End Days

I stayed up late in those days, when our kids were young. Sophie in grade school, Eli still in preschool. We put our kids to bed by seven or eight. Susan followed around nine. I stayed up until midnight or later, reading or watching a movie. Dystopia was my jam. A steady stream of low-budget apocalypse films littered Netflix. I watched them all. I can’t remember any of the movie titles, and most of the plots blur together. The most memorable, not because of its quality, but of sheer creepiness, went like this (and sorry, this recap is a bit longer than I wanted it to be):

A classroom of sixth graders opens a time capsule to reveal a cache of letters written to them by a sixth-grade class decades earlier. Most of the letters detail the excitement of daily life—sports, friends, crushes, that sort of thing, but one girl receives a sheath of papers crammed top to bottom with an unbroken string of numbers—thousands and thousands of numbers. The girl feels cheated and angrily shows her father what she received. Her father, clearly suffering from OCD, studies the numbers nightly for weeks looking for a pattern.

Eventually, in the middle of one line he sees 091101 and recognized it as the date 9/11/2001. Following the date are the numbers 2996, the number of fatalities in the collapse of the twin towers. With this epiphany, he quickly identifies the numbers preceding 0911 as the longitude and latitude of New York City. The document, he realizes, predicted every United States mass casualty event over the past thirty years. The numbers abruptly end on the date the time capsule was opened.

As the movie progresses, the world, the people, plus that physical orb that we call earth, degrades. Earthquakes, volcanoes, mass shootings, plane crashes become increasingly frequent. Late one night the father finds his daughter writing feverishly, seemingly possessed. She finishes the list—a half a page of densely packed numbers and then the words “EVERYONE ELSE.”

End times. The apocalypse. Judgement day. The hairs on my neck stood up. I quicky looked behind me to make sure no one was standing there.

I think about this movie all the time. I’m not the type to believe in an interconnected universe. Historically, I haven’t believed a laundry list of unrelated events somehow portends a greater trend; although since 2020 this rock-solid assuredness has been on shaky ground. It truly seems like we’re hurdling towards end times.

In early September 2016, a series of events caught my attention. Hurricane Hermine bore down on Florida; a Space X rocket exploded on liftoff; Zika ran rampant in the United States; and a car racing through downtown Gettysburg slammed into a popular Chinese buffet. To me, all these events seemed to fit together into a pattern. When I heard about the car crash, I nodded my head as though the final puzzle piece was laid. My vision seemed to sharpen. I noticed details in the world around me that I never saw before. Song lyrics suddenly made more sense. I thought I was going nuts.     

I called my doctor’s office to find out if I needed psychiatric intervention. His receptionist told me the only way I could get a message to my doctor was to write it down in a letter and fax it into the office (yes, I’ve since found a different doctor). In my letter, I explained the random events that seemed to fit together and concluded with my fear that I was entering a schizophrenia fueled psychotic break. I faxed it off and waited. A half hour later, I got a phone call. “Hey Jeff, you faxed your letter to the wrong number. I got it instead of your doctor.” He didn’t say who it was, but by the way he talked to me, I’m sure he knew me.

I made an emergency appointment with my therapist. She said not schizophrenia, OCD. My mind was working overtime trying to scare me.

Over the past several months, the American news seems interconnected, all symptoms of the same disease. The unprovoked shootings of people under the guise of self-protection, the sudden erosion of rights coming through state legislatures and our courts, the record setting mass murders, book bannings, the escalating culture war. Now all we need are a couple of natural disasters, and I’ll be certain that “they” are coming for EVERYONE ELSE.

Possibly, my mind is playing tricks on me again. Or maybe we’ve entered the dystopia I used to enjoy watching in movies. Almost every time I talk to my father, he reminds me that the world won’t be inhabitable in seventy-five years. The Op Eds speak of civil war. The nation is brimming with hate. Is it my imagination or is the train barreling towards station with severed brakes? I recognize my propensity to look for the worst in all situations, but right now, much like how I felt in 2016, my vision couldn’t be clearer.

If anyone knows the name of that movie, please leave it in the comments.

