Stories

The comet

The needle reminds me I’m still alive. The world might be ending, but to see it, I’ve got to last long enough. I just don’t know that it matters anymore.

Two years. That’s when they say the comet will hit the Earth. Plenty of time to put my affairs in order. Get clean. Tell Mom I love her. Find my kids. Maybe get a job, and die respectable.

Sounds like a plan. But first, I’m going to get high. Forget the mess that is my life. Forget the world. We’re both doomed, anyway.

Devlin always did have the best H. But since the news, he’s stopped stepping on it so much. Or maybe at all. Dozens of his loyal clientele have deceased. OD’ed. The heroin is just too pure for them, and they didn’t know. Or perhaps they did know. And took the easy way out.

Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. I’m sure you did, too, when you first heard the news. I’ve seen stories that something like 3% of the world population has already committed suicide. That’s like 500 million people dead, in barely three weeks. It’s the largest public health crisis ever. Putrid, stinking corpses stacked like cord wood. I don’t think the world has enough lime.

But that’s the easy way out. And for all my screw-ups in life, nobody has ever accused me of taking the easy way.

The first headlines were the worst. I mean, can you imagine sitting in the editorial staff room at a major newspaper, like New York Times, or Le Monde, and discussing, how do we announce the end of the world, without inciting panic and pandemonium?

Well, the short answer is: You don’t. And in this day and age, you simply don’t have the time to debate. So articles went out on line, instantaneously, with headlines like: ANNIHILATION!!, EXTINCTION!!, DESTRUCTION!! Well, at least they got the exclamation points right.

I mean, the message is accurate enough. But still, have a little compassion, will ya? You just told the whole world it has cancer, and that its end of days can be measured with the accuracy of an atomic clock.

Of course, I downloaded the Countdown Clock app. 742:18:32:06.72 at last check. “Tuesday” doesn’t mean much anymore. Nor the month or year. When someone asks what day it is? The correct answer: “742.”

Rumors are flying about secret moon bases. About impromptu deep space missions to “save the species,” looking for a new homeworld. There is talk of the 144,000, and I’m wondering how many can fit in a spaceship, or how does one be selected amongst the chosen few?

Of course, the religious nuts are all about the Rapture. It must not have happened yet, because they’re all still here, everywhere, spouting their doctrines.

Everyone’s got a theory. Some say the Rapture will happen moments before the Big Hit. (That’s probably to save them from last minute ridicule, in case their fiery chariot is late in arrival.) Others have established a more reasonable timeline, like the Sunday prior to the end. Which makes sense, I guess, in a religiomatic sort of way. But me, I have my doubts.

I figure the Rapture’s already happened, and it was probably just those two little twin girls who disappeared in Des Moines last summer. The rest of us are here for the duration. They were only eight years old, and cute as a bug’s ear. The preacher, who everyone now says is a murderer and child rapist, was alone with the girls in a barn. He says they were there one second, and gone the next. To me, that must have been God’s way of saving those two innocent souls from a fate worse than death. They spent two weeks dragging the riverbottom, where the preacher says he baptized the girls moments before. Everytime I hear that story, I get the overwhelming feeling that God Raptured those two small children right out from that barn. At least I hope He did.

So the world is an effed up place. Some say the comet is God’s righteous judgment upon the Earth. Like the flood of Noah. All I know for sure is when that comet strikes, it’s going to be like 65 million years ago, only about a billion times worse. No one is going to survive. The Earth may no longer exist. This thing is a real planet killer.

Of course, I wonder about the official story. Primarily, I wonder about how long they’ve really known? They say that astronomers spotted this things only 2-3 days before the news became known. At first they were excited to discover a new comet. But as they observed it, as they measured its trajectory, it quickly became evident, this comet was unusual. Mostly unusual in that it was on a direct collision course with the Earth. As soon as that became fact, the next question was, is there any way of stopping it?

Changing course, deflection, destruction. All were considered, are still being considered. We humans don’t give up easily. That’s when the secret got too big to keep. Every resource was quickly tapped for ideas on how to avoid planetary destruction. And someone spilled the beans.

Of course, it was decided, there is no way to change the course of a comet. We could attempt to blast it out of the sky, but the inertial force is so great, that we would not accomplish much. And it’s still so far away, and traveling at such high velocity, we would only be able to meet the comet on its final approach, in the last sixty days. So, yeah, there’s time. And there’s always hope. Even when that hope is completely foolish.

This is the number one topic on the internet. Reddit has over 10,000 subs about the comet. The world’s smartest people are freely posting their work and ideas. Billions of people are following these posts, and millions have theories. Suddenly everyone is an expert in gravitational forces and trajectories. “Have you accounted for the gravitational effect of Saturn?” Yes. “Jupiter?” Yes. “The asteroid belt?” Yes, yes, yes, yes, … “My Dear Aunt Sally?” Reddit hasn’t changed.

Bottom line, there is no force known to man that can evade this fate. Running away from the planet seems the only viable course. But that’s only for a few. And where to go? Do we even have the means, the technology, for deep space travel? So many questions.

So I inject myself with sweet surrender. I’m not proud of it. But it’s a choice. And it’s my choice. All mine. Which is better than being snuffed out by a soulless unthinking unknowing giant space traveling ice ball.

Ironically, we just call it “the comet.” Little c, even. Comets are usually named for their discoverers. A little digging reveals this comet was discovered by one —– NASA scientist. It was first noted (according to the Wiki page) at 15:23 GMT, 6/9/23, from the Mauna Kea Observatories on the Island of Hawaii. But the NASA scientist remains unnamed. As does the comet. I guess nobody wants their name eternally associated with the death of an entire planet. Even though this is the greatest discovery of a lifetime.

Any space object directly headed toward the observer is difficult to detect. Movement is what we notice first. And when an object is heading straight towards you, movement is not what you see. Instead, you simply see something there that wasn’t there before. And as the Earth moves around the Sun, you get slightly different angles. This allows a confirmation of observations. And calculations of path of travel.

Interestingly, most comets are discovered by backyard astronomers. Amateurs. This is because there are many more thousands of amateur telescopes pointed at the night sky than there are dedicated professional observatories. And the sky is open and available for all to see. But the unique characteristics of this comet meant that it was far more likely to be discovered by professionals than amateurs, or not at all. You see, many objects — asteroids — heading straight towards the Earth, are not detected until the last minute. This comet is unusual in that way, also. It was somehow seen, and noted for what it is — a killer comet — 25 months before impact.

They say it didn’t take long to realize this was not only a new comet, but a planet killer. Maybe two nights of observation. Of course, once the alarm bells sounded, the comet has been under constant surveillance, from every observatory around the globe, and some space based.

Still, nobody claims credit. And the comet remains nameless.

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