I dreamt I saw the end of the world, only I realised it wasn’t a dream. There wasn’t any loud noise, no big bang just a blue flash in the sky that lasted only a brief second. It was odd because I never thought I’d see the end of the world, I guess nobody in their right mind would – when you consider how long mankind has been around, how many people, generations have come and gone.
Yet there I stood looking out of my bedroom window when the world ended, in my lifetime, on my watch. And I did nothing. They say that when you die your life flashes before your eyes, imagine then what a world must see as it dies, does it consider the volcanic orgy that has forever taken place within and sometimes without itself? Does it consider the seas and oceans, the landmasses and all their glorious variety or does it consider one single species upon its surface arrogant enough to believe their all importance. One thinks not. I can’t honestly say what I thought as I stood there, its one of those moments where introspection isn’t high on one’s agenda - being a more civilised inclination created when survival no longer became an issue. Strange then it should so rapidly disappear as survival became a serious issue once more. Its amazing what a few million years of evolution doesn’t change in a person, despite it being the end of the world there was still this atavistic urge deep down in me saying “Get the **** out of there” – so I did. But alas I move too fast – let me return and begin, as a famous wordsmith once suggested, at the beginning.
August 22nd, 2003, 09:33 AM
The trouble with beginnings is you hardly ever notice they are happening. Sit in a bar in the loop in Chicago, listening to people gripe about the Blackhawks again. Watch the young women dance in and out of the bar in a vain attempt to lure some male away from what is truly important in life, losing hope after a time and moving to the next life source
Feel the chill in an October night and know that winter is not yet arrived, just the advance guard rolling through with its hint of weather to come.
Then, the old guy sitting next to you turns from his drink, looks you in the eye, mumbles something, turns back to his drink. Nothing better to do, you ask: “What did you say?”
Right then, at that precise instant, there should have been the first few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth or a lightning strike or a strobe light into your face. Right then, the end of the world began.
He turns back to you, eyes bloodshot, lips slack, speech slurred. “I said ‘the world sucks!”
“Yeah, brother, I hear that.” Trite as it sounds, it’s true. The world sucks. Twenty-six years old, masters in English Lit, no job, no girl, no life, no prospects. Yeah, life sucks.
“Think I’ll – takes him a full five seconds to get “I’ll” past his vocal chords – do sumpin’ ‘bout it.” There is an intensity in his eyes that burns with the fires of hell or so you think. You want to know that feeling. You want to feel intense about something besides the self-pity you’ve been practicing in this bar, on this stool, for a month and a half.
“You figure out what you’re going to do, you tell me. I’ll help you.” Just another witty saying to another drunk.
“I’ll do that,” he says. Leaves a five on the bar, stands, puts his coat on, looks at you one more time: “I’ll do that!” he repeats.
“You do that, old timer.” You smile, already dismissing him from your mind in favor of the much more amusing thought exercise: life stinks.
The old guy stumbles out of the bar and your memory into the Chicago night, only the chilly blast of air coming through the briefly opened door making any impression on you or the other occupants of the bar.
The Blackhawks are losing again.
August 22nd, 2003, 10:37 AM
I'll do that....." I continue to mumble as I leave the bar. I am not drunk. Can't get drunk, well not on what they serve in there. I need something with a bit more meat
Was one time on this night , that the gifts were laid out, the offerings given. Hallowe'en, Sambain. Now what, sweets! Trick or treat and bad movies!
"Sucks! The lot of it!" I bellow spreading my arms out wide. My form flickers from man to woman, to something else. Tall, nondescript "f" the horns and cloven feet. I am what I am.
What I need is a "hand of glory" something to put them to sleep while I flip the switch, wake the buggers up.
"Let those who rest more deeply sleep
Let those awake their vigils keep:
Oh hand of glory, shed thy light:
Direct us to our spoil tonight"
I chant the words and wonder could I......
August 22nd, 2003, 06:05 PM
With the old man gone, I stare at the beer and then the tube. This end of the bar gives up on the Blackhawks. There is a pre-season Bulls game available. They’re losing too but this time I engage the guy next to me in small talk. He’s out of the University of Chicago, Sociology Major, long line of academics back to Dewey.
He’s feeling proud of himself and doing what the locals take great pride in doing, he’s bashing the Bulls.
“Do you know what the problem with the Bulls is?” I ask. He gives me a twenty minute, position by position analysis, concluding their problem is talent. They have none.
I shake my head sadly, take another sip of beer. “No, that’s not it.” I offer and wait for the bait to take hold.
It does. This is Chicago. No one can know more about their teams failures than they do.
“Okay, smart ass,” and he is just two hairs away from inviting me outside, “what is the Bulls problem?”
“Hamartia,” I respond and watch my word attempt penetration of his operating brain cells. It fails as I suspected it would. “Yeah, right,” he says, gets up and leaves. I smile sadly into my beer.
But a voice behind me, female, responds. “Ever since Pippin left, right?”
