Culture of the Survivors
Living through the first Question was a terrifying experience. Most of humanity took it as a random occurrence, a wandering train of thought that was provoked by whatever they were doing at the time. People asked themselves existential questions frequently enough that this one did not raise any suspicion. Accordingly, and in line with the main driver every living thing is used to, and that is, to live on, they answered positively.
Thus 99% of humanity disappeared, turned into bound spirits.
As it turned out, people couldn’t be chained for long, and they started unbinding on their own as soon as a month later. For most it was like waking from a nightmare. They had lived as part of a building, or a plant, or some item, almost losing their human side. They had been confined in a mental prison so harsh, that their inexperienced souls were unable to express themselves in any way. They had gotten free by a stroke of luck when a natural occurrence struck a chord in their dormant thoughts or emotions. They were never going to that nightmare again, and everything connected to it was obviously wrong. The world had turned wrong.
After a number of failed attempts to reclaim the cities most people reverted to the only thing left: survival. They had to restore civilization from scratch, using nothing but what they could salvage and learn themselves. High technology was prized above everything else, as were actual knowledge and skill that could make life good again. Humanity started climbing the technological ladder again, in villages and farms built away from former centers of human activity, but close enough to them that technology could be retrieved.
A discipline of denial was instated, and instilled in young children that could grasp the meaning of the Question and its dangers. Amazingly most Survivor societies around the Earth discovered that the youngest children never got bound by accident. They felt the Question, even though they couldn’t explain what it was exactly, but they seemed to never be affected by it. Not until it was explained to them that this was the greatest threat to people in the world did they start answering the call every time. At that time accidents were suddenly possible and they happened, so children were drilled to cry out ‘no’ or ‘not’ when the sun came up above the horizon.
People kept coming out of their spiritual prisons through the years, but the already established communities were reluctant to let them integrate ‘back into society’. They had spent too much time out of their human shapes and this provoked the suspicions of people beyond what had once been reasonable. The places and items that held humanity’s spirits were termed ‘tainted’, ‘polluted’, ‘nuked’, or ‘damned’. The terms and connotations varied, but the effect in the behavior of the living was the same: denial, fear, evasion, aggression. All these were aimed at the newly freed people, creating tension, and splitting communities further.
The lack of mutual understanding prevented the Survivor villages to help each other effectively in what was their shared goal: the recreation of the former glory of human civilization. They were left alone, to scavenge the cities under danger of Taint and ghosts, going slowly mad while fighting the hostile environment and the groups of raiders that had fed upon the fall of society. Their first goal remained their main goal.