Countdown to Annihilation! (10:57:28 – 10:59AM)

Previously, in the first four installments of Countdown to Annihilation! . . .

. . . the sun blew up!
. . . so did most of the people!
. . . Snavering Lavelwods swarmed through Charles’ factory!
. . . Charles and Iphigenia found themselves on the brink of destruction!

But will Charles use the Snaverer-Killing Bomb?

Will the Lavelwods break the Eight-Minute Hourglass that holds back the end of the world?

Can the Book of Luke survive the insane pressures of temporal acceleration?

And just what is the one thing that Iphigenia would keep, if she could keep one thing, and only one thing, to last her all the empty years?

The Snavering Song (Traditional)

Snaver, lavel, what can you do?
Our hour nears: we don’t care about you!
It’s great that you lived and it’s great that you’ll die!
Out of our way! Our hour is nigh!

Lincoln was shot and Jesus spiked up
Herbert the Nudist exposed in the buff
Socrates—poison! Angela—bees!
And everyone left
They will die in the freeze!

Snaver, lavel, what can you do?
Our hour nears: we don’t care about you!
We’re glad that you lived but it’s time that you died.
Out of our way! Our hour is nigh!

“Here!” shouts Charles. He points at an airlock. Iphigenia turns sharply right and drags him through it. They wait inside while the doors cycle. Then they enter the Eden room.

Charles turns off his hovershoes and settles down onto the ground. He beams at her. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

The Eden room is a self-sufficient biosphere. It is contained within two rapidly spinning translucent candy shells, each more amazing than the other—but it is not this confectionary accomplishment that prompts Iphigenia’s answer.

“It’s a garden,” Iphigenia says in awe.

Iphigenia stares around. The Eden Room is beautiful and grand and full of trees, and it has its own little sun circling in the sky above.

“It’s marvelous,” she says. “It’s the most marvelous garden.”

“It’s built entirely on Biblical principles,” Charles boasts. “For example, the whole room is suspended in a Leviticus-Luke gyroscope rotating at a constant 70 verses per second. And the artificial gravity is provided by psalms!”

“But why are we here?”

“It’s the safest place in the whole factory,” Charles says. “Listen. Can you hear that?”

Iphigenia listens.

Then she frowns. “Little . . . squiddish thumps.”

“Snavering Lavelwods,” hisses Charles. “God promised them that they’d get the Earth after humans did, if they were good. So they were good for a very long time. But now darkness is rising and the Fimbulwinter is coming and the Snaverers want their due. We left the door open. My fault. Not yours. But we left the door open. And now they’re going for the Hourglass.”

He hands Iphigenia his marvelous See-Through-Things Prism. “Look through this,” he says.

Iphigenia peers through it.

“I can see right through it!” she says, with amazement.

“It’s all in the focal length,” Charles says. “Hold it farther from your eye and you can see through more things! Please keep an eye on the Lavelwods for me. I’m going to try to engage the auxiliary defenses. Incidentally, what did you choose?”

“Choose?”

Iphigenia moves the See-Through-Things Prism closer and farther from her eye. She shrieks a little as she can suddenly see the Lavelwods in the factory halls.

“As the one thing you’d keep,” Charles says.

Iphigenia frowns at him. “You are very strange.”

Charles beams at her.

Iphigenia stares through the Prism. “They’re swarming through the factory,” she says. “Snavering everywhere. I think they’re shouting something.”

“Shouting?”

Charles goes to a tree. He presses a knothole to reveal a device labeled, “Factory Universal Translator—DO NOT LISTEN!”

“You’d best not listen,” Charles says.

He activates the device. He tunes it to Sneezle. There is silence. He tunes it to Morphum. The silence remains. He tunes it to High Lavelwod.

“Bleep!” snarls the device. “Bleep! Bleep! Bleeping humans! Bleep! Bleep!”

“Ow!” says Iphigenia, who couldn’t really help listening. “Too much bleeping!”

“However,” snarls the device, “we concede a reluctant admiration for your many fine inventions.”

Charles is blushing.

“Bleep!” shouts the translator again, as the Snavering Lavelwods swarm.

“Too. Much. Bleeping,” emphasizes Iphigenia.

“Oh,” says Charles. He reluctantly turns off the universal translator.

“It hurts my ears,” says Iphigenia. She looks through the prism. “There’s some kind of silver door in their way.”

“That’s my first line of defense,” says Charles. “It’s made of Invulnerable Crumpium!”

“They’re crumpling it with their tentacles!”

“Yes, well,” Charles admits. “It’s invulnerable, not uncrumplable.”

Charles has opened up a panel hidden in another tree. He is triggering various buttons.

“Huh,” Charles says. “There’s a spider on the outer hull. I hope it’ll be all right.”

“Probably safer than anywhere else on Earth!” Iphigenia says.

Charles laughs.

“That’s true! That’s true. But it adds to the mass calculation! Not much weight budget for spiders. What’s happening now?”

“Now—”

Iphigenia peers. Then she looks awed. “You built a giant self-scratching blackboard?”

Charles looks modest. “It’s the latest in nonlethal defense technology.”

“It’s definitely annoying them,” Iphigenia says. “The scraping and scratching of the fingernails on the blackboard—it’s driving them mad! Except . . .”

“Except?”

“They’re not giving up,” Iphigenia says. “They’re drowning out the noise by singing!”

Charles flicks his hands over buttons and levers. Then he frowns. “Dear, dear, we’ve got a goat out there now, too.”

“A goat?”

“It must be so afraid of the sun blowing up that it fled right through the Snavering Lavelwods to cling to the side of the Eden Sphere! What a heroic, sticky goat.”

“We have to open up the airlock!” says Iphigenia. “And let it in!”

