“We sit and chuckle, as the wide screen in the dusty and spaghetti strew corner spews forth our extinction, in the hands of the worst kind of people, drivelling on, and on and on and on……………..we go with not a bang, but drowned in the effluent of reality TV” ………………..Alan David Penrose 2019
Derek was a normal kind of guy, living an ordinary life, nothing special, he thought. When this massive lump of the universes detritus hits this planet, and slowly chokes life from this spinning rock, it will be the most exciting thing that ever happened to him, he mused to his imaginary confidant. He is not schizophrenic, he pointed out to himself, but when you have lived alone for as long as he has, you kinda talk to another being in the room, that does not exist.
That was his rule, when he actually believed there was another person there, he knew he would have lost his mind. For now, he was basically talking to himself, and answering his own questions. The news had broken several weeks before, that NASA had for some time, been tracking a meteor, and to humanise it, had given it a name. They had named it the Darwin rock, due to its hitting this planets restore to factory settings button, and new life having to evolve to survive its aftermath. Authorities had stressed that within a very short time the human race would be gone, so no need to horde foods. Plants, animals and humans would be erased from this spinning rock. Darwin was so huge, that no one could actually predict the outcome. It was said that the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs was a fraction of its size; it even trailed lager splinters than that one in its wake. Not one genius could even be certain if this planet would even survive the impact, it may just go supernova, taking out the moon in its shock waves, but this was just idle speculation. One thing that everyone was certain about, was this had been known for many years prior to its announcement, the worlds final conspiracy theory. There had been many attempts to divert its course, break it in to smaller pieces with little success.
Conspiracy theorists believed it may have been why every new gadget on the market was a variation on the iPod, no time to make ground breaking new gadgets, too busy playing asteroids, for real. Derek didn’t care how long the secret had been kept, would our impending doom not be as bad had we known sooner?, or elation at a new idea to disperse it, then deflation as we are told over and over again they had not been successful, or any knowledge of it in the previous 5 years made this last month any easier to bear?. No, he really didn’t think so; he was feeling that a month was too long.
He was starting to believe that being average, just scraping through life, never putting too much effort in to anything, just surviving and having fun was paying dividends for him now. He had a truly boring job, but it paid the rent, put food on the table and gave him the money to go to the pub after work every night with his average mates. He believed, that, if he had made a difference, been famous or heroic, then he would be pissed right off about now. Giving up fun to create the telephone in your workshop, being an IT expert geek best in your field, all that hard graft and struggle to have your name in the history books, for nothing, all turned to dust in the world’s biggest bang. There would be no reminder of it left, who knows? any stories about dinosaur inventors, entrepreneurs, actors or heroes, and there could have been, it’s just no proof was left to say one way or another, but he struggled to believe the Tyrannosaurus Rex had the knack with a mother board and soldering iron, not enough arm dexterity.
He giggled, as he gazed upon the sun as it set behind the block of flats across the park, and lost himself watching the dust dance through the golden beams of mellowing sunlight through his greying net curtains, as another day kisses the earth good night. He felt a tear roll from each eye, carving their salty paths through the fresh wrinkles of late nights and hung over days. This world’s beauty dawns on him all too late, waking up to life as the last order bell rings. Through his sobbing hitching intake of breath, he could smell the summer’s fresh cut grass, the faint whiff of corporation plants, blowing pollen from their bright yellow flowers caught in late summer’s gentle breath. As he gazed at this ugly sprawl of grey concrete, splashed with spray can colours by ADHD mobs, he finally realised that Mother Nature can wrap a ribbon around a turd. As he looked beyond the drab manmade dwellings bathed in the dying embers of today. He had popped the corks on a couple of fruity Italian reds, it was Friday night, he was banking on finishing both, he sensed every flavour as it rolled over his tongue, and believed this was indeed a combination made in heaven. He repositioned his lazy boy chair in front of the window, he was already a little tipsy, flopped in to the chair from standing, glass in one hand, bottle in the other and kicked back in to full recline. Although he knew red wine needed time to “breath” he had no idea for how long, Derek believed he was going to put a serious dent in both bottles tonight. He sat there all evening, watching the dark smother the land, and wondered if the stars sparkled a little brighter tonight, mocking this world and its impending doom, nah, but it was a beautiful sight, well except for the blank black spot that was Darwin blotting out the stars. He passed out at some point, and slept the purest sleep he had ever known.