I turn around to consider the new foil. She is mid-twenties, tall at maybe 5’10”. Dark complexion that matches the copper blonde hair. Green eyes, of course. And very little extra anything.
“Buy you a drink?”
“Because I knew about Pippin?” The question is low key but very serious. It’s a what’s in it for me kind of question.
“That and for taking the hamartia bait.”
“Okay, sloe gin fizz.”
I order the drink. High alcohol content in a soft drink container, a serious drink.
“Have a seat, miss?” indicating the stool just vacated.
“Haven’t heard that one for a while.
“Granddad was a fan of McCambridge.”
“The Exorcist’s McCambrdige?”
“More “Giant”s McCambridge. Exorcist was all voice and he had thing for the flesh.”
“You don’t, I take it….no, not that. Wrong interpretation. Still talking McCambridge.”
“She’s okay. Not a bimbo, not a raving beauty. Just a talented actress.”
We spend the rest of the night talking about the Bulls. Evening comes to a close. She goes home alone; so do I. But, we leave a “maybe” hanging in the air that we can do it again. I hope so.
August 23rd, 2003, 04:00 AM
No sound would announce his coming, yet they knew he would be there, had always known he'd be there and so they watched. They watched for they knew he would be on the well-trod path.
And the well-trodden path for all its finery had led to the bowels of central Chicago on a night where the breeze is as much a curse as immortality,
"Well almost, except the bloody breeze will end sometime soon..."
He had started the habit of talking to himself not too long ago, or at least it seemed not too long ago as time goes in this realm.
"Still too bloody long,"
And swearing, an easy habit to pick up. But it was true he had been here too long. Time, as if existing as a tangible entity, had take its toll on him, the centuries of man had been a torrid affair littered with destruction, chaos and worst of all no hope. No hope for a bright tomorrow, no past but that being made where he stood and no end, no redemption from the bitter futility of his wearied existence.
So he trudged onward down the path of time, looking neither left nor right only forward, head bowed with resigned determination. Until now, until the memory of a memory had called him to this place, an echo of the other - the place he could no longer go even in dreams.
A warm glass of something would do for now, to aid in the inability, for a short period at least, of utter forgetfulness – this realm did have its advantages, alcohol was one of them.
Wrapping the thread-bare coat around his broad shoulders he moved out into the bowery, instantly lost in the malignant black cloak of night
August 23rd, 2003, 09:58 AM
I make my way to the underpass. Here among the ragtag offal of humanity I find what I am looking for this night. He sits hugging his tattered book, swaying from the affect of too much poison in his system. His face in the flickering street light is twisted, his mouth moving.
I squat on the pavement by him "Tell me preacher, tell me again."
The man begins to speak." The plagues upon man, revelations 16.
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven Angel "Go pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God"
So the first Angel went and poured the bowl on the earth and foul and evil sores came upon the men who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image"
Aye, I laughed, all the boils on all the bottoms of all the couch potatoes staring at their small screens
The preacher continued "The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a dead man, and every living thing died that was in the sea."
true you have blown it there killed it dead with the crap you have tipped into it.
"The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the fountains of water and they became blood."
Ditto to the seas you fools
"The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun and it was allowed to scorch man"
Ozone layer shot to hell
The preacher stopped and shrunk away from me.
"There is more" I snarl..
"Not yet..... no.... not yet...."
"Want to bet." I laugh and get up feeling the rising wind on my face.
August 24th, 2003, 09:09 AM
The bar was relatively empty, as empty at least as a bar can be with the onslaught of Winter beginning its first forays into the human pysche.
This bar, for its name is irrelevant, had reached the special time in a bar's existence when the caleidoscopic menagerie of overloud mating calls, flashes of contact and penetratingly unsubtle looks gives way to a slow, swaying rhythm where balance is found, where the bar staff are neither rushed nor idle, where it is neither crowded nor sparse and where there are many happy people all comfortable in their surroundings, the Witching Hour. It is into this environment a cold wind blows, signalling the entrance of another customer who immediately draws unforgiving stares for reminding the happy bunch how transparent and fleeting the balance is. A barely visible figure wrapped inside a coat that has seen its worst days and continues to move south trudges up to the bar, quickly accepted and forgotten by those inside, after all it will be them soon.
"Triple JD on the rocks."
The young barman stares at me as I imagine he would a leper. Casually I toss a fifty on the bar then return the withering gaze, he decides it worth his while to listen now - obediantly pouring the measure before dumping the rocks in, making sure I see the alcohol that spills over the sides and onto the bar as a result. I smile, which is rare but fitting in this moment, I will allow him the victory for the war is already mine.
"Keep it coming," my voice is level but commanding, he double takes, nodding reluctantly.
