The day the world ends is a Tuesday in July;
rain sheeting down in Seattle.
Surrounded by science fiction writers,
creators of impossible scenarios,
I watch the steel grey ships out the bay windows
as they move languourously into position.
The singular appropriateness is no consolation.
It is to be sundown, I am reliably informed.
Sundown across the globe —
killer rays lancing out,
plunging city after city
(not forgetting villages and individuals)
into the long darkness.
This is foolishness! we proclaim.
July 22, 1997, just happens to coincide
with the Galactic Federation’s millenium birthday —
and this is the surprise. A joke
on Earth; or perhaps this is merely
a hideous initiation rite. They will offer us,
membership in a civilization of peace
at sundown, and we will all laugh together
over Saurian brandy.
The ideas fly back and forth,
fast and hot and wild and utterly convincing,
each one — yet we are not convinced.
Words choke in our throats.
We look for hope, faith,
love in each other’s eyes.
But there is no time left for our lies.
Shall we offer up a protest to the stars?
Scream our fury at the shining
indifference? We will not have the chance.
Never again to see the stars scattered
across the night sky — sailor’s doom and delight.
Our leaders have begged and pleaded,
threatened and cajoled to no avail,
or even response. Each of us no doubt
cherished the secret hope that we would be
the one. The one the aliens would preserve
the Earth to save. Hero of our story.
But only minutes remain. Pull off your trick
now, my fellow writers, if you can. I cannot.
I am not the savior — the answer — the last good guy
in the final battle. The battle was over long ago,
and the good guys lost.
Say your goodbyes — to the scent of your lover,
the bustle of New York, strawberries in summer.
All your triumphs are forgotten, and your
sacrifices mean nothing. The bully down the block
has come to punch your lights out,
and as your dad once told you,
If you don’t stick up for yourself,
no one’s gonna do it for you.
Impotent now, as then, and no chance this time
to grow up and triumph in the end.
So say goodbye.
If you’d rather spend these last minutes raging
or loving or fighting — feel free. It doesn’t matter.
If only I’d known that all along,
I might have lived so differently.