Thursday, April 20, 2006

Earth Day (April 22): a story

From Ragnarok to Armageddon, I am fascinated by stories of the end of the world. I am terrified by the idea of everything I know and love ending once and for all, and yet in so many of these stories, there are elements of rebirth and hope.

I am a fan of good science-fiction. I am not a fan of literalistic interpretations of Biblical text. Maybe I could stomach those kinds of novels if the writing were any good. Usually, it’s not. A friend of mine is writing a novel of the Apocalypse that shows a lot of promise, but I believe her manuscript is in the minority of good eschatological fiction. When stories of the end-times come across as full of dogmatic propaganda without any sense of character growth and interesting plot development, I’d just as soon read a teen romance series novel where the identical twins discover the high school class president they fancy is actually an alien from Alpha Orionis (i.e. Betelgeuse) who can take only one person to the Galactic Prom. Who will it be: the vivacious, outgoing twin who is skilled at mastering languages or the contemplative twin who has a knack for quantum physics?

I digress.

I’ve had the first line of a story kicking around in my brain for awhile: When the apocalypse arrived, it was nothing like we expected. That’s all I had. When I received a traveling notebook in the mail from ABCGirl, I decided to take the story further. No matter how silly, how outlandish, I would move beyond that first line. So, here goes. (ABCGirl, if you want to be surprised when you receive your notebook, you might want to avert your eyes now.)

Earth Day

When the apocalypse arrived, it was nothing like we expected. The lack of levitating bodies made some people quite angry. “We were supposed to be saved!” they howled. “Where are the Trump and the Call? Where are the rivers of blood? We’ve been had!”

Most of us, however, were relieved that the end of the world as we knew it would commence in a calm, relatively non-dramatic way. The angel in charge of our clean-up unit explained it this way: “There was a choice we had to make. Plan A involved waging terrible wars in which seas boiled and countries burned. Plan B involved a thousand years of peace. Everyone On High talked it over and we all finally agreed on Plan B. The Great Almighty actually likes Earth, you know. It’s such a pretty combination of blue, brown and green. However…” and the angel lifted three of its eyebrows in warning, “That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Things have gotten quite messy around here.”

We all got scared. Was the Judgment going to happen, then? Were some of us going to heaven and most of us going to hell, as the televangelists and pulp novelists had predicted?

“No, no,” the angel said. “That would be silly and wasteful. This matter is a big deal. Remember when you were little and your parents said you couldn’t go out to the movies and have ice-cream with your friends until you had cleaned up your rooms?”

Of course we did.

“That’s the basic idea,” the angel said. “Only, you’re going to clean up the planet. Don’t worry! You’re getting lots of help from On High.” The angel started handing out garbage-bags and recycling buckets.

“We’re all going to do our bit to clean up Earth,” the angel said. “We’ll start out by picking up trash from the streets and work our way up to reversing global warming. Before you know it, this planet will be glistening and fresh. You’ll be so proud of yourselves, too.”

“This is going to take forever!” someone wailed.

The angel smiled. “No, no, not forever. It just seems that way now. Just think: when we’re all done, we all get to go to heaven.”

“What’s so great about heaven?” someone grumbled as he started picking up aluminum cans and cigarette butts off the ground.

“Our film collection is quite good,” the angel said. “Also, the ice-cream is better than anything you have ever tasted.”


Nonny said...

Women you never cease to amaze and delight me. What a funny take on the end of days. I'd be cool with that whole plan.

I agree with you about stories involving the apocolypse with one major exception. Stephen King's "The Stand" is actually my favorite book of all time.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Nonny: Thanks! I'll take a look at The Stand. Traditionally, I've not been a Stephen King fan, though I have enjoyed the films "Stand By Me" and "The Shawshenk Redemption."

Lone Star Ma said...

That's a pretty decent apocalypse story! Whew!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lone Star Ma: Decent is a good start.:)

Melangell said...

I LOVE this story. An apocalytic story with hope and humor, what could be better? What a great story for Earth Day and for Good Jill's birthday. I like that angel - wonder what his/her name is.

Lone Star Ma said...

By decent, I did not mean a merely decent story! Your stories are always great! I meant that it was a pretty decent sort of apocalypse - one I could deal with experiencing. Most apocalypses - not so decent, you know?

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lone Star Ma: I shouldn't have teased you! Sometimes, it is hard to resist. Thank you, though.

Though really, I do not expect accolades for all my stories, as they are glorified rough drafts. (Memo to everyone: if you would like to offer criticism, please make it constructive. The nitty-gritty criticism should be saved for when I have a solid story behind me.)

Melangell Thank you. After many years, I'm finally taking your advice and letting the humor come through, rather than attempting the gut-wrenching stories and poems to which I used to aspire

Yorkshire Pudding said...

It's got to end some time, hopefully faraway in the distant horizons of time or perhaps we'll end it ourselves as we have already ended it for the dodo and a thousand other wonderful creatures. Frankly, I'm not too bothered. Just as long as I make seventy five and can look back on a reasonably happy and healthy life in which I achieved some good things - after that I'll be gone so it won't really matter if thw orld ends.... Nice piece of original writing by the way.

Lady K said...

I am terrified of terraforma. Anything that has to do with aliens freaks me out, even more than spiders.

Think I should send that to "Post Secret?"

I am continually amazed by your writing abilities.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Yorkshire Pudding, I don't know what to say. On the one hand, my first reaction is, "How can you not be too bothered? You have kids!" On the other, I suspect that you don't see the point in freaking out, and are simply trying to do the best you can, and do your part to pass on a good world to your descendents. Is that projection? Maybe. I know I want to do more than spin my wheels, and yet (this is the really uncomfortable part I don't like to admit to anyone, least of all myself) I don't really want to be called to do anything that takes me too much out of my comfort zone. I don't mean to be confessional here, and it's probably worth its own post at some point in the future, but there it is.

Lady K: Thank you! Maybe aliens are like spiders... best viewed from a distance?

Nonny: I've gotten The Stand out of the library, and have gotten a few chapters into it. I peeked at the Wikipedia entry just to get a general idea of the story arc, because I suspect I will not get through it. Perhaps The Stand is for you what Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is for me.