(A short Christmas style story by James Apps)
The end of the world is nigh.
The placards on the street declared in bold tones the message ‘The End of the World is
Nigh! Repent!” Those commuters who walked past the bedraggled bearers of the doomsayers messages looked on with amusement. Some felt uncomfortable that there were so many and others were openly antagonistic.
One such protestor took it upon himself to show these people how he felt. The one miserable looking man who stood beside the entrance to the underground outside St James’s Park was the first to feel his wrath. The man, a young man of about twenty eight took hold of the sign and vigorously wrenched it from the messenger of doom’s clutching hands and broke it over the railing.
“That for your stupid message!” the assailant declared and ripped the placard apart to throw the ruins on the sidewalk at the feet of the terrified would be evangelist. The poor man backed away nervously uncertain as to whether he should gather the remains or run away.
“But sir! The world is about to end!” he cried.
“No it isn’t you bloody moron! Why do you maniacs insist on your weird ideas? What’s the matter with getting on with being a normal human and doing what most people do, and stop trying to scare the willies out of suckers who are dumb enough to believe you?”
The frightened evangelist was joined by others of the group who gathered in a little pathetic knot to face the lone protestor. They held their placards tightly and quietly at first they chanted. “The end of the world cometh! The end of the world is nigh! Repent! repent!” And nothing he could do or say had any effect. It was his turn to back away.
“You are all loonies!” he cried. “Mad! There is nothing happening. No Asteroids! No meteorites or natural disasters big enough to destroy the Earth. There is no god so don’t tell me he is about to destroy the Earth,” the young man said and shook a fist at the nearest placard carrier.
The man shrunk back but as if singing from the same hymn book the rest chanted: “God is not mocked, what he has given he will take away. God will punish the sinners, repent of your sins and be saved!”
The young man shook his head, and calmer now that he realised whatever he said would have no effect on any of them he shrugged his shoulders, turned away from them and walked off trying to ignore the pleas to repent that followed his exit.
At work, coffee at his desk and a task nearly completed, he sat in front of the screen and listened to the news items he called up on his terminus. There was the usual traffic reports, political stories, a murder, a couple of robberies and the current comic story at the end which he listened to without the anger of the morning trip in.
‘...A spokesman of the Reverend Soon emphasised that the Modern Church of Repentance urges all people to repent of their sins and ask forgiveness of God before the coming of the Punishment. The Reverend Soon is meditating in his Church in Wyoming surrounded by his devoted followers stoically awaiting what they believe will be the end of the world at 3pm their time...’
The young man laughed and repeated the information to his fellow workers. Someone wrote a twitter that told him the end of the world London time was 22:00. He replied, happier now that everybody was taking it so lightly, that he would drink on it. An end of the world party, he thought, and twittered a reply.
The party came together at his local, after dinner, invited by his colleagues, some of whom lived nearby, they chose the area because it was cheap, and flats were easy to find. He was reminded of the game on Clue, as it was known, the play on Mornington Crescent and grinned, he lived in Mornington Crescent, and the local was just around the corner. It seemed as if everybody was there and although he was drinking more than he should he was still sober enough to re-tell the story of the morning confrontation.
He was amused that others too had had a similar experience.
“Repent! Repent!” cried one man, he thought he should know, “I nearly did, the girl holding the placard was a real cracker, I almost repented on the spot!” Creating a round of laughter and more coarse jokes to be bandied around.
The young man noted the time and called out loudly: “Nearly time folks! Shall we count it down?”
There was a jovial chorus of assent and led by the sober barman they began the count starting at one minute to the hour. By the time they reached ten they were more or less chanting the numbers together. The bar resounded to the numbers. Five – four – three – two – one – zero…
And the rest was silence.