'What do you think Crusoe's going to grow into, Arnold?'
    'Bob, there's no way to answer that. The possibilities are enormous. Think of the acorn that grows into an oak - or the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. Crusoe could be the seed of a City, or a whole civilization.'
    'Okay, let's try another question. Is this going to be the end of the world?'
    'Maybe as we know it,' said Wedderkind. 'But on the other hand, you could say it was the beginning of a new one. And with such possibilities! There are huge areas of technology left to us. We have steam, diesels, gas turbines, water, air, the sun. Admittedly you won't be able to turn on your quadrophonic hi-fi, but people will learn to make music. People don't seem to realize that most of the world's greatest music, art, literature, architecture were all completed before the age of electricity. Did they need electricity to build Versailles? St Peter's? The pyramids? Did they need a microphone to sing Handel's Messiah? Would Beethoven have achieved more with a hearing aid? Did Michelangelo need floodlights to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling?'
    'No,' said Connors. 'But don't try and kid me, Arnold. We're not about to enter some Golden Age. It's going to be goddamned awful.'
    'For a while, perhaps. But there was nothing any of us could have done to stop this happening. You must accept it as part of the plan.'
    'I'm glad to hear there is one - even if it is too big for me to understand. What is it you think we have to do?'
    'Do? Why - what Man has always done. Start all over again of course!'
    Behind them, the rim of the sun cut into the distant line of mountains. Tonight, there would be a new darkness over the land. Tomorrow, the sound of the human voice would only reach as far as the wind would carry it. They walked down from the Ridge in silence.
    [...] As they reached the path down to Rockville, Connors looked back at Crusoe. He was now a jet-black silhouette against the darkening sky. Perhaps by the spring, the steps he had thrust out might start to lead somewhere.
    Connors walked down the path to the camp with Wedderkind. Beyond the shattered field lab he could see some of the men cutting down trees to make fires.
Patrick Tilley