The fire was burning low. Overhead the stars were a mighty river. Shrieks and howls threatened from the darkness beyond. The clan huddled nearer the flames seeking primitive protection. Talismans hung around their necks. Glittering things. Useless things.
The hunt had not gone well today. Nothing to cook on the fire. Nothing to feed their shrinking bellies. It had not always been like this. The clan had once prospered. Then, the clan had not feared the night. They had welcomed it. Reveled in their strength. Their dominion.
The clan couldn’t understand what had happened. How had they fallen so very low.
One clansman sat a bit apart from the others. He fingered the talisman around his neck as he mulled the clan’s plight. Their fall. He had once been their chief, directing many of his clansfolk. Building their greatness. Their prosperity. Their dominion.
But he had lost face. The clan blamed him. They said he should have foreseen their downfall. He’d been a chief. He claimed to know things. To know the world. How to keep their dominion. He should’ve known.
And he had known. And he was to blame. He’d studied the world. Knew its deepest mysteries. Its initial conditions.
Upon this understanding of initial conditions, he claimed the right to lead. In the chaos that was life, only a chief sensitive to initial conditions could map a path of dominion with certainty. That is what he’d done.
And it had worked. Prosperity. Dominion. Certainty.
Still, the fall had come. Battle. Fire. Famine. Plague.
It troubled the once-chief and his sensitivity to initial conditions. His clansfolk said he’d misled them. Had not spoken truth. But that was the initial condition: truth. He had always told his truth. His vision. He had led them there. Here.
One of his clansfolk yelled for him to feed the fire. That was his task now. To keep the fire burning. To keep the threats of night away.
When he’d been chief there was almost no night. The cities, the streets, every corner of the land glowed with their dominion. Until it went dark. As it had to. Because the once-chief was wrong. Had always been. The initial condition he’d built the clan’s dominion on was not truth. Otherwise this darkness would not have come.
The once-chief clasped his talisman of shiny fobs, offered a prayer to his silicon gods, and darted into the darkness for fuel to stoke the fire.
A few minutes later he returned, grimy and winded, carrying a heavy load. His clansfolk made room for him. He heaved the tires from the autonomous vehicle onto the ones that had burned low in sizzling toxicity. Thick, acrid smoke belched as the new tires flared and sputtered.
His clansfolk pushed him back from the miasmic light and heat. But the once-chief leaned into the choking smoke obscuring the stars. He watched as ragged moths, strange attractors, flocked to the sickly light, until they dropped from the crippling smoke, their wings beating erratically, each dying beat influencing unseen currents of air, somehow creating ripples that could change the course of history somewhere in the universe.
But not here, the once-chief thought.
For he knew the initial condition of this world was not truth. It was greed.