Countdown to Armageddon

It’s just a few hours away! 5:12 am central time which, alas, will be 3:12 am Pacific time, meaning that all of the people on the West Coast will be missing the fun. I wonder – will fire fall from the skies? Will the earth be ravaged by “mutant neutrinos”, just like in that movie with John Cusack in it? Or will it be a retro thing, with Godzilla rising from the sea to deliver a smack down on Tokyo and then New York – or is it the other way around – as only a man in a rubber suit can? “Inquiring minds want to know”, somebody in Starbucks insisted tonight, as he drowned his sorrows in pumpkin spice latte, not knowing what tomorrow would bring. “But at least the drought will be over?”, he asked, enjoying the scent of cinnamon for one last time.

“You’re not thinking this through”, I told him. “They’re on the West Coast in that movie, so they get dropped into the Pacific, but we’re in Illinois, so we get dropped …”

“Into the Lake?”, he asked, eyes widening.

“Or worse”, I said. “Into the Chicago River.”

“G-d help us all”, he said. There was nothing to be said at that moment, no words of solace I could give him or even myself. We’d seen the Occupy kids hit those waters during the NATO protests, this May, as they dove off the State Street bridge, the looks of anguish as the stench finally reached them, ten feet before impact. There was only so much that years of inhaling patchouli and the smoke from rare imported Mexican herbal products could do to insulate a man from a thing like that. “Let it go”, I cried, as they looked down on the one percenter taking his sailboat downstream, swearing that they would not let such luxuries be enjoyed in their presence. “It’s not worth it”. But they wouldn’t listen. They never listen.

Sometimes I hear their screams at night, the dawning horror as they saw their inevitable fates, so close, so very close, a horror that would not leave them even after the coast guard had pulled them out of the waters and wrapped them in towels that would be burned, afterwards. “They told us that the East River would prepare us for this!” But “they” had lied to them, whoever “they” were, as “they” always do. I’ll never forget the look on the face of our soggy demonstrators as the police euthanized them, knowing as everybody did, that there was nothing else to be done. “Thank you, officer”, one girl said, as the drugs were injected, and she started her journey across the Styx. “Thank you” – those words will haunt a man, when he sees something that no one should ever have to see, but at least they won’t haunt me for much longer.

Less than six hours to go.

“But, Joseph”, our friend continued. “I just had the most absurd thought.” “Caffeine will do that to a man”, I said, adding that perhaps he might have passed on the espresso shot, seeing as this was his 27th cup. “No, now bear with me”, he said, which I consented to do, as the place was a sausage factory at that point, and I had nowhere else to be, as a quick check of the people coming in the door confirmed. “Do you suppose if maybe they’d hire a few women to hang out at the bar, it might draw more in – like leaving a duck decoy floating in the water?”, I asked, not quite as under my breath as I’d thought, as the patrons a few tables away turned toward us and nodded.

“Joseph, focus?”, he said.

“Fine. I’m focused. On what?”, I asked, wondering where this was going, on this all last of possible nights. “What if …”, he started, tentatively, nervously, as if wondering if it was his place to speak of such matters at all. “What if the Mayans didn’t actually know the future?”, he asked.

“You have had too much to drink”, I said, sharply. “As Roland Emmerich pointed out, when the world’s most ancient civilization …”

“Joseph?”, he said, “My Sephardic friend … this, you say with a straight face? As if half of your ancestry didn’t come from within easy walking distance of a country that had a dynasty that predated the existence of the Mayans by centuries?”

“Not that easy a walking distance”, I said. “They did spent 40 years in that desert.”

“Having seen your mom try to find her way to the Mall, I’m not surprised. OK, so if the Mayans were these awesome prophets, who could see the future so clearly that we should be planning our lives according to their predictions all of these centuries later, why didn’t they have landing parties on shore, waiting to pepper Columbus and Cortez with arrows the moment that they got off of the boats? We know they had sea going war canoes and could have gotten to those landing points, and I can’t imagine that the Conquest and the plagues were a whole lot of fun for them.”

“They thought that the white men were gods”, I said, defending the sagacity of the Mayan seers from this unbeliever’s aspersions.

“Doesn’t that more or less make my point?”, he asked.

“How so?”

“If one is in the business of taking messages from the gods and giving them to Man, shouldn’t knowing who is or isn’t a god sort of be part of the job description? I mean, wouldn’t the gods sort of clue them in on that? We are talking about a group of people who would allegedly have thought that George Bush was a god, and I guess, that Obama was a demigod? You do know that the bag boy who sacked those figs for you at Treasure Island isn’t a deity, right?”

“Maybe. I did see him walking on water, last year.”

“It was late January, it was a rain puddle, and he fell on his … it was not very godlike.”

“His posterior? I didn’t know that you had such an intimate knowledge of the Divine.”

