Countdown to Annihilation! (10:52 – 10:57am)

Yesterday, in the first amazing installment of Countdown to Annihilation! . . .

. . . the 11am premiere of Lizard Cops drew nigh!
. . . Iphigenia’s parents built an Origins Bomb!
. . . everything older than 10,000 years old blew up!
. . . and so did every human who’d evolved from lower life forms!

But who will survive?

Will the Bible prove inerrant?

Will the world drown in endless void?

Or is the truth, as so often happens, . . . somewhere in between?

Song of the Apocalypse

Mary drank too much at tea
She jittered faster
The faster she drank
The faster she drank
The faster the pile of tea scones sank!
She could see each beat of a flying bird’s wings
She could see each drop of her tablemate’s sneeze
“More tea!” she cried, but the waiter looked stopped
So she zipped from her chair to the kitchen’s pot.
And her story would have gone on from there
But the bomb tore through
And the bomb didn’t care! Oh

George he cackled George he laughed
George’s machine brought a dead man back!
In defiance of God!
In hubris insane!
“Raar!” said the dead man
Then he died again.
The bomb tore through
The bomb didn’t care.
George had evolved, so he wasn’t spared.
And the dead man, he’d once been Darwin’s toy
He was one more thing for the bomb to destroy. Oh

The Earth was barely nine thousand years
Old. Mad props to Usher! Creationist cheers!
Nine thousand years old! Plus seven days!
So the Earth, it lived on, anyways
Its valleys! Its hills! Its endless seas!
Its glorious plains! Its mountains! Its trees!
It all lived on! And we’re very pleased . . .
But the sun was as old as the scientists said
So the Origins Bomb killed the sun clean dead.

The aliens on Alpha Ceti III
Descend from the cones of evergreen trees
They’re a warlike bunch!
They’d have killed us later
But the bomb took them down
Like Bush took down Nader. Oh!

And all through the Earth just a handful of men
Some women, some children (most under ten),
Lived to see the winter that came
When the fire of the world
Turned a fading flame.

Iphigenia staggers through a savage wasteland. She grows lean and scruffy and lonely.

Every clock in the world that is not broken is stopped, frozen at 10:57am. The computers that she finds do not work. The paper calendars are also stopped, with nobody to flip them.

Iphigenia does not know how long it has been since the Bomb went off. But it feels like many years.

Everyone is dead.

Everything is in ruins.

There are no groundskeepers. There is no electricity.

A flyer flutters down to her from the sky. It looks strangely new, though she knows it must predate the bomb. And on it is written:

What Would You Keep?

If you could keep just one thing—one thing to last you all the empty years, what would it be?

Think on it. Decide. And when you know, if you are still alive, come to London. Come to the place of lights.

Iphigenia laughs. “I don’t know how to get there from here!” she says.

The wolves have come out, since the bomb, to stalk through the streets. They mutter and wolf to one another, and they do not bother Iphigenia. One day Iphigenia finds a Lego Universal Translator set, suitable for ages 12 and up, in an abandoned toy store. She assembles the pieces including two AA batteries and she turns it on and she eavesdrops on some wolves.

“Humanity has become incapacitated!” says a Shaggy Wolf. “It can no longer rule the Earth! It is our honor and our privilege to become Earth’s new guardians. Now we are the city people. Observe as I perform the strange city ritual of ‘rushing nowhere in particular.'”

“Yeah! Yeah!” agrees a Lean Wolf.

Shaggy Wolf looks slyly at one of the stopped clocks. He asks Lean Wolf, “Is that clock right?”

“It’s not just ‘right,'” says Lean Wolf. “It’s actually slow!

Shaggy Wolf pauses for dramatic effect. Then he gasps. He panics. First he skitters in a panicked circle. Then he begins to speed-walk very fast, just barely surrendering the edges of his dignity, in the direction of a distant office building.

“The end is nigh!” rails an Apocalyptic Street-Corner Wolf as he passes. “The Snavering Lavelwods will inherit the Earth!”

“What?” says Shaggy Wolf.

“He’s challenging your presumption of succession!” says the Lean Wolf, shocked.

Shaggy Wolf snarls. The Universal Translator says, “What?” Then it says, “Bleep! Bleep bleep! Bleepity bleep! Bleep!”

“Ow!” says Iphigenia. “My ears! Too much bleeping!”

So after that she does not eavesdrop on the wolves.