He woke early in the morning, having fallen asleep in his leather lazy boy, at one point thinking he had pissed himself in the night, but he was saturated in a combination of a hot evening in a leather chairs sweat, and the remainder of the glass of wine he had been drinking when his body shut down. The jackhammers had started in his head as soon as his eyes began to open, and the world swam as he stood up, he poured another drink and life once again began to feel a little better. Staggering past the kitchen on his way to the bathroom he put the coffee machine on, then with every step shed his damp clothing and entered the shower without missing a step. Twenty minutes later he was standing at the bathroom mirror, towel round his waist, cracking in to the last of the second bottle of red wine and murmuring, to no one in particular,
“This is the life”.
“A man cannot live on wine alone”.
He uttered to the empty flat, then in a gruff voice proclaimed a single word,
He poured a large mug, added double sugar for the hang over, and cream because he preferred it to milk, then returned to his new vantage point on the world. Sipping at his coffee, he downloaded today’s edition of The Times on to his iPad, and noted that the expected impact sight was not many miles from this squalid corner of London, and wondered if he would be able to see it from the roof terrace of his block of flats.
Note to self….Booze and barbecue party on the last day, the universe will be providing fireworks. He giggled once more to himself, but why not go out with a party? He group text his mates with this idea, settled back and read the rest of the paper while he waited for their responses. He sat and looked at the clock for occasionally, fifteen minutes past, and every second seemed to thud through the still morning air, his flat was so silent he could feel his ears straining to almost hear the minutes crash by. His phone vibrated and jingled as the first of the RSVP acceptances reached his phone. By the time he had read the daily paper everyone had replied in the positive, and he topped up his morning coffee with a shot or two old number 7, lovely. He pulled out a lined jotter from the draw in his sideboard and started to make plans for the last party in the world, ever.
The four main headings he scribbled down on his pad were, booze, drugs, music and food. He would share these out with people in the best position to help, he had the good fortune to have a dealer as a mate so he wrote his name in the box headed drugs, music had to go to his friend who was a massive tech geek, always going on about how much music he had on his iPod, food was going to be a BBQ and closer to the time he would ask everyone to not only bring a bottle, but food to chuck on the grill. He would also see who had a barbecue to bring with them. He would have to pop out later today and buy one, no need for his rainy day fund now he thought. Derick liked to be organised, so he though he would get anyone who could, to bring theirs sooner rather than later, so on the day he could get the charcoals hot and ready to cook on. He knew most people in his block, but some were just the cordial nod of the head and a hello, sometimes even a how are you was thrown in for the sake of politeness. He would print off a few invites for them all, just to be neighbourly. Not everyone was as blasé about Darwin as he was. He was a realist, no matter how much you were to agonise over the end of the world, it was not going to hamper the arrival of next Big Bang.
“Oh before I forget, on the playlist, we must have ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it’ by REM” he exclaimed to the empty flat, not that it was unusual for him to talk to himself, or even answer his own questions, and he wrote that under the heading of music, anyhow, he knew that as much you moaned or stressed, the rock was going to cancel August bank holiday on a permanent basis, no avoiding it now. Due to the inevitable, many company’s had paid off their staff as the planet slowly shut down, work at the car yard had dried up almost instantaneously, with the news of Darwin, a few of his close friends had also come to the end of their usefulness and were now men of leisure. He would rope as many of them in as he could, he wanted this party to be THE party, the place to be, the last party in the world, ever. He was feeling excited by the prospect of mother of shindig to say farewell to a planet of such polar opposites. We had artist, writers, musicians who could produce some of the most exquisite works and then on the other hand we had people who’s only achievement was for destruction. Now we were all equal, all facing the same fate, he wondered if someone had made an intergalactic version of Noah’s ark, just like the ones in the movies, as the rich find a way to escape their destiny, but he didn’t think so. Maybe if it were a few decades later, the eBay/Paypal guy with his vision of the colonisation Mar’s, they might just have had the technology, but Derick felt it was just a little too soon.