Swallowing deeply, the liquid fire lining my throat, I survey the inhabitants of humanity in microcosm, it is not hopeful. In one corner the alpha males hold power, laughing regularly and loud, too loud. Splayed around their territory in various states of undress are their captives, young women with shovels worth of make-up, goose-pimple ridden skin and dull eyes. Along the line of the bar are several men, varying ages and race but all with the same slumped shoulders and beaten looks. A thought shoots across my wandering and I add myself to the list of bar dwellers. There are a few conclaves of true enjoyment, friends basking in the comfort of familiarity and lovers whose glances are all stolen zealously by their other. I make a mistake and stray back towards the apes, they do not like my look it seems.
"What you staring at old man?"
"Me? Nothing." It doesn't work, the super chemical mix of alcohol and testosterone is too great a pull to avoid.
"Yeah well I think you dirty old pervert were staring at my Sarah."
Pointing out his poor grammar, use of the possessive or that I'm really not interested in human women would probably earn me an attempted beating, I mention the first two anyway.
"I wasn't staring at your friend and last time I checked ownership of another human being is illegal." It goes down well.
His first swing is with his right hand, the one not containing a bottle, it bounces off the doorman's thick skull. I smile again, twice in one night, perhaps I should come here more often. The doorman's look suggests I won't get that chance. Apologies all round and the inevitable conversation begins.
"Cold out there, huh?" his voice is low and nasal but no lisp which speaks well for his abilities.
"Sure is, I'd hate to be out there right about now." He doesn't bite, professional aswell.
"Yeah well that ain't my problem."
But it is mine. Getting up from my stool I look at the barman, he smiles nonchantantly, it doesn't last long. I wink at the barman, pick up the fifty and walk out the door nodding to my overlarge shadow as he returns to his guard post. Fourteen minutes, must be a new record.
August 24th, 2003, 10:26 AM
You wake up the next morning, no hangover as you didn’t go that far, no companion because you didn’t go that far either. Your apartment looks the same, no reason it shouldn’t except that the end of the world began last night. Something of that magnitude ought to leave clues.
Off the loop, on the north end. Cheap because it sits next to the el. Three bedrooms, two filled with books. Combination living/dining room also littered with books. Two baths. Rent paid through the end of the year.
So, why does life suck? You inherited a very small fortune but one sufficient to keep you in books and beer for as long you remain interested in either or both. You paid cash for your education at Northwestern. You sit in on classes at University of Chicago as well as your alma mater, paying cash as you go. You study whatever interests you.
You study because you’re looking for ‘why’. You can’t seem to pull the why out of the morass. Why did the fire take your parents, your sisters but not you? Why do your cousins not understand that you resent survival? You watch this world go around, watch the games being played, the politics, the social experiments, the wars, the missionary fervor that comes on people. You watch communism and capitalism, totalitarianism and democracy, crime and punishment looking for hints, clues, threads to the ‘why’.
They don’t exist. But your parents believed; it was important to them. It didn’t help them but they believed so you cannot let that part of them go. You keep looking for the ‘why’.
Maybe, today, you’ll re-read Locke. “Knowledge is the perception of the agreement or disagreement between two ideas.” Good and evil. Because that’s where why is hidden, in the lands of good and evil. If you are ever to discover the answer, there is where you must search.
It would be nice if Mercedes could drop by. She could probably help with the search. She is more than a Bull’s fan, much more.
Ah, well, to the books. The answer is somewhere to be found; it must be.”
August 24th, 2003, 03:40 PM
I make my way back to the bar. I feel a change there, something has come.
Broad shoulder, yet hunched in spirit. A fellow traveller in the game. I see him looking at the fast closing door of the bar.
I chuckle and recite the next section. Will he bite? Does he know? We read the bible, pour over it for signs and portents. Do others bother?
"The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast and its kingdom was in darkness; men gnawed their tongues in anquish and cursed the God of Heaven for thier pain and sores, and did not repent of their deeds..... buy you a drink?" I add and laugh.
August 25th, 2003, 08:44 AM
A shiver passes through my entire being, the liquid fire instantly forgotten. An incessant shuddering begins that I cannot stop,
"I am not one of three, I am not one of three ....." It becomes a mantra I will not release lest it fail to be true.
He laughs at me, a mocking laugh that echoes down the street rising and rising it consumes my being forcing the words from my mouth in a rush of vehemence;
"The sixth angel emptied his bowl over the great river Euphrates; The water of this river dried up so that a way was made for the kings of the East to come in. Then from the jaws of dragon and beast and false prophet three foul spirits came forth; they looked like frogs but were actually demon spirits, able to work miracles, and they went out to all the kings of the world to call them together for the war of the Great Day of God the Almighty."
His eyes are on fire and I understand; the loneliness, the loss and beyond it all the weariness, if I believed this creature had a soul I would call it soul weary. But it does not, can not. He drapes his arm across my shoulder.
"You are not worthy of His army, but he is coming, the shaft has a key........."
When and to where he disappeared I do not know nor care. Long had it been since the fifth trumpet had sounded but now the end game had come and the four were preparing, the horde and the host would ride. There was nothing to stand in their way.