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  • Life In A Dying World
    Patrick Goins
    7 May 2003

    Life in a Dying World

    "You have one day before the world ends". That's what the newspaper says. One day to live your life. One day to make your peace. You have one day before this world blows up, incinerating everything you know and love. Tomorrow is going to be a bad day.

    24 hours remaining…

    I remember a quote I heard once. "Life in a dying world is like dying every second." It seems pretty relevant at this moment. We're all just walking corpses waiting to catch up to the dying time.
    So, here I am, 25 years old and on the verge of death. I kind of expected a little bit more out of my life. Who doesn't? If your life were to end right now, what all would you regret leaving unfinished? Telling someone you loved them? Running a marathon? Changing the world? If we were given a million years to achieve one goal that we thought was most important, I doubt many people would accomplish it. We are a society of procrastinators. Why do tomorrow what can be put off until next week? We indulge ourselves with the satisfaction of this "procrasturbation". We indulge ourselves, period. This is the land of milk and honey and it shows in the double chins and fused cankles that so many of the media gluttons that represent us. Even the Jews in exile had to gather the manna that fell from heaven. This culture, though, would rather sit back and let everything come to them. We would rather have someone else do it for us, and these representatives feel the same. Eventually someone has to do it. Usually it's Taiwan. Or China. It is just easier that way.
    You know, when I was in high school I made a list of things I hoped to accomplish before I died. I still have the list in my wallet, like a constant reminder of a doomed existence. I take it out and unfold the crumpled edges of the sacred napkin. So far I've accomplished 2 things that I said I would before time finally got me. 2. Just 2. I thought I would have done more by now. 23 hours and 47 minutes and 12 things to accomplish.
    Goal 1: Have sex. Check. I can't say it was the most impressive experience. I lasted 3 minutes. It was in her parents' bed on a very chilly Saturday night. They were at a movie. She was supposed to be baby-sitting. I wish I could say that I regret it. I don't. It was the best 3 minutes of my life. You know, they say that you become a man when you turn 18. That's bull shit. You aren't a man until you have sex for the first time. After that, the biological imperative that lies dormant in your animal mind just switches on and all you think about is sex. No one is below you. Sex is the great equalizer. If she's willing then she's good enough for you. Hey, you don't have to tell your buddies or your family everything about yourself. You just keep the "settlers" a secret. I call them that for obvious reasons. You would rather be boning some hot chick in an upscale hotel but instead you settle for an okay looking drunk girl in the nearest Motel 6. Sure, you aren't proud of what you did, but sometimes you gotta quench the fire, if you catch my drift.
    Goal 2: Get married. Hmm. This one could be tough. How long do I have? 23 hours and 45 minutes. Plenty of time to find some lonely lady, seduce her, and then convince her to marry me. It only seems right… seeing as how the world is going to end in less than a day, I'll say to her. Perfect.

