Five years, it only took five years after the multiverse merged for most of the sentient species to be trampled under the claws of monsters and natural disasters, small clumps of survivors hold still, clumped in their holes, hungry and paranoid.
They tried to lend a hand by giving out blessings and even portions of their own power but the constant loss of followers decreased the power of the gods until they became as emaciated as the creatures that once hold them in reverence.
Who would worship a god that cannot save them?
Who cares about the god that does not gives salvation?
For beings born out of the faith and the laws of the world itself the revelation was hard to take, they were only revered because they were useful, had they not arrogantly thought the same of their believers?
But for the multiverse the gods that could command a world were nothing but children in front of a truck.
Those lumps of divine energy were barely recognizable; their forms too unstable by the leak of power, the god of law received what was left of their powers and with the help of the gods of knowledge weaved it into something, a kind of power none of them commanded, a power of time and fate.
Across the world all kinds of creatures raised their heads to the sky, attracted by the strange lights running through it, the waves of energy called to the beasts as a longing of superiority, a realm they could too reach over an untold period of time, but for the sentient beings those lights felt as if they were able to remember things from another life, a past just five years away that now felt so distant.
The net of light descended into the world, it washed over the ruins of thousands of cities, now regrown as forests and cave systems, it should have ignored the plants and the beasts but wisps of energy were absorbed while it looked for the kind of signal it was more familiar with: a plea for help, a desire to be saved, a seed of a prayer if those people were still willing to believe in gods.
They have failed to guide and protect their followers, but that also opened their eyes to a truth of the world: even the gods can die.
But if they were fated to be no more, if even they had to bend to time, then at least they would do a last effort, a final defiance to the cold and uncaring world, then, the divine power wrapped around the sentient beings it could find and burrowed into their minds, because for it to act on this scale only the barest of the barest could be sent back, only the memories could jump in time.
The world flashed, and the gods were no more.
And then, after everything was done a rain of meteors scorched the land, destroying what was left of the civilization’s ruins.
Five years ago.
In a world of magic all the priests of all religions panicked at once because the gods went silent at the same time, but more strangely, a few people, like one in every ten thousand received memories of things that were yet to happen, memories so detailed and vivid they could repeat them to each other and warn them in detail, had the gods went to slumber after using their power to send a mass prophecy? It would take them time to realize their gods were dead but the knowledge gained from their sacrifice would prove priceless across the many worlds endangered by the end of the multiverse.
Vance woke up confused, for a moment he felt as if he still was on his hole hiding from the beasts and focusing on the magic that would keep him hidden, then he realized he was back in his house, the electricity was still working, the water was still running, he turned on the tv and the world was still out there, lively and spinning.
He doubted for a moment if he was still dreaming, too hungry and scared to wake up, but no, the light had enveloped him and everything went blank and there he was, back in his house, had he really... been sent back in time?
Vance checked the date, how long did he had?
“Fucking fuck! A week!”
A week, whatever that magic light was it had given him a week to prepare and redo his survival, it was great, an amazing chance that could not be measured in words of gratitude... but a week, it felt like a little rushed compared to the enormity of the situation.
But Vance had a secret weapon: money, lots and lots of it, he had won the lottery a year ago and had been living from it since, at his fifty years Vance wanted nothing but to live a luxurious retirement with his lottery money and could have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for the multiverse meddling with his reality, he checked the fridge and took out a frozen pizza, covered it with more meat and cheese and put it in the oven while surfing the web, a week, damn, he had to engorge himself on food while he still could, he was going to rejuvenate and become healthier from the magic anyway so it was not a problem.
“What? Titanium is not that good for swords? It sounded way cooler in my mind.”
“No titanium guns either, it’s a kind of disappointing material for all of its reputation.”
Knowledge was crucial to make a plan so Vance had spent several hours looking for information on which materials could be used to make weapons, which to stockpile and which would require to be made after the world changed.
