Unending Times

“There’re a lot of ‘end times’ themes being pushed in pop culture today, don’t you think?” she said, snapping the newspaper to flatten it. The sound carried me back to the sunroom of my childhood home, and those mornings that were defined by each tink of my father’s teaspoon against the inside of his coffee cup and the regular snapping of the daily paper. The memory came on so strong, and so sudden, that I was bewildered for a moment. I blinked and smiled at her.

“Beg pardon?” I asked.

She smoothed the paper on the table. She despised reading on a handheld device. The palmtop I’d gotten her last Christmas sat in its packaging in a drawer somewhere, forgotten. “I said, there’s a lot of ‘end times’ themes in pop culture. So many of the plots of recent television shows, movies, comic books, even music all revolve around the end of the world. Armageddon.”

“Huh,” I said, and decided to disagree. “Well, ‘end times’ implies the end of all things. I wouldn’t say that there’s much of that because if there was, they wouldn’t be able to produce many episodes or sequels or issues. I’d say the themes you’re thinking of could be better described as ‘the end of things as we know them’.” I was still half-absorbed in the memory of the sunroom. It felt like I was floating, drifting through recollection, or existing in two places at once. Two times at once, I corrected myself.

“Okay, right. Not so much the extinction of the species or the complete end of the Earth. That would be boring, unless it was a real slow build-up with mass extinction or destruction being the climax.”

“It’s a valid observation, though. I’d noticed it too,” I said. “I think it’s the modern terror. Just as viral infection was big for a while, what with the scare of HIV and the later rise of Ebola. You’ll notice there’s a lot fewer, if any, stories relying on boogeymen as plot vehicles. Our fears have evolved. Now we’re afraid of ending our world of convenience. I wonder what the horror stories in the developing world revolve around?” “You think these plots are rooted in our own comforts?” she asked.

“Of course. We fear losing our power. Powerlessness is of extreme importance in the generation of real terror. But I think the irony of most ‘end times’-themed writing is that a real collapse wouldn’t be as bad as they make it out to be. I don’t think we’d face a ‘Mad Max’ hellscape. Humanity and human society have become too big to fail. The loss of centralized distribution of resources would only fragment us and make us rely on local suppliers. People would grow their own food to adapt. The policing structures would remain intact. We’d carry on.” I looked out the window, over our large backyard that could easily support life-giving crops instead of the flat green grass it now grew, past the fence that divided us from our neighbors, over their low roof and out into the mountains beyond that split the horizon with their jagged teeth. “People in developing countries would continue to starve and suffer. Those living in the bigger cities, though. They’d be fucked.”

“That’d be their own fault for thinking that they needed to live all jammed up like that anyway,” she said, and returned to her paper.

“I suppose it would,” I mumbled, and felt the warm glow of the sunroom.

2014.09.26 – 2023.05.21

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