    23 hours remaining…

    Everything seems so much more alive right before it dies. Everything wants to go out with a bang, one last shining light before the darkness. The same is true for the city. It bursts into a thousand colors; a thousand different lights all pointing in a thousand different directions. It's blinding in its lewd thoughtlessness. I love it. It is the Wasteland and I am the last of the wanderers. The rest have been killed by a plague called doubt and fear. Unfortunately, I might be the only single guy left within the city limits. Engagements or marriages have taken the rest. Now, I was looking for a marriage as well. With me gone, "single life" will be extinct. Right now it is just endangered. Is it better for a species to be endangered or extinct? Extinction is finality, a final end to the worries that are carried with the burden of life. Endangered is another way of saying "close to extinction". They can't have the finality of the word, though, so they choose endangered to represent it. Endangered is fading hope. Year after year the numbers of manatees and the Brazilian Yellow Mud Wasp are dwindling. Pretty soon the population will falter and end. When that happens you have finality. By making a species endangered you have the right to say, "Hey, we tried and we failed… but at least we tried." You give yourself an excuse for copping out of failure. I hate losing.
    The first few clubs are pretty dead. There are a few stragglers on the dance floors every now and then but they're bait for bottom feeders. It isn't until I stumble on The Meteor Lounge that my chances start to improve. Ironic. It's a high-class dance club in the busiest part of town. The place to be. Flashy logo. Fluorescent lights. Enough to choke the sky. It is the first place that I come to that offers some hope for my absolution. I bribe the bouncer and slowly make my way in as one of the elite. I really never thought I'd be saying that. One of the elite. What exactly makes you elite? Your wallet? Your parents? How well you're liked? Elite is just another way of excluding. That's what we all want, though, isn't it. We want groups of highly selective members. We want elitism. We want acceptance and most importantly, acceptance into these highly selective groups. We need it. We crave it. We love it.
    "The basic principle of social interaction is need. We interact to get things we need. We talk, we bargain, we buy, we sell. In the most basic of interactions it comes down to the most basic of human reactions. So, that is to say, relationships must also be based on need. Human nature is greedy. What makes someone choose their friends? Why would someone choose to be with the people that they are surrounded by? Need. Philosophers of old have described friendship as one soul in two bodies. That is a romantic notion of a practical reality. Relationships can be associated with Jung's theories of psychological unity. The inner self struggles to find unity in everything i.e. you feel like you are introverted and of no real worth, you associate with extroverted people with inflated egos. Everything is give and take. Friendship is based on need. We all use our friends and in turn are used by them. It is a healthy part of human nature. We make friends because we feel we need them for some aspect of our lives. A listening ear, a helpful voice, a kind heart. We associate with people that we psychologically feel we need. Friendships end when the need from one outweighs the need from the other. Friendships end when the need ends. Friendship in general is a basic need, though, and therefore it is unlikely that you will ever stop needing friends. They are tools in coping with reality. The ever-changing roster of friends is a part of nature. The game of life is full of alliances and betrayal, Shakespearean in its complexity." The guy standing next to me says. What a jackass. I don't even have to say a word to the guy and he starts spouting his life story. He's wearing a suit from the 80's with his sleeves rolled up. His thick glasses betray his profession. I'm guessing he works in computers. "Hi. I'm Ira. I work with computers. You are?" He asks. Bingo. I am good at guessing stuff like that. It's a knack of mine. And a hobby. You start to make up little games like that when you are alone in a concession stand for five hours and there is no sign of life anywhere. I was an usher at a movie theater but I lie to him and just say I'm in the movie business. He'll probably assume I'm a porn star, but I don't care. I'm not really here for him. I wonder how he got in, frankly. Probably the same way that I did.
