“I was in the gutter stream but they found me in the library reading Rabelais while everyone else was doing woodwork, preparing to be policemen or criminals … I was saved by my imagination.”
He stepped back from the table, deciding to add to his dosage to see if it heightened his clarity by softening his constant anxiety.
When he came back, he picked the object up and it had seemed to have shed some of its weight. He took it outside into the African sun, wound all its motors, and again placed it on his head, clicking the rotations of light into life.
There was no defence. No preparation. No understanding for what was shafted and wedged into his vision. The warm air still smelt of fecundity and promise. The sun on his skin still glowed in an optimism of another day. But both were without *Homo Sapiens*. That supposed peak in the kingdom of animals was over. Every invention, idea, construction, and measurement of man had stopped and been disregarded. His eyes trembled as the cogs whirred; he faltered and sank to his knees. Vision upon vision unfolded before him, in vast explosions and waves of constant smoke or dust that stank of cindered bone. He saw pestilence and hatred married to genius and wealth. He saw governments and empires topple. Mindless conflict had been let loose without any containment. He watched and saw years of panic and hubris construct illness and machines. He saw every tribe and kingdom of mankind give up and become annihilated. He saw man try to burn the entire world alive and fail. After the smoke and noise had vanished and the long rains had cleaned away the ashes, he saw animals and plants creep back and then rove and entwine themselves into all the palaces and libraries and devour all evidence of the arrogance of humanity’s faith that had finally taken its toll. All the fiction that *Homo Sapiens* had told to their own species vanished. All the ideas about time and space, all the equations and microscopic details about animal life were eaten by the animals. Lichen and fungi swamped and paved human speculation, philosophy was besmirched and eradicated by worms. Measurements were eaten by ants and all the circuits were drowned.
The exhausted purpose was exposed, but before the brass clockwork had run down, he saw how this had happened and he’d had that conversation before. The forests had changed the air. Altered its composition over centuries, not as he had said once before by decreasing oxygen but by expanding it and denting it with other traces of more virulent gases. The trees had not starved and suffocated man, they had increased him. Force-fed the human brain to saturation. Making the two most powerful drives therein destroy themselves and all hope of redemption. Invention and territoriality had torn *Homo Sapiens* off the face of the earth with tools of their own making. After some hours or days in a semiconscious torpor, Marais finally staggered to his feet and found his way back to the table where his letter to Cyrena sat, curling in a shaft of sunlight. He dragged the crown from his head, letting it fall beneath the table. He then left his home and made his last journey to the remote farm whose name in Zulu meant “the end of the business.”
Brian Catling, The Vorrh Trilogy vol iii, The Cloven, Ch35, pp312-4.