First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
Pray that we may live not by our fears, but by our hopes, not by our words, but by our deeds.
~ Miskahn T. Filah
So what happened? The sun came up the next day just as grandfather had predicted. The human race continued to try to get the power back on, but with no success. The president gave the nation another pep talk. World leaders held conference calls. Native people continued to drum and chant. But flying saucers did not land. Keanu Reeves and Michael Rennie lookalikes did not appear. Not even Gork, Michael Rennie’s faithful robot. Who or what had caused the global power outage did not reveal itself.
As morning wore on, people began to emerge from their homes and their apartments and they began to talk with their neighbors. Face to face. They had no choice. The who or the what that was behind what was happening, they said, must be concerned about their “welfare,” even though their electronic gadgets didn’t work. Hospitals and emergency service units still had power and 9-1-1 still worked. Of course, corporations like Hollocore weren’t having a good day, but the Stock Market hadn’t collapsed since it was closed for the day and 90 percent of the population wasn’t missing a day of work. And the message seemed very clear. It had been flashed across Jumbotrons and electronic billboards across the world in many different languages. Do justice. Practice mercy. Walk humbly with your God. How those words were to be interpreted was still left to each individual to decide.
But as night came again, some people were feeling more desperate. Conspiracy theorists were alive and well. There were reports that armed bands of militia were forming in the southern and western United States. Unsuccessful attempts were made to firebomb State Police headquarters in Wichita and Boise. Similar incidents were occurring in other countries. In Russia, there was continuing unrest in Chechnya, and there were protests in Tibet. But without power and social media, opposition groups could do little to organize or direct their efforts. In general, no one seemed to know what to do but to wait. So most people waited. Then, at exactly midnight Eastern Standard Time on the second day of the New Year, a second very strange thing happened. The power came back on around the world. The crystal ball in Times Square lit up and so did the Eastport sardine. Cars began to start. Phones worked. Trains ran. Planes began to take off. And the Coke commercial reappeared on the Jumbotron in Times Square. But most importantly, computers, not just in emergency and military settings, across the globe began to work again.
No one knew why. Various reasons were proposed. Some said an electromagnetic storm had caused the problem. Others theorized a cyber-attack, but by whom or what? None of these explanations made very much sense then, and they still don’t. Why would the same computer in an emergency room work but not a similar computer in the office next door? Why would the fire chief’s F-150 start but the F-150 owned by a convenience store manager wouldn’t? Could it be that someone or some thing, some old intelligence in the universe, had just fired a warning shot across humanity’s bow? No, that wasn’t a popular explanation. Never, as grandfather would say, underestimate the human race’s ability to deny reality. This, coupled with our arrogance, short attention span and our ability to use violence to distract ourselves, meant that most of you reading this do not remember the global power outage of New Year’s Day 2020.
And, of course, in the next year, 2021, conflict in the Middle East occupied our limited attention. The first use of tactical nuclear weapons, which proved to be extremely effective bunker busters, occurred. The decision almost drove the president out of office. No, it wasn’t Senator Clayton. She lost the election to Bryant’s Vice President, Arthur Chaney. But this event seemed to be a turning point for the people of the world. We, as a race, seemed to take a couple of steps back from the nuclear abyss. Since that time, nuclear weapons have not been used.
President Bryant managed to finish his first term as president, but he wisely chose not to run for a second. He left the presidency and continued to blame everyone else, primarily Congress, for the continuing conflict between the different factions in the country and the lack of progress on his “populous” agenda. He returned to his position as CEO with Bryant Enterprises. His company, his family, and the president had made millions through the deregulation of industry that he had championed and the pandemic of corruption that was the hallmark of many of the members of his administration.
Senator Clayton continued her career in the Senate and never ran for the presidency again. She married her Chief of Staff, Fred Bolin, in November of 2024 and moved to Indianapolis.
Joann continued to travel. Money was not a problem for her. They saw each other a number of times, I would assume. But what the nature of the relationship was between the two of them I have no idea. Grandfather never discussed this with me or with anyone else, to my knowledge.