Come the end of July, it would all be over, all this worlds treasures lost in the fires of hell. The beauty of an autumnal day, sunlight refracting off yellowing leaves, the sweet smell of decay as they degrade on damp ground, apple blossom in the clear crisp spring morning, dripping with dew. He started to cry again, to think he would see neither again, it caught him at times, like a bereavement that would catch you out at odd moments, whenever a simple idea hit your mind and brought back the memory of a lost loved one. He though it was a kind of bereavement, or at least that was how it felt to him. He had not even written a bucket list, let alone thought of what he would have put on one, he had so much time he thought, but life had caught up with him as it had a way of doing. He put on some music to distract his mind, he could not help his sadness today, he didn’t know why, it was just one of those days, but he didn’t want to waste the last few weeks with remorse.
He decided he wanted to try things that he would have normally avoided for fear of mishap, LSD, Ecstasy, MDMA, Ketamine and maybe on the last day Heroin, its not like and addiction would have any effect. He loved weed, coke was ok but too pricey, so he would get his dealer friend to provide a cornucopia of narcotics, kind of like an adult pick and mix, or narcotic crudités, then the thought of dipping a pill in to a coke infused mayonnaise had him laughing to himself. This party in his mind was beginning to shape up nicely. He hoped it would be as good as he imagined would be.
As the days past the rock seemed to be getting larger as each day came to an end, and Derick was convinced that if you squinted at it you could actually see it move, he scanned the paper daily half expecting it to arrive sooner than they had said, but the countdown timer stuck to the original time frame. A week after he had put out the invite to the party, he had already lugged five large BBQ’s up to the roof, plus the one that he had bought, enough charcoal to sink a battleship, and so many cans of lighter fluid he could burn down the entire estate. His mate with the narcotic contacts had already brought over a dozen individually labelled Tupperware boxes of everything from cocaine, American oxycodone, tramadol, diazepam to weed in bud form and resin, and everything in between. Freddie had got so much of it all he would often spend the evening after it being dropping off, sampling some of the goodies with Derick, Derick knew weed and resin as he was rather partial to a smoke of both, when it came to the others he was a little naïve on how to take them or how much, he didn’t want to overdose before the big event. So Freddie gave him a crash course on most of them, and he had spent most of the week off his tiny little face, and mixed with lashings of booze he had not made it to bed one single night, but loved the afternoon nap he would take mid afternoon for a few hours. It really perked him up for another night of indulgence.
Tonight he had four of his closest friends coming over and Freddie had promised it would be LSD night for them all. Derick had heard good and bad about it, but with three weeks left before the party, what’s the worst that can happen? He had learned a lot in the past week, and now understood why Americans got hooked on pain killers, taking oxy had numbed his entire body, and felt like he was floating frictionlessly above his chair, and just relaxed in to it. Diazepam just knocked him out as did the tramadol, mixed every night with a few joints he could definitely see the benefits of drugging himself up. He did want to spend a few days sober, just so he could enjoy the last days of this planet, it was an amazing place, it was in fact a miracle how diverse the life that clung to it from animals to plants, to it geological wonders, oceans, fiords, mountains, life evolved to inhabit everywhere in one form or another, it was sad to think that in just a few weeks it would be all over, he had thought that a mad dash to all the places he wanted to see would have been a better use of his time, but he just could not be arsed with all the upheaval of international travel, he just wanted to party, let loose the shackles that had kept him from trying all the mood and mind altering drugs, he didn’t even have to leave his flat for that.
The LSD was certainly an eye opener for him, looking out of his window on to the world, images swirled in psychedelic colours, hallucinations that seemed tangible, almost real, it gave him a new perspective on this world. He would certainly have to leave a little room for this one just before zero hour, could be funny. There were a few things he had tried over the week that while cool to try, it was not what he was looking for on party night, but LSD certainly had not disappointed. He would keep one of those in his pocket on the night, like the cyanide pills the crew of the Enola Gay carried just in case. He had a few more things to try over the coming weeks, but it would have to good to knock LSD of top spot. Freddie had explained the effects of heroin, and while he was happy to give it a go, he was not convinced that was going to be the narcotic number one. It had dawned on him in the cold light of day that he did indeed have a bucket list after all, but instead of visiting Machu Picchu, the pyramids of Egypt or Niagara Falls, his was just a list of banned substances, his mother would be proud, not.
