One

By Rich Ferguson

Poem

Be one with the world. One with yourself. One with the tranquility gallery behind your eyes, its humble paintings of peace & prosperity. One with how that gallery is so often under reconstruction, deconstruction. One with how everything is so impermanent, so fleeting. How your every thought breeds Frankensteins & angels. Be one with all your Frankensteins & angels.

I stood on the side of a suburban swimming pool in a sweltering Texas backyard in a crowd of other parents, hefted my three-year-old daughter up on to my hip as she begged and wept, pried her tiny pleading fingers from my neck, and then threw her, forcefully, in a high, athletic arc, into the water.

Some of the other parents smiled approvingly, others clapped and cheered, and a few looked away with the strained-neutral expressions of people consciously deciding to ignore a present tragedy.

The apocalypse comes in many forms. Oh sure, there is acid rain and there is drought, the crops dry up and the world moves on, but what happens when you’re alone with your wife or husband? Nature takes over, as it always does, and always will. And what becomes of the children? In Matt Bell’s haunting portrayal of twenty-six moments in the afterbirth of a world gone wrong, Cataclysm Baby (Mudluscious Press), we get to see how those days and nights roll on, when the waters are poisoned and furtive slick flesh seeks out a moment of passionate respite in many a dark and restless night.

In case you didn’t know, we’re fucked.

The reality of the inevitable decline of humanity in the face of insufficient natural resources is described, with much more eloquence than that, in this fascinating excerpt from Wasted World:

In “The Limits to Growth,” Dennis Meadows and others concluded from one calculation that the number of humans could crash suddenly rather than stabilize gradually. But none of the other calculations showed this effect; their results suggested that the numbers of humans on Earth had to be reduced gradually, and with them, the overuse of natural resources. It seemed that this single result was anomalous and could be ignored, although its cause remained unclear.

A few years ago, I put a bird feeder in the back yard. I had landscaped everything to verdant idyll, making it a perfect sanctuary for my avian pals, save for the cats. But one was a scaredy-cat who had no backbone for hunting, and one was so fat from her eating disorder that she posed no threat as she and her impressive girth thundered across the yard. The birds could see her coming a mile away.

Who are you, and why should I care?


I’m Robert Brockway, and my mom says I’m special.

 

Not good enough.

Okay, I’m an editor and columnist for Cracked.com, and I wrote a book called Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants you Dead. So I guess you should care because the title of my book is basically threatening you and everybody you love.

 

So you’ve done what, collected some statistics on death? Compiled the weirdest ways people died? What’s interesting about this?

Well no, this is all about the apocalypse. The end of life on Earth. The real ways humanity nearly went extinct, the most likely ways it might still, the more fantastical ways it could in the near future, and so on.

 

You’ve written a non-fiction book about the apocalypse? So you’re saying you’re a prophet of the lord? I had an aunt who thought that once. It was all fun and games until she bit the neighbor.

Nope! This is all based in science and fact. I admit I exaggerate sometimes because, as you can hopefully tell from the title, this book is not above comedic fear mongering and hyperbole. Its goal is to entertain and hopefully amuse the reader while also introducing them to some of the terrifying ways they and their loved ones might die in agony sometime soo- you know what? This is starting to sound crazy.

 

Aunt Penny lives a full and satisfying life as long as she takes her blue pills three times a day.

Okay, hear me out: I’m not saying the world will certainly end in one of the scenarios outlined in my book. But the concept of the apocalypse is largely relegated to fiction. We tend to think that it’s simply too outlandish to happen. And if we do imagine the end of humanity’s reign on Earth, it is in some far removed cosmic event, billions of years in the future. There’s no personal connection to it; no stakes for you, right now. While the scenarios in the book are not statistically likely to occur in your lifetime (or at least, not on the world-wide scale that I outline,) they are still a distinct possibility, or else came much closer to fruition than one would reasonably assume.

 

Are you playing coy with me? Do you have a pinky in your mouth? Are you twirling a little white parasol? There’s only so much teasing I will take…

Fine. Some examples: Did you know there’s such a thing as a mega-tsunami? In disaster movies, we see tsunamis as gargantuan killer waves that wipe away whole cities, but in reality they look more like an approaching tide. But a mega-tsunami is a naturally occurring event that plays out exactly like a ridiculous disaster movie. They’re behemoth waves, often triggered by large landslides, that have caused major extinctions in prehistoric times. They’re not exclusive to pre-history, though: There have been several small-scale events in this past century alone. And by small scale, I mean they were only a measly couple of thousand feet high at the crest. If circumstances are right, they can get so large as to wipe out a continent’s entire coastline. And circumstances are very close to right…

 

Yes but-

Ooh, there’s also this asteroid called Apophis that has the potential to be another Extinction Level Event! There are not one, but two chances it might hit Earth within the next few decades.

