from a pointed cross thrust into it.
Some say the exit door only exists in our minds, and that we Remnants can only see it by closing our eyes and believing. Believe in what is not Religion or Science or Economics.
Yet how would I live on the outside? Only the Edifice can keep us safe.
I try to visualize the deadly sun rays outside, and close my eyes….
This story originally appeared in My Favorite Apocalypse and The Book of Blasphemous Words.