Friday, October 07, 2005

Sam, You Made The Pandemic Too Long, Or: Apocalypse Sweeter Than Wine

I will admit to a fondness for products of the apocalyptic imagination.

And I would define these products as not only those stories or movies that deal with the end of the world, but those that are willing to take whatever they do to the limit.

I know it’s part of why I like so many of John Carpenter’s films. Many of them teeter tantalizingly on the cusp of apocalypse at their conclusions. And I know for a fact it’s what appeals to me about Clive Barker. There is an implied willingness in his work to destroy all preconceptions if it means opening a doorway to another world. There’s a painting of his called The Arsonist that seems to personify this – it shows a man wielding a torch whose fire has spread itself over him with no apparent ill effects.

I’m reminded from time to time, however, that in real life the end of the world might not be quite so jolly or metaphorical.

I had a nightmare the other night that really shook me. Part of what was so unsettling about it was the fact that it was so linear, so un-dreamlike, as if I were watching a documentary that I happened to be in. Even when I woke from it, when I fell back to sleep it would pick up from where it had left off.

Something was slowly wiping out the human race, some sort of virus against which we had no defense. It happened gradually, until those of us who were left started wandering from town to town in search of other survivors. More often than not we were met with “Quarantine” signs, although we’d sometimes ignore the warning and tentatively explore the premises.

My wife was with me in the dream and I remember at one point, having taking refuge with a great many others in a large abandoned house, saying to her, “I can’t believe this is real. I can’t believe this is really happening.”

When I did finally wake up for good, it took a few moments to realize that I had been dreaming and then it all evaporated as I thawed back into reality.

Still, as some dreams will do, it stuck with me throughout the day, coloring the day with those feelings of dread and terror. The real-time feel of it made it more difficult to shake than most nighttime spectres and phantoms.

What had triggered it all? Was it residue from Katrina? Or too many Bird Flu reports?

All the Bird Flu reports were worrying. I know that each time I read one I got a little more nervous as the news seemed to get worse. There’d be comparisons with the Flu Pandemic of 1918, making it seem that much more in the realm of possibility.

Do some Googling and read up on that particular bit of history. It will seem remarkable to you, I think, that these things happened within the last 100 years. Just an unstoppable swath of death that sliced its way through the country and through the world, “piling bodies up like tinderwood,” according to one observer.

Was it some nameless sense that we’re due for our apocalypse? After all the attacks and bombings and drownings and helplessness and hopelessness?

Or, and it took me a while to consider it, was it simply getting closer to actually being 50?

No way back. No time left. My apocalypse.

I can’t believe it’s real, that it’s really happening. Joining that long line of wanderers.

Could it simply be that? Just some midlife jitters on my way to the boneyard?

And will I wake up at the end of the nightmare, at the threshold of another world?

The real world, here at last?


Anonymous Cap'n Tigerbomb said...

Spread your new-found knowledge like a virus! It may be our only hope.

Friday, October 07, 2005 1:45:00 PM  

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