It’s the End of the World!! (As We Know It)


The world ended on a Wednesday and it was rather less dramatic than everyone had expected.

I started my day in the usual manner. I woke from my scattered dreams to an unpleasantly piercing alarm, oozed my way to the shower, and began my morning cleanse.

Showers are strange, when you stop to think about them. We’ve bottled a waterfall, and no one seems to care.

It was soon after I lathered my hair in shampoo did I notice the first sign of the apocalypse. Almost imperceptibly, the stream of water was pausing and starting again. Not stopping, where the water ceased to flow out of the showerhead, but pausing, the droplets hanging in midair for fractions of a second before continuing their path to my soaped-up bod.

I would have thought this phenomenon of physics to be more worthy of investigation, but the shampoo makes my scalp itch if I leave it in long enough, and I was going to be late to work if I didn’t get a move on.

Having wasted precious minutes squinting at unusual water activity in the shower, I had no time for a respectable breakfast. Instead, I snatched a banana from the counter-top and exited my tiny premises.

Anticipating heavy traffic, I decided to take a back-road route to the office. As I navigated the winding road with my knee on the steering wheel, I ate my meager breakfast.

Had I not been so entirely focused on driving with the wrong appendage and eating my banana, I may have noticed some oddities outside my window. A man jogging along the road froze in place, vanished, and reappeared two driveways back, only to continue forward with nary a frown to indicate he’d noticed. A dog chasing a squirrel with all his might was making no headway at all – simply running in place as if the grass was freshly oiled linoleum. Despite this, the squirrel wasn’t gaining a lead either, being frozen mid-leap to the safety of a tree trunk.

I noticed none of this, as I was enjoying my banana immensely. However, as I ate the last bite, I encountered the inevitable problem faced by every banana-eater on the move: I had nowhere to put the skin. I couldn’t simply drop it in my car somewhere, or set it on the fabric of the seat. The mush on the inside of the peel would grind into whatever I set it on.

Fortunately, being a Wednesday, it was garbage day, and everyone had cans at the mouths of their driveways. One had even left the lid open, giving me a nice target for my problematic peel.

The floppy yellow annoyance cartwheeled through the air in an arc of very uncharacteristic accuracy, it’s trajectory aligned with the mouth of the can. At that moment, I noticed the second sign of Armageddon. I wasn’t positive, but it appeared to me that the banana peel never made it to the trashcan: it simply disappeared 13 inches from the rim.

This puzzled me for the remainder of my commute. Did I see the peel go in the can, or did it really vanish? Was the water in my shower really time-sputtering, or was it the illusion of a still-groggy mind?

By the time I reached my office – a squat, glass paneled block with little personality beyond two completely symmetrical trees out front – I’d convinced myself that I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the previous night. I’d worked until late, and with project after project building up that quarter it wouldn’t be the last time. I’d even skipped dinner, which surely explained my hallucinations.

As I stepped up the curb and onto the sidewalk leading to my office, I witnessed the third (and most noticeable) sign of Doomsday. My office building hiccupped. No, there wasn’t a car backfiring nearby, or some other disturbance. My solid, concrete, lung-less building hiccupped. It expanded by about 3-4 ft. very rapidly, then just as rapidly regressed to normal size. This abnormality was accompanied by a very amplified and very recognizable hiccupping sound, which echoed around the parking lot two or three times. Following this anthromorphist event, the building disappeared entirely.

Well, thinking back, disappeared isn’t the correct term. It was sucked into the ground like a boba tea bubble through a straw, leaving no evidence of its once-time existence.

Imagine my surprise.

Here I am, about to start a day of much needed buckle-down-ery, when the whole of my office inexplicably vanishes. Inconvenient is the most polite of the words I began to yell.

After my tantrum, I decided to sit beneath the symmetric trees and see if my laptop could still access my building’s wifi. The concrete structure may have been just below the surface, after all, which shouldn’t have impeded signal overmuch.

As I sat down in the shade of the first tree, it followed it suit with the building. A brief hiccup (much less pronounced, given its smaller stature), and then it too was sucked into the ground. A second or two later, the tree across the sidewalk realized this lack of symmetry, and hastened to rectify the aesthetic faux pas by vanishing in the same manner as its former colleague.

