Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who Knows But The World May End Tonight?

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.”

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tedicus Types;

This reminds me of the sort
of people that are so certain
that they have a reservation in
some supernatural afterlife.

For many of them being "right"
is a means and an end in itself, deserving of a glorious reward and a chance to tell the rest of us doubters...
"I told you so!".

They can keep each other company
without me there, I'm sure they
will get along just fine.

Hoping for a return to good old
nonexistence.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Jennifer,

If saying "I write verse" comes out of your mouth sounding pompous try saying this, "I write doggerel."

It works for me. Besides baudy limericks and the odd haiku, here is a pantoum I wrote three years ago. (Pantoum is a French form borrowed from Malaysia, I think, which reuses previous lines in a specific pattern.) Anyway, I thought you might enjoy reading it.

Dish It Up

Stir it up. Stir it up.
With passions whipped into a froth
The dinner bell rings, and now we sup
On rarest meat and bloody broth

With passions whipped into a froth
A glaze of sugarcoated truth
Makes rarest meat and bloody broth
More savory and less uncouth

A glaze of sugarcoated truth
Masking the most foul taste of lye
Makes savory what was uncouth;
Far more of them, than us, will die

Masking the most foul tasting lie,
The dinner bell rings: And as we sup
Far more of them, than us, will die
Dish it up. Dish it up.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

NoStar, I thought a pantoum was a poem with each line repeating itself twice within the same stanza?

9:12 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Jennifer,

This site explains it better than I can.

http://www.baymoon.com/~ariadne/form/pantoum.htm

Sorry, I haven't learned to link.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous A. Moose said...

Hmmmm...ok.....

It's interesting to me that the biggest market for backyard bomb shelters is in Potomac, which is slightly west of DC and the home of a lot of people who should know the course of the world. I think the next is in Arlington, where a number of people of the same bent are. Neither place is even close to what I could afford. Neither place is even close to what people typically stereotypically view as a "survivalist" area.

That said, if one wants to be real about preparedness, see https://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/ for a community and http://www.varaces.org/prepare/FAMILY_Disaster_Plan.pdf or http://www.varaces.org/prepare/Emergency-Prep-Checklist.pdf for individuals (sorry, Jennifer, I don't know the HTML tags for a link, otherwise I'd just link the word "this" for each).

While I'm not a survivalist as such, at least in my mind, I do stock a couple months worth of food in the house, and travel with enough supplies to last for about a week out of the car with no support (water-purifier filter for the long term, water is to voluminous and heavy to carry a week's worth every day). This comes from the very plausible scenario of something not so good happening in DC. I live on one side, work on the other, and figure that if some fool did set off a biological in the middle of the mall I wouldn't be getting home for a few days at least. You prepare for something, have a plan, get whatever you need to make your plan work, and then trust the plan and your ability to improvise. This is sane. To dwell on it is not quite so much so.

Then again, I'm also a firearms instructor and have more handguns than most people have shoes (before we even start on rifles and shotguns, though I have numerically less of those) and running contrary to the norm I can also hit what I want and miss what I want with them, so perhaps I'm just a couple stanzas down in your prose and you ran out of gas before getting to me. If so, I do have a somewhat mashochistic affinity for redheads, so that may not be too bad a thing...

10:02 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

So which Coda Guy are you, Moose? Nova? Nuclear? Orwell? With so rich a tapestry it's hard sometimes to distinguish individual threads.

The heck of it is, I did not mean for the piece to come out as dark as it did. I wrote the descriptions of the guys first, but when I tried thinking "What would happen if I were there as well" I just couldn't bring myself to write about chivalrous knights errant. In one of my earlier drafts the narrator as well as the guys made it through unscathed, and every single friend who read that version said "Nuh-uh. No way she's just walking away if these guys think she's the last woman on Earth." Once I accepted that, having the guys kill each other was the only moderately realistic way I could have the woman come through unscathed.

I'm almost afraid to ask what y'all thought of the story. Can you tell I have this secret ambition of becoming a dark Dr. Seuss for grown-ups?

Maybe not so secret, any more.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Gee Jen,
If I hadn't liked it or considered it without merit, I wouldn't have shared my own verse, I mean doggerel.

As I was reading, the story by Harlan Ellison and the movie with a young Don Johnson, "A Boy and his Dog" came to mind. I'm glad yours had a happier ending for the female.

I got a laugh out of Rapture-guy, but I hope to be snatched up out of harms way before it all hits the fan. So, I don't stock pile. Just in case I have miss-interpreted I do pack a 9mm pistol. In the mean time it serves to protect myself and my friends from less than apocalyptic scenarios.

One more thing: I previously invented a new genre of music. If you put your verse to a Carribean beat, it could qualify as Apocalypso Music.

"Dayo, D D Day aayyy ayyy-oh
Daylight come and there's no place to run"

10:35 AM  
Anonymous A. Mousse? said...

So which Coda Guy are you, Moose? Nova? Nuclear? Orwell? With so rich a tapestry it's hard sometimes to distinguish individual threads.

Hmmm..I'd have to consider each. I'd say honestly that my preparedness is based on either 1) A Katrina-esque situation, which given that I live in somewhat mountainous terrain in the Appalacian foothills would probably be more a series of tornados with major wind damage or 2) Al Dickheads deciding they wanted to do something in the general DC vacinity.