    "Movies, eh? What kind of movies?" He asks with a wide grin and a nudge from his pudgy elbow. See. Thinks I'm a porn star or something. Computer nerds. So much time online their brain is fried and if not, it's wired for easy access pornography. If he tried hard enough he could probably place me, incorrectly, in a few of his favorite pornos. He'll probably ask if I played the lead in Forrest Hump. I didn't, but if asked I'll just laugh nervously and ask who told him that. I like playing with the nerds.
    "Did you play the lead in…?" He starts to ask. I interrupt him with, "Listen, Ira. I am kind of in a hurry. You know, the world is ending in less than 24 hours, so I'm kind of looking for someone to spend the remainder of my time on this Earth with. Do you catch my drift?" to which he retorts, "Are you hitting on me?" I laugh. I look him straight in the eyes and give him the most dashing smile I can muster. "Yeah." I tell him. The happy go lucky look he had on his face the seconds before twists into a nervous reaction. He looks away and back at me with a face that practically screams, "How the hell do I get out of this!?" "I… uh… well… I… I'm not gay… but I understand where you're coming from. I think I'd be willing to try anything… seeing as how the world is ending." He says. The devil on my shoulder just shit his red tights. The angel on my other shoulder is laughing uncontrollably. Talk about backfires. That one just blew my hand off. Now it's my turn to give him the nervous look. "Look… Ira… I was only joking. I… I'm not gay, either. It was just a joke." To which he laughs nervously then quickly walks away. "That guy could have been my prison bitch." I tell myself with a hard earned chuckle.
    I'm getting off subject, though. What I am really here for is a woman. There are plenty of them to choose from. I gather, at this point, that most of the attractive women have been bought off by the wealthy playboys and the desperate players. Still, there were a few moderately attractive women left on the dance floor. I'm not sure, though, if I want to settle. I might just have to move on. The girl I marry has to be beautiful. Call me shallow. I'm not saying that the personality stuff doesn't count… but I'm down to choosing books by their cover, here. I don't want to pick up some moldy old nonfiction. I want a flashy adventure story.
    I see her and instantly I know she is the one. As corny as it sounds, it's true. I doubt it is love at first sight but it is definitely lust at first sight. The moment I see her I want to have sex with her. The moment I see her I want to have sex with her until our world ends. I'm a romantic, what can I say? I don't know about her, though. Why doesn't she have guys hanging all over her? Quite possibly she might be the most gorgeous girl that I have ever seen. She has long black hair, olive skin, and distant green eyes that stare into her murky drink. When she sees me she smiles and looks away.
    The hunt is on. I feel like a cave man in search of some saber-toothed tiger to poke a stick into. This mating dance is prehistoric. It is engrained in all men. Our DNA is coded to know it. Our minds are set to know it. If I had it with me I would probably hit her over the head with a mallet and drag her back to my cave. Now, though, I hunt with the urgency that the world's predestined doom has put on me.
    I approach her from across the room. My adrenaline is pumping. "Hi." I say. My palms become sweaty. "Hi." She says with a gorgeous smile. My heart is pounding. "Listen." I say. "I think you are… quite possibly the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Now, I am gonna cut to the chase, seeing as how the world is going to end soon. I am looking to get married and since you are incredibly hot and we are short on the time needed to really get to know each other, I think you and I should consider matrimony as the only possible option for two people as attractive as us. Think of our kids." "Sure." She says with nonchalance. My heart explodes. I imagine myself lying on the floor in a puddle of rejection but I snap back into reality. Success never tasted sweeter than two luscious lips that I could now call mine. It is a victory for the little guy. It is a big W for the average looking men who wished they had hot girlfriends. This one is for you, guys. I pull out the napkin that holds my hopes and dreams. I mark off goal 2.