At this point, I decided it was time for a re-evaluation of my day. My office was gone and the wifi access with it. There was no chance of sending my emails this morning until the office came back, nor was there shade I could use to block the sun as I typed drafts on my laptop. No cell service either, assuming the fourth hiccup I had heard was the cell tower down the street.

While contemplating my dilemma, I lay on my back and stared at the sky. I’d never seen clouds quite like the ones I saw then. Perfectly square, sharp edged blocks of white water vapor dotted the blue sky like keys on an exceptionally large keyboard. Straight rows and columns of white cubes stretched as far as I could see (which, given the continuing sounds of hiccups and vanishing of buildings and trees, was quite a distance). Soon, I had an unimpeded view of the horizon on all sides of me. Only my car remained, suddenly looking very out of place parked on a grassy hill some fifty feet to my left.

I turned my head and look back up at the sky. Winking in an out of sight behind the clouds were hundreds of satellites, orbiting the Earth at what appeared to be only a few hundred feet behind the clouds. It was amazing how many there were given we’d only been in space for the last half-century or so. Some large, some small, others somewhere in the middle – all strangely distorted compared to the perfect cloud-cubes. Wires, lights, and solar fans, sticking out every which way in a complete lack of symmetry. It was beautiful – perhaps my phone would have signal now that the satellites were so close.

I raised my phone to the sky in a desperate attempt to connect to that silicon net cast behind the clouds, but to no avail. The sound of thousands of tiny hiccups drifted down to me moments later, after the satellites had vanished into who-knows-where in a wave from left to right, east to west, as if they had each fallen chasing the sunset-horizon. Completely flabbergasted, I chucked my phone as hard as I could (and was cheated of any satisfying phone-shattering by yet another hiccup vanishing act before it hit the ground). I thrust my hands in my pockets and began to walk.

Slowly (from west to east this time, the direction I was walking), the clouds started disappearing as well. As they faded, they released their matter upon the Earth. It began to rain on me…spitefully. Escape from this unpleasantry was impossible. The faster I ran, the faster the rain came, clouds above falling almost violently to the ground directly atop my now soaked head. The rain wasn’t cold, simply a nuisance, one more source of perturbment to a thoroughly confused me.

Once I ran out of breath (i.e., not long), I slowed to a walk…then to a crawl…then to a facedown flop of acceptance in the mud. I’d given up, and pounded my fist into the ground – there was no way I was going to find a wifi port out here. I hadn’t even brought my laptop in my haste to escape the rain, which meant it had probably hiccupped its way out of my life. It dawned on me with dread surety: I would not be able to get any work done today.

Once the clouds had vanished completely, the rain dripped to an end. The grass absorbed the droplets, dragging the puddles into the dirt like a jogger pulling at his water bottle after a run in the summer. The dirt drank every drop it could find, and then started on the grass.

The green shoots between my fingers slipped away in the blink of an eye, like groundhogs darting into their burrows. Blade by blade shot down into the Earth, whispering instead of hiccupping. From my belly-down vantage point I could see the hills and valleys of my country lose their brilliant green hue to an oncoming wave of brown.

Without grass, my resting place had become simply a muddy patch, so I stood in a vain attempt to keep my shirt clean. Between the grass stains and the mud, it was hopeless, but my dry-cleaning bill would already be astronomical and there was no point in giving it more ammunition.

The brilliant blue sky began to fade, leaving more room for the stars to make their debuts. As I watched, the world turned from brown to red, as the dirt was also sucked into the ground, revealing the hard red clay beneath, which soon baked in the sun into rock. Suddenly, it appeared as if I was standing on the face of Mars (which I’m reasonably sure has no cell service either).

It was then that the quiet hit me.

Not a sound came to my ears. It was as if the whole of the planet was holding its breath and refusing to let it out, waiting for the right time to scream. However, the scream never came. The stars winked at me from their lofty seats and the planets went about their orbital business. I could see the real Mars (closer than it had a right to be), as well as all the others. Pluto was hanging out in the back, seemingly ashamed to have come unknowingly to a party to which its invitation had been rescinded.

Rather enjoying the show, I found a rock protruding from this flat oblivion and leaned back against it to get a better view. This was so much bigger than IMAX, though still not as real-looking as Blu-Ray.