 

I see words like “might” and-

I’m forgetting the Supervolcano! A volcanic eruption so large it could crack a continent and the ensuing ash cloud would cover the entire surface of the Earth. There’s an active Supervolcano right now that shows nearly every major sign of eruption…here in North America.

 

You’re…you’re actually getting excited about this?

Look, I admit there may be some deeper emotional issues here that need attending. But again, I’m not saying the odds are in favor of these things happening. Only that they are not statistically infinitesimal, as we tend to believe. There’s only what, a 1 in 45,000 chance that Apophis will hit? That’s what it was at the time I wrote the book anyway. They change it almost monthly. It’s gone as low as 1:450 and as high as 1:250,000. Basically, they just don’t know.

 

1:45,000? As in, roughly the same odds as winning a modest amount in the state lottery?

Right. And it’s coming by twice.

 

Says who, some whack-job astrologist?

Nope. NASA.

 

Jesus Christ. And you think this is funny? You wrote a humor book about this?

Well, sort of.

I call it ‘comedic fear-mongering,’ and I guess the hope is that if I present this information in an over-the-top way, maybe drawing a few laughs from it in the process, people will be less afraid of these dangers than if they’d learned about them from a more serious source. Like the Supervolcano thing: Mainstream media wasn’t really discussing that when I wrote the book, but it’s all over the news now. If somebody had read this book first, that’s old news to them. Maybe when the anchor-person starts hyperventilating about it, they’ll just remember the book and laugh.

 

And you think that’s therapeutic somehow?

No, but anybody around them at the time will be impressed by the fact that they simply giggled a little bit when the news said everybody might die by fire.

 

You’re sick in the head, man. 1 in 45,000? That’s funny to you, huh?

No, I just –

 

You just what? What?! My nephew is five now, you’re saying he gets to live safely to his thirties, at which point he buys not one, but two lottery tickets to a fiery explosion? That’s funny.

I think you’re taking it wrong…

 

No, you’re wrong! You’re wrong inside. This interview is over!

What? But you’re me. You’re a fictional interviewer who exists solely for the purposes of narrative. I made you in my head!

 

You disgust me. This is done.

I haven’t even told you about the hyperca-

 

IT IS DONE, SIR.

 


When you enter the world of Paul Tremblay most anything can happen, and usually does. His recent collection, In The Mean Time (ChiZine Publications) defies expectations, the cover art a soft purple hue all filled with glittery type. It shows the faces of two sweet girls, which at first glance (pay attention, readers, the show starts here) could be two sisters sitting very close together, twins maybe. But no, it’s a two-headed girl, the first of many things that are not what then seem to be, the first of many times where Tremblay takes you by the hand and whispers sweet nothings in your ear, all the while the world falling apart around you, infrastructures crumbling, supplies running out, strange diseases wiping out the populace. But beyond all of that is the emotion, the humanity of what it must be like to exist in such end days, and it is here that he ratchets up the stories to more than just post-apocalyptic terror, dwelling in the individuals and families that are struggling to survive, to connect, to have a normal conversation, a memory that doesn’t send it all fracturing into shards of a former existence. It’s here between the floors where there’s no light, and yet, a sprinkling of hope.

I’m not really supposed to be here. On the internet, I mean, and not just right now – I’m not meant to be here at all. The problem is that I’m not greatly interested in zombies, vampires, bacon, cupcakes or socially inept cats, and a fascination with one or more of these is a basic requirement for going on the internet and doing internet things. My presence here is only tolerated because I usually exceed my daily tweet quota by over 100%, and also thanks to a nice semantic loophole; I update my blog regularly. Regularly. Twice a year. It’s not frequent, but it is, technically, regular. They had to let that one through, but it’s under investigation.

There’s a well-known episode of the old “Twilight Zone” series where a book-loving Burgess Meredith sequesters himself in a bank vault so he can enjoy an uninterrupted reading session during his lunch break.  He emerges from the vault to find that while safely underground, nuclear Armageddon killed off the rest of the world, leaving him as the last homo sapiens on the planet.  He finds this a positively delightful result and proceeds forthwith to the library, where he eagerly stacks all the books he plans to read.

When the world ends, I’ll be ready.

