Friday, May 20, 2011

A story about the end of the world

She's hedging her bets on fire as the way
the world will end
There was once a little girl, about 8 or 9 years old (approximately 1992), whose BFF called her one boring night to say that she was watching that old paranormal TV show called Sightings, and they said that the world was going to end on May 5, 2000, because of something she didn't understand happening behind Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.  Her BFF blew off the report, though, on the grounds that she wouldn't yet be 21 by 2000, which meant that nothing could possibly happen.

The little girl, though, being unusually anxious and susceptible to paranoid delusions of doom and despair (she once believed that she could sink through her dining room carpet right into Hell, if she was bad enough), made a quick excuse to get off of the phone and went directly to the bathroom, where she carefully hung up her bath towel that she left on the floor earlier that day.  Since she only had 8 more years to live, she immediately began to feel guilty for being a disobedient daughter, and figured she ought to listen to her mother more often.  After she was done, as she walked out of the bathroom, her mother, who was sitting at the dining room table drinking coffee with her friend Renata, looked at the little girl with surprise, as parents are wont to do when their children willingly complete chores without being asked.  The little girl shrugged and tried to hide her fearful tremors; she wasn't about to tell her mom the news she just learned about the fate of the planet!  If she mentioned it out loud, surely then it would happen.

The little girl spent the next several years of her childhood secretly obsessing about the increasingly few years she had left on Earth.  She often wondered what the point of homework was when she'd be dead before she turned 17.  Sometimes she mourned the expected loss of the proms she heard about that she wanted to go to in high school, and the husband and kids she'd never have.  Most of all, though, she obsessed about how it would all end.  She figured that it seemed most likely that the end of the world would have something to do with aliens.  Soon, she learned that Jesus, who lived in Heaven with God, was planning to come back to Earth to shut it all down.  She heard that when he did, all hell would literally break loose on Earth.  She thought that, if she was going to die along with everyone else, she'd better make sure she got to go to Heaven, too, so she prayed a lot and begged her mom to get her baptized, just in case.  But then she heard that no one could ever know when Jesus would come back, so she figured that it probably would be aliens, or maybe an asteroid.  

Soon, the little girl stopped being afraid of only the end of the world, and began fearing other, more practical things, like cancer, hurricanes, and tuberculosis.  She looked up cancer symptoms in the World Book encyclopedia they had in their dining room, and also tornadoes, because those were scary, too.  She looked at all of the pictures of malignant tumors, memorizing their shapes and locations and inevitably finding something on her body that resembled it.  Like the impending doom of May 5, 2000, the little girl also kept her new, supposedly cancerous discoveries to herself.  She knew that if she really did have cancer, she ought to go to the doctor; but if she didn't go to the doctor, no one could tell her the awful news that she really did have cancer.  So she kept it to herself.  Rather than tell a single soul about the thing that literally kept her up at night, she would hide in her room and quietly peruse the encyclopedias and Home Remedies books, where she found more diseases to be afraid of having, like glaucoma and Lyme Disease.

As time grew nearer and nearer to the millennium and the little girl began to get older, she began hearing more about the upcoming Y2K, as it had been nicknamed.  There were reports that everything could go horribly wrong, because computers may revert back to the year 1900, with programmers not yet having the forethought to program machines to display a date with all four numbers, rather than only the last two.  The little girl, now a menstruating preteen, was growing more and more terrified with every passing year, until one summer day just before she started high school, she saw something on television that, although it terrified her, made her stop and watch.  It was the Montel Williams show, and Montel's featured guest was Sylvia Browne, the world renowned quack psychic he had on every week (the little girl actively avoided things like psychics, fearing that they would confirm her fears. She still maintains a healthy distance from such people).  She was asked to predict when aliens would first make contact with Earth, in a way that no one could deny.  She said it would happen in ten years.

Wait a minute... ten years?!  That meant that... that... the world wasn't going to end after all!  Ten years from that date would have been 2008!  The little girl, with newly light shoulders, tore off on her bike to her friend Katie's house to go play.

Whatever did happen on May 5, 2000?  Don't think that the little girl had forgotten what she'd been terrified of for the past 6 or 7 years.  She didn't.  While she'd replaced her confidence in a psychic's predictions for a decade later with a more reasonable doubt that there was a specific date of the end of the world, a tiny part of her thought that maybe, just maybe, something cataclysmic and terrifying and deadly might happen, anyway.  But she was largely unconcerned, and focused instead on her upcoming junior prom, which was that very night.

She had a great time.

As you've likely heard, radio host Harold Camping has done some math and figured out that the rapture will instead be occurring tomorrow at 6:00 PM.  (Which time zone, you may wonder?  Whichever one is 6:00 first.)

The little girl from our story hates Harold Camping, and feels horrible for the children that he's managed to terrify senseless with his false prophecies.  She also hopes that when those children inevitably stop believing in such garbage, that they find a more reason-based way to reject it, rather than through a self-proclaimed psychic on a daytime talk show.  But knowing what it's like to waste a childhood irrationally petrified of something entirely unrealistic, the now-adult and now-atheist little girl hopes that all of Camping's followers, particularly those who've spent their life savings getting out the message of tomorrow's non-existent rapture, sue the shit out of that son of a bitch.