[Taken from Dangerous Visions.]
The Day of Wrath arrived. The sky pealed with trumpets, agonized, summoning. Everywhere the dry rocks rose, groaning, and fell back in rubble. Then the sky split, and in the dazzle appeared a throne of white fire, in a rainbow that burned green.
Lightning flickered away toward the horizons. Around the throne hovered seven majestic figures in white, with golden girdles across their paps; and each one carried in his gigantic hand a vial that smoked and fumed in the sky.
Out of the brightness in the throne came a voice: "Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth."
And the first angel swooped down, and emptied his vial in a torrent of darkness that smoked away across the bare earth. And there was silence.
Then the second angel flew down to earth, and darted this way and that, with his vial unemptied: and at last turned back to the throne, calling, "Lord, mine is to be poured out upon the sea. But where is the sea?"
And again there was silence. For the dry, dusty rocks of the earth stretched away limitless under the sky; and where the oceans had been, there were only runneled caverns in the stone, as dry and empty as the rest.
The third angel called, "Lord, mine is for the rivers and fountains of waters."
Then the fourth angel called, "Lord, let me empty mine." And he poured out his vial upon the sun: and in an instant grew hot with a terrible radiance: and he soared back and forth letting fall his light upon the earth. After some time he faltered and turned back to the throne. And again there was silence.
Then out of the throne came a voice saying, "Let be."
Under the wide dome of heaven, no bird flew. No creature crawled or crept on the face of the earth; there was no tree, and no blade of grass.
The voice said, "This is the day appointed. Let us go down."
Then God walked on the earth, as in the old time. His form was like a moving pillar of smoke. And after Him trooped the seven white angels with their vials, murmuring. They were alone under the yellow-grey sky.
"They who are dead have escaped our wrath," said the Lord God Jehovah. "Nevertheless they shall not escape judgement." The dry valley in which they stood was the Garden of Eden, where the first man and first woman had been given a fruit which they might not eat. To eastward was the pass through which the wretched pair had been driven into the wilderness, Some little distance to the west they saw the pitted crag of Mount Ararat, where the Ark had come to rest after a purifying Flood.
And God said in a great voice, "Let the book of life be opened; and let the dead rise up from their graves, and from the depths of the sea."
His voice echoed away under the sullen sky. And again the dry rocks heaved and fell back; but the dead did not appear. Only the dust swirled, as if it alone remained of all earth's billions, living and dead.
The first angel was holding a huge book open in his arms. When the silence had endured for some time, he shut the book, and in his face was fear; and the book vanished out of his hands.
The other angels were murmuring and sighing together. One said, "Lord, terrible is the sound of silence, when our ears should be filled with lamentations."
And God said, "This is the time appointed. Yet one day in heaven is as a thousand years on earth. Gabriel, tell me, as men reckoned time, how many days have passed since the Day?"
The first angel opened a book and said, "Lord, as men reckoned time, one day has passed since the Day."
A shocked murmur went through the angels.
And turning from them God said, "Only one day: a moment. And yet they do not rise."
The fifth angel moistened his lips and said "Lord, are You not God? Shall any secrets be hid from the Maker of all things?"
"Peace!" said Jehovah, and thunders rumbled off toward the gloomy horizon. "In good season, I will cause these stones to bear witness. Come, let us walk further."
They wandered over the dry mountains and through the empty canyons of the sea. And God said, "Michael, you were set to watch over these people. What was the manner of their last days?"
They paused near the fissured cone of Vesuvius, which in an aeon of heavenly inattention had twice erupted, burying thousands alive.
The second angel answered, "Lord, when last I saw them, they were preparing a great war."
"Their iniquities were past belief," said Jehovah. "Which were the nations of those that prepared the war?"
The second angel answered, "Lord, they were called England and Russia and China and America."
"Let us then go to England."
Across the dry valley that had been the Channel, the island was a tableland of stone, crumbling and desolate. Everywhere the stones were brittle and without strength. And God grew wroth, and cried out, "Let the stones speak!"
Then the gray rocks fountained up into dust, uncovering caverns and tunnels, like the chambers of an empty anthill. And in some places bright metal gleamed, lying in skeins that were graceful but without design, as if the metal had melted and run like water.
The angels murmured; but God said, "Wait. This is not all."
He commanded again, "Speak!" And the rocks rose up once more, to lay bare a chamber that was deeper still. And in silence, God and the angels stood in a circle around the pit, and leaned down to see what shapes glittered there.
In the wall of that lowest chamber, someone had chiseled a row of letters. And when the machine in that chamber had been destroyed, the fiery metal had sprayed out and filled the letters in the wall, so that they gleamed now like silver in the darkness.
And God read the words.
"We were here. Where were You?"