Two hundred meals and seventy-nine naps later, Iphigenia sees the flyer again. This time she holds it tightly. She pretends that it matters. She pretends that it is a thing from after the bomb, printed on crisp yellow and golden paper by someone surviving, somewhere, someone somehow not dead. So she finds an information kiosk and she digs through its maps and she heads towards London.

There is a bird in the air. It is a feral parrot. It circles down to land on her shoulder. It says, “Hello!”

“Hello,” says Iphigenia.

“Brawk,” says the bird. “Broderick. Good Broderick.”

“Would you like a cracker?” Iphigenia asks.

Broderick bobs up and down in excitement. Then he bites her ear and flutters away. From a tree nearby he says, “Snavering Lavelwods inherit the Earth. Inherit the Earth. Brawk!”

“Ow,” Iphigenia says.

Seven hundred meals and three hundred naps later, Iphigenia sees a light. She does not understand it at first. Her brain cannot parse it. It is an electric light. It is shining.

Iphigenia’s heart begins to race. It races faster and faster. She begins to hop. She begins to jump. She begins to dance around and glee.

“People!” she shouts.

Then she runs. She runs until she sees a factory. It is surrounded by a ruined fence and a ruined gate and a ruined sign hanging from that gate, reading, “NKA” and “CTOR”. Its lights are on!

She runs to the door. She cannot stop. There is a glee bubbling in her. It is practically leaking out her nose and ears. She hammers on the door. “Let me in! Let me in! I’m people too! You’re alive! Open up!

And Charles does.

Who is this mysterious Charles? Why did his factory survive? The Countdown will continue . . . on MONDAY!

9 thoughts on “Countdown to Annihilation! (10:52 – 10:57am)

  1. I always like the comic poetry.

    I haven’t quite figured out what’s going on with time, although it hardly seems worthwhile to since it’s going to be answered tomorrow. (I suppose that I might always die before then, though. And then I’d never know, unless I figure it out now. Probably the secret to immortality will one day be found to consist not in Taoist pills or genetic restructuring but in getting interested enough in ongoing serialized fictions.) I guess that everyone is in some kind of between-time moment, since otherwise with no Sun, everyone would freeze. I haven’t figured out why five minutes went by after the bomb went off but before all the clocks stopped.

    It’s pretty clear why Iphigenia survived; she’s a god created by Jane, not a human. The difference in age between how old she thinks she is and how old the chocolate said she was may have to do with the times, in Hitherby legend, and at least once in history, that she’s apparently died by burning (and apparently been brought back, although we’ve never seen that).

    It’s a bit odd that the humans were generally destroyed because they had evolved from earlier life, but the animals hadn’t. Well, it’s only a legend.

    I guess that “NKA” and “CTOR” may be the remnants of “Willy Wonka Factory”.

  2. It’s a bit odd that the humans were generally destroyed because they had evolved from earlier life, but the animals hadn’t. Well, it’s only a legend.

    It’s actually part of the marvelous Origins Bomb’s specifications!

    Blowing up all the show cats wouldn’t have made Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster happy. (Although the Methuselah Cat that had won many prizes for its wrinkliness turned out to be 11,000 years old and blew up. No one’s quite sure how that happened, not even the other cats.)


  3. Ah, thanks for pointing that out!

    Yes, when I re-read the specs, I see that they say:
    “—everything in the universe that is older than ten thousand years old, and every human who evolved from lower life forms, blows up!”

    So the wolves would neither be humans nor older than ten thousand years old. Mrs. Lancaster’s list of expected exceptions was “Sinister bloodlines descended from lizards, ancient gyroscopes from alternate timelines, the angels of nations, and so forth.” The sinister bloodlines descended from lizards would presumably be human bloodlines, so they’d fall under phrase two. And ancient gyroscopes from alternate timelines would fall under phrase one. Angels of nations aren’t human, so they must be older than ten thousand years old, yet still in the universe. (Presumably the other angels created before the creation of the Earth weren’t affected because they aren’t in the Universe, as the angels of nations apparently have to be.)

    Edited to add: I also see that I failed to read closely enough when I wrote that the time-puzzle would be revealed “tomorrow” — it’s actually going to be Monday. Two more days with which to justify my premature attempts to unravel the mysteries!

  4. [WO”>NKA [FA”>CTOR[Y”> run by Charlie. Yes, of course! Brilliant.

    Gosh. I didn’t parse the sign. I kept wondering if it was an acronym– though, strangely, I had the same Charlie and the Postapocalyptic Chocolate Factory vibe… This rather clenches it.

  5. Look up at the first comment: rpuchalsky got it, not me. I was admiring his brilliance.

    Er…. yes, but you used brackets? :)

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