My mom married Rob and I came along soon afterwards. My parents were oceanographers and, as some of you may know, my dad didn’t return from one of his trips. His small research vessel was no match for one of the most severe nor’easters the coast had ever seen. After his death, I spent a great deal of time with my grandfather. He seemed to be more at peace and more hopeful in the last years of his life. He did not outlive grandmother, but he did live a longer and healthier life than he ever thought he would. And he continued to work until his death. He died peacefully in his sleep one night in the spring of 2037. He was ninety.
Grandmother is still alive. She continues to complain a lot about her health, but I think she is in amazingly good health for a woman in her late nineties.
As for some of the others, Jennings retired from the FBI and, I assume, continues to live somewhere in Europe.
Dr. Forester moved to California after losing his license to practice in Maine. No one has heard from him in many years.
Ken still works at the Greek restaurant. He has had his own apartment for years.
As for my grandfather’s practice, it continues on with Dr. Erica Bowdoin, now one of the senior partners.
As for the fire chief and police chief from Winterpool, they have both retired and have both chosen to take their retirement in Maine.
As for Father Allen and David of Bermuda, they both disappeared while on a fishing trip. Their loss was ruled an accident and they were added to the long list of others who have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.
Jeff finally got a good paying job with TransSea, but in Bermuda.
After a few years, he was able to move his family to Bermuda. He continues to work for the company.
TransSea has continued to do well financially. They have continued their robotic “mining” operations on Beta-17. Exactly what they are “mining” there is unclear. Information about what is happening is considered to be proprietary. There have not been any large electronic transmissions detected from the asteroid in recent years.
No information was available from TransSea regarding Bradford Jenkins or Philip Perkins or their assistant Edward Zan.
As for the fate of Hollocore, I’m sure that most of you will remember the failure of the company that finally resulted in the criminal prosecution of its CEO, Dick Chambers. Chambers, although sentenced to jail time, disappeared before serving a day. Hollocore failed to build a supercomputer, the Singularity has not occurred, at least to my knowledge, and the human race has not yet become immortal.
As to whether or not the human race has found its moral compass, I think that each one of us must draw our own conclusion. I believe that two events, one of which was the use of nuclear weapons in the 2020s, and the Second Great Depression, which began in the late 2030s, has moved us in a better direction.
Those of you who have lived through the last thirty years realize how difficult they have been. The political leaders of these years were ineffectual and unable to move our nation forward until the election in 2036 of a man who many believed was the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. But his policies, which were a reincarnation of Reaganomics, were unfortunately disastrous. The belief that free markets should be the organizing force for all aspects of American society from the economy to social services pushed the nation quickly into a depression as deep as the one that had occurred in the 1930s.
The political climate seems to have changed some in the last few years. It apparently required bread lines and riots in the streets. With the reversal of the Peoples United decision by the Supreme Court, the corporations that have monopolized the political process in the last twenty-five years appear to have lost some of their power. The last election was determined more by the people than by the money. Indeed, in my humble opinion, the human race appears to be getting closer to doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.
Benjamin Brazil Woodfords
September 3, 2045
. . . for such a time as this.
~ Book of Esther
The conflict between cynicism and hope is one we must face each day. Do we base our behavior on a philosophy of plenty or one of scarcity? Do we limit ourselves and our race through fear or through the belief that things in our lives must be as they have been? How can the human race dream beautiful dreams without creating, as Carl Sagan so aptly put it, “horrible nightmares”? Can we grow our science and technology without destroying the basic fabric of our society? How can we create an economy that is focused not totally on production and consumption and the creation of profit? Our answers to these questions will determine the direction of our moral compass as a civilization. There may be no benign intelligence in the universe other than our own that can save us from ourselves. Hope is our decision.
Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
About the Author
Dr. Ron Breazeale is a clinical psychologist with over thirty years experience in the field of mental health and drug and alcohol treatment. He has developed and administered numerous mental health and substance abuse programs and has written extensively in the field of psychology.
His first novel, Reaching Home, is about the things that he knows.
He was born with a birth defect in the “Atomic City,” Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his parents lived and worked. He has worn a prosthetic hook most of his life. Having grown up in the South as a child with a disability, Dr. Breazeale has focused much of his clinical practice and his writing on those with a disability and their families.
He is also the developer of Duct Tape Isn’t Enough, a training program that teaches the attitudes and skills of resilience.
Dr. Breazeale is married and has one child. He lives and works in southern Maine.