“No time,” says Charles. “No time. Have they gotten through the Giant Golden Bowl?”

“Through and past,” whispers Iphigenia, in terror.

There is a thump. A Great Gallumphing Uniplex has attached itself to the side of the Eden Sphere.

“No idea what that is,” whispers Charles. “Stupid animals and their pack behavior! Don’t they realize I have strict mass limits?”

Then he blushes.

“No, that’s not fair. I’m sorry, animals! I’m sorry! I won’t insult you again.”

Iphigenia shrieks. “They’ve broken through the defense of last resort!”

Charles looks nervous. “Are you sure it’s the last resort?”

“It was labelled ‘Defense of Last Resort—DO NOT BREAK THROUGH.'”

Charles hides his face with one hand. “Why doesn’t anyone ever read?

His voice is taut, but there is humor in it. Even at the end, he is laughing at the world. Iphigenia can tell.

But then the humor leaves him.

Charles grows glum, silent, and dark. “I don’t know if we’ll make it,” he says. “Not with all the extra mass pressing on the hull. These animals better pull their own weight.”

“Make it?” Iphigenia asks.

There is the distant shriek of a hawk coming in to land on the Eden Sphere.

Then Iphigenia beams.

“You’re going to trigger the Snaverer-Killing Bomb!” Iphigenia proclaims. “Then this whole sphere will bounce and roll through the empty Earth driven by the force of that explosion. If the animals aren’t too heavy for your compensation thrusters, we’ll land exactly where you planned—at the birthplace of a new sun!”

Charles gives her half of a smile. “That would be pretty cool.”

But then his voice goes flat, and he shakes his head.

“I’m not going to kill them,” Charles says.

“Oh,” says Iphigenia.

“I was so afraid I would. To save you. To save me. But I won’t.”

They are silent for a while.

Then Iphigenia smiles at him. Just a little.

“That’s okay, then. It’s okay if we die. I don’t want to. But it’s okay, if it’s to keep us from killing. The Lavelwods are adorably fuzzy little monsters.”

She looks again through the See-Through-Things Prism.

“Just . . .” Charles says. “Just give a moment, for regret. And fear. And mourning. Just a moment. Then I’ll smile, and say that everything will be okay. And it will be.”

In the distance they can hear the snavering song.

The Snavering Song (Modern Arrangement)

Snaver, lavel, what can you do?
Our hour nears: we don’t care about you!
It’s great that you lived and it’s great that you’ll die!
Out of our way! Our hour is nigh!

Rasputin was shot and Rasputin drowned
Poisoned and stabbed and laid in the ground
Joan of Arc—burned! Henry’s wives did not please!
And everyone left
They will die in the freeze!

William to plague. Sian to starvation!
And millions on millions who died for their nation.
Vlad—now a vampire! Jekyll—a beast!
And everyone left they will die in the freeze.

Snaver, lavel, what can you do?
Our hour nears: we don’t care about you!
We’re glad that you lived but it’s time that you died.
Out of our way! OUR HOUR IS NIGH!

Thundering through the factory in accompaniment to the song’s last words there is a crash.

The See-Through-Things Prism drops from Iphigenia’s nerveless fingers.

“What?” says Charles. “What did you see?”

“They’ve reached the hourglass,” says Iphigenia. “They’ve broken it. The sand is falling.”

The room is very still. The animals stare in through the candy shell. The snake flicks its tongue. The spider shifts uncomfortably from leg to leg, never sure which six to stand on on occasions like this. The goat goes, “Beeeee!”

Charles’ wristwatch alarm goes off.

“Oh, dear,” Charles says. “It’s 10:58.”

Then he laughs. It’s a wonderful, terrible, horrible laughter. “I’d forgotten I’d set that,” he says. “I wanted to tape Lizard Cops.

Iphigenia stares at him. Then she joins him in laughter.

“Me too!” she says.

And as they laugh, the last rays of sunlight race frantically towards the world.

Tune in tomorrow for the shocking conclusion of . . . Countdown to Annihilation!

4 thoughts on “Countdown to Annihilation! (10:57:28 – 10:59AM)

  1. Oh, how clever. I hadn’t even realized this was premised on the 8 minute transit time for light from the Sun to reach the Earth, though, in retrospect it seems rather obvious. Now, how long would it take for the Earth to cool to uninhabitable levels? One supposes Charlie could invent some heating mechanism to stave this off sometime longer, locally, were he not facing immanent destruction….

    Do you suppose the Lavelwoods will need any specially-adapted human quislings to rub their bellies and make their tentacles do that thump-thump-thump thing? Because I can provide references, if I have to….

  2. Pretty funny — the Snavering Song is set to the same rhythm as the Oompa-Loompa songs in the movie (not the ones in the book). By the way, I can see why the movie makers thought to change the lyrics — “a hundred knives go slice, slice, slice”? Not to mention the medical horror of “It messed up all her chromosomes” in Goldie Pinkiesweet.

    “The Lavelwods are adorably fuzzy little monsters.” Hmm — since squid aren’t generally fuzzy, I’d guess that the Snavering Lavelwods are visually based on the plush Cthulhu that S linked to in the comments to
    What Wistful Sally Says. Plus S mentioned slavering. I wonder which words were put together to make “Snavering Lavelwod”? “Lavel” is sort of a mixture of “lave” (to wash, although Merriam-Webster tells me that it can also mean a residue, something left) and “larval”.

    I like the way that everything is falling into place for an enactment of the wolves’ world-ending myth from the last entry. “And into that darkness splashed the sphere named Eden. And all around it, clinging to its sides, their noses pressed against the glass, were the makers of the world.” Charlie does seem like a good bet for someone to make an Animal-Naming Device.

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