2156 - The ReLife Project Book One
The World Council came to power because of sex. Its rise and eventual takeover of the world had nothing to do with sexual preference or discrimination. A marriage of convenience between two powerful families wasn't the cause. And, the use of sex as a tool of influence wasn't at play.
The central government, which represented all peoples and geographic areas of the world, arose because of human fertility rates. They went haywire in the latter half of the 21st century and threatened the existence of mankind.
Most scientists picked 2055 as the year fertility rates started to shift from the 50-50, male-female rates which governed human reproduction since the dawn of time. Within ten years, the female birth rate fell to only 30% of all births. Five years later it hit its lowest mark of 12%. Also, total births were dropping precariously. By the time the female birth rate hit its low, the total birth rate had decreased by 50%.
At first, social scientists thought the shift in fertility rates was temporary and would correct itself within a couple of years. But as rates continued to trend downward, scientists, governments, and citizens became concerned and desperately sought a solution. The effect on societies was overwhelming. The fertility rate problem dominated world news and the attention of governments regardless of political doctrine. Very little else seemed to matter.
It wasn't long before the end of the world predictions began. It was easy to foretell the extinction of mankind if it could not replenish itself. Death rates crept by birth rates then accelerated to a hundred and finally a thousand times more. Countries and continents were dying a slow death.
To make things worse, men who were unable to find female mates turned to crime, drug addiction and war at an alarming rate. Male homosexuality increased, which led to new diseases and deadly viruses like the AIDS virus of the late 20th century. This reckless behavior amplified death rates and contributed to declining populations. Once thriving cities became ghost towns. Entire continents went from overpopulated to underpopulated within a couple of generations.
Governments throughout the world put most of their resources into finding a solution to the female fertility problem. It was classified as a plague and given the acronym FISS, which stood for Female Infertility and Selective Sex.
Every possible solution was explored with no conclusive results. A virus, bacteria and all other forms of infectious diseases were ruled out as the cause. Possible environmental changes, like air and water pollutants, offered no causal reason for FISS. Drugs, foods, farming methods, fertilizers, and a hundred other possible explanations were explored with no results. Scientists were unable to find a common denominator in women who stopped conceiving or gave birth to only boy babies. The answer and ultimate cure for FISS eluded the entire scientific community.
Couples who had children but could not procreate were of major interest to the scientists looking to cure FISS. Hundreds of these couples were isolated and put through a series of tests to determine why they became barren. Was the problem related to the men or was it something affecting only the women? Not one study produced an answer. Everything in their lives, from the quality of the man's sperm to living conditions, appeared to be the same from when they brought children into the world.
Even though the campaign to find a cure for FISS was unsuccessful, cures for other diseases resulted from the intensive biotechnology research. The most noteworthy medical advancement was by a research scientist in Switzerland who stumbled upon a cure for cancer. What should have been earth-shattering news was hardly discussed after the initial press release. The attitude of most people was, why get excited about a cure for cancer when mankind might be gone within 75 years?
The inability of the scientific community to find a remedy led most religious leaders to put the blame for the FISS plague on the back of man. In their opinion, man's injustice and mistreatment of each other were to blame. Ignoring God's laws for hundreds of years finally resulted in dire consequences. He had enough of man's lack of faith and worship and decided to take revenge on his disrespectful creation.
End Times announcements became more and more common. Religious leaders pleaded with anyone who would listen. Their mantra was for everyone to prepare their souls for the end by coming back to God's commandments. Their pleas fell on deaf ears and had a negligible effect on creating new converts. Even former believers balked at returning to God and organized religion.
Most people ignored or rejected the idea that God's wrath had anything to do with FISS. The hell and brimstone answers offered by religion were not very appealing. Spending the world's last days in comfort and luxurious surroundings was more attractive. Many people gathered a huge food supply, grabbed weapons and headed to the fishing cabin they dreamed about for retirement. If it was End Times, they were going to spend it in comfort, doing whatever the hell they wanted. Most figured they could make last-minute amends with the Creator on their death beds.
Women became a commodity. Many were moved to isolated areas and hidden. There was a common belief that women could run away from whatever caused infertility and the lopsided male-female birth rates. The theory had merit, considering it worked with other plagues throughout history. It didn't take long to learn that hiding in remote locations had no effect on a woman's ability to conceive and become pregnant. Fertility rates for women in populated and remote areas were the same. The only people who benefited from taking women to remote areas were the men who accompanied them. They had available sex partners without having to fight other men for their affection.
