What a week. Meteors are exploding in the air over Russia, leaving a trail of broken glass, burst eardrums and dashboard camera YouTube videos in their wake. Asteroids the size of swimming pools are hurtling through our region of space unchecked, like cosmic meatballs being wantonly lobbed at an exasperated parent by an errant toddler. And most worryingly, Rihanna seems to be considering getting back together with Chris Brown. Like, ZOMFG!
It truly is the end of the world as we know it, and I most certainly do not feel fine. These outbreaks of celestial happenstance only serve to highlight the precarious nature of this shitty little rock we all desperately cling to, counting down our days of pitiful existence in a miasma of work, sleep, shit conversation, disappointing sexual interludes and cat memes. But enough about my weekend. The fact is that at any moment a disaster of epic proportions could wreak havoc on this pale blue dot we call home, bringing to a close in an instant four and a half billion years of spadework. I hope somebody remembered to keep the warranty.
One wonders how humanity would face up to such cataclysmic events, and based on nothing except the disaster movies I’ve seen and the ramblings of my depraved consciousness, here’s an account of how it might go down…
It was a cool spring evening in upstate New York and the Johnson family was sitting down to dinner. As usual it soon descended into a heated argument.
‘Tommy, stop annoying your sister.’
‘She started it.’
‘Tommy, do what your mother tells you.’
‘She’s not my mother you asshole.’
‘That’s it, go to your room this instant!’
Tommy threw his chair aside and stormed towards the front door.
‘Where do you think you’re going young man?’
‘I’m leaving. I hate you and I wish you were all dead!’
With that he slammed the door shut and ran off into the night, tears streaming from his face.
He had barely gone twenty yards when he heard a strange whistling sound coming from above him. As he turned to look up at the sky he saw a blinding flash, followed by a deafening boom as the object collided with the roof of the house he had just left. The ground beneath his feet shook with tremendous force and a gigantic fireball enveloped the house, sending Tommy flying through the air into a neighbour’s garden. Sprawled across a rose bush, his face blackened and burnt, Tommy groggily lifted his head to survey the charred wreckage where his house had stood just moments before. Amidst the ash and debris that billowed around him in the cool breeze, Tommy began to sob uncontrollably, and raising his fists in the night air, bellowed a single word: ‘Why?’
But his anguished plea went unanswered, drifting off into the spring night along with the scorched, fluttering ruins of his home.
It was a little after four in the morning when US Vice President Joe Biden burst breathlessly into the Obamas’ bedroom, clutching a stack of papers to his chest.
‘Mister President,’ he panted as he tried to regain his breath.
‘Sir, I’m sorry to wake you but you’re needed in the Situation Room.’
The President opened one eye and squinted up at Biden.
‘Joe,’ he grumbled sonorously, ‘if this is about that mixed tape, I told you I just haven’t had the time. I promise you when I get a few minutes…’
‘Sir, it’s not about that. The NASA administrator is here and he needs to brief you right away.’
‘NASA?’ repeated Obama as he sat up and rubbed his eyes.
‘Did one of our space drones hit the ISS again? I should never have listened to the General, he just seemed so sure there were terrorists operating in space. I didn’t want to take the chance…’
‘No that’s not it sir. Please hurry, we don’t have much time.’
Half an hour later the President sat ashen-faced at the table in the Situation Room. He shook his head incredulously as he addressed the NASA chief.
‘So these meteorites that hit the East Coast last night, they were just the beginning?’
‘That’s correct sir. The primary meteor is much larger, and will collide with the Earth in less than three weeks’ time.’
‘How much larger?’
‘Well sir, it’s about the size of Washington.’
‘Well he wasn’t that big, surely that won’t do too much damage,’ said Joe.
Obama shook his head and turned to his subordinate, ‘No Joe, I think he means the city.’
‘Actually Mister President,’ the administrator interjected, ‘I meant the state. But I can see now how confusing a comparison it was, I really didn’t think it through at all.’
‘So what do you suggest, Mister Administrator?’
‘Well, why don’t you ask me again how big it is and I’ll try to be clearer this time.’
‘No, I mean about the asteroid,’ Obama shouted in frustration.
‘What are we going to do about the asteroid?’
‘Oh. Beats me, sir. Ever since you scaled down NASA’s space exploration in favour of military research, we haven’t had the technology to chart these things, or come up with contingency plans. We don’t even have a telescope anymore.’
The President buried his head in his hands in exasperation as he contemplated the grim reality of the situation. Eventually the Secretary of Defence spoke up.