I keep a notebook and a pen in my backpack at all times; that’s my Apocalypse survival kit. Most of society ambles casually through the day completely ignoring the fact that our time on this planet could be up at any moment. On the other extreme, some predict it’s coming and prepare for it. I have a couple of survivalist friends who stockpile weapons and ammunition and wait for the day that the zombies attack. When it comes to the “when and how” regarding the end of the world, there’s an infinite spectrum of theories. Some think it will be earthquakes or asteroids or something else God makes happen in his big cosmic game of Sim City. There are others that believe Xenu and the Thetans are out there. Some know every Nostradamus quatrain by heart. Nobody has been right so far, though.

Charles Wesley thought it would end in 1794. Montanus failed to predict it in the 4th Century. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have tried way more than once, incorrectly throwing darts at 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994. Scientists jumped into the mix, thinking Halley’s Comet would end it all in 1910 as the tail swept past Earth and poisoned us. Then there was the Jupiter Effect, and Y2K, and the Hindu’s Kali the Destroyer. Hale-Bopp made an entire cult of people commit mass suicide so that they could escape Judgment Day and go ride on a big ship that was soaring through space behind the comet. And then there’s the guy on the corner with the sign and the beard and the milky eyes that has been wrong about it every day for as long as I can remember.

And now we have 2012. I’m proud of the Mayans. As a comedian, I’m even jealous. It’s the epitome of good writing and patience and timing. Clearly the early Mesoamericans were just making stuff up on a goof. I personally love the idea that they were simply screwing with us. “C’mere, Tlacolotl. Hahaha! This will be hilarious one day! What if we just stop it right there? Hahaha! That should freak someone out one day.”

A 5000-year-old punchline. The ultimate call back. It would only be funnier if it ended on April Fool’s Day.

Anyone that puts stock in 2012 as global stop time is giving far too much credit to a civilization that was convinced that the world was created in 3114 BC. They are actually dumber than Sarah Palin in that regard. Still, it makes for a lot of fun speculation. What happens if they’re right? Are we ready? I think I am. Assuming I survive whatever cataclysmic event destroys civilization as we know it, life for any human that remains is going to be quite chaotic, that much is certain. How are things going to be on this little ball of rock and water if the sky does coming tumbling down?

I have to start with the supposition that everything I rely on will be gone and that I won’t have the knowledge to rebuild it. I don’t know how anything works. Nothing. I basically live a life of faith. I have faith that my car will start, that clean water will fall from the wall when I need it, that somehow electric energy will be waiting for me at the little plastic socket when I shove something plug-shaped into it, that the artificial winter I keep locked in a box in my kitchen will keep my food cold, that by somehow hitting a series of buttons I can send a message across the world in less than a second, that I can toss a pill down my throat and destroy any bad microscopic bacteria that may be affecting me. It all might as well be witchcraft as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t know how an engine works or how to make paper or how to create a solar cell. I’m dumb, or I will be in a post-apocalyptic world, anyway. So what exactly makes me think that I’m ready?

I think that the world is going to be run by the fringe. The unaccepted of today’s society will be the only hope for the future. Archaic jobs will resurface. The computer engineer will starve to death while the girl that makes homemade dragon candles in her mom’s basement to sell at the Renaissance Festival will be rich. I don’t know how to make a candle. She’s going to get my business. You know what I won’t need? Access to the Internet from my useless, unpowered laptop.

We live in an age where huge, hulking robotic machines do all of the un-fun stuff. They strip meat from the bone in massive factories and shape metal and cook our food in mass quantity so that all we have to do is heat it up. In the future we’re going to need the butcher and the baker and the aforementioned candlestick maker. Hopefully they’ll be too busy rebuilding the world this time around to spend their days hanging out in a bathtub together.

The nerdy thirty-year-old that taught himself how to make chainmail so he could live-action role-play with his friends; that guy will be a millionaire. He’ll be the next big thing. Only a handful of celebrities as we know them would make it though. Bobby Flay and Bob Vila will probably be fine. You know who won’t? Snookie. The Situation. Perez Hilton. Someone will eat them.

All my musician friends should be okay in the new world, too. With no mp3s or iPods, the Minstrel will flourish again. We got lazy and forgot about him. Somewhere along the line we traded tradition for the reliability and convenience of digital files. Today, in the age of technology, any song you want is just one illegal download away. Post-Apocalypse, however, you’ll have to wait for a Minstrel to wander out of the forest with a lute. And what if he’s a crappy Minstrel? What if he has a bad memory?

“Sing that song I like!”

“She was a fast machine, she kept her la la la la la la, something, something, hmm hmm hmm that I ever seen…”

“You suck”.

“I- I- I- Wait, wait! I know ‘Brown Eyed Girl’!”

“Every shitty Minstrel knows ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. C’mon, Tom. I told you we should have gone to see Metallica at the castle.”

