The year was 2024 and by proclamation it was publicly declared that free will did not exist. Legislatures everywhere had been convinced by numerous well-meaning but ultimately ignorant philosophers and others that no one could be held responsible for any act they did as they were pre-destined to behave so.
It all began in 2025 with one test case brought before the supreme court. A homicidal maniac who had lured in a dozen victims, tortured, and then killed them, claimed innocence due to the fact that he was pre-destined to commit these atrocities and could not resist them. He cited the 2024 public proclamation as his basis and appealed to the court to obey it. Although seeing the madness of agreement with this man, logically they could do no less. He was released. It was all downhill from there. The logic continued that the prisons made no sense. None of those held within the walls of these institutions were culpable for their behavior. Prisons were discontinued. The insane were destined to be so, asylums everywhere were ordered closed. Police forces were then declared obsolete and useless, they too were disbanded. Anarchy soon ensued. Those that had declared free will did not exist protested, they did not mean, they said, that people were no longer responsible for their actions. However, the ball was rolling and could not be stopped, for on average the public were dullards.
It was now the responsibility of the individual to provide their own security. Gun sells reached a new and dangerous level. Battles raged between gangs of thieves and murderers. No one was safe as organized bands took out the most well guarded fortresses.
Banks and other businesses failed as no one could be held responsible for their debts. Civilization was on the brink. With schools and other public entities gone the masses became less and less educated. The only things that did well were those that fed on the conditions that prevailed. Religions began to prosper, gain authority, enforcing their edicts with newly formed militias. They declared free will was available and that all the masses had to do was accept freely the offer of salvation. Small pockets of various cults fought for dominance. Kingdoms were once again in vogue.
So many kingdoms developed, each with separate doctrine, each kingdom fought tooth and nail for its small patch of existence. Within each kingdom strict laws were enforced and those that resisted simply disappeared. If you disagreed with the ideals in fashion you either kept quiet or ended up in some dungeon. Remaining technology and expertise was directed into the construction of ornate and monolithic structures to house the religion of each region. From these palaces the reigning doctrine governed. The constructions were refined and the palaces made indestructible as many were burned when one kingdom fought and destroyed another. No particular kingdom, it seemed, was able to develop to such a point as to remain in power in excess of a few years.
With all organization gone, medical systems floundered, disease spread quickly from kingdom to kingdom. Sewage departments long since abandoned, filth built quickly and plagues scourged many communities. Soon there were some kingdoms without a population. Where once the earth held nine billion, the numbers began to decline with acceleration. The people who survived no longer congregated in kingdoms. Kingdoms were avoided as unclean places and the people scattered. Family groups living in isolation became the norm. Chance meetings between families always ended in bloodshed.
The ability to construct family dwellings declined as education became non-existent. Natural caves became the home to many families. These structures were fiercely defended because of their scarcity. The land, unable to support more than a few humans that had assumed foraging habits, necessitated fewer foraging humans. The population downward spiral accelerated even faster. It wasn’t more than a few years passing that human population had declined to just a few million. With isolation communication between groups became impossible for each group’s language soon altered and was unintelligible to another. Through generations language was found unnecessary and soon grunts and pointing sufficed. For foraging now all the people had were those implements they could fashion from rock and wood. Inbreeding within each group led shortly to unfavorable genetic developments. The brain case of the once proud human lineage began to decrease in size. Survival became more based on brawn than brain. Large lumbering bodies meant more to survival than how one could think.
Then the climate changed, the earth cooled, a new ice age began. As the world became cold and harsh the population of humankind declined once more. It declined, in fact, to only several tens of thousands. As the habitat that could support humanity shrank, once again groups met and fought for space. Viable populations of human beings were reduced; it seemed as if extinction were imminent. Although it was around year 2250, humanity returned to year zero, and lacked the means to move it forward.
This was to be expected. After all, it was pre-destined. No one was responsible for mankind’s fall, no one at all. No one had the will to change it.
Around what could have been 2373 an alien craft lands. The ships inhabitants explore the remaining areas of the world which are not covered by ice. Vegetation, thick and encompassing, shrouds structures which the explorers find. Ornate palaces still exist, with high spires. It is obvious to these newcomers that they will find no one at home, the decay is evident. Cataloguing their finds they soon reenter their craft disappointed to find yet another civilization gone. They leave wondering what kind of civilization existed and why it so recently ended. Carrying only a few misshapen bones, the only traces left of humanity, the ship rises and returns to the search for a people who might have had more success.