Like all total collapses of civilisation, this one started simply.

The instigators are lost to history, their names and legacy untarnished by the cataclysmic spasms that rocked and ultimately tore apart the very fabric of society. They may have been amongst the first victims, unaware of what they had wrought. They may have survived the great purges, battles, wars, and plagues; witnesses to the terror that their actions had brought forth. Either way, the dogmatic adherence to ideas they espoused enabled the Four Horseman to ride roughshod over the Earth, laying waste to democracy, theocracy, and dictatorship alike. All of humanity was pulled into the maelstrom idealogical tunnel vision that followed, some was vomited back out — broken and crushed, barely able to wobble on.

Albert Einstein once stated that he had no idea what weapons World War III would be fought with, but that World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones. There are scant sticks left now.

It began simply.

One couldn’t even place the initial schism on the ideas of class, religion, wealth, or education. Race played no part. Gender barely got a look in. Perhaps one could pin it on a certain ideal of sophistication, that may be closest. But the schism developed, sides were taken, reason left behind and emotions followed. Before long what started as minor difference blossomed, gained popular traction. Talk shows dedicated call-ins to it, Twitter exploded, emoji were created. Politicians began to notice and the fear campaigns began. Before long, the first of the trade embargoes began. The need for minimum entry requirements were thrown across chambers, foreigners were banished, each side one upping the other. Riots occurred, premises looted. Both sides burning the other’s cherished symbols in bonfires that raged and raged.

And then it turned nasty.

Some are still unsure just why it spiralled so far out of control. Some place the fuel being placed centuries past, allowing to sit, waiting for just the right spark to ignite the world. Maybe it was just opportunistic, but the rising tensions one day snapped.

Switzerland unleashed war upon Belgium.

They had been allies in the war on inferior chocolate. What began as a propaganda campaign to bring down American “big chocolate” quickly escalated. The behind the scenes political machinations to have global regulations mandating that chocolate must actually contain chocolate quickly reduced the likes of Mars and Hersheys to selling Solidified Brown Paste in fancy wrapping. Their factories were quickly shuttered, removing local supply and increasing dependance on the European chocolate powerhouses.

Cadbury was more difficult. Allegiances were strong with this one, and with a global manufacturing base. They also made actual chocolate and so skirted the trade regulations. Espionage was the only option. What began as simple corporate malfeasance soon developed into the sabotaging of factories, the nationalisation of production facilities, the disruption of shipments, and eventually carefully staged conflagrations that wiped out production. Before long, Cadbury’s stores of burnt caramel was nothing but charcoal, their cocoa reduced to carbon, and tales of the poisonous nature of Caramello’s insides were rife. The once mighty scion of Bournville was reduced to rubble.

The world economies suffered as chocolate making consolidated to the two major centres. Rumours began to swirl that addictive compounds were being mixed in, but although considered it was never undertaken. The desire for chocolate was too strong among the devotees. Society began to turn in on itself. Unbelievers, spurners of chocolate of all forms, those who refused to partake were the first against the wall. The ones who claimed that Easter Egg chocolate was okay were quickly rounded up and put to work in the expanding cocoa farms. The remaining split into the followers of Cadbury, run underground and praying for the return Freddo, the one true messiah, and those who spurned the mass produced.

As society devoured itself, the two global super powers alliance became uneasy. Jealous of Switzerland’s bucolic cow pastures and their reliable source of milk, Belgium began to expand it’s territory, once again becoming a colonial master as it sought to guarantee supply. Nothing too overt, but as a security measure. The Belgians vastly underestimated the Swiss endgame.

There was only so many chocolate seashells that the Swiss could stomach. Flooding the Mother’s Day market with their insipid ocean creatures year after year, decade after decade. Eventually it was too much. Toblerone went to open armed conflict. Sweeping through France and Germany, pacifying any resistance that Luxembourg could muster, the Swiss Chocolateries devastated Belgium, reducing it to ruins.

Other nations still capable rose up and stuck back. Before long, Europe was embroiled in a war the likes of which was never seen before. As it reached its borders, Russia — desperate to hold back the tide — unleashed their nuclear stockpile, liquefying large swathes of Western and Central Europe. With no real economy left to care for them, the USA stuck back immediately. Within hours, nuclear devices were being fired with the laissez-faire of lemons across the fence. Within days, what began a few months before as a choice of chocolate had reduced civilisation to a mere handful of decimated population centres, scrabbling out an existence on the shell of a shattered world.