January 2022 . . . .

“Parting Thoughts . . . .”

I’ve been noodling about a piece I’m writing on the end of the world. Perhaps this is because it’s been so en vogue to speculate about the demise of the species that it’s gone full passe, or that I want to create the perfect dystopia (because who doesn’t?), or that it is just to have fun shooting at lots of bad stuff, like a state fair water-balloon pop, while remaining politically correct — blaze away at zombies all you want, buddy!

I intended to get in my two cents about the world’s swan song before no one cares, but I’ve failed to find traction on or attraction with any bits that had the full complement of truth, whimsy, and pathos. In other words, it is not easy being teasy, cheesy, and queasy. Maybe no one cares anymore. They’re all exhausted with the current reality, which is pretty damned tiring. How often can you be on fire before there is no fuel to burn?

And it’s not because I don’t care that the world ends. Or that I’m not interested in the details of how our human era of the world wraps itself up. I do and am, inasmuch as such thoughts are integral to the theme of my WIP, and development of the story requires me to come up with an avenue for the possibility of survival, even temporarily. And I have time for such mawkish speculation. Are we doomed? Of course — eventually the atomic pile we call our Sun will come apart at the seams. That’s a billion years down the road, mind, and not a front-burner issue (no pun intended). More to the point, what can we do to prevent our doom? Regarding the Sun’s end, not very much. Seed the galaxy with our progeny? Common Sci-Fi stuff. Wrestle with God and philosophy and find peace with group-demise? Sure, sure, as my friend John sometimes dismisses the obvious. But one observation keeps popping up in my notes, and plays havoc with my plot arc: can we stop the battle between fools and the less foolish? I don’t think we can.

Do you walk around the house barefoot? Of course you do. Why? Because it’s your home, and you imagine that you’ve earned the right to not be encumbered by footwear. Do you ever stub your toe? Of course you do. Do you rage at the gods when it happens as the exquisite pain radiates up your leg to your brain, and toss tomorrow right down the toilet with regards to happy lack of ache in the extremities? You do, admit it. My point (and the larger point about humanity and its choices) is that you can sometimes prevent calamity, but you choose not to. Or, rather, you choose a different path — one that you walk with no protection for your delicate second toe, the one with no apparent purpose other than finding blunt objects first, and colliding with them. Final question: has this happened more than once — your barefoot dashing of a toe on a chair leg or door left ajar? Really? I’m not judging, just observing.

It intrigues me how different times (and moods) create fresh popular perspectives on the world’s end. Viruses — man-made, cosmic, accidentally or intentionally released — were fictional fodder in the nineteen-sixties and -seventies. Zombies, too, found their way into our consciousness around the same time. The ideas nestled into our memory-banks and found root. Each generation of creative types relaunched the sub-genre and we giggled and screamed and clutched our throats anew.

Then reality stepped in, and here we are, wondering what will happen next?

My youngest and I were sitting on the porch not so long ago, and she asked me “what if there were a zombie apocalypse?” I tried to explain without going into much serious detail what I considered possible about such a turn of events.

Selfishly, but only occasionally, I imagine myself in my semi-quiet little corner of the world as it implodes, burns, floats, freezes, chews itself up, spits out the remainder, and we happy few still around deal with the too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too dead, too undead pieces? Drinking coffee as everything unfolds. And for what it’s worth, why are all of the pop apocalypse entries of the last few years so selfish-minded? Do people really want to believe that the world is collapsing under the burden of human misbehavior, and if so, they can actually prepare for or survive it? Or that they can spend their treasure putting together a fool-proof alternative to joining the rest of us in the never-never?

You’re right. Please. Enough questions.