Five years ago, the world as we know it ceased to be. Luckily, the world as we know it from The Road Warrior came into being. Many people were prepared for this turn of events. Too bad those people were geeks and nerds without any real survival skills. Tragically, they were all rape-murdered by corporate CEOs who, it turned out, were the biggest sociopaths on the planet. Some nerds and geeks survived longer than others due to their proficiency at oral sex. But even these desperate, shameless nerds could not last for long. Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea gave and gave and gave but eventually, as he knew deep down would happen, he used a little too much teeth. He was thrown into Lightning Dome, a more terrifying version of Thunder Dome, where twenty combatants entered and nineteen left. Mostly because the nineteen were working together to fightfuck the lone other. Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea lasted thirteen minutes, a good showing but not good enough to be remembered for more than the long weekend."...and as I lay basking in my new world, I inhaled deeply of its new smells: vegetable soup, burning rubber, low tide. I hugged myself, reveling in my newly found womanhood, smiled melancholically, and rolled over to fall asleep in sheets now stained with vaginal excretions, semen, and blood."
As it turned out, some of the most depraved and richest CEOs were the biggest fans of Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea. When the updates stopped (for, you see, DC Comics continued to publish during these post-apocalyptic times although their market share was now worse than Dynamite. In their defense, Gail Simone was being forced to write all of the titles deep within Dynamite headquarters, and all of the titles featured naked lesbians as every character), the CEOs grew desperate for the only written entertainment they could stomach. A new Tess was needed. And who better to take over the job than the monster that delivered the death thrust to Tess, Goggles McDeathhurt.
And now, five years later, as Goggles McDeathhurt and her lost tribe continue to wander the Dusty Stretches (don't worry! They won't be at it for forty years!), let's take a moment to listen to The Dusty Stretches' version of National Public Radio. Yeah, sorry. It still exists in the future.
Thank you for listening. This has been "Tales of Becoming." Up next on NPR, "Life After All," our anthology series of people retelling the moment they eventually realized that the world had ended.
"I was sitting down on the couch with my paperwork spread out across the antique coffee table that my grandfather had ignorantly refinished in his youth. I'd moved my books of New England poetry to the hardwood floor to allow for more room to pay my bills. That's when a news report came onto the television (which I only ever left on as background noise, really) about more and more people defaulting on their mortgages and then refusing to be evicted. That's when it hit me. That's when I knew that, suddenly, there were more people that just didn't give a fuck than there were that did. And why was I going to be some sucker that continued to do the right thing when there was nowhere near enough people to enforce the right thing? I swept my paper work to the floor, tossed my checkbook into the garbage, and began plans to reinforce my doors and windows. I had some antique pistols from the late nineteenth century that were in pretty good shape, and enough ammunition to maybe not keep my home safe from mobs but at least blow the head off the first few that tried to storm my castle. That would make enough of a statement to keep the masses away. I began to think which neighbors I could most trust. To be safe, our communities were going to have to shrink down to one city block, maybe a few more with the right amount of weapons. And that was that. The world had changed not so much in an instant as in a long, extended decline. But I noticed, and began planning for it, quickly, and that has made all the difference."
"Sarah wuz my bester-best. Never would've thoughta cuttin' her for her blankie-blank or her Wafflos like some o dese udder Upper bitches. Before dat long walk an comin' to Upper, I hang wit Sarah an her mama alla time. Alla time. Before me mama go, she always be talking that I hang wit Sarah an her mama more dan I hangs wit her. Makes me mama mad. She maybe rights, know? Maybe I shoulda been wit me mama more. But tings dey was always more better at Sarah's. Mama she give me the talk agin an agin about spendin' too much time at Sarah's. Until she dudn't. About de time de schools shut. Stead, she couragin' me to go hang at Sarah's. An den I see me mama an Sarah's mama talking all de time. Jus about evera time I hang with Sarah, an dey maybe say hi an bye before. An me mama she passin' tings to Sarah's mama all de time. Bags o some stuff an boxes o udder stuff. An times I see her cryin'. An I'm hangin wit Sarah go on evera day an maybe mos nights, an me mama say it good for me to hang wit Sarah. Me mama say dat! Me mama would come by passin' tings to Sarah's mama, but she stops with sayin hi to me an tellin' me she love me. Stops comin' in the door. Stops comin' finals. Den it jus me, Sarah, an her mama. I like it like dat for long time. Long time, seems. Den da world ended...I knowed it ended, fer reals, when Sarah's mama stop comin' homes. Dat when we's knowed it good. Dat when we's scared reals bad. Dat whens...well, dat alls I wants sayin' bout dat. And bout my bester-best friend, tiny, weak Sarah."
"I spent months in denial that anything was wrong and that everything was changing. I kept to my old routines. Walking the dog at the park even when it became covered in weeds and graffiti, and tents grew up amidst the rubble of the playground. I watched the same old prime time television shows I'd been watching for years even when they were all running repeats. When the broadcasts stopped, I figured it was better to listen to the radio anyway. And then when the airwaves mostly dried up, I began picking up any books I could find. I never thought about why things were degrading. I let the fear hide in the back of my mind, pushing it away every time it would try to creep out and ask why all of this was happening. It wasn't until the fires that I truly knew it was all over. Fires everywhere in town that were never put out; they simply burned until they ran out of fuel. I couldn't stop the fear then. And I knew, eventually, my house would go too. So that's when I knew the world had ended. When I got the fuel can and burned down my neighbors' houses in a controlled burn to keep my house isolated and safe."
