What would life be like if technology could guarantee us an afterlife?
Will Nature ever allow humankind to outgrow Her or will we always be a part of her over which she has ultimate control?
The Hereafter looms at the centre of everything, a mysterious artificial afterlife constructed one hundred years ago. It has quieted many of the questions that humankind have asked themselves through the ages, healed the divisions of religion around the world, and global society is showing signs of utopia.
A sudden epidemic of natural disasters is claiming hundreds of human lives at a time and gives some people cause to ask heretical questions that others refuse to hear.
An unlikely group of characters from conflicting ideologies find themselves on the same path to restoring the natural balance in the middle of growing apocalyptic devastation: Malaya, a strange street girl with mysterious friends; Krysta who has an empathetic link with Nature; Malachi, an Agent of The Hereafter lured from his training by Krysta's convictions; Agent John, a militant Agent of the Hereafter who believes in little more than doing his job; Terry, a detective sick to the soul of feeling like a pawn in other people's games and Kaylamarr Cromwell, a man hell bent on restoring the threat of divine retribution to people’s lives.
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The party was a symphony of screams, conducted by two swords of fire being wielded above everyone’s heads, while the damned did battle with the divine.
Zacharia Mulone has become to death what Walt Disney is to Florida and built a theme park to which we are all invited. The price of admission has been set at 5% of the estate that you leave behind.
“Life is a precious thing,” said Al Jones, “it must be protected and not be seen to lose importance in the face of a guaranteed future beyond.”
She smiled at that; she had so much to look forward to for the first time in her life. Then she died.
While he talked, five guns lay quietly in everyone’s hands, as passive as the trees around them, but with every word the dormant horror of their true potential stirred.
Agent John: “In a second, I’ll have what’s left of him in the palm of my hand, with no responsibility but to destroy him. You may have information that could make me think again.”
Agent John: “Hmmmm,” was Agent John’s response. A sound that was alien on his lips; it was a sound of thinking, but he was not a thinker.
Father Bishop: It wasn't that the changes were bad; the effect on life was good. There was a lot less misery in the world than ever before, but it was a little like cheating. To a cheat, the game is less important than the end result, and that was exactly how everyone was thinking.
Father Bishop: He tried not to resent the blissful ignorance in the world around him. Life was generally good; society had at last found what it was looking for and was at peace with itself and the universe. It was a smug world that he lived in, with no stones left unturned, no questions without answers and no doubt in people’s minds.
Father Bishop: Blind faith they called it, but he sometimes wondered reluctantly if it was just a case of the lights being out. In his life there was doubt, a feeling in which he wasn’t alone within the church, and that was bad for business.
When The Hereafter was first opened there was uproar within the church and its community, and for a while it was stronger than ever, but slowly, one by one, the flock became whores to certainty and wandered off the beaten track and onto a clearer path. At first the shepherds did not mourn those that they lost, but it wasn’t long before funds began to dwindle, and an empire began to crumble.
So it was that the quality of life got better and the promise of death more promising. God’s creations had succeeded where their Creator had failed. It was all His creation in the end though, and that was the thread of logic that Father Bishop held onto to keep his faith from unravelling. The streets of Heaven must be looking a little empty these days though.
Agent Malachi Matthews: Very rarely was he aware of being taught the ethics and philosophies attached to the work that he was to do, but often he was asked to tell his teachers what he thought and felt. These were not things that could be taught by anything other than life itself, and his life, it seemed, had given him a good instinctive moral code.
Krysta: “Agent Matthews, not all of us reside in this neat little ideology of right and wrong. It’s bigger than that. It’s bigger than all of us. Things are on the verge of really messing up, and we’re all on that brink, the living and the dead that you’ve got stored in that monstrosity of a hereafter.
They believed that those who are loaded into The Hereafter were remaining imprisoned in the physical world, instead of passing on into the next, and this was upsetting the natural balance of the physical and non-physical in the universe.
It was a common enough struggle, seen regularly throughout human history – a small group versus the establishment. Except this time it was different; they weren’t at war with the corruption of a church or a governing body. Neither were they at war with an insatiable hunger for power and money. Such wars were fought with hope and obvious righteousness on the side of the revolutionaries. This war was against certainty. They were fighting to put doubt back into people’s minds, to put a 'dot dot dot' back at the end of people’s lives. They were fighting to take away the first and only thing that everyone had a chance to have; to shut down the party that everyone was invited to.
Life was good on Earth, and doubt was dead. The soulless giant of The Hereafter sat on its throne of certainty and ruled its kingdom, but that kingdom was Nature’s own, and she would not be usurped so easily.
Krysta: She would not be sleeping at home tonight, or for the foreseeable future. She now had an enemy that she needed alive and operational but who wanted her dead. Life could be a real bitch sometimes.
Her mind flexed luxuriously here, in Nature’s peace. In the grand scheme of Nature's peaks and troughs though, this was as good as a big city being hit by a tidal wave – one piece of the jigsaw puzzle of Nature’s re-balancing.
A man’s fear stung her mind from the large workshop attached to the house. It was not the actual death that truly scared the victim, but what lay on the other side: the realm of death here was roamed by Kaylamarr, but there was a shadow over him too, a shadow that would not be seen by her that kept their secrets safe.
Kaylamarr Cromwell: He thought he knew who this man was now – a story that he’d thought was just a story, present in literature and songs over recent years
Kaylamarr Cromwell: The problem with this new fangled heaven thing was the lack of justice. Now the world was much less a cesspool of self-interest and cruelty, but that wasn’t to say it didn’t go on. Human-kind had taken over from the divine entities, such as God and the Devil, and though the St. Peter Squad had their heads screwed on right, they were not omnipresent and never would be.
Crowmon had been his right hand man since near the beginning. He’d been two different men in the time he’d known him: one man on the night of their meeting, and another man ever since.
Crowmon: “To hunt nightmares you must exist where the nightmares do, hide in the shadows of human awareness. Fight fire with fire,” Crowmon said.
Crowmon's words had inflamed something deep within Kaylamarr. They had seduced his rationale, raped his moral fibre and impregnated his ambition.
He looked at Crowmon, waiting now in the flickering light for his next instructions. He was like a loyal manservant in all ways except one – Kaylamarr was scared of him. He had the gift of being able to put the fear of God into people, and in a Godless world that was a special gift.