30 thoughts on “End Days

  1. I tend to stay away from dystopian tales, but loved The Last of Us. Episode 3 grabbed me by the heart. The social upheaval in this country is scaring the crap out of many of us … though I somehow remain hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry, I did not see the show you’ve written about.
    We’ve been watching Homeland (late to the party, I know) and have reached the halfway point in the final series, the point where the bipartisan leadership is about to be tested. I’m thinking that is not going to end well. And like you, I do not feel terribly optimistic about the state of the world either.
    l will probably be listening to Jimmy Cliff’s ‘I can see clearly now’ sometime today. I know that is a silly response to your post but a bit of Karaoke at my place will cheer me up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Want to know something cool? I copied the synopsis I wrote into bing’s chatbot and it told me the name of the movie: “Knowing.” Truly the first useful thing ChatGPT has done for me. Maybe it’s pretty cool after all. I don’t think I know the Jimmy Cliff version, but I’m positive it’s better than the original one. That song bugs me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know the name of that movie, but your description definitely gave me chills. And now I can not seem to stop picturing “Dystopia is my jam” on a t-shirt. Great post, Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my you Chanel my thoughts sometimes. I think that in times of great concern our minds try to make sense of things and fine patterns where none exist, it’s imposing order on chaos. Life’s a trip right now though.

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  5. Never been a fan of dystopian plots no matter the form of media. In fact the only one I’ve felt compelled to complete was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-five which I read in my late teens.

    As for the real world, I’m more optimistic, although I think some nations, including perhaps the USA, will go through some form of domestic dystopian hell in the not too distant future before eventually rejoining the rest of humankind.

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    • I’d say the US is going though some form of dystopian hell right now. It’s sort 1984-lite. Although I think it will likely get more serious as the election heats up. NZ looks very attractive. My family sitting around one night discussed where we would like to move. We all agreed on NZ.


  6. Wow – that’s a fascinating premise. I don’t have OCD (not that I know at least) and everything does seem pretty screwed up these days. The shootings you mention are the ones that get me too – it seems like at the very least, we’ve lost our collective peace of mind if someone is shooting a car full of teenagers for driving in the wrong driveway.

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  7. Brilliant writing, Jeff, if somewhat scary in my eyes. You telling the ‘story’ of the film had me on the edge of my seat, and the fact that it’s all so eerily likely to repeat in the future if nothing changes soon is frankly terrifying. Those numbers meaning what they do is rather spooky, too. I totally agree with you in your sense of hopelessness. I feel much the same, especially about the future of Earth and all those who live on her. As you know, I am doing my utmost (albeit very little in the grand scheme of things) to change things as far as biodiversity and politics are concerned, but as for everything that’s out of my control, that’s something I don’t deal with well.

    I’ve never been into dystopia, but I have read George Orwell’s 1984, which gives only part of the picture. There was also an excellent series on British TV in 1967 called ‘The Prisoner’ – this also had a feel of dystopia about it. It was repeated many times, so I would have watched one of the repeats, having been only about ten when the original came out. It’s worth a look if you like that sort of thing.

    As far as all the current affairs, with things like mass shootings over there, ‘freak’ weather, causing so many deaths and so much damage in so many places in the world, and having mad men as politicians and leaders of countries, I despair.

    Thanks for sharing a truly thought-provoking post, Jeff.

    P.S. I think I’ve missed a couple of your recent posts; I’ve been madly busy, so my apologies for that.

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    • Thank you Ellie. Culturally, things are so screwed up in the US right now, that I’m increasingly thinking my best strategy is to detach and let things play out without a lot of hand wringing. Mark’s comment about “this isn’t the country I expected to live in” gets right to the point. When Obama was elected, I thought the US was on the cusp of greatness. Amazing what the racist response to that event created.

      Don’t worry about missing posts. I’m sure I’ve missed some of yours. I’m currently recalibrating what I expect out of wordpress. So many of my “close” blogging friends are now gone. Many have left the platform altogether, and a good few are still around have just stopped reading my blog. For my own sanity, I want to focus more on writing than connecting because the connections are getting fewer by the day (I may have turned off many religious readers with my opinions on “Grave Thoughts”).

      Regardless, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I really do relish the connection of my global friends on wordpress, I still think it’s one of the coolest things in the world that I have friends on other continents. I’m just finding it harder to *rely* on it.

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      • I liked Obama and had high hopes for the US when he was president. However, when Trump got in, I began to despair, not just for the US but for other countries having to have dealings with him, too. I was scared to death that he might go ahead and press the nuclear button and destroy the world. Maybe, I had an overactive imagination then, but I remember that feeling. As for our government, they are no better! (I’d better stop here as I rarely discuss politics on my blog or in comments, and I don’t want to offend others). These days, the world is a scary place.

