AN APPLE, A DAY
“This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends…”
It is peculiar, the bits of doggerel and songs that drift through your mind before you wake up in the morning or, for that matter, AFTER you wake up. It is also not particularly reassuring or even appropriate, given that the sun is trickling in through the tiny gap in your billed-as-blackout curtains and, when you open them, pouring in like a flood, revealing a glorious day.
What is also peculiar is the presence of an apple sitting on your bedside table, as you did not leave one there last night, and you live alone. Then again, you are getting older, and that certainty may not be etched in the proverbial stone.
The apple is a symbol of so many wonderful things. Good health, as it keeps the doctor away, though it might be argued that that state’s continuation may be contingent on having a doctor SOMEWHERE nearby. Adoration, as in ‘the apple of your eye’ (an expression which is odd to you, given that it suggests there is a green, yellow or red covering over that organ, a somewhat squishy interior (which is accurate, granted) and some unpleasant seeds within).
It also has more unsavoury associations. There is the Garden of Eden story (and while we may be getting ahead of ourselves here, levels of reality in which apples do not exist (or indeed, ANY kind of fruit) do not feature an endless rent-free stay in Paradise – God is far too inventive a sadistic father for THAT…). William Tell springs to mind also, which in turn inspires the concept of that murderous game the OTHER William played with Joan Vollmer, though that featured a water tumbler (water also is a mixed symbol, but there is not going to be enough time to address that or any other heavy-handed allusions) and also dragged in the poppy (see previous parenthesized remark). And, of course, Snow White, which is a sufficiently disturbing story to contemplate WITHOUT bringing in the poisonous fruit, given her co-habitation with a flock of diminutive bachelors. On which point, that sheen on the modern agricultural-industry-promoted apple betrays chemicals that could accumulate in your body and kill you.
But, as you reassure yourself while going through your morning ablutions, this is far too nice a day to dwell on such morbid and troubling contemplations, even if it does feature roughly eight hours of soul-destroying data entry ahead of you.
While you debate between five identical shirts, twelve black pants and six pairs of wingtips (black), the mysterious observer of your banal rituals has time to look away and consider a few things.
As was observed by HG Wells, man is not alone in the universe. However, that only goes so far – in fact, the UNIVERSE is not alone in the universe. There are, in fact, multiplicities of universes, some of which feature realities that even the most inventive or substance-abusing writer could not envision.
For example, peel away just a few layers of the cosmic onion and a world is discovered in which you did not wake up this morning. No, not in that sense, though there are more than a few billion of THOSE as well. Reassure yourself that it simply means the local equivalent of an alarm clock did not go off, and you continued on dreaming your empty life away. In many ways, that is more fortunate, though not for that version of you’s employment. As to those other billions, we will leave it to you to decide, in the time that remains, whether THAT would have been preferable.
And, yes, as has been noted earlier, there are planes of existence on which apples do not exist. This did not always prevent the subsequent events, as the mysterious force (call it God, fate or historical determinism – under the circumstances, it hardly matters) had at least 109 alternate plans for each level, with some being entirely unique to a given alternative, such as the one involving…but there are no terms for it on the world you occupy, so never mind.
But now you are ready to leave, or at least you have arbitrarily determined there is nothing else to keep you here, since you had no opportunity to get food last night before you had to hurry home to watch television, so you will have to grab something on your way to work. At least you have an apple, regarding which you bury your vague presentiments of worry and snatch up to take with you.
In case you are curious, this is, in fact, plan #109, as you have proven remarkably resistant and/or oblivious to earlier attempts involving automotive system failures, chemical spills at work, fires that incorporated plastics and other toxic-fume-producing substances and even minor incidents of psychotic breaks from reality. There is something to be said for single-minded determination to get to work and to continue the routines of your life, though we who are recording these events in the aftermath are not certain what it is.
In any case, your car started without incident, as even the vaguely gremlin-like being who is the chief executive officer of your reality does not care to repeat his methods of mischief, particularly given the previous failures and the remarkable resilience you have demonstrated by joining car pools, using public transit, hauling out a dusty bicycle (whose chain perversely refused to break, fall off or jam, despite the best efforts of junior and senior programmers alike in, shall we say, God’s employ) or, on another glorious though less ominous day, walking the roughly thirty-seven minutes to your dark satanic mill.
Fortunately, the fact that your coffee cup holder was occupied by an enormous carafe of foul stimulant, left over from the previous day, and your coin receptacle was, unimaginatively, filled with money, toll chits and even video game tokens, a testimony to a somewhat cheerful if vaguely immature clinging to the vestiges of your youth, meant that you had no choice but to put the apple on the narrow dashboard, as a particularly junior agent in God’s employ had projected that you would, ensuring himself a five-minute break from playing harp and praising the Eternal, a few centuries down the line.
