I was watching a show where this guy went spectacularly insane and became convinced the world would end any second now. So he moved into an underground bunker he’d stocked with supplies, and prepared to spend the rest of his life awaiting Armageddon.
The thought occurred to me: wouldn’t it suck if he were right? I’m not even talking about the end of the world so much as the idea that if it ended this second, the only people left with the chance to repopulate Earth and recreate civilization would be the guys currently cowering in bunkers stroking their gun-barrels with a creepily sexual intensity and muttering “I toldem this was comin but the bastuds wudden lissen.”
And so this short story formed in my mind. Like many of my stories, this happens to have a rhythm and a rhyme scheme but it is absolutely not a poem. Poems, as I have explained before, are written by clinically depressed teenagers, or navel-gazing adults who have a superiority complex based on the fact that their feelings get hurt more easily than yours. I do not want to be known as “that woman who posts her poetry on her blog” and besides, navel-gazing is bad for your posture and leads inevitably to boob saggage. To hell with that.
Commenter Kitty suggested I call what I write verse, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to say “I write verse” without sounding kind of pompous. The fault lies entirely with me, not with her suggestion; it’s something to do with my accent, I think. Anyway, if y’all can think of anything better I’d really like to hear it but meanwhile, here’s a story-which-happens-to-rhyme-but-is-not-a-poem.
THE CODA GUYS
When first I moved into this neighborhood
I figured that I found an awesome deal.
The house I bought was gorgeous and low-priced
in fact, at first I thought it was a steal!
But then I learned why local real estate
cost so much less than anyone would think:
my neighbors all were hardcore doomsday guys,
quite certain that the world was on the brink.
They claimed it would be ending pretty soon
(although they disagreed about the way).
And thus they hoarded various supplies
so when the time came, they’d live out their days
in post-apocalyptic luxury.
That’s why they all disaster-proofed their homes.
The guys were creepy but I didn’t care
since (for the most part) they left me alone.
The Spacerock Guy said one day giant stones
would crash into the earth from outer space.
He claimed that space rocks killed the dinosaurs
and one day soon would kill the human race.
A Cold War relic, Nuclear Guy was
who still used phrases like “the godless Reds”
though he feared godful terrorists as well.
He’d say things like, “That bomb’ll kill us dead!”
I never could stand Global Warming Guy.
It’s not just that the world would overheat:
he’d swear the weather would get so insane
all plants would die. There’d be no food to eat.
Peak Oil Guy feared economic doom.
He’d say the world would soon run out of gas
and that would halt the motor of the world
and cause complete societal collapse.
The Bible-thumping Rapture Guy would swear
the Antichrist would soon have seven years
to make life hell on earth, ’til Jesus Christ
made hard-core right-wing Christians disappear.
Nova Guy feared cosmic radiation;
the thought of stars exploding made him scared.
Pollution Guy? A toxic future world
with poison in the water and the air.
Virus Guy discussed the bioweapons
he insisted soon would decimate us,
while Orwell Guy’s policemen ran around
doing all they could to subjugate us
or something like that. He was kind of vague.
But I thought: so? They’re all just paranoid.
And yeah, they were, but they got one thing right—
somehow, the whole damned world has been destroyed.
The basement is where I was when it came,
in search of books I’d stored beneath the stairs.
The earth shook first, and then my house collapsed
to its foundations, trapping me down there.
So how long was I pinned down in the dark?
I’m not sure. I was far too terrified
to take note of time’s passing. But at last
I heard men shouting: “Help has now arrived!”
“I’ll save you!” someone else said. “No, I will,”
a third voice shouted out indignantly.
At last, I saw a few thin rays of light
and then a dozen hands all grabbed at me.
My neighbors, in their bunkers, all survived.
And for some reason, once the shaking ceased
the guys all made a beeline for my house
and worked to pull me out of the debris.
That’s when I saw destruction, everywhere—
all things made out of brick or stone collapsed.
All things made out of metal, melted down;
all things made out of wood reduced to ash.
Then Rapture Guy said, “This was our first sign.
Repent, for Armageddon is at hand.
The beast draws near to conquer wayward souls
and will spare no one — woman, child or man.”
And Nuclear Guy said, “They dropped the bombs
and burned the world! We’re lucky we survived.