“Slipping. Slipping on a patch of black ice wasn’t a very godlike act.”

“I suppose it wasn’t. Yes, I get that John is not a god.”

“Good. So, you know what the real mystery is?”

“What’s that?”

“How will the true believers cope when they arise, tomorrow morning to find that the seas have not turned to blood, that the sun has not been devoured by starving demonic wolves, and that the 3 cents on a dollar deal you gave some hippie on his car, telling him that he wasn’t going to be able to take it with him when Nibiru dropped by to smash us into oblivion, wasn’t the great deal he thought it was?

I’ll bet he isn’t going to be happy.”

“I didn’t actually go through with that”, I admitted. “I am kicking, myself, really – here the day approaches, and I’m not prepared for it at all. I was thinking that we could have gathered in Grant Park, and it would have been just like New Year’s in Time Square, only instead of slowly lowering a ball to the ground, we’d toss a globe into the air and blow it up, while screaming, ‘it’s over, mother … lovers!’, at the confused third shift commuters through a megaphone, as they went down the Drive. Then we’d get the Hell out of there. But it’s too late to set that up, now. Stupid! Stupid!”

“You need to wipe a little spittle off of your mouth, son”, he said, reaching for a napkin.

“Thank you.”

“So, what I’m wondering is, how will they rationalize the fact that as they wake up …”

“That they’ve awakened, at all?”

“Yes. I wonder, will it be like that preacher up in Zion, who having predicted that the end would come in the late 1950s, then went on to explain the existence of the 1960s by saying that the whole decade was a mass hallucination?”

“It would explain a lot”, I pointed out, getting a poisonous look in return from my older friend. “As I was saying”, he said, clearing his throat a little more loudly than necessary, “the preacher said that the world had ended, and that what continued was the illusion of the world, maintained so that those not yet saved would have a chance to turn to the one true faith and be saved, the one true faith, of course, being the one happening inside of his church, especially when the collection plate was passed around. Kind of like the Matrix, only they didn’t know what the Matrix was, yet, so they probably would have said, like a movie everybody was walking through and being part of …”

“And that makes those of us who weren’t born, yet, when the world ended …?”

“Special effects, I believe. You would have been really elaborate movie props.”, he said.

“Oh, thank you.”

“I mean, if the theory were true. I don’t really think you’re a movie prop.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“More of a walk on. Those are called ‘extras’, now, right?”

“Anyhow …”

“Yes, so there probably were a few dysfunctional childhoods happening in that church in the years to come. The poor kids had, after all, just been demoted to the status of being virtual pets, and tamagotchis don’t tend to fare too well, in the long run.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Perhaps will they tell us that their calculations were a little bit off, and that the real 2012 will be a few years from now? That would give you another chance to do that detonating paper mache sphere thing you were so intent on.”

“It’s not the same, the second time around”, I said, appreciating the attempt at consolation, but feeling that we just had to be realistic about this. The moment had passed. “Perhaps, not”, he said, “but still, so many possibilities for them to explore. Which one will they choose?”

“Only time will tell”, I said, as drily as I could.

“Not even a little bit curious?”

“Not really.”

“Curiosity is the spice of life.”

“I thought that was variety.”

“Maybe it was. Times change, you know.”

“So I’ve noticed, but I try not to think about it.”

“Why not?”, he asked. “Change is good, don’t you agree?”

“I’ll agree that change is change”, I said. “Ever been the only sober man in a room full of drunks? At times like this, that’s what using logic is like, it’s like being that designated driver, only you don’t have a ride to get you out of there, and nobody’s waiting to be driven home. So instead of thinking about all of this, I just watch. I don’t ask how our friends will get their way out of this conceptual hole they’ve dug themselves into, any more than I’d ask what a comedian’s next punch line will be. I don’t want to know. Why spoil the surprise? I just kick back with a cool one, get as drunk as the people around me, and enjoy the show. I’m much happier that way.”

“You know you’re in a Starbucks?”, he asked.

“Reality is highly overrated. Just ask around and everybody will tell you the same, but be quick about it, because time has become so precious. The world’s ending, you know. It will be on the news, tomorrow, mark my words.”

Frowning, he sipped his coffee, and confirming that there was no whiskey mixed into it, finished his drink with a decisive gulp. The rain, which had fallen in icy torrents all during the night before, and much of the day that followed, had turned to a soft dusting of snow, the first of a much delayed season. “How wonderful that G-d thought of letting the children see snow for one last time”, I thought of saying, but on seeing a young boy slumbering next to his father in a corner, thought better of it.

The cash registers sang on, as the wiser among us drowned their sorrows in espresso, living not for the tomorrow that would never come. The rest went on chattering aimlessly, as if they had all of the time in the world, and who were we to tell them that they did not?

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~ by Myopic Midnight Special / Joseph Dunphy on December 20, 2012.

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