Author: Richard Loudermilk

My child, never worry about how you would endure a catastrophe. You will find it amazing what a person can do when there is no alternative.

Look to the graves in our backyard, and yes, you are old enough to hear this. I took no pride in providing their occupants, but neither did I feel shame. The thieves would have left us to starve.

When I first saw the Man in the Sky, I was hardly older than you. He saved a town in Oregon from a mudslide, and I was fascinated. After he went away, I could listen to your grandparents tell stories about him for hours.

Years later, he came back. When the celebrations ended, some people asked why he left in the first place. I was too excited to care.

The Man in the Sky wasn’t talking, but he stayed busy. Sitting atop Mount Rushmore. Circling the Eiffel Tower. Lifting a train car above his head, perched on one of the pyramids.

Then I saw the interview, if you can call it that. Just him and the camera, answering unspoken questions. As unnerved as I was to see him in street clothes—no costume—his words were worse.

“I will no longer save you, because it never ends.”

He said he waited until everyone he knew was dead, which explained his absence.

“Soon,” he said, “I will begin giving commands. They will be enforced, no matter the consequences.”

When we saw the first command, nobody doubted it was from him.

He wrote it on the moon.

Just the date, followed by five words.

One year: no more whaling.

I had no idea anyone still did that, so maybe we were worried for nothing. By the time a year had passed, most everyone had forgotten, including me.

He hadn’t. The Man in the Sky began sinking whaling ships, and the footage was horrifying. Like a missile, he struck each vessel just below the waterline.

Some put their families on board, thinking that would make a difference. It didn’t, and that’s when I knew we were lost. This being, with unmatched powers, no longer felt obliged to use those abilities to prevent harm to humans. On the contrary, causing harm was not a problem.

The planet was outraged, and the old name no longer fit. Now he was the Fist in the Sky. I won’t tell you what I call him.

The world’s militaries rose to stop him. They couldn’t even slow him down.
The next command?

One year: no plastics and no gasoline.

Our old lives were gone. This was a loss, and we grieved poorly. Work stopped, schools closed, businesses went dark. Riots erupted within a week, everywhere. Our economy—along with all the others—cratered. For two months I kept the practice going, but a dentist can only do so much without electricity.

One of the eastern European nations had an offer. Providing no details, they assured all that their deal would be irresistible, that the Fist would agree and cease his hostilities.

Their prime minister declared he would present the offer in person, on the roof of his luxury apartment, where awaited the former hero.

To my surprise, he showed up.

As soon as he landed, a nuclear device was triggered, obliterating the prime minister, the city, and most of its residents. Horrendous, but this demonstrated just how few options we had left.

The Fist was overhead again that afternoon.

He gave the latest command yesterday, and I expect this is the final one.

One year: no new babies.