I don't believe either to be irrational, if you saw the news reports of the major flooding in MD, the first three people killed were about 3/4 mi from where I live (though the water wasn't nearly so deadly to them as their own personal stupidity in trying to walk across the river rather than drive two miles to US 40 and drive back up the other side). Major flooding, wind damage, etc, knocking out power and facilities to the level of Katrina might be a stretch, I expect it to be more localized, but it is possible.

As for Al Dickheads, well, on Sept 11 of '01, I was sitting in a construction trailer on the north side of the beltway as the plane hit the Pentagon. I don't think that allowing for something there is outlandish.

So I don't know where that puts me, somewhere between the natural disaster guy and the guy that really wonders what they're teaching in fundamentalist muslim schools.

The key difference between me and what I'd call a survivalist (though in relative terms you may look downstream and call me one) is that I don't particularly believe that I'll be living in the basement forevermore, I have certain timeframes, and plans on what to do at various times based on what support is/is not available and other issues (ie-personal health in the death virus time, though the military did innoculate me against some things, might not be able to travel).

That's what always makes me shake my head about the bunker mentality types. If you're bunkering for a nuclear war, how long are you going to wait? If it's that bad you're better off booking as fast as you can, nobody's coming to get you any time soon.

How does one tag a link, since apparantly someone else here suffers from similar ignorance? I guess I'll continue to put relevent web pages as my sig, if you haven't figured that out yet.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Just in case I have miss-interpreted I do pack a 9mm pistol.

Which is, according to some newspaper articles I've read, is a supernatural being capable of mass destruction on a nationwide scale in and of itself. Therefore, that would be appropriate for a Rapturedude, and has the peripheral benefit of lots of ammo laying about if it's a Red Dawn kind of thing (and hopefully I'm not dating myself by mentioning that movie).

10:41 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

"...and hopefully I'm not dating myself..."

Sadly, that is often the only option available for geeky libertarian dudes.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Sadly, that is often the only option available for geeky libertarian dudes.

Does bring new meaning for the term "individualist", don't it?

11:03 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I have no idea how to tag links here. Hell, I still haven't figured out how to give my posts official titles, rather than merely bold-printing the top line.

Moose, I wouldn't call you a survivalist. There's a big difference between keeping supplies on hand in the event of a natural disaster that'll keep your neighborhood trashed for a few months, versus keeping supplies on hand in the event that civilization utterly and spectacularly collapses.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

.... versus keeping supplies on hand in the event that civilization utterly and spectacularly collapses.

That's why I said I wouldn't call myself a "survivalist" as such. Perhaps somewhat of an extremist in carrying around a week of food, water treatment, and comm gear, at least in regards to the general public. However, doesn't hurt me, nor harm anyone, and if it's ever needed I'm sure it won't be just me I'll end up looking out for. Never know when you'll have to pull a redhead out of a collapsed building and get ready to draw down with the competition.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

NoStar, I've been thinking long and hard about your suggestion, but must reject it. Calling my stuff "doggerel" leaves me at risk of nasty puns along the lines of "doggerel written by a bitch" and so forth.

Damn the likes of Maya Angelou for taking the perfectly respectable word "poem" and turning it into something vile.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Doggerel Written By A Bitch

The best way diffuse an attack like that is to use it first. Proudly preface your poems (sorry, doggerel-I can't resist puns or alliterations) with the afore mentioned epithet. Embrace
"bitch" like the Compton Homeboys have embraced "Niggah". They can use it, but whitey can't.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

PS: Do you know the difference between a ho and a bitch?

A ho will screw anybody.
A bitch will screw anybody but you.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

NoStar, there's also the problem that doggerel is generally considered negative, you know? The only way around that would be to put some ironically oxymoronic adjective in front of the word. I need an adjectival antonym for "doggerel." I'm drawing a blank, though.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Jadagul said...

Jennifer, when you click the "create new post" button there should be a small text box labeled "Title:" above the large text box in which you compose your post. Typing in there should give your posts proper titles (unless you somehow have a different layout from me, which seems unlikely since we're using not only the same software but also the same template).

As for the "creating a link" thing, it works the same way on Blogger that it does anywhere else. Type link text to create a link. Thus Reason produces a link that looks like Reason.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Jadagul said...

Shoot, it did something weird to my html. The general way to create a link is to type <a href="site url">link text</a>, and the link to Reason would look like <a href="http://reason.com">Reason</a>

7:58 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Jadagul, that's just it--I don't have a "title" box. I don't know why.

I also don't know how to change the color scheme (which I love, but some people have been complaining of headaches).

8:26 PM  
Blogger Jadagul said...

Okay, try this:
Log into blogger; click on the "Settings" tab (it should be the second of four across the top, betweeen "Posting" and "Template"). There should now be a row of hyperlinks immediately below it; the third one is "Formatting." Click on it; one of the options (for me, fourth from the bottom) should be "Show Title field." Change it from "No" to "Yes," and you should be good to go.

If you want to change the template appearance, choose the "Template" tab (next to the "Settings" one) and choose the "Pick New" hyperlink. You can also hand-edit the current template you're using, as you presumably did to add links to your sidebar. I like the template you have now, I think (that's why I'm using it myself), but I've been meaning to ask one of the graphic-design people who hang around Reason if it's easier or worse on the eyes (I've heard both ways). Anyway, hope that helps. I've really been enjoying the blog; keep it up!

1:08 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Woo-hoo! I can now make official titles! Only I can't go back and edit my pre-existing posts to give them, because if I do that the archived URLs cease to work. Too bad.

10:12 AM  

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