"I knew something was wrong when Pam didn't show up for work. Pam had been serving me coffee at Paul's Diner for darn-near every day for 17 years or there-abouts. I mean, she missed a couple of days when she was sick. And that time she went to visit her mom when she got the cancer. That was shortly after she started working at Paul's. Before I knew her too well. She didn't have any other close friends or family that I knew of. There was that one friend of hers. What was it? Jamie? Jackie? Something like that. They were supposed to go on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate Pam's 10 years of being divorced or something. But Jamie or Jackie had to cancel at the last minute, and they never rescheduled it. That was maybe five years ago. I can't remember a day at Paul's I didn't see her after that. So when Pam didn't show up for work the one day, it seemed strange. Paul said she never called, but Paul's old as a boot, and I thought he may have just forgotten. But then she didn't show up the next day or the next, and we started to hear more and more things on the news. About stuff going on. Building. I hope Pam just had the sense to get away somewhere. That she's safe. I think about her quite a bit."
"I just...well, I just began to feel sad all of the time. That's when I knew our chapter of this world was closing. It was like we were all exuding an overpowering smell that was driving us all away from one another. I couldn't look anybody in the eye. We were all just trying to survive and we didn't want anybody to know the things we'd done. It felt...now, this is kind of weird...it felt like when Superman died. That was just so depressing. Having read comic books for years, I knew it was just part of an ongoing plot that would end with Superman back in the skies over Metropolis. But it felt like the heart of the world had been ripped away and everybody was excitedly talking about it. Some people were happy even, hopeful that he had been killed off for good. I just couldn't wrap my mind around the venomous joy which fueled some of these people. It was also like, and maybe this is the exact same analogy writ more on the edges of mainstream culture, when Jerry Garcia died. It was like waking up from a beautiful dream of brotherhood and love to find throngs of people leaning over your bed sneering and laughing. 'Finally! The Grateful Dead is dead!' Even if you weren't a dead head, which I wasn't, it was just...it just felt like a dream denied. And that's the feeling I had, even in the early days of the General Breakdown, when things still seemed fairly normal. Just this lonely, inexpressible, overwhelming sadness."
"Cats were suddenly everywhere. I mean, fucking everywhere! It probably took less than a week for me to go from thinking 'It's so nice to greet so many kitties every time I go out!' to 'Holy shit where the fuck did they all come from and why are they looking at me like that?' So it was the cats that heralded the end of the world for me. They escorted it in on tiny cat feet, it sat down on hundreds of tiny haunches, and it never fucking moved on."
"I can't believe those assholes ruined it. You know that old saying, 'It's why we can't have nice things'? It's because of assholes who don't deserve anything, let alone nice things. Give a moose a cupcake, and he's going to want a raisin or some such shit. My first clue was that diesel was gone. Just fucking gone! That pretty much rendered the Benz useless. Fuckin' had to take the train all the way in from Connecticut for weeks. What the hell did they need with all that diesel anyway? Then came the rolling blackouts and finally the blackouts that didn't roll as much. Ha. Figured it probably wasn't worth going into work for a while since there wasn't any real work that could be done, and fuck if they were going to be able to pay me with the power out. Everyone here was in the same boat, so we'd just hang out with the neighbors, grilling in the streets and popping open bottles of wine we never thought we'd open. Even with that rich prick Fred. Did this for a couple of weeks, just waiting for things to get fixed. I think if it weren't for the assholes, things would have gotten fixed. Would have been back to Broadway plays and 401(k)s in a matter of months. But of course, they didn't get fixed. You know that. The assholes took and they took, and gradually it reached the point where it was unfixable. So when you look around, and you see this paradise of shit that we live in, remember those assholes. Remember who made this happen."
"I was on a month long hiking trip across the Appalachians. I left all my technology behind. It was my chance to get back in touch with the universe. I'd felt my possessions had been riding me for too long, and I remembered thinking how Emerson recounted...no wait, how Thoreau recounted his time outside civilization as a reconstituting of his whole self. Wasn't it something about a translucent eyeball or...wait, that was Emerson, right? Um, anyhow, I wanted to feel that...I needed to feel that, or something near to that, kind of transformation. Modernity had worn away my edges and left me frayed and, well...I felt I was coming apart at the seams. When first, long ago, I had felt the onset of adult responsibility, I felt the part of me that was purely me unraveling. As I grew older, the unraveling quickened, and I lost more of myself every year. I thought, with my hike and my time away, I could collect up my threads and torn materials and patch myself back together. So I didn't know when the world had...in fact, I still don't know when the world actually ended while I was away. I just knew that when I emerged from my wilderness, everything was better. I went in expecting to change but when I emerged, it was the world that had changed around me. It was the world that had knelt down in front of me and said, 'Here.' I never looked back from that moment and I have, in an extraordinary fashion, thrived."
"Hungry! All hungry. Every time, hungry. Big kids tell it, 'Way gone, dude. Way gone. Play time always now.' Still hungry. Stissy Pretty, she comed, right over, she comed. Bringded snacks, some kind milk. Still hunger, different now. Hunger in heart now. Big time ask was 'Mama? Mama?' Big kids laugh ta hear. But good laugh. Not mean. Not like before laughs from big kids. Big kids, big hugs, small foods, big safety, some warmings. We moved it all out then. All out. All ways. All in. Never hunger no more anyways. Big kids tell, 'Trees is home now. Trees be homes.' Big smiles affer that, always."
That wraps it up for this episode of "Life After All." Thanks for listening to National Public Radio. Coming up next, Beuhler Murphy with "Elderly Nightmares."