E.C. went digging through the old writing “to be finished later” file folder and found an excerpt to salvage. Like the moon landing, it could be based on a true story or completely made up, but because much of it happened so long ago… fact checking is not going to happen.
“My worst fear is that I will die before the world ends.”
There was very little context surrounding her remark. So I looked at my friend, trying to discern whether what she just uttered was one of the more profound things that I have ever heard or whether it was utterly insane or whether there is even a difference between those things anyway.
I had long known that she carried a deeply rooted fear of the world ending. But perhaps, now, it was not really much of a fear after all. Perhaps it was simply an obsession with the world ending and the fear was actually of missing such a climactic event. In tone, her statement was put forth as one would note “My worst fear is that I will die before the final episode of American Idol.” I’ve noted before in this space that the end of the world would be must see TV. But alas, I’m quite certain that the apocalypse will not be televised.
“And do you know what really scares me?” she continued. “2012.”
“The Rush album?”
“No. That’s 2112. I mean the Mayan thing. The Long Count.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. I doubt a culture that couldn’t discover the wheel could predict the end of the world from a few millenia in advance.”
(At this point, it must be noted that I owe the Maya and my friend an apology. It appears that my above statement was a misstatement, though I was unaware of it at the time. I have since learned that the Maya did have the wheel, which is a highly rated thing for a culture to develop, behind only, perhaps, language, fire, and an intoxicating beverage.)
I tried to empathize with her. I tried some perspective-taking. I tried to perceive the world as it would appear to one who was obsessed with its end. We’ll get to that shortly.
But first, reader, I hope you are still listening to Gil Scott-Heron. There will be no pictures of you and Willy May pushing that shopping cart down the block on a dead run or trying to slide that color TV into a stolen ambulance. The apocalypse will not be televised. It may, however, be accompanied by conga and bongo drums. Seriously, think about it – if the world is truly ending, someone will be banging drums. I know it was intended for another end, but let that be our soundtrack. “Armagideon Time” (even the original, but don’t click until after Gil is done) would have been too cliché.
Here, when storms blow in across the desert and usually from the west, you can sense it, almost synesthetically. The air tastes different. The wind looks different. The sky sounds different. Ineffably different. I think that’s how the finale will feel. I once spent New Years Eve in a cabin, at the end of a one-way/dead-end dirt road, up in the mountains. In additional to the usual peculiarities associated with one-way/dead-end roads, there happened to be a blizzard on this particular eve. And later a small earthquake; on that may have triggered a fatal avalanche. The news was reporting that a man was missing in the storm. Then the power went out as we were preparing Feuerzangenbowle. (It looks as bad, but actually tastes much better, than it sounds.) At this point the knock at the door felt different. Candles! (An astute reader could now note that our gathering had fire, language, and intoxicating beverages… but no wheel.). A tree had fallen across the one-way/dead end-road. The neighbors needed help. Chainsaw! Blizzards, avalanches, fire-tongs punch, and chainsaws.. this night felt like the apocalypse should. But New Year’s Eve would be too obvious a date for it to go down.
“Are you even listening to me? What do you think about the 2012 thing?,” she then asked, a hint of lament in her voice.
Maybe she was not scared that the world would end in 2012; maybe she was scared it wouldn’t.
History knows October 22, 1842 as the “Great Disappointment” because the world did not end as predicted. On December 20, 1954, when psychologists infiltrated and observed UFO end of the world cult, they noted that the members reacted with tears and shocked silence when they learned the prophecy had failed. In fact, as midnight passed, the cult simply agreed their clocks had been a bit fast, and waited, and hoped, for a few more minutes. Once the notion of the finale gets in the mind, the belief that it is approaching grows rapidly stronger. We don’t want to miss it. We don’t want to die before the world ends.