What felt like hours passed, until each of the planets made its way to the horizon and disappeared. The stars pulled the blanket of night over their heads and went to sleep, leaving only the Sun and I to stare at each other. Somehow, the light didn’t hurt my eyes, and I could look at the ball of fire without discomfort (secretly hoping that this wasn’t a phenomenon like an eclipse where I would go blind later. I was terrible at learning new languages, and Braille looked quite difficult). I wondered what the Sun’s electrical bill looked like.

Having grown accustomed to the silence, I was completely unprepared for the hiccup that accompanied the Sun’s departure. The hiccup sounded much more like a deep bass-drum pulse, vibrating my seat and my eardrums (though not painfully). The light of the Sun flared up, then quickly faded. However, it did not disappear entirely.

It was at this point that I witnessed the final sign of the end of the world.

The remaining light of the sun shaped itself into a horizontal rectangle, sharp edged and (judging from the size of the sun a few moments earlier) a few thousand miles across. The sign read:

UPDATES ARE READY FOR YOUR WORLD. INSTALL AND RESTART?

Finally! Something I could relate to had presented itself in this crazy course of events! Suddenly it all made sense. There was so much wrong with the world, of course it was time to install some changes. I looked the sign right in the face/window and said, “Yes, please.” I added the please because it seemed the polite thing to do, given I was speaking directly to the motherboard of the universe.

The galactic sign chimed pleasantly, a loading bar appeared, and the world changed for the better.

Bacon is now served with every meal, and contains zero calories. Every sock has a partner, to which it sticks automatically in the dryer. Beer stays cold and carbonated, unless it’s supposed to be served otherwise. Guinness is now on tap at every restaurant and bar. Musicians have to be talented to make popular music. Mosquitoes, infomercials, and slow left-lane drivers were eradicated. There is always an empty slot on your shelf for that book you just finished reading. Parking at major events is free, and you can always find a good spot. Towels never develop that mildew smell. Dishes come out of the dishwasher perfectly clean every time, no film or food bits left behind. You get that “fresh sheets on the bed” feeling every night. No matter where I am, my cell phone has 5 bars of signal strength. There is only ONE remote control, and it does everything simply. Firefly is back on television with original cast and has been renewed for ten more seasons. An English degree makes you very attractive to employers. Sean Connery just released a new Bond film. Contact lenses don’t dry out or fold back on your finger while you put them in. No one takes photos of themselves in the bathroom mirror with their cell phones. Women are observant enough not to fall into the toilet when the seat is up, and in fact must put the seat back up when they are finished. No one gets acne, ever. Mullets are not socially acceptable haircuts for adults or their children (that one isn’t new, but merits mention nonetheless). Best of all, I finally have enough time in the day to get all of my work done, and still get home early enough to enjoy the night surfing the internet.

Universal motherboard: well done. You get a positive rating on Yelp.

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Comments
7 Responses to “It’s the End of the World!! (As We Know It)”
  1. Bob says:

    You’ve got quite an imagination, Ken. Must be a result of your innate creativity and the hundreds of Sci-Fi fantasy books you’ve been devouring since childhood. Very clever and fun to read!

  2. Karen says:

    Thoroughly entertaining! I can see this all in a movie-short directed by Tim Burton.

  3. A Respectable Businessman says:

    5 Stars for Bacon, Firefly, and a new Bond movie

  4. Louise says:

    Very entertaining Kenny!

  5. daevski says:

    All of the adjectives make for great visuals and are intrinsically translated into what we can only assume is imaginative wit galore! I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think my favorite expression was: “My solid, concrete, lung-less building hiccuped.” It fit well in that paragraph!

    As a critique, I feel as though the sentences, while beautifully descriptive, are too much work for my brain at times throughout the read. Maybe the sentences could pack a punch less frequently to make for a more enjoyable read.

    Regardless, I’ve subscribed and will get emails for new posts!

  6. Thanks for the feedback daevski! Always welcoming ways to become a better writer.

  7. Karen says:

    Good point, Davevski; I felt the beginning was a little long also; the ending was great but it seemed to take too long to get there. Can’t argue with the great descriptions giving fabulous visuals but I agree, a bit shorter makes it a more satisfying read
    .

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