The End? by Martin Green
Civilization on earth is destroyed by a stray comet with only a handful of people whod been working in a mine left to carry on. After nuclear wars, the world is dominated by a few vast corporations and most people are slaves. After the earth had been devastated by wars with aliens, only a colony on the moon is left to preserve humanity. Good lord, thought Paul Lerner, what was going on here?
Paul Lerner had always been a great reader and now that he was an elderly retiree he read even more. At one time he had decried digital books and thought that there was nothing like the weight, feel and heft of a real book. In recent years, since hed given way and bought an iPad, hed somewhat modified his position, especially as he was able to download books for a few dollars and even for free. Hed begun to notice that many of these books involved the world as we know it coming to an end and in all cases the aftermath wasnt pretty. This trend was also evident on television, with a show about one Navy ship standing between the end and a plague threatening to kill all humankind, another show in which the world lost all power and of course numerous shows in which aliens attacked the earth.
He supposed that all of this gloom and doom reflected the dismal condition of the world today. Being retired, Paul watched more television than before and there was no end of bad news, which the cable news shows gleefully reported. The latest was the panic over ebola in America, and this was with only one actual death reported so far. Was this the plague that would spread and wipe us all out? Then there was ISIS sweeping over Iraq and Syria, chopping off heads on their way, bad enough, but worse, adherents of ISIS going around killing people in, of all places, Canada and Australia, then in France and Belgium, as well as in the US. Putin was threatening to undo all the gains of the Cold War. Iran was on its way to getting nukes. On the other side of the world, North Korea was developing long-range missiles and of course there was the menace of China, beefing up its military while we cut back on ours.
Paul was by nature a pessimist. This was partly, hed always felt, because he was Jewish. The Jews had been persecuted for thousands of years and now were being threatened with annihilation, good reason for not having an optimistic view of the world. When he was a kid growing up in New York, his mother had always admonished him to put on his hat and gloves in the winter and to stay out of the sun in the summer. Always, always look both ways before crossing the street, never get into fights, stay away from large dogs and of course never talk to strangers. Danger lurked at every turn.
Paul put down his iPad. Hed been browsing through it while having his second cup of breakfast coffee, one of the pleasures of being retired. Im going to the pool room, he told his wife Sally, then Im going to have lunch with Abe. Paul played pool three times a week, this after having been forced to give up playing tennis three times a week after his aging knees had given out. The other players in this mornings group were also old tennis players. They were competitive but didnt take the games too seriously and there was a good amount of ribbing among them. Paul happened to be shooting well and he and his partner won four games out of four. The others accused Paul of secretly practicing, which he denied.
Paul was meeting his friend Abe Silverman in the retirement communitys restaurant, a nice amenity to have, hed always thought. Washing up before, he reflected that despite all the troubles of the world his retired life wasnt too bad. Abe, although Jewish also, was an upbeat guy who always made him feel better about things. After lunch, hed go home, finish reading the newspaper and then take his afternoon nap, another perogative of being old and retired.
Abe was already seated at their table when Paul entered. As soon as Paul sat down, Alice the veteran waitress, came in and took their orders, the usuals, a hamburger for him and a chicken Caesar salad for Abe. Paul told Abe about finding all of those end of the world books online. Youd think we were done for, he observed. Somehow I think well survive, even with ebola and ISIS and all those other things.
I hope we do, said Abe.
You seem gloomy today, said Paul.
I am. I guess you havent watched the TV news this morning.
Not since 9:30. I was playing pool.
Iran and North Korea said they had an important joint announcement to make at midnight. our Eastern time. The betting is that theyre ready to use nukes, Iran against Israel and North Korea against South Korea. And ISIS has used poison gas to wipe out a few thousand Iraqis and is about to take Baghdad.
For a moment, Paul was stunned. Then he said, Youre kidding me, right?
Abe retained his grim look. I wish I were.
Paul looked around the restaurant. Only a handful of other people were there. Yes, said Abe. Everyone is home glued to the TV.
Then why are you here?
Abe shrugged. We had a lunch date. The big TV announcement wont come until nine our time. We might as well enjoy ourselves while we can. The end may be near.
Note: this was written a short time ago. Events since then make the end seem even more possible.
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