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The Qantas Mystery (Cont)

By John Grigsby

People grow ill and die. The doctors and nurses try to help but have no medicines or theatre facilities. The best results come from native drugs based on local plants. But children are born, and the passengers have to face the ordeal of childbirth without analgesics. The population halves before it begins to grow again.

In two generations the great medical knowledge of the western world has been almost completely lost. Brain surgery and heart bypass operations are not worth passing to the next generation - and similarly three quarters of medical knowledge becomes obsolete overnight due to its reliance on prescription drugs. There is no anaesthetic save the narcotics used by tribal people for generations - there is no way of producing drugs such as insulin, thyroxine. People die of infected teeth and gums - there are no antibiotics. They try growing penicillin on rotting food - its use is small and negligible for large infections. There are no opticians, dentists. Skeletons of the new population begin to resemble those of the natives. In another generation they are the same - diseased joints, bad teeth, vitamin deficiencies.

The concerns of modern city life vanish. There is a growing awareness and appreciation of the moment. The veneer of civilisation is slowly disappearing.

They know the theory of electricity, but in this world with no copper, no batteries, no light bulbs it is useless. In a few generations the science is completely gone. It is as if it had never existed. This happens with all modern discoveries and commodities.

The poet composes easily memorable verses and stories that preserve Newton's laws, a moral code, the Christian myth, and basic facts about the solar system. The astrophysicist spends time making sure that certain numbers are included in the stories - especially relating to such things as precession - for it is his belief that the cometary impact was a cyclical event caused by the passing of the earth through the galactic plane. He believes that he can forewarn future generations so that they might not be blind to the danger, like his own. He instils a respect amongst the settlers for astral observation, so that this celestial timekeeping can take place.

Within four generations there are none left alive who knew the old world through personal experience. The colony resembles that of a native village prior to the impact - similar architecture, tools, foodstuffs, clothing. They only differ in their oral tradition and their secret rites involving the kenning of a hieroglyphic script and the legends and lore of the sky ancestors who came from a lost city of light - the vanished land of Oz in the east...

They also differ in that they show rudimentary development of animal husbandry and farming techniques - probably based on the fencing off of natural areas of crop growth rather than deliberate planting. Apart from this there is nothing to distinguish their group from another native settlement over the other side of the hill. Indeed, to all intents and purposes the native settlement is the more advanced, its tools finer, its houses stronger and its people healthier, though in time they will equal out - and both tribes will form a larger village group.

The people are self-sufficient. They can survive. Indeed, if the sky ancestors were to meet them, they would be shocked and surprised at their adaptability. In just a few dozen years they have become as 'native' as those they met on landing. They have interbred with the locals. Their language is pied - their religions become mixed. But there is a great regard and respect of the priests who preserve the oral tradition of the time before the fire and flood. They are an elite - the followers of Qantas, the great bird of the heavens, who over time is becoming one with the Sun.

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