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The Unchainable

[Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay]

The tiny part of humanity that was so deep in depression and suffering that did not for a moment think about continuing their existence became the sole owners of the world once the Question hit. People with mental problems who were already considering ending their lives, those that lived in utter poverty, who had lost their loved ones or felt totally alone and unloved, suddenly became the only people still breathing and thinking. They stepped out into a world of ghostly moving items, haunted vehicles and unbreakable doors. Some were driven mad by this abrupt end of the world they knew, which had still given them some kind of psychological anchor. They preferred ending their lives than adjusting.

Others were happy. For the first time their oppressors were gone, and there was no one to tell them what they could or couldn’t do, where they couldn’t go, what they couldn’t be. The poor and hungry could own the stores brimming with food. The pathologically criminal could go and break into any bank they liked, just like in the movies. There were no laws, no barriers, no rules. Complete anarchy consumed the world in the wake of the Question. Those first rulers of the new Earth understood at a primal level that their denial had given them the reigns, and almost none were tempted to answer “Yes” on the next day. They had left humanity behind and had become something more, something grander and more important.

Fantasies ran wild in the world without rules, and a number of new states appeared, then fell apart, went to war over simple supplies of food or stashes of weapons, destroyed each other and merged. About half of those who stayed human were dead in a year, a natural selection that left only the most cunning, brutal, or sneaky individuals. By then the first recovering souls were growing in numbers and a competition grew for resources and living space that was close enough to the cities, and yet out of reach of the swarms of Bound spirits that made life difficult.

Those never Bound quickly formed their opinions of the recovering souls. It was obvious that people who spent their time as inanimate objects were inferior, potentially only worthy to be used as slaves or as a source of wealth or power. Settlements that tried gathering or restoring technology were raided and plundered, while the small groups of people who tried living closer to the spirits were exploited for their knowledge and lack of fear of the new world. In most places both of those groups were too disorganized to mount a proper defense, and were driven into deeper hiding in order to survive. The human population dwindled, as the inflow of recovering souls was not enough to replenish the losses of mindless battles and plunderings.

Several more years had to pass before an unsteady equilibrium had been established, and the unbound rulers of the world realized that their kingdom would not last if they kept up their archaic attitudes. They reorganized in feudal groups headed by the most experienced fighters. By then most easily accessible firearms had been recovered and ammunitions had been used up or destroyed during the anarchy years. People who owned a melee weapon with a Bound spirit and were skilled enough to use it floated to the top of the food chain. A trade in supplies and Bound items formed, and rudimentary farming was developed, fueled by the shaman and survivor slaves. Still, the main defining characteristic of the unbound rulers of the world was denial.

They denied anyones’ superiority.

They denied order, other than their own.

They denied the lure of the Question.

They were unchainable.