“I’m sure it’s just one of those things that happens every hundred years, like cicadas or something. It’ll be gone in a few days, a week tops.”
“The Apocalypse” is a much tread path in fiction, contemporary and historical. We’ve told stories of floods and fires since we had the language to express our fears. We keep trying to stamp expiration dates on the Earth. Perhaps stemming from the simplicity of the thinking behind these “ends,” they often come conveniently at round numbers of years, the end of centuries or millennia, with a few exceptions.
And yet, we’re still here. That’s because even though we commonly take “apocalypse” to mean the end, it’s really the kind of end the Mayan intended with the “end” of their calendar. Something survives. It’s changed. New powers rise and old ones are subsumed. Nothing can withstand the powers of change. Civilizations, nations, like people, grow, expand, wither, and fade, giving way to the next generation. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to hold change off. We slather lotions and inject toxins to chase away wrinkles, but eventually, the wheel turns.
Will the next big change be the rise of the machines? Singularity, wherein we reach a technological critical mass and our soft, fragile bodies become obsolete? Or will a cyborg army, amassed by a mad dictator overthrow the world, for the glory of the nation or simply because unmodified humanity can’t compete? Will the cockroaches climb over the crumbled, radioactive remains of our cities, thriving and evolving to build their own civilization, or will they be content to skitter in the shadows, simply surviving.
Evolution has occurred by small steps for millions upon millions of years, little tweaks in processing this protein or the length of that bone give small advantages that may or not help a creature survive in the long run. Nature has been experimenting, spit balling, but now, with machines and genetic knowledge we never had, we hold the means to leap ahead of a sudden. The apocalypse is within our own grasp. The tools we build to make our lives easier, maybe even longer, can be turned against us by happenstance or design. Effects which were guided by chance, spread thinly across populations can now be applied en mass, and in doing so, send us all to the stars or pitching over the edge into the abyss.
Or maybe we will reach a point where the record cannot play anything but static, the DNA has replicated itself into chaos. The copy of a copy, with errors creeping in may take us in similar fashion to the entropic heat death of the universe in small scale. This seems like a fitting end, the equivalent of dying in one’s sleep after a long and fruitful life. But how many of really get that? Will the world? Are we destined for the slow fade? Or one of a billion apocalypses we dream of? We haven’t even looked at spiritual upheavals.
What if the old stories aren’t just stories, after all? What if there’s some beast slumbering, waiting, in the depths of the sea or at the center of the Earth or Hell has a capacity and when it’s full the dead will walk, their spirits unable to descend? There are so many stories we tell each other, so many “ends” we comfort ourselves with as being so improbable, even impossible, so distant that we can sit back on our couches and play “what if?” even when real threats loom close. And we will for centuries to come, I’m sure. Regardless of the technology with which we share these ideas, these epitaphs for the world, I think most of us have some faith that none of these things will really be the final end. Someone, or something, somehow, will survive, even if it’s just our stories, to be uncovered by alien archaeologists millennia hence.
But wait, there’s more! Join us on Facebook on April 20th for a launch party for the new book.