These four weeks had just flashed by for Derick, most of them spent stoned off his face or on the comedown from booze and narcotics, and he felt he had more fun in those weeks than he had ever had in all the years before. He had smoked, snorted, injected and swallowed almost every narcotic know to man. Last night he had stuck to weed and wine, so as to able to get organised for this evenings festivities, he had a few fridges up on the roof, put there the day before so they had chilled beers and ice on hand, all running off two multi socket extension leads, BBQ’s were all up there filled with charcoal and waiting to be lit. He had paper plates for the food, plastic cups for drinks and proper metal cutlery. He was expecting somewhere in the region of 40-50 guests up there tonight, all were bringing food and drink with them. Everything was set, he had some tiki torches for when the night gets dark. He had been planning it for weeks and was quite confident that he had everything in place, he had even rolled a large number of joints the night before for those people who could not roll their own. Once he had ticked of the last jobs on the to do list he had written, he settled down in his lazy boy chair, for what he was convinced would be the final time, and lit a joint that looked like a large carrot wrapped in paper, he had a bottle of wine beside him, and got stuck in to both while he waited for his guests to arrive.
The afternoon past in a leisurely way, he had planned to light the BBQ’s as soon as guests started to arrive, but a 5pm he left his favourite chair, and made his way up to the roof, Johnny, his techie friend had programmed a playlist that would see them through the night and in to oblivion, and every 45 minutes or so REM’s classic end of the world tune would play, this was the only request for the music Derick had insisted on. He flicked on the iPod and it rang out….
“That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane, Lenny Bruce is not afraid….”
And before he knew it he was dancing around like a loon, he was not a huge REM fan, but this song really made him want to dance the night away, he didn’t even care that his mates turned up and caught him singing and dancing to the track, he saw them, and all he did was restart the track and get them in on it, six men popping pills, drinking beer, singing and dancing to REM, partying like it was 1999. All seemed up for the party, and that was the only unknown factor he could not predict or plan for. The number of guests made no difference, it was the frame of mind that made a good party. The last day on earth was coming to an end, by 5am it would all be over, how could you make sure everyone was up for a party? Drink, drugs, good food and fucking good music, check, check, check and oh yes, check.
He should not have worried, every guest eat, drank and were merry, there were people disappearing to cop off in secluded corners, those who wanted to be stoned, got stoned, those who didn’t were not forced in to it, so many people were dancing you could feel the roof bounce. When they need to just take a breath, they would gaze towards the heavens to see their executioner, tumbling through the dark night sky. They saw it glow white hot as the friction of the atmosphere warmed it up, some of the smaller splinter exploded under the pressure, here were the fireworks though Derick, it was the most spectacular thing he had ever seen. Just a few hours to go, and although it had been the topic of discussion all evening, nobody seemed to know what to expect. With an hour to go it seem like you could almost reach out and touch it, thunder rolled and lightening spat out from around this behemoth, the music was still playing but the revelries had stopped, people just sat and watched it, continued to drink and abuse the drugs, and it was at this point that the effects of the LSD hit Derick, he could not have planned it better, and as he watched the lightening dance around the sky in a myriad of colours, he could not help but grin the biggest grin his face would allow.
When Darwin finally made contact, it sent out shock waves around the world, tsunamis rolled across the lands, volcanos flew in to life spewing forth there searing contents, sinkholes swallowed towns and dust flew in to the atmosphere blotting out the sky. Anything that survived the impact and its consequences died over the following months. This once blue and lush planet was now a spinning dead rock as this universe showed where the real power came from. Derick had been right, there was no intergalactic ark to save the rich and powerful from the fate of this world. There may, in a millennia or two be some form of single cell life form emerging from the rubble, from there evolution may build on this and life may return one day, but it will not be life as we knew it.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it, It’s the end of the world as we know it, It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”