    22 hours remaining…

    Goal 3: Have sex with aforementioned wife. Geez, I was one horny high school kid. But, a goal is a goal and it must be done. Her name is Jessica, by the way. I find that out as we start talking. That is really the only little bit of information that I hear as she talks. She seems nice enough, though. My mind is a little too preoccupied to comprehend what she is saying. It sounds like this, "Sexsexsex sex sexsex Jessica sexsex sexsexsexsex. Sex?" "Huh?" I ask, shaking my head. "My name's Jessica but most people just call me Jessie. What's your name?" She says. I figure this is my chance so I lean over and whisper my name into her ear. This is where my patented moves come into play. After I'm done whispering I nibble on her ear and kiss her neck. "I really want to marry you. Mostly, though, I'm just in it for the consummation. Let's get out of here, find a preacher, and make it legal. I just want to get you alone." I say to her. We leave.
    Any man who says that he doesn't think about sex at least once every 5 minutes is either seriously disturbed or homosexual. There is no other way it could be. Men spend more time thinking about sex than we spend thinking about anything. If we have to do something we give the task a passing thought but then it's back to sex. Every virgin is Casanova in his mind. In the world of fantasies men have countless partners. We can't help it. Our brain is wired to think these thoughts, to commit mental adultery, to cheat on our loved ones in our thoughts. Don't blame men, blame nature. We are the victims here. That's what we tell ourselves to justify such immoral behavior. In the end, most of life is just one big justification of what you haven't killed yourself.
    Given a short amount of time to make your peace, your thoughts stray wildly from the most inane meanderings to the deepest questions of the mind. What is life? What is reality? Will there be a heaven or a hell waiting for me when it all ends? What will death be like? Is the thing death carries a sickle or a scythe? Did I wash my clothes this morning? Why can't we all just get along? Did someone just say my name? No? Where was I? Why are we here? Is there a purpose? Why is it so hard to get these stains out? What day is it? How long till it all goes? How long until the dying time? Is it lay or lie if I were to lie down right now? Did I just answer my own question? Why? I ask myself a thousand questions a second. The answer is all the same. I don't know. Does anyone? I doubt it. We're all struggling to find the lighthouse in the fog. Inevitably we're all gonna crash and sink. It's only a matter of when. That is true about everything in life. Everything within the realm of possibility is bound to happen. It's only a matter of timing that you get to witness or, even, to participate in these moments. A fraction of a second separates me and the man behind me. Yet in this fraction he might witness the sun explode while I look away. He might watch a plane crash or see a volcano erupt. If I had been a fraction slower, I too would have been able to see the inevitable.
    It is incredibly hard to find a preacher at 11 o'clock on a Friday night. Especially when there are so many marriages going on. In fact, it is practically impossible. We settle on city hall. Little do we know…