All my hopes lie on the resurrection of certain jobs. That’s where I find myself becoming optimistic. I’m honest when I say that I don’t know one single thing about survival. I can’t cook, I can’t start a fire, and I don’t own a gun. I do, however, tell a damn good story. When there’s an opening for Bard or Jester, I’m in. I’ll trade my tales around a campfire in exchange for deer meat or protection or sunglasses like in The Book of Eli.

That, or someone will make a jacket out of my skin.

I really hope they like jokes in the future.

BLACK ROCK CITY, NV-

Your boots are white with dust as fine as talc. Insidious stuff. Your legs, your arms, your face, whatever clothing you have decorated your body with – all are white, silty and dry. Your skin reacts to the alkaline, shrinking, drying, withering, trying to escape it. But there is no escape. The dust is everywhere – in your eyes, your lungs, your ears, in every nook of your body, in every cranny, in every fold of fabric that adorns you, everywhere you look… your world is white. And so you trudge across this white world, this wide expanse of nothingness, bracing yourself against the whirling-dervish winds, staring blindly into the invisibility that surrounds you. You are cocooned in the nothing, strangely safe and yet completely assailable.

You have never felt more alone, more surrounded by love, or more alive. Your vulnerability is your greatest strength.

This post-apocalyptic landscape strengthens your resolve and buffers your sense of self.

You are at The End of the Earth.

Welcome Home.


You catch a glimpse of moving structures and beings through the whiteness. A creature looms, a fluffy rabbit drives by helmed by a renegade cast of characters, a half-naked hula-hooper spins into view and vanishes again, a goggled and masked humanoid passes on a feathered bicycle and disappears into the cloud, something indescribably weird happens and you can only shake your head in wonder. There is much that is indescribable here. Indecipherable, unimaginable… you know that you will have a hard time convincing others of the perfection of this very imperfect place and you shrug. You are not, nor will you ever be, a missionary.

Noises abound. The wind howls over whoops and yells. There is music everywhere. Guitar screams, thumping bass, a violin…. a violin? Nothing you expect and everything you could ever imagine – if you were insane. For this is madness. Barely organized chaos. Insanity. The bizarre, the beautiful, the grotesque, the amazing.

Onward you move.

As the light fades so does the wind. The roar and force abates but the madness doesn’t. The power of nature is replaced by the power of humanity and technology as a whole new world reveals itself to your eyes.

The white-out is over.

You remove your dust-mask, your goggles, your methods of protection. You look around and, in the fading desert sunset, in the dusky twilight of the Nevada gloaming, this is what you see-

Magic.

All around you are lights of every color. Red and blue and gold and green. Static, flashing. The lights belong to structures that pump sound out into your environment. You are far from these lights but they surround you completely. You are in a womb of blinking neon.

A pirate ship on wheels passes by. A silver Sphinx crosses its path in a near collision. The fluffy rabbit returns. Someone waves and smiles. You return the greeting.

A rocket approaches and the feeling you are having of being a traveler to another planet intensifies. Perhaps you are on the set of a science-fiction epic? Perhaps you are a warrior on the barren plains of another world? Perhaps you are a god or goddess, a king or a queen, a survivor of the apocalypse… one of The Last?

Or maybe you are just you and you feel different? Bigger, stronger, more alive…. more capable and inspired. Your reality is altered.

The possibilities are endless.

In the distance you see your destination. Your bunny-ears twitch and a smile illuminates the twilight.

Look!

Your feet skip a dance to a tall Moroccan tent filled with laughing people. Cocktails are poured, trays of food pass under your nose. You partake, feasting, drinking, soaking it up.

The person you love is grinning. He/she looks beautiful, radiant, alive and very, very dusty. You have never loved more deeply or with more detachment to an outcome.

Your heart is full.

Your friends are happy.

Small worries fade away.

A new perspective emerges.

Your life seems suddenly complete.

You have evolved somehow and a strange new sentiment is birthed within you.

“All is as it should be.”

You know you will remind yourself of these words in the near future whenever a cab is late, a drama unfolding, a person pushing your buttons or things not going your way. You know you may temporarily forget these words, but that they will come back to you more and more, and that from this moment on you are changed.

You have become lighter and happier and less touchable by Stuff.

You have survived the storms, transcended yourself and walked through fire.

You are at Burning Man and your world will never seem the same again.

If you would like to see a video of our time at Black Rock City, Nevada then please click the following link. The movie was made by Ron Kurti and stars himself, his father, our friend Udi (who took all of these beautiful pictures) and yours truly.

BURNING MAN 2008

It is a perfect memory made into a whimsical and beautiful little film. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment on either of our pages. Hearing stories of your own experiences on the Playa would be wonderful and if you have any questions which might inspire you to go then I’d love to help answer them. xx