The decision to end the world came at December 24, 2:27pm Greenwich Mean Time. It was announced over every radio station, every television transmitter, every internet server. The world would be shutting down for good. Factory conveyor belts would cease their juddering, power generators would power down. Flowers would fade, trees would wither, the sun would pale and die, and people would very slowly, very quietly, slip away into darkness.
This was to be the end. The very end. Not murder, but euthanasia. Rather than let humanity eat itself into a protracted and painful death, the Powers That Be had decided to pull the plug while the earth was calm and conscious and wilfully ignorant of the diagnosis that lay just around the corner. The world was played out.
And to be fair, the people had been expecting something like this for years: Y2K, the Mayan apocalypse, hours and hours of expensive scenarios, played out on Hollywood screens.
We nearly missed the whole thing, of course. Carla, the boys and I were camping in Bungenang, just out of mobile reception. We had already packed down the tent for the voyage home, and were in mid bushwalk. As we walked, the trees grew palid and shrivelled around us. They shrank into themselves like deflating baloons and the ground grew soft and wrinkled.
It was odd and alien and a little unsettling, but no more than any isolated bushwalk. It was also beautiful in its way, and we mistook it for some quality of the landscape that we’d not experienced before. It took me several goes to start the car, as that too had started to succumb. The petrol meter was draining visibly, and we couldn’t make the engine roar, but it still took us out of the park, along the dirt track and back on to the arterial motorway.
There were no cars out there. Not a one. The flora continued to fade around us. Either side of the highway were farms, dotted with livestock, all laying down or pawing lethargically at the ground. None of this distressed us as much as it should have, but I suppose that lack of concern was also a part of the process. My hands were feeling numb and a sense of disconnect, but I managed to keep them on the wheel and guide our ailing vehicle back into civilisation.
Civilisation had been busy. The streets were littered with confetti, streamers and sleeping bodies, clutching party hats and gelatinous glow sticks. Many were half-sunk into the tarmac. Their faces were peaceful and slack.
Our car slowed and gave a final, rattling cough. The boys and Carla had fallen asleep in their seats which, again, was not unusual. The vinyl seatbacks sucked at their sagging faces. I gave Carla a half-hearted push and felt her shoulder give in to my fingers like a heavy sponge. Somewhere inside me there was a deep, deep sadness; a nostalgic melancholy for the future we’d never have, and the adult lives the boys would never experience. But again, my feelings were muted and indistinct, and I guess, just as deeply, was the knowledge that it was an inevitability. And that on some level, like every other human being, I had wanted this.
I leaned against the car door and it split open, letting me tumble to the ground. I couldn’t stand, but managed to drag myself a few metres, just to see. The bitumen was so warm and soft, like a feathered duvet. I drew it across me and then, like everyone and everything else across the planet, my springs ran down and I gently drifted apart.
© 2012 Dave Bloustien