The Preamble Edit
Law and order, like every other aspect of Western society, have been swept away - put to the torch early one morning when Iranian troops, trying to export revolution, struck deep into the heart of Saudi Arabia.
Within two days the world’s largest oil fields were ablaze, the Persian Gulf had been mined and the Middle East’s once mighty torrent of energy had slowed to a trickle.
While the United Nations met in emergency session the price of oil doubled, then quadrupled and then quadrupled again. On the battlefield one disaster followed another - culminating in the destruction of both the North West and Trans-Persian pipelines. Almost immediately the West’s seven largest oil companies, led by Exxon, announced that they would no longer be able to fulfill their supply contracts.
The following day dealers on the Amsterdam spot market began to demand payment in bullion.
The price of gold soared; simultaneously the dollar, mark, and yen plummeted. In an attempt to control their economies and conserve their fuel, one prime minister after another declared a state of emergency. West Germany immediately imposed martial law. The military assumed power in Italy and Spain.
In Australia, as in every other industrialized nation, stockbrokers watched in awe as once-great companies were written down until they became nothing more than piles of worthless scrip. After more than two hundred years of steady expansion, the merchant bankers, the old investment houses and the mighty superannuation funds began to crumble overnight.
Day after day clerks and telephonists, managers and secretaries were being sent home to wait for a recall that would never come.
Heavy industry too began to rule off the books and roll down the shutters. With a dwindling amount of fuel and a rapidly diminishing supply of raw materials, the wholesale retrenchments began.
Century-old chimneys which had never once failed to belch out their waste, sputtered and died; the forges, the presses, the furnaces and the mills fell silent. In Newcastle and Wollongong - the anvils of the nation - people stopped in the streets and listened: for the first time they heard the sound of silence.
In Sydney and Melbourne, fear led to panic and panic led to riots as small investors fought to withdraw their savings. Bank after bank bolted its doors, never to reopen.
And all the time the gas stations were rapidly being sucked dry as motorists tried to stockpile as much fuel as possible. They slept in their cars, fought at the pumps and threatened the driveway attendants: the government’s ration coupons were left to rot in the gutter.
At night, bowser locks were smashed, storage tanks emptied and private cars milked. Ordinary, decent people began to arm themselves, getting ready to defend what they had.
Out on the highways, which years ago had degenerated into a war zone, the remaining oil tankers had to run the gauntlet of gangs of outlaw bikers. Road hijacking was the country’s only growth industry.
Starved of fuel, interstate, intercity and finally inter-urban commerce just stopped in its tracks. Road rigs, semis, trucks and vans were abandoned where they fell. There were no more pickups, no more deliveries.
In city after city, the story was repeated - the world, as everybody knew it, was coming to an end. The dole queues grew longer by the hour, until, finally, they stretched clear across the country. No welfare system in the world could have withstood such an onslaught. The lootings and robberies began; violence became part of the system. A hopelessly inadequate police force was pitted against a society forced into taking what it could no longer buy. Crime was now the only thing which paid.
But perhaps even that might have been checked if the power houses had not faltered and failed. First the massive oil-fired generators spun to a stop and within days the over-burned coal-fired turbines were grinding to a halt.
For the first time ever the lights went out across an entire country. Commuter trains stopped, elevators jammed, telephones died and television images vanished.
Worse still, canneries fell silent, the packing houses closed and the refrigerated warehouses thawed. Suddenly food was a precious commodity.
The cities became centres of feverish activity as once law-abiding citizens scrambled to grab what was left. Storekeepers and supermarket managers stood by helplessly as mobs stormed their stores. Women fought over the perishables; fathers told their kids: forget the candy, grab the tinned goods.
Checkouts and counters were overturned and banknotes trampled underfoot as families rushed to pile high their trolleys.
For one glorious moment everybody was rich: now you could have anything you wanted.
And in a frenzy of greed they also fought to carry off the flotsam of the old world: stereos and toys, rugs and furniture, gadgets and clothes.
But while by day the cities had become a carnival of looting and pillaging, by night they became a grim battleground: neighbours preyed on neighbours, the strong violated the weak. In alleys and hallways, gangs of youths gave lessons in life and death, sex and violence. Night after night the cries for help went unanswered.
Outside the urban centres, in quiet leafy suburbs and on rambling country estates, once sociable people fortified their well-stocked homes and prepared to shoot any intruder on sight.
And as it became increasingly clear to everyone that the strong would live and the weak would perish, lone scavengers began to organise themselves into small marauding packs. Equipped with high-powered bikes and home-made dune buggies, they roamed across the wasted land, searching out the weak, laying in ambush for the unwary.
Striking fast and hitting hard, they would wage war for a few gallons of fuel: gasoline had now become the only currency of value, the most precious commodity in the world. To everybody it meant freedom and power: the power to maintain a private fortress or the freedom to scavenge; the power to cling to old ways or the freedom to search for a new life.
As gasoline supplies dwindled and the struggle for survival grew more brutal, some of these marauding gangs organised themselves into larger, more cohesive forces under the command of a single leader. By a combination of military skill and total savagery, these men quickly became the modern warlords - the inheritors of a tradition which dates back to Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
Against this tidal wave of change - the wholesale destruction of a social system - an already under-manned police force did not stand a chance.
At first in two’s and three’s, and later by entire squads, they simply walked off the job, put away their uniforms and joined the rush for survival.
Who Killed The World? Edit
Life fades and vision dims. All that remains now are distant memories of a time before: a time of chaos, of ruined dreams. A time before these wasted lands. When the world was powered by the black fuel and the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. All of them gone now, swept away in the midst of a war that touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without the black gold they were nothing, so dependent on it they had become. All of the mighty, thundering machines sputtered their last breaths and came to a screeching halt. Leaders of warring tribes talked and talked until they had no voices left, but nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. Cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting was followed by a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men.
On the roads it was a white-line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage could hold out any hope of survival. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice. And in this maelstrom of decay, ordinary men were battered and smashed. In the roar of an engine, they lost everything and became shells of their former selves: burnt out and desolate, haunted by the demons of their past.
These men wandered out into the badlands, the Wasted Lands. And it was here, in this blighted place, that they learned to do more than merely avoid the promise of death.
They learned to live again.