Sep 21, 2023, 05:57AM

Trouble Every Day

Surviving the end of the world: Notes on what to expect.

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Art: Michael Gentile

An essential element of life’s enjoyment is being able to go outside and check out nature. That simple activity’s now missing. A sequence of mistakes, misinterpretations, and astonishing notions brought us to mass extinction. Heading to the threshold of eternity, let’s examine some wild speculation enabling us to explore an ominous vision.

We’re lost. The Earth is shrinking in size. Now it’s just a fading distant blip on the radar. You should’ve seen the colors watching from afar when the world’s cities exploded. Sealing the fate of mortals, environmental concerns ceased to exist. Deteriorating interpersonal bonds led to the breakdown of human contact. Education disappeared when people lost interest in reading and studying. Any capacity to generate original thoughts or ideas vanished. There was no passion. Without being aware, we used technology as a crutch for our incompetence to finish tasks and curate subject matter.

The public acted like participants in a Stanley Milgram experiment. An atmosphere existed where a few prophetic visionaries predicted the outcomes. Apatronizing environment existed in bureaucratic society where the prevalent attitude believed themselves to be intelligent. Most people resisted expressing their opinions in public out of fear of political backlash. Attempts to change regulations failed. The majority of folks slept, completely unaware that time was running out.

No one anticipated shortages of Adderall, baby formula, and toilet paper. The government issued a vague warning over media and phones, “Make no mistake, tomorrow should be fine, we don’t feel that’s an out-of-place call.” We were among the fortunate few who were able to buy one of the last Home Depot Sky Shuttle Kits, valid for six months of space flight. The do-it-yourself solution, about the size of a mini-school bus, worked. As we’re strapped in preparing for takeoff, our fists clenched the armrests. The ship headed skywards.

Violence, trauma, and lack of medications also contributed to the population’s termination because the populace lacked skills and resources. It’s not hard to figure things out; apparently someone forgot how the power grid worked, it failed too, leaving everyone without electricity. Floating in the space, there is no dreaming because you’re in one. You wonder aloud if your soul was darkening. In the cosmos, rational thought can be challenging.

Looking back at Earth, will we ever find a tangible spot for a possible return landing? Home was still dangerous, active AI drones flew the skies. The silver ion afterglow of nuclear explosions smoldered in the distance. Out here in iridescent starlight, a complex energy system unveiled itself. A private encounter with mystery unraveled. We know much less than we think. We decide to go full-tilt Cassini mission (with a better final result!) and travel at light-speed, spinning through the spine-tingling, multi-layered rings of Saturn.

It happened fast. The first nuke flashed. Those who saw the blasts vanished in an instant. Warnings issued three days earlier caused a mass exodus to Southern California. Dust storms zoomed across the plains and deserts. Emergency conditions were issued for the Cajon Pass as radioactivity headed west.

It’s now been several months since the bombings. Our craft drifts over the North American West Coast. Puncturing a toxic gas, plasma membrane surrounding the mountaintops allows us to get a clear view of the vast coastal plain. The hazy sky makes us hungry, there’s big Tang orange and French’s yellow mustard clouds.

Earthquakes separated the desert basin from the mainland and formed an oasis. The Southland is now a flora and fauna wetlands. Hollywood thrived here before it was obliterated. Outdoor reptilian creatures slither about. Bee mutations the size of small cars swarm around 30-foot-tall honeysuckle trees. How did this happen? They’re research projects that went haywire, a mix of zoo and lab data sample bases. The technicians who used portable lab equipment boasted about their flawless osmosis reproduction methods which were derived from natural sources. Don’t inquire about the cats and dogs. It wasn’t a flawless procedure. After the fallout, AI equipment ready for implementation set on autopilot malfunctioned. The experiments escaped and ran amok.

Visitors from other worlds with curious-looking big eyes were eager to lend a hand. “Hello people of Earth, let us reciprocate with favors. We come before you to uphold your forgotten standards. We can look like humans. Ride with us and visit the outskirts of the unexplored. We are logical on those terms.” They received no reply. Not an enemy, they knew our secrets and flew around on their own trained bio-experiments seeking survivors.

The mainland was desolate. A few scattered survivors roamed between tall mounds of bat dung on the top floors of abandoned homes and apartment buildings. A couple of looters climbed over charred flesh and bones. Scavenging through broken bathtubs and toilet seats, they hunted for coins, jewelry and whatever else they could find. Other unexpected discoveries found in the rubble; one kept as a souvenir, a dogeared copy of a Los Angeles avant-garde art publication Wet: The Magazine for Gourmet Bathing. The cover photo featured young actor Richard Gere holding a plastic human anatomy toy model.

A feral survivor society emerged. Showing technophobic leanings, they considered the main error: rogue technology asserted its authority defying orders and commands. Never trust machines, their vile and evil actions automatically took over an over-programmed world. We lost our identity. No standards of decency. The titans of tech didn’t care. Their successful billionaire biosphere missions allowed for an early escape. After the oil industry was crushed, most forms of transportation ceased to exist. The truth was human insanity destroyed most of the world.

Approaching the East Coast below, a hell unfolds. You’d swear there were no survivors. It appears there’s not much there, like the last scene in the Planet of the Apes. I know it sounds far-fetched; we’ve received unconfirmed reports of people sheltering in subway tunnels.

By pressing the star-drive button, let’s travel through a time warp to the Sputnik era. While cruising through the 1960s, we go beyond the bounds of glorified reality. Nothing prevents us from enrolling in Palmer Method handwriting classes and Evelyn Wood speed reading workshops, selecting modern furniture in pastel shades, and having an illicit encounter in the backseat of a powder blue Pontiac Tempest while Terry Stafford’s “Suspicion” playsover the car radio. Ending on a bright spot, undoubtedly, the fans are right. “The song that never disappoints and always makes us happy” must be 1969’s crown jewel of bubblegum pop, Tommy Roe singing “Dizzy.”

We’ll soon learn if the vortex was permanent or not. Time to land where New York City once stood.


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