    19 hours remaining…

    3 hours of waiting to get a marriage license at City Hall. She talks the entire time as I sit in this hell. She's funny, and witty, and intelligent, but I don't care about that. I care about only one thing. I've discussed what that is. God, though, she is gorgeous. I can look into her eyes and get lost. I can touch her skin and feel the softness of a breath or a breeze. When I look at her I want to be lost in her, be lost with her. I want to be alone with her. Just be. I want to hold her and whisper in her ear all my tiny fears and be sure that she will tell me the same and comfort me as I comfort her. I want darkness with her. In the dark I would wrap my arms around her and bury my face in her neck. I would rest my head with her and sleep as one. Be as one. I wish that I had more time to let this feeling blossom. This is love in high definition. Love at high speeds. As fast as thought, and twice as deadly. It is the seeds of a new hope planted in my heart. It's bad. Forever bad. When I look at her I see the future. I see myself with her, together, laughing and crying. I want eternity with her. I want to be one with her forever.
    I sign the papers and hold her hand. For once there is silence. Complete. Utter silence. It's deafening. Once, when I was in high school, I took a vow of silence for a couple of days. When it was over and I talked, my voice sounded alien to me. I realized that only through silence could you really appreciate the sound of your voice. This was one of those moments. It hangs in the air, like a choking fog. Both of us are too afraid to talk. Too afraid to say something stupid after just entering into a legal contract between souls. We have agreed to be connected even after death and I couldn't be happier. Now, the fun begins. Jessica and I leave and go to her place. It is a swank apartment in the better part of the city. As far as her apartment shows, she is pretty rich. Jackpot! A hot girl who's rich. Man, God must be smiling down on me right now. Otherwise, I wouldn't be so lucky.
    We sit around and chat for a few minutes but talk is cheap and I've been denied sex for too long. Pretty soon it gets hot and heavy. She is on my lap and we're exploring. I hate to cheapen this perfectly lewd moment with more of my sentimental crap, but I think it needs to be said. I think I love this girl. I think I can be happy as her husband-for-a-day. Maybe we can make some memories in the few hours that we have left. Maybe we can greet oblivion together. I could die happy. This is love at high speed. Anyways, back to the make out session. My shirt is off, pants unzipped, her dress is undone and I'm about to pull it free. She stops.
    "I need to tell you something…" She says to me, her lipstick smeared. "I… I…" she says, looking around, as if for some cue card to read a statement from. "I'm not what you think I am…" "I don't care. You can be whatever you want. I'll still feel the same no matter what." I tell her as I move forward for another kiss. She stops me. "I'm a hermaphrodite." Now, that, I can't deal with. Naturally, I do what any sane male in my position would do; I run to the bathroom and hurl my guts out. After 30 minutes of puking every shade of the rainbow, I gather my things and leave. She tries to stop me. I won't talk. If I talk then I cry. This is heartbreak at high speed. When I get my shirt back on me I pull out the sacred napkin and mark out goal 3. That was close enough to count. I wish someone would amputate my heart. I wish someone would put a bullet in the right ventricle. There are things to do, though. Things to keep my mind off of this. I sit down on the curb and think "tomorrow is gonna be a really bad day."
    Time slows in the few hours after your heart shatters. Time sputters and coughs like a badly oiled machine after days of use. Seconds feel like weeks, minutes are eternity, and in them you sit and ponder the reasons behind your broken heart. Maybe I should have seen. How could I have been so stupid? A thousand questions pose themselves in awkward stances before my wearied mind. Some of them contort into odd shapes, parallelograms, rhombuses, triangles, but they all encircle me like a pack of hungry sharks in a feeding frenzy. I should have known this was too good to be true. I should have known happiness was beyond my reach. There are a few people that are just destined for sadness. There are a few people that are bound for tragedy. Usually, though, they meet this sudden depression after an intense period of happiness. The merry go round of elation comes to a sudden and broken stop, flinging you; face first, into a pile of dog shit. You don't want to move, though, because it is just too real. You know, one of those moments when the horror just paralyzes you and you think to yourself, "If I just stand here, motionless, it will go away. This is a dream. This is a dream." But it isn't. Reality sets in and you have shit on your face. Reality sets in and you've hit bottom. Is that a bad thing though? You can only see the highest reaches when you're trapped in the nether regions. When you're ascending, you are more interested in holding on for dear life. You are more interested in the perch that you are standing on and your view is obstructed. When you're at the bottom all you can do is look up. All you have is hope. All you need is ascension.
    I look down into a puddle that has formed next to the curb. It is one of those puddles that are always there, even when it is 103 degrees outside. It is like something from a movie. The main character looks in the puddle and reflects back on the things that have befallen him. He is the tragic hero. I am the tragedy. I look at myself. I look at what I've become. It is a far cry from the anti-hero I was a few hours before. Now I am a sniveling cry baby on the side of the road. I am fodder for the girls who need drama and lost love and heartbreak to make them feel better about love. The constant heart wrenchers. They drag their boyfriend to see a romantic comedy where the two leads meet by happenstance, usually don't like each other, become friends and fall in love. Usually in between there is some hijinks and the guy lets the girl slip through his fingers and in the final scene he makes some grand gesture that wins her back to him. Utterly trite. It's that kind of sentimental bull shit that guys hate. It is that kind of bull shit that I hate. Yet, I am living through it. There is no happy ending for me, though. There is no languorous kiss between myself and my love interest at the end. There is only death, cold and absolute. There is only eternity. Everything I love will die in 18 hours. Everything I have ever loved will burst and split into atoms in the vacuum of outer space. There is only total nothingness for me. What a depressing thought.