Those goddamned Commies! Or those Islam freaks!
We’ll have to fight them all, to stay alive.”
Then Spacerock Guy said, “No. It’s asteroids.
Now particles of dust will block the sun
and our whole planet will get dark and cold.
A five- or ten-year winter has begun!”
“The government will set up martial law,”
said Orwell Guy. “And turn us into slaves.
“And once the corpses rot we’ll all get sick,”
said Virus Guy. “Get buried in mass graves.”
I said, “I guess I should’ve copied you
and planned for Armageddon all along.
Who cares, that once I had a nice career?
My home, my job, my world — they’re gone. All gone.”
Peak Oil Guy spoke first and let me know
why I had been rescued from the rubble—
some primal motivations which I feared
potentially would cause a lot more trouble.
“We’ve heard the news on shortwave. Things aren’t good.
The sky’s on fire. Most cities are destroyed.
There’s hardly any people left at all.
The planet’s trashed, and yet I’m overjoyed
“to see at least a woman has survived.
And you’re still young! And really pretty, too.
You might have to repopulate the earth.
Humanity’s survival’s up to you!
“So why not come and stay with me awhile?
My bunker can hold two as well as one.
And since our world is ending anyway,
we oughtta have ourselves a little fun.”
“No way!” said Global Warming Guy. “My place
is nicer. A much better spot to stay.
My bunker’s air-conditioned, and it has
enough room for our future kids to play.”
“You can’t have children now!” said Rapture Guy.
“Not since the Tribulation has begun.
Get on your knees, my dear! Pray to the Lord.
Together, we’ll seek guidance from the Son!”
Pollution Guy said “You should stay with me.
My bunker’s clean, and I’ll keep you well-fed.”
“No, live with me,” said Nova Guy. “Because
with me, you’ll have an awesome time in bed!”
And so forth. This is what I had to do:
find some safe way to tell survivalists
(who just might be the Last Men on the Earth)
that I had absolutely no interest
in having sex with any of these dudes.
That’s when I noticed that they all wore guns
and big grins, and it hit me: they liked this!
The world was dead — and they were having fun.
I wanted just to lie down somewhere safe
and (for a bit) forget my shattered world,
not be surrounded by these scary guys
who thought they’d never see another girl.
My voice broke, just a little, when I said
“I need to see if Mother’s still alive.
I’m sure that things are fine out where she is,
soooo . . . . I’ll be going now. Uh — thanks, you guys.”
They all closed ranks so that I could not leave.
“I don’t think that you understand, my dear,”
Pollution Guy said in a quiet voice.
“You will not leave. I’d rather keep you here.”
“You’ll find no food or water on the way,”
said Nova Guy. “So you could not survive.
I’ll keep you here, but it’s for your own good.
At least with me you know you’ll stay alive.”
“The fallout will destroy you if you try.
My bunker, though, is fully lined with lead.”
So Nuclear Guy said. “The world’s not safe.
If you don’t stay with me you’ll wind up dead!”
“If you leave now the Beast will own your soul.
I cannot let that happen. You must stay,”
said Rapture Guy. “But not make babies, though.
I’ll only keep you on your knees to pray.”
I backed away from him, but all that did
was put me in the arms of Orwell Guy,
who kissed me ’til I tore myself away
and then somebody grabbed my inner thigh.
I screamed, which didn’t do me any good
since no one who could hear was prone to help.
But Nuclear Guy grabbed my arm and said
“She’s mine, dude! Keep your damn hands to yourself!”
“I got to her house first,” said Nova Guy.
“Nuh-uh!” said Virus Guy. “I was the one.”
“Like hell,” said Orwell Guy. “I get to keep her.”
“The Lord wants me to train her for the Son!”
I don’t know which guy drew his weapon first
but suddenly the guns were everywhere.
All hands released me, and I hit the ground
just as the first shots fired through the air.
I cowered as the guns banged overhead
and bloody bodies thudded next to me.
Then there was sudden quiet, and so I
tried getting up. The ground was slippery
from all the blood, and so I fell again.
But none of the survivalists survived.
I took their weapons, and their bunker keys,
and said a prayer: “Thank God, I’m still alive.”