Nearly 45 years after it began, the FISS plague subsided. Fertility rates and male-female rates started to trend back to normal. At about the same time, twelve young women from various regions around the world claimed they had the cure for FISS. They backed up their claim by making infertile women conceive and women who could produce only male children give birth to little girls.
How they accomplished this feat was never discovered because everything was done behind closed doors. The "Healers", as these women were called, took infertile women into a closed room for approximately four hours. At the conclusion, the women left and resumed their normal daily activities. There was nothing observably different about them. But within a month they became pregnant and 70% of them gave birth to little girls. When asked what the Healer did in the closed room, the response most often heard was, "she just talked to me; that's all." When pushed for a more detailed explanation, none of the women could remember specifics. No matter how much investigation was done, details of the Healers' methods were never uncovered. It always boiled down to "we just talked."
A larger debate soon developed. Were the Healers responsible for ending FISS or did it run its course and burn itself out? The Healers modestly took credit for ending the plague and increasing female births. But they refused to explain how they did this. Their critics claimed it was coincidence and the Healers happened to be in the right place at the right time. Their more passionate opponents believed the Healers were empowered by some sort of diabolical power.
The similarity between these twelve Healers was more than coincidental. In fact, it was shocking and somewhat disturbing. They were all in their late thirties to mid-forties, unwed and homeless. No two of them lived in the same area. They were spread out across the globe and there was no evidence they had ever met each other. They had no living relatives and none of their friends were considered close. Birth, immunization and school records could not be found for them. They worked alone and refused to let anyone help or sit in on their four-hour sessions. Their results were numerically the same regardless of the geographic location.
Their fame and notoriety spread with each successful female birth. Within two years, each of the Healers had a cult following like a celebrity. Their fans and supporters were fanatics who believed the Healers were somehow divinely inspired. Their detractors and enemies were few and far between. They had difficulty explaining their opposition other than accusing them of using some type of evil power. The supporters responded to this criticism by claiming it was nothing more than jealousy.
Intervention by the Healers was no longer needed after the fertility rates stabilized. By this time, they were the most recognized and respected people on Earth. Their supporters and opponents both wondered where the Healers would go and what they would do next. Most of the remaining population and government officials pleaded with the Healers to help rebuild society. The decimated infrastructures and economies needed their help and guidance.
Without any formal announcement or fanfare, all twelve Healers traveled to a small village north of London named Ickleford and established a help depot. The concept was simplistic and very much like a roadside travel plaza. Anyone, from the highest government official to the lowest ranking person in society, could stop in and seek advice from the Healers.
There were no limits or restrictions on the number or types of questions posed to the Healers. If the visitor was serious and didn't waste the Healer's time, he could ask about any subject. It could be seeking advice to personal problems, economic inquiries or love interests. More serious subjects like the differences between theologies were discussed. The Healers even fielded questions about foretelling the future.
Their advice was free and without any type of quid pro quo. Sometimes visitors were surprised by the answers. Other times it was exactly what they expected. Not all visitors agreed with what they heard. But none complained about how they were treated or claimed to have been intentionally misled. Many donated to the Healers' service. The poor and penniless always left with some food in their stomach or a few coins in their pocket.
For the next five years, the Healers dispensed advice and information to all who sought their help. The world economy started to recover, families reunited and living conditions improved.
The Healers disappeared on the five-year anniversary date of establishing the help depot. They were replaced by a dozen other men and women. These new appointees claimed to be selected by the original Healers. People were dubious about these replacements and questioned their authority. The replacements seemed to have as much knowledge and wisdom as the original Healers. But there was an egotistic edge to their personalities which didn't sit well with many people. They immediately restricted visiting hours. The previous open-door policy was replaced by an appointment-only system.
For the next five years, the new Healers served the world as the top-ranking intellectuals, advisers, and seers. And, like the original twelve Healers, the replacements disappeared on their five-year anniversary. They too were replaced by another dozen people of various ages, races, and gender.
Each new group of Healers became more authoritative and self-serving. Early in the 22nd century, the Healer group name was replaced with the title of World Council. By this time, its purpose had changed from giving helpful advice to telling the populace what to do and when to do it.
Citizens no longer stopped at the Ickleford help depot to ask questions and seek advice. Contact with the World Council was now done by submitting an official inquiry. The newly devised Universal Communications Network (UCN) was used to submit all inquiries. Official decrees, rules, and laws replaced helpful, fatherly guidance. A network of World Council enforcers was put in place by the new world government. Any order of the World Council not obeyed resulted in immediate and harsh discipline.