    18 hours remaining…

    I pick myself up and pull out the napkin. I resist the urge to wipe my tears with it. They fall on the cuffs of my shirt as I read out my next goal. Goal 4: Become famous. Wonderful. Maybe I could become a self help guru. "Self Help is self deconstruction. The only way to help yourself is to find the little things, the tiny idiosyncrasies that are causing your unhappiness. It could be something as small as the way you get out of bed in the morning. The moment you identify the cause I can prescribe the cure. You, too, can be eternally happy in this shortening reality. You too can achieve enlightenment before your light is extinguished. Just call 555-****! Call now and receive a free copy of the guru's self help dictionary, 10 Easy Ways to Subjugate and Ruthlessly Oppress Inanimate Objects. It contains the meaning of life, the secret to being happy, how to have eternal youth, how to stay fit and eat EVERYTHING you want, how to cure impotence and premature ejaculation, as well as the guru's ultra secret 'big word mix tape' that will increase your vocabulary 1,000,000 fold!" That's what I'd tell them. Even with total BS like that people would still follow me. They would crawl on their hands and knees to sit at my feet and hear my "wisdom". They would massage me and fan me with a big feather thingie and feed me grapes. Or so I imagine.
    "Life is pointless. Meaningless. The minute we realize that our bodies are merely tools for our own self discovery, is the minute we can transcend the selfish thoughts of self preservation." I tell myself. I stand up. My clothes are at my feet as a car drives by, hits the puddle, and sprays me with muddy water. Great. Just great. I look like I'm homeless. I turn and start walking but I'm abruptly stopped by someone walking in the other direction. "Watch where you're going, pal." I say, looking up towards my attacker's face. I'm greeted by the image of human perfection. Jesus? No. I wish. It's Ted Chalmers, local news guy and local asshole. He gives me his best smile and runs his hand through his hair before putting it in front of me to shake. Greasing it up for a quick release, I suppose. "What was it you were just saying?" He asks with his devilishly charming voice. "Oh… nothing. Just… um… just saying that this whole 'self preservation' stuff is stupid." "Oh, really? What do you mean?" He asks. "What's the point of preserving something you know is going to end? We live in the land of milk and honey but are too afraid to take it because it might upset our caloric intake. The milk is too fattening and the honey substitute is much cheaper. In the land of the crazies the sane man is king." I tell him, trying not to make eye contact. I would rather walk away at this point but I know there is no hope. I've got him hooked. Like a fish in my net, or a deer in my headlights, he is wounded and he desperately tries to reach out and touch someone. "Barbara. Yeah. I need a cameraman down here on 5th and main. You know that human interest piece about the homeless. Yeah? I found my bum. When do I want the cameraman? 30 minutes ago." He tells his little cell phone as he hangs it up and stares back at me. "Simply fascinating. Do you mind if I do a piece on your views for the nightly news?" He asks. "Mind? I would love it."
    Right after fate has kicked you in the balls, sometimes, just sometimes; it has the common decency to give you a bag of ice to numb the pain. These moments, though, are few and far between and when they do happen, you are usually too upset to realize it. Here I was, wallowing in a puddle of my own broken heart, saying "woe is me" when my fourth goal just happens to fall right in my lap. Unfortunately it is in the form of Ted Chalmers and not Melissa Sanchez. Another local anchor. She could get my inside story anytime. Instead I got the walking erection. Ah well. Beggars can't be choosers and we wait for the camera man in silence. I am thinking about what I will say. He is most likely wondering if they sent the makeup girl with the cameraman to make sure he looks good. Vanity is a sin, last I remember.
    The cameraman arrives 15 minutes after Ted's call. The makeup girl comes with him. The world is complete I think, choking my mind with the thickness of the sarcasm. She powders my nose and spends the remainder of the 25 minutes making over Ted's rugged good looks. I honestly think he is gonna spin around in the chair and have some kind of creepy monster make up on. Here's hoping.
    I'm staring at my reflection in the lens of the camera. The light attached to it blinds me as I squint and twist my head like a possum in the headlights of a Mack truck. He speaks. "The world… is ending…" He does that pause, you know, for dramatic effect. A lot of anchors do that. A lot of reporters do it too. Takes time to read the cue cards. "In hours we will all be homeless. I'm here, on the streets, to find out what the homeless think of all this." That's me. "I'm here with a man without a home. He is a man just like you and me. Sir, what are your thoughts on the world ending?" He asks and shoves the microphone toward my face with a rugged smile. I clear my throat, swallow and say "live." That's it. That's all I got. I had planned out my speech ahead of time to be something like "Live. We live in a world of opposing forces, good and evil, life and death. Only through knowledge of one can you achieve knowledge of the other. By seeing death we can better understand life. We can live. Get away from the television. Get away from the comforting glow of a computer screen. Move on. Accomplish what you always wanted to accomplish. Paint a picture. Make a scrapbook. Complete your goals. You only have a few hours left and then everything goes to hell. Create. Creation was God's first great act and as models of God we are given the gift of creation. Nurture it. Nurture the creativity that burns in you. Let it grow. Harness it. Create something beautiful. Create something ugly. Do something with what's left of your life." The speech came out like this, "Live. Create. Get up and do something with what's left of your life." Mentally I am hitting myself in the head and yelling, "stupid, stupid, stupid. You blew it!" There is a long silence. Ted is crying. I don't notice it at first because I am caught up in the lights and the camera. I forget the action. But he is crying pretty heavily. He sobs. He snivels but continues to cry. "There, there." I say. I am trying to console him but he won't stop crying. He continues for 3 more minutes before I finally just say "Listen. I can't guarantee you eternal life. No one can. I can only guarantee the life you have. I can only guarantee you now. Tomorrow is tomorrow. The end is the end. Live your life now without regrets. Just live." I say as my hand rests on his shoulder.
    I am suddenly caught in a giant bear hug of emotion. He wraps his arms around me and sobs. He cries for all the infidelity. He cries for all the vanity. He cries for the times he never thought about anyone but himself. He cries for his wasted life. When the tears subside he wipes the remaining saltine residue away with his sleeve. He wipes off his makeup with the same sleeve. He takes off his tie. He unbuttons the cuffs of his shirt. I expect the worst. I expect him to kill himself, or worse, kill us. I expect him to spontaneously combust, to be truly honest. He has all the makings of a ticking time bomb ready to explode. Maybe now is just the time. I hold my breath and… nothing. He takes my hand and shakes it. "Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, like the wise men of the past, this man chooses to live an ascetic life on the streets. He is a monk. A sage. Listen to him. Listen to everything he says and follow it. I can truly say that I am a believer." He says as the camera shuts off. The cameraman leaves. The makeup girl leaves. Ted doesn't leave. I am a "prophet". He is my follower. God, help us both.

