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The History of the World in Four Sentences

Liam Hogan is an Oxford Physics graduate and award winning London based writer. His short story "Ana," appears in Best of British Science Fiction 2016 (NewCon Press) and "The Dance of a Thousand Cuts" will appear in Best of British Fantasy, 2018. Visit him at happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk or on Twitter @LiamJHogan.

"The history of the world?" the old man growled, his ruined teeth a horror show in what little moonlight filtered through the dense leaves and branches above. "What'dya want that old chestnut of a story for?"
The child--the last born human, though neither she nor the old man nor anyone else knew that--sucked on her thumb before piping: "Wanna hear how we began, how great we was, what our an-ces-tors did wrong, an' what our future is? Please?"
"Kid, we ain't got no future." The child's great-grandfather was right about that, doubly so on a personal level. His old bones would be scattered by wolves before the snows returned.
Still, he relented, as he always did, as the child knew he would.
"The Earth was a paradise. Man came along. Man died out. The Earth was a paradise again. Now, go to sleep!"
The child pouted, unseen. She preferred the other version, the older, longer one. The one the old man used to tell when they would light a fire to scare away the dark and talk into the long night.
Of how Adam and Eve were born in the Forest of Eden. How they chopped down the very first tree and unleashed evil into the world. How at one point there were more people than trees (though that was surely impossible?), and how they'd even chopped down trees on the moon.
But the tide had turned. The more men there were, the less room there was for trees. And foolish man needed trees to stay alive, to prevent disease. Once man had poisoned, choked and strangled his own kind, the planet shrugged him off, almost overnight.
Now it began the slow process of healing, which would go on long after the last traces of the ancient road they were following vanished, after the last lamppost was engulfed by kudzu, pulled down by creepers. Long after the only traces that man had ever existed were fossils trapped in rock.
That was the version the child preferred.
But the old man didn't say another word.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 6th, 2019

Author Comments

This was born from an impossible story prompt: write a four sentence, 300-400 word, apocalyptic story. So, of course, I cheated.

- Liam Hogan
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