Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Writing a Letter (handwritten correspondence) (10/21/10)
TITLE: After the Crash
By Gregory Kane
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What irritated him much more than any variation in ink colour was that he couldn't remember how to spell quorum. He was 97% confident the word began with a 'q' but he wasn't sure whether it had one 'r' or two. Moreover did it end with a 'u' or an 'e'? Spelling had never been Caleb's strong point. His word processor had magically replaced his sporadic typos with correctly spelled English. But that had been before the Crash, back when electronic devices still worked.
The general consensus in the town was that Al-Qaeda were responsible. Of course no one really knew who had detonated the atmospheric nuclear devices. What was certain was that the world had come to rely far too much on the power of the microchip. Until that fateful day when a succession of massive EMP blasts smote the world's cell phones, computers, power stations, automotive systems, televisions, et al. and turned all that silicon to dust. The Muslim extremists, some opined, yearned to turn the clock back to a simpler, more primitive way of life.
At one level Caleb could see the logic behind such madness. Islam had been birthed in the desert. The faith of the caliphs didn't sit too comfortably with the modern world with its tantalising temptations, its constantly challenging authority, and its preoccupation with human rights. By striking a blow against technology, the fanatics enabled the faithful to pursue their holy rites free from distraction. Not to mention giving the more bloody minded an excuse to start a new jihad, converting their infidel neighbours at the point of a sword.
Caleb had no way of knowing whether this explanation had any basis in fact. None of the local television or radio stations were back online. The military had largely survived the Crash, most of their electronics having been hardened against electromagnetic pulses. The authorities communicated with their population centres by Morse code, sending occasional updates up and down the otherwise silent telegraph lines. But it had been at least a month since anyone had seen a government convoy pass through. A few of the farmers had got their tractors running, but the town's cars, buses and trains remained where they had shuddered to a halt on the day of the Crash.
"The Lord will lead us into a land flowing with milk and honey..." Caleb's namesake had uttered those words, but he couldn't quite recall the reference. In the old days he would have searched for the verse on his computer Bible. He could even have Googled it on his phone. Once, as a brand new pastor, he had owned a shiny hardback concordance but he had eventually sent the little used book to some seminary in Africa, preferring the ease and convenience of pressing CTRL-F. These days all he could do was thumb the pages of his Bible in the hope of stumbling across the right verse.
With a flourish Caleb signed his signature and set the page to one side. Then, sliding out a fresh sheet of paper, he began the arduous process of writing out his letter once again. The office photocopier was occupied by a squatter family of squirrels. His laser printer had long since been chucked outside so as to free up more desk space. If he wanted additional copies of the same letter, his only option was copy it by hand. It had been years since he had last seen anyone with a box of carbon paper.
The sun hung low in the sky when the Caleb locked the door and untied the reins of Ermintrude, his ever-patient Clydesdale. Stepping up into the saddle, he turned his mare in the direction of the church and kicked with his heels. The others would already be gathering, eager to receive their marching orders. Before the week was out, every community within fifty miles would have received a copy of his letter. Caleb knew that his plan was ambitious. He wanted to mobilise an army for God. If all went according to plan, he would have 200 volunteers by the end of the year: brave young men willing to ride out with the eternal gospel, ready to win a confused and uncertain nation for Christ.
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