Event Zero: The Etiology of Etiolation

There was once, 5,122 years ago, a peaceful paradise in a part of the world dotted by volcanoes, and which from time to time shuddered when Mother Earth rolled over in her bed. The gifts she bestowed upon the people who lived there were too precious and abundant to reject and run from, however. These people took their chances living there instead of somewhere without the constant threat of a natural catastrophe.

Fruits and vegetables grew large and long there, there were precious stones and rocks with which they could both adorn themselves and make tools. Fish and game were everywhere, and the hillsides were covered with the herbs they so valued for their medicines.

The people lived tied happily to the ground beneath their feet and were thankful for the manna Nature granted them. They prayed to their thunder god and made offerings to him gladly.

When they weren’t busy farming the land.

It was sometimes so hard to say no to all that Nature offered them…

They lived high in the mountains where the air was pure, and next to a lake pure and clean under the shadow of high mountain peaks. The valley was surrounded by these peaks and teemed with every kind of flora and fauna one could imagine.

Then one day one of the volcanoes awoke with a pain in its gut. It groaned and shook and sputtered smoke into the sky. Red fire seeped out of its crater, and the people grew fearful. What have we done to incur the volcano’s wrath? they asked themselves.

Their neighbors could have told them what they had done, but they were not talking to their neighbors anymore.

To their horror, they watched as fire serpents from the volcano stopped up the runoffs the mountain streams had followed to two immense rivers to the South. The lake began to rise in the bowl they called home, and soon their settlements were engulfed.

Explosions began to tear at the fabric of the sky. Fire rained down on them, and many perished. The animals they had kept were also destroyed.

As the eruption reached a cataclysmic peak, they saw the image that would haunt all of them forever:

A figure rose from the crater.

The people were terrified. It was plainly visible even from great distances, and it was clear that the figure must be truly gargantuan.

Still it rose. Out of the crater and into the sky.

At night the stony cracks in its side revealed the same red fire coursing through its body. It lit the creature in crimsons and yellows and oranges, and steam rose from its snout, pointed ever heavenwards. It was made of stone, living stone, stone alive with fire.

Nothing could stop the forces of the exploding volcano, and this creature was its lord and master.

Over a short period of time, the Tower rose to a stupendous height. Its image dominated the horizon, and none could take their eyes from it.

What does it portend? they asked themselves. Are we doomed?

One by one people were smitten by the rage of this fierce volcano god. The survivors ran for their lives but distance meant nothing. Time meant nothing. Their prayers meant nothing. Their supposed innocence and superiority meant nothing.

They asked what good their thunder god was, if even he had turned tail and was hiding.

The Tower had already reached the thunder god’s foyer. He was challenging the highest one directly! He threatened the thunder god’s wife! All of the gods seemed to be in hiding; none dared to challenge this menace from below.

Then the battle turned. The Beast was injured on a lower extremity, and threatened to crumble. Inspired, the thunder god rallied and hurled one lightning bolt after another at the dreaded creature. Finally, the Tower collapsed under its own weight, hurling a last hellacious death cry across the heavens. The thunder god buried it quickly under the mountainside and the people were again safe.

But were they?

Some doubted everything they had ever learned. Where had our god gone when we needed him most? they asked. Why had he let so many of our brothers and sisters perish? Why had he allowed our livelihoods to be destroyed? Did he really deserve to be top dog?

Maybe it was time to cast their lots with a different higher power? One from below and not from above…

They went back to tilling the fields, but much of the land was either scarred forever or under water. Plants barely grew because clouds from the eruption blacked out the sun for years afterwards.

They built new homes with thick walls to make them feel safe. Inside these walls, though, something was happening to these people. They began to feel as though they were privy to secret knowledge, and were therefore special. They spent hours upon hours, day and night, sleeplessly tossing and turning in their beds, racked by pangs of conscience and delusions of grandeur, endlessly asking themselves what they had done to deserve their fate and if they did not deserve better.

They could not put the Event behind them and wallowed in grief within the thick walls of their homes, out of the light of the sun. At some point the grief turned to rage, and these people lost. They lost their pasts, they lost most of their relatives, they lost their connection to a higher power, and, well,

It’s a simple, well-known and understood procedure in horticulture:

Because the eruption forever destroyed the lifestyle they had enjoyed for so long and forced them to move South down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, they lost touch with their roots.

Because of the lack of light both up in the sky and within the walls of their comfy homes, and because they no longer had to divert energy to their roots, thoughts exploded in their minds like the branches of an unhealthy tree; they had too many and they went beyond the borders of their own consciousness. They became tangled and knotted and they wasted so much energy trying to untie them they were always tired.

Some turned out to be productive: when they pondered how they could increase yields they came upon irrigation and drainage. When they pondered how they could convince their neighbors to donate lands to grow these increased yields upon, they were visited by Prometheus, who taught them first to smelt metals, and then all about the miracles of tin-bronze. The weapons they made from this metal transformed them into invincible hordes. When they needed proof of their own supposed excellence, they invented precession and mathematics, as well as astronomy. They built great pyramids that touched the sky like their Great Hero.

Some of these thoughts were less productive. Many of their women began to have some serious, paralyzing, terrible and fearful thoughts. Without solid ground beneath their feet where there roots could take hold and grow, and now with ample space within their own minds to stretch the branches of their imaginations, these women invented mental illness. Of course, their husbands were not immune either.

They would go on to believe that they were the most important beings on Earth, and never wasted a moment before trying to prove it.

They asked themselves:

How cool would it be if someone or something could really defeat the One Most High? The Tower had been so close…

And finally, because of the lack of light and their lack of desire to let themselves be seen (and healed!) by the sun, their leaves paled. They lost the color of their skin.

Nigerians call them Oyinbo-the people with the peeled-off skin. Natives in California called them “half-human, half something else.”

They raised a dream from the Earth below their feet, one that shone as brightly (in their minds) as the sun. And one that, strangely, caused cancer almost as though it were a real, radioactive sun.

They built the first civilization this world has ever known, and we call these people “Caucasians.”

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