        I’m sorry you’ve lost some readers/friends. I know there is a high turnover of readers all the time, but I still have quite a few of my ‘favourite’ bloggers, you being one of them. I can’t say that I’ve ever found what you write to be offensive in any way. You say many of them have left the platform altogether. That makes me wonder where they are now. Are they still writing? I’m not very well up on other blogging websites apart from Substack, which I’ve heard of, but know very little about. I don’t think I could bear to start all over again elsewhere, given that I’ve been with WordPress for ten years now.

        I understand your desire to want to concentrate more on your writing. It’s something I would like to do myself. However, I seem to spend longer faithfully reading and commenting on blogs, and I’ve recently noticed that I don’t have as much time for writing as often as I’d like. I’m also falling behind on my coursework, as I’m not spending enough time concentrating on that in favour of being immersed in other people’s writing. From a purely selfish point of view, I hope you don’t leave WP altogether, as I would miss your writing and communicating with you as a friend, albeit from different parts of our precious Earth. Whatever you decide to do, please, look after yourself. X 🌎

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        • I don’t want to start over either and I’ve got a good relationship with the Good Men Project where stuff from my blog gets reposted. I’ll be on WP until I stop writing, which I doubt is going to happen. Susan and I talked about my falling engagement on WP today and she & I agree I should be spending my energy trying to make new friends in the various activities I’ve already got going on–spin class, writers groups, etc instead of constantly trying to create new connections on WP. I feel that when I try to ‘make’ them happen, it doesn’t work. It’s all gotta be holistic.

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        • I’m so glad you’re not bowing out of WP altogether. I’d miss your work, and more importantly, I’d miss your friendship and support. I haven’t heard of the Good Men Project, although I’ve often thought of finding somewhere to share my posts after they appear on WP. There is a WP Poet’s Corner, but I don’t know how tight the copywriting is on there as I don’t want to lose the rights to my work.

          It’s a good idea to make non-virtual friends, too, as you and Susan agreed. I do have a few good friends outside of the blogging sphere; although I don’t have any non-virtual friends at all that I share my blog with. I like to keep the two separate.

          It is hard work keeping up connections on WP. I find I’m always falling behind on reading blogs and commenting on them, as you will know. Today, I lost my connection to my laptop altogether – technology strikes again! I spent the afternoon handwriting a poem and I’ve now managed to borrow a laptop, so I’ve been able to get into WP again. I’ve got to wait until my tech guy can come over and fix the problem with my laptop. I’m getting withdrawal symptoms already!

          How do you get on with writers’ groups. I have found, in the past, that they mostly encourage fiction, which I can rarely write. They also ask you to try and write to a prompt on demand. I’m not much good at that, either.

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        • I’m really just getting started with writing groups. I took a 4 week class that was very much like a writers group and that went well. Some of the people from the class have shown interest in continuing on as a group, but we haven’t gotten together yet. Tomorrow, I’m going to try an established group that meets at one of our library branches. I think it might be sort of uncomfortable being a senior staff member of the library and participating in the group, but maybe that fear is unfounded. We’ll see. Good luck getting your laptop fixed. Fortunately, we’ve got a pile of barely working ones if mine ever breaks (which it has).

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        • It’s great that you have been writing with some writing groups. The course I’ve been doing has been running for about two years. It began in lockdown, which seems miles away now. It’s been the same people each time with, sometimes, a new person coming to join us, although there are only usually six of us. We, too, have a writing group at our library, which meets every month. The problem I find with that is having to write on command and also, being unable to write fiction without a great deal of thought, and then, often, not at all. I can imagine it might feel a bit awkward with your being a senior member of staff there, but I’m sure they will welcome you with open arms, just as they would welcome any writer. I hope it goes well. Perhaps, you could write a post about your experiences there.

          My tech guy said he will try to fit me in sometime this week. I’m lucky to have my neighbour’s son’s laptop in the meantime. I do have a spare laptop, which I’ve been meaning to wipe clean and sell, but I just can’t find the charging cable. I suppose I could get a new one from Amazon. I will give that some thought. Glad you have some spare ones – you never know when you might need one.

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