    17 hours remaining…

    "Have you ever considered that you are just trying to look for something to believe in? Maybe that's why you put your faith in the most far-fetched things. I'm not a prophet." I tell Ted as we walk back to his car. "What are you talking about? I put my faith in the things that mean something to me. What you said… means something. What you said makes sense. All my life I've blindly followed doctrine and dogma. I've been led to the pasture, my eyes and ears covered, my hands and feet chained. There I am, bound, when the world asks me to find an apple tree and pick them an apple. But you…you've opened my eyes. I knew from the moment I met you that there was something special about you. I felt it in my gut." "Upset stomach?" I question. He laughs but. It, like his Rolex, is fake. It is mechanical and robot, an involuntary spasm. It is "expected" that he laugh. We reach his car, a BMW. I decide I'd rather just walk. I need time to think. I thank Ted for the company but I really must be on my way. "I gotta go. You understand, though, right? I have to spread my message. Being a prophet and all." Says the sarcasm that controls my vocal cords. Ted, like a lost puppy, looks at the car and at me as I walk away. He locks his car and walks after me, discarding the buttoned shirt to wear the plain white T-shirt underneath. So, our journey begins. A penny prophet and his only follower.
    You are what you make yourself. You are your own person. No outside source has a direct influence on the way you are. It is all you. A lot of people will disagree, saying the environment helps influence the personality, but in the end it comes down to you. You allow the environment to influence you. You allow the world to control you. If you don't control yourself, expect to be controlled. If you can't lead yourself, expect to be part of the herd. Expect to be a lemming. As slaves of the media fattened, consumer culture, that is all we are. We are lemmings, racing faster and faster to the edge of the cliff. We all grin and bear the consequence of our own greed, yet there is no one brave enough to stop running. Why? Because he will be crushed. Whoever stands up against the juggernaut of society will be crushed beneath its wheels. E-martyrdom. A sacrifice to the binary Gods. So speaks the prophet.
    Prophets in ancient times must have been miserable. I've been a prophet for a total of 20 minutes and already I don't like the vibe of it. Everyone stares at you. Everyone watches you, waiting. They are waiting for a miracle. They are waiting for a curse. If the sky splits and heaven sends a thunderbolt to burn this human shell of mine, then they will be watching. No one would want to miss actual human charcoal. Stray whispers fall on my ears. They talk about prophets and heresy and all that mumbo jumbo. When you're a prophet, in this day and age, people expect too much of you. They either expect you to know the future and be able to read their fortunes or they expect you to know everything. I'm not quite sure why you have a stomach ulcer. No, I can't read palms. No, God doesn't speak to me in visions, though if he did I would certainly ask him to kill me and end this insanity. I don't have revelations. Ma'am, I don't read coffee clouds. Prophets these days can't see the future. Or tell what the weather is going to be like for the next few months so you can plan your vacation. A prophet these days is not a tool for your own material gain. He is a guide. I am not a prophet. I'm simply me. That's all I've ever been and it's all I'll ever be. I began to gather a following of about 10 to 15 people after the news program with my beautiful face aired. They followed closely behind Ted, asking me questions that Ted artfully fended off. "What is the meaning of life?" one asked. "Your goal isn't to question life. It's to live it." Ted replied. My dogma was firmly established by the speech I gave on the news. Don't question. Just do it. Consequences be damned. If you want to jump out of a plane and see if you can fly, by all means. If you want to swim with wild piranha in a wet suit made of raw steaks, go right ahead. Live you life. Forget about death. Worry about death when you're dying. Every other time worry about living. That's why we're here, isn't it? To live? We're not here to be afraid. We're not here to back down. Live, damn you. Live. So speaks the prophet. That, by the way, gets tacked onto every word I say. "