His five years of struggle were not worth very much, all he really learned was that somehow magic changed the interaction of energy rendering most technology useless, everything that used electricity died and guns became unable to shoot in succession until they simply jammed or exploded, the only vehicle he saw that actually worked was a steam car restored from the 70’s that was crushed by monsters anyway.
The other only piece of knowledge was the fact that magic could be focused and amplified by gemstones, that’s how Vance survived, hiding in a hole and using a piece of diamond to reinforce his hideout.
But why? How did that work?
Answers would have to wait for later, in his first apocalyptic run he transformed his house into a small bunker and he managed to hold on for a year before a horde of monsters trampled it with him inside and surviving by pure luck, trapped under concrete and steel he was forced to dig his way out with magic, the ability which would be his lifeline on the four years after.
A diamond, Vance took his walking cane and admired the artificial diamond on top of it, buying natural diamonds was stupid as artificial ones were purer, shinier and stronger so he ordered a batch of twenty big enough to fill his fist and a bunch of smaller ones, they were incredibly useful but still just one among the several materials to stockpile, sheets of metal were a must too, both for weapons and armors, steel pipes, aluminum and lots of cheaper gemstones.
Vance looked out from his window, his house was big, had a wide basement, an orchard, plenty of trees in the vicinity and a small stream of water coming down from the nearby mountain, he was ten minutes away from the city and this had saved him too as a lone human attracted little attention from the beasts but it also presented a problem of fortification, on the city he could bunker up inside a tall building, it was just a matter of destroying the upper floors to retrieve the steel beams and use those to fortify the bottom, the metro tunnels were also an obvious shelter that already connected the city...
“Wait, can’t i just use the magic to dig in here.”
It would take him some time but he managed to survive a full year by simply hiding at home, it was his lack of action what let him to discover the use of his diamond so late but if he dedicated himself to become more familiar with magic then he could develop and advantage.
Ok, Vance surfed the web again to order steel beams, large amounts of coal... gas, small tanks of gas that could be carried on his back, a fence... was it really necessary? He was away from the city and anyone who could steal his stuff would rather stay near such a stockpile of items, no, he would fortify his house first and increase the size of his stronghold after the change happened
Vance hired a construction team to make the foundation of a bigger space around his house, big as a medium sized supermarket and fully made of steel, it was more like a big version of a vendor’s stall, they arrived the next day and got to work immediately moved by juicy monetary incentives but got delayed another two days as the steel beams took time to arrive, much to Vance’s chagrin.
His worry was not about the upcoming wave of change as much as it was about having to let his other orders of supplies outside and then take them inside the new structure, which would take even more time.
Alas, the new bunker was ready just one day before the week timer, with all the beams and metal boards it felt like a full metal wooden barn, Vance kept the construction team hired to help him bring everything inside.
“Sir, are you a doomsday prepper?
Ben, the team leader asked him, it was no strange question as they were filling a metal structure with edibles, fuels, tools and materials which would be presumably used for construction of other new tools
“I prefer the term Apocalyptic Prepper” said Vance, “but how about this? I predict that tomorrow the world will start to change and it will change even more in the ten days after, if tomorrow you see a change come again and we will talk about an alliance.
“It sounds weird but i guess i don’t lose anything by agreeing” said Ben as he extended a hand to shake Vance’s, he didn’t really believe anything would happen but basic client-costumer courtesy was a must for any businessman that did the work in person.
The construction team was almost leaving when a big, big trailer arrived, on its platform there were an old locomotive, a small tractor and several wheels and tires of all sizes, the delivery men used the tractor to help drag down the locomotive and left the tractor and tires, Vance tried to get his hands on a steam engine but most of them were small models for use as wood powered electricity generation so he settled for buying some old locomotive engines, once the cash was rolling it was rather easy after the initial historical concerns used to drive the price up.
The other supplies would arrive after the change started and it was still a race against time, albeit his previous survival made him believe he had some time to spare and get his machines ready, but the fact that he was sent back in time meant the past could be changed and who knows what other changes the near future may disclose.