This week, I watched with millions as the moon devoured the sun. Silently, slowly, but ceaselessly, it crept across the heavens and swallowed the light from the midday sky, plunging our world abruptly into night.
At least, that’s what one might have thought, beholding the eclipse without a modern understanding of astronomy. We know better, though, don’t we? We’re not a primitive culture, making up stories to bring sense to a world we don’t understand. We know that what we saw was simply a coincidental alignment that places the moon directly between the earth and sun, blocking the light for several minutes and creating an artificial nighttime. We’re not bound by silly superstitions. We’re smarter than that.
We’ve split the atom and put men on the moon. We’ve learned to talk to people on the other side of the planet as easily as if they were on the other side of the room. We’re advanced. Our society is smart, and our society will last forever.
That’s what they’ve all thought.
But I ask you this - if we’re so advanced, so educated, why are we also so wicked? Wars, famines, hatred, suffering - why does this happen in a society that’s cast off childish superstitions and understands the heavens as easily as arithmetic?
Hubris will bring down even the greatest nations. You see, every society comes to see themselves as the pinnacle of creation, and it’s in that belief that they sow their own destruction.
I am their destruction; I have been before, and I will be again.
I’ve been here since the beginning of time, observing. Waiting. Watching. I watched as the first creatures crawled out of the primordial ooze, as the first mammal clambered onto dry land. I was there when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I was the one who stole the sun from their sky when they grew too powerful.
Oh, they’ve told you it was an asteroid that blotted out the skies, haven’t they? Well, why should I question that? You’re right about everything, aren’t you? You were right about the eclipse. How’re your sea levels doing, by the way?
No, there was no asteroid. There were only dinosaurs that became capable of great evil, and there was me, forced to bring on their end. I swallowed the sun for an epoch; held it inside me, kept the light away until they froze and died for their wickedness.
Whenever a society reaches imbalance, I am there to restore balance. The Maya. Angkor. The Anasazi. Their disappearances look mysterious to modern eyes, but not to mine. The people of Easter Island tried to create statues of me in appeasement, to stave off their doom. I don’t think they looked much like me, and I didn’t spare them any more than I’ll spare you.
“What’s the final straw?”, you might ask. “When do you know a society is beyond salvation?”. It’s hard to explain. It’s one of those, ‘I know it when I see it’ sort of things. Sometime tips the balance to a place beyond redemption.
Your society has vexed me a little bit, though. Every time I think you’re beyond repair, something gives me pause. Moments of great depravity and turpitude are interspersed with flashes of genuine hope.
So I set up a test. I spent the last few years grooming a messenger to conduct an experiment. He doesn’t even know he’s part of the experiment, but he’ll determine the ultimate fate of your society.
You see, when societies fail, things turn upside down. Things that should never happen suddenly become regular. Fire and brimstone, the dead rising from their graves, cats and dogs living together, that sort of thing.
I dispatched my sentinel. He’s the canary in your coal mine. I threw him into an absolutely irredeemable position, a program of utter, boundless failure. A place where the natural order of things is to lose.
And we’ll see what he does.
If they start winning, I will know the time has come.
And I will destroy it all again.