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Assignment 9 (vaguely) [Oct. 10th, 2006|12:02 am]



The sheer scale of the break was astounding, the crashing intolerable waves against the ample caissons shooting ephemeral walls of foam before the congregation at dawn. It was clear the intensity of the gathering storm was approaching a climax and the sky boiled with struggling light against augers of wind and rain. Despite all this, the clouds were ominously porous and revelatory light shone through, illuminating an ashen sea in the stillborn desolation of the early slumbering day. This, the placidly dressed speaker at the head of the crowd and altared by the continuing crash, is how the world ends, and the group en masse quaked with hopeful terror, clutching their signets and handsfulls of beads and confidence in justice. As the demagogue spoke, thunder-drowned lighting flashed in the tumult of the distant horizon as the blind fanatics gasped at their certain apocalypse, crying for a salvation already vivid and full in their minds. A particularly fierce wave broke and wetted the shoulders of the rabid speaker and the fearful faces of the gathered worshippers of the end. Their leader allowed this as punctuation before invecting further into his sermon and his horde as unyielding as a vulture to its quarry.
From the near shore of the bay created by the network of breakwaters, itself crawling susceptible to the cauldron that had become the northern sea, Briggs watched, as he had at the height of each clockwork accurate storm season while it ravaged the horizon and spilled its broken fury against the caissons. The Administration had long since ceased trying to stop these gatherings out of some abject respect of religious freedom. Briggs himself suspected that facets of The Administration that had been set in place since even before the yearly storms began were in fact complicit in these ceremonies — Briggs himself suspected that these same facets shared those same beliefs. After all, there was a time when the division of religion and government was not so well kept after. Briggs knew he was not alone in this belief, particular to the trainee that had accompanied him today to witness the cultish gathering. The trainee was young and still idealistic about the changes made to The Administration over the course of Briggs’ own lifetime, but he suspected the trainee had no sense of from what climate the changes had sprung. It’s a family-based religion, Briggs had explained: when their parents and grandparents were youths, Armageddon was an accepted inevitability. They believed that wars in particular regions of the globe, the temperature increases and the corresponding increased brutality of the storms, were of divine rather than human creation in a religion denying any interpretation of reality beyond that which could be filtered directly through their sacred texts. When a small scale nuclear war enveloping the regions of their attention was followed the next year by a massive storm in the northern sea that decimated much of the old city — here he indicated to the field of bubbling currents enclosed by the breakwaters — they took it as a sure sign that the end of all humanity was sure to follow. The breakwaters were built with many similar breakwaters being constructed around the coastal cities in the northern hemisphere that had not been utterly decimated by the sudden violent storms, the radioactivity reduced in the battle zones, the cities and civilizations of all those places rebuilt and restored. The religious waited for their rapture. Many would join suicide cults with as many believing that their deaths at their own hands were the only way to purify their soul and attain the true meaning of their rapture as there were those who believed the rapture had already come and they had been left behind. Others, like this ministry, placed themselves in obvious peril. Briggs had no desire to understand why. He found religion in general distasteful and this particular sect nonsensical. There’s enough nonsense already, he explained. People don’t need to go around making new and more ridiculousness.
Since Briggs apparently seemed finished, the trainee went on a pointless diatribe about the nature of the storms, how they are ushering in a new ice age rather than a direct indication of further warming to come. Briggs didn’t care about such rationalizations. If it were ninety degrees and were it never to snow again, this mattered as little to him as if his world was transported to the primitive specter of ice that, he knew, would eventually envelope this portion of the world regardless. He saw no need in getting carried away with one idea or the other. Briggs explained this to the trainee and the trainee, in turn, suggested that this mindset was what made his torporific fascination with this particular ministry. Briggs, in his turn, allowed that this may well be the case, but with no sense of irony declared dismissively that it really didn’t matter one way or the other to him. You’re assigned to this post, the trainee asked and Briggs said that he was. And to answer your next question, yes I did choose this assignment. Also, and here he made first eye contact with the trainee since they had arrived at the concrete shore, I chose you specifically to accompany me to witness this spectacle, what they call a holiday. The trainee, under the impression that there was no specific official purpose for their presence beyond mere observation — something which though unusual was not exactly rare for governmental agents to do — asked what Briggs’ function specifically was. Briggs, at this point, had already diverted his attention out to the man-made bay, where now with every giant break from the north was met with a wave from inside the bay crashing back against the inside of the breakwater. He made as if not to hear the trainee, and the trainee grudgingly took this as an indication for silence.
When a wave violently crashed near where the congregation had gathered — met as with to the north a respective wave crashing back — Briggs focused full attention to the people on the caisson. The trainee could not help but notice and, unquestioning, fixed attention to where Briggs’ gaze landed. The sea remained the same, but now the specter of the distant storm had occluded on the point where a distinguishable horizon once was. Flashing lightning, again which sound was drowned still by the rushing wind and tempestuous sea, rippled across the graying dark blur of the distant storm. The trainee could still perceive the voice of the minister, though his words were indistinct, as well as the languorous cries of the congregation when a great wave just as it had twice before overtook the breakwater and washed the lot into the bay. The trainee had no time to be astonished as the return wave crashed mightily against the concrete of the caisson. Seeing the time had come for him to fulfill his official function, Briggs communicated to the coast guard that the group had been washed into the bay, and requested that they come to fish out the bodies.