Back when the world was civilized, when electricity flowed through upright buildings, crude oil flowed from the ground, and all our vegetables grew in neat little rows, I was a guardian. I kept careful watch over the earth, searching for threats, working with the greatest minds to reach peaceful conclusions. We discussed and gauged the greatest challenges of our time, hoping to grant all humans more time in this world. We were the timekeepers of the Doomsday Clock.
Our mission began shortly after the Cold War. We watched in fear and disgust as little men from great, powerful countries threatened our world with nuclear annihilation. We moved the hands forward, closer to midnight, closer to Doomsday. In time, the little men were replaced by other little men, and the threats subsided, and we moved the hands back, thankful of our reprieve. Over the years, the little men agreed to disarm the warheads, and soon the Iron Curtain was lifted. The hands of the clock moved backwards again, and we rejoiced; for us a backwards clock worked best, allowing humanity those precious extra minutes.
When the Towers fell, and all the little men became angry again, we realized our mistake: the threat was not always from outside, but also from within. The hands moved forward, much faster than before, as time always seems to do. We, the Great Thinkers, now understood that the earth could warm rapidly, or freeze suddenly. The air may become toxic, or nonexistent. We aimed our telescopes to the heavens, frantically searching for the large rocks that could crash into us at any moment. We studied the diseases that made us ill, desperate to find a cure. We preached for peace, clean air, and pure souls. We held the Clock in our hands, yet it controlled us, and the hands moved forward.
After many years the world listened. They cleaned the air, the water, and the soil. They helped us discover cures for the diseases, and built great machines to combat the threats from space. The little men went away, to hide under their rocks. Greater men took their place, Great Thinkers like us. We learned not to fear, hate, or judge. Once again the world rejoiced as we turned the hands of the Clock backwards. We lived in peace and harmony. There was no hunger, no thirst, no murder, no rape, no war. We applied ourselves to the tasks of survival. We ensured our existence.
We were wrong.
After all of our searching for threats, from within and without, we failed to notice the greatest threat of all. The earth shook, swelled, and buckled. The oceans rose in mutiny, smiting us with great watery swords. Great rivers of fire spewed forth from the Underworld. The winds howled at a frantic pace, picking up our buildings and crops in the vortex. The fertile land grew cold, hard and sterile. Disease and famine ravaged us all. Little men returned, taking all their little hands could carry. Only a few Great Thinkers remained, but when we grasped the hands of the Doomsday Clock, we realized it had been holding us all along.