‘Sir, I’m confident that the military can solve this problem. We’ll get to work right away.’
After a pause the President looked up and sighed heavily.
‘Alright, you do that Mister Secretary. I want hourly progress reports. The world is depending on us. Okay, meeting adjourned, let’s get to work people.’
The room emptied quickly until the NASA chief and the Vice President were the only ones left at the table.
‘So,’ began Biden as he took a cassette from his top pocket and slid it across the table, ‘you like REO Speedwagon?’
It was the day before the collision and the Secretary of Defence was briefing the President in the Oval Office.
‘The last of the nukes were delivered today Mister President. We’re on schedule for launch tomorrow morning.’
‘Very good. It’s hard to believe we’ve gathered every nuclear warhead in the world for this mission.’
‘Well it wasn’t easy. North Korea just gave in last week after we sent them Tom Cruise in exchange. I hear he’s playing Kim Jong-un in a biographical play. It’s six hours long and they show it three times a day. Poor bastard.’
‘Indeed. And I believe we even got some from the Iraqis?’
‘Yes sir, apparently they were hidden in Saddam’s palace grounds all along. They had been painted to look like cows.’
‘I see. We probably should have been more thorough.’
Obama stood up and walked the Secretary to the door.
‘You’ve done a great job Mister Secretary. Although you know, given the importance of this mission, I can’t help feeling we could have put more effort into the name.’
‘Well, the chiefs of staff all agreed that the name struck the right note sir.’
‘I suppose you’re right.’ The President shook the Secretary’s hand solemnly. ‘I’ll see you in the morning for the launch. Then all we can do is pray that Operation Nuke Skywalker is a success.’
‘Agreed. Goodnight Mister President.’
Early the following morning the Situation Room brimmed with tension, excitement and men with important-looking hats as the world looked on with hope and trepidation. At eight hundred hours the enormous rocket blasted off, carrying with it the ultimate destructive payload. The sense of poetic equilibrium in these weapons of chaos and devastation becoming humanity’s only hope of salvation from the impending doom was not lost on the gathered cabinet members and military officials, who watched the screen with a hushed, awestruck deference. The silence was only broken when the Vice President was heard to remark, ‘Look at that sucker go. Hot damn, she’s a big one, ain’t she?’
When the rocket finally reached the asteroid there was a collective intake of breath around the room. On impact the detonation filled the screen, and when the picture cleared, the asteroid had been blown to pieces that hurtled off in a hundred different directions. The room exploded in unrestrained joy and relief. Some of the assembled crowd broke down in tears. Others hugged and kissed each other unashamedly. Joe even had his trousers off for some reason.
The celebration was cut short, however, when an analyst interrupted with a sense of unease in his voice,
‘Sir, I think you should look at this. One of the fragments is still on a collision course.’
Obama went to the monitor, the Secretary of Defence following closely behind.
‘This shouldn’t be happening, it’s off course,’ the Secretary muttered to himself.
The President turned to face him.
‘What do you mean, ‘off course’?’
The Secretary shared a panicked glance with the chiefs of staff, then sighed to himself and responded hesitantly,
‘Sir, we planned for this fragment to remain on course, but its trajectory is off. It was meant to hit Iran and wipe out the government.’
Obama’s face darkened as he stared at him, aghast.
‘What the hell were you thinking?’
‘It was an opportunity to begin an incursion there Mister President. Not only that, but our analysis showed that the fragment is full of precious metals. After the liberation we could have begun to extract…’
‘That’s enough,’ Obama cut him off.
‘I’ll deal with you later.’
He turned back to the analyst.
‘Son, where is that fragment headed?’
‘Uh, it looks like upstate New York, sir.’
‘Good God, what have we done?’
Tommy was sitting on the back porch of his new foster house, sipping a tall glass of lemonade and watching the sun set over the horizon. He had heard on the radio that the asteroid had been successfully destroyed, and this news filled him with a warmth and hope that he had not felt in a long time. He was enjoying his time with his new foster family, and was beginning to think that, with their help, and taking it one day at a time, he would eventually be able to overcome the tragedy of the previous weeks. He grinned happily to himself as the breeze rustled the bushes in the garden, and he felt content and peaceful for the first time in an age. He was still grinning when he heard a strangely familiar whistling noise, and with the setting sun in his eyes he peered upwards at the stars. The smile vanished from his face as his glass slipped from his hand and shattered, just as the asteroid had, into hundreds of tiny pieces.