As you turned onto Wormwood Drive (yes, heavy-handed, we realize, but we are merely recorders here, not editors or cynical critics), the apple rolled off the dashboard and fell neatly under the braking device on your car. You failed to notice this, distracted as you were by the handsome bearded gentleman occupying the car next to you (we do not judge here, preferring to leave this to the cruel and unforgiving gremlin aforementioned).
At this same moment, a few blocks away, an employee of the local military base, who has been charged with the awesome, if of late dull, responsibility of possessing the codes to launch or abort the nuclear missiles that form the main part of your MAD détente (we believe this stood for ‘mutually assured destruction’, and is a sign of either obliviousness or exceedingly black humour as acronyms go), is struggling with getting the lid off his own container of foul stimulant, though his is in flimsy cardboard rather than the thin metal comprising yours. Though he routinely fails to slow at the yellow light or even stop for the red at the intersection you are both approaching, this has typically resulted only in honking horns and digital demonstrations in the past. It should be added that that will NOT be the case today, and that, in any case, discussions of the past, present or future are about to be moot.
Approximately coinciding with this, two other improbable events have occurred. The OTHER person who has the codes has just discovered that her husband, in addition to leaving her, has taken the atypical-for-his-gender step of shredding all of the clothes in her bedroom closet (and, as it happens, also taking her cell phone, which will have a fairly obvious consequence in a short time), leaving her with literally nothing to wear to work, thus compelling her to call in and inform her employer that she will be late. She then starts to call up her few friends who will admit to having the same dress size as her, in hopes of borrowing something not too tasteless or vulgar at least long enough to get to the store and replace some crucial garments, and finally succeeds at this, leaving the house in her full-length mink and winter boots…but this is outside the narrative of the story, which is about to end anyway.
Meanwhile, a mouse that has quietly, if with some potential for peril, lived inside the launching apparatus at the base has chosen THIS day to nibble at a few critical wires. This ends its life, which would have been ended shortly anyway, but it also has the consequence that even the oh-my-god-we-can’t-find-the-codes-we-must-shut-this-thing-down-COLD backup system will be inaccessible. Its dying convulsions also succeed in starting the launch sequence. As we have said before, God has his sadistic and heavy-handed moments.
You succeed in spotting the car going through the intersection, as you are a cautious driver, but your attempt at braking is thwarted by the fruit wedged under the pedal. In an understandable moment of panic, assisted by tweaks from Beyond, you inadvertently push down both the gas pedal and the accelerator, resulting in a horrific crash, an explosion and the end of both your existence and that of the code-holder. These, of course, are not the only deaths that day.
Since God (for lack of a better term) is able to think AND act globally, similar events of equally improbable coincidence occur in the part of the world with which you are currently at eternal war, which would be known as the Middle East in your particular subset of the universe. Incredible as it may seem, on another layer of the cosmic onion, your nation state is engaged in a ceaseless ideological conflict with the region corresponding to your Liechtenstein, which managed to acquire a nuclear bomb due to its failing to give women the vote and thus having no voice of reason or intelligence to stop the madness (we are editorializing, we know, but it hardly matters now that all ideologies are about to be proven either false or true). The leaders of the United Arab Emirates deeply, if briefly, rue their decision to switch their communications links with missile control to a new satellite in the same week as massive sun spot activity is reported. In that other reality, otherwise so similar to yours, women have the ultimate ‘I told you so’ and ‘If we ruled the world, we’d make a much better job of it’ lecturing opportunity, though they of course have to speak quickly, which is not a problem to the half of the human species that some anthropologists believe invented language.
In case you feel you really must know, some people ARE, in fact, ‘called up’ before the end of life on Earths. They are not the people you might expect, though, and the roster is not dependent upon donations to badly toupeed religionists or positions of worldly Godliness. And, as you will discover soon enough, while there IS bodily resurrection in the next world, it is run through a randomizer. This has some very distasteful consequences, but it was felt it was both the fairest and certainly the most fun way to handle it.
You will have eternity to mull over why God ended all existence throughout the Multiplicities. There were any number of valid reasons and a corresponding number of invalid ones. Some of them conflict with one another, but this is only to be expected in a being who is three-in-one, or possibly even four.
The Gnostics may well have been right. Again, you will find out.
As you settle into a new and not necessarily any more meaningful state of what you will stubbornly insist on calling ‘life’, we will fade on a bit of doggerel, with a twist, which is now red-shifting its way across the final dying embers of the universes to you.
Yes, the Multiplicities do have a physical end point, where you are right now. You are not entirely surprised to discover that everyone perceives it differently. Some see Mecca; some Shangri-La; some Valhalla; an unfortunate few see their mother-in-law’s house at Thanksgiving; or Toronto during an unpleasant world summit and/or garbage strike, these last two having as a common thread the accumulation of trash and an unpleasant odour for all concerned.
As to what you see, we shall give you the illusion of privacy and draw a discreet veil – but it is certainly more pleasant, at least superficially, than the place you spent most of your life.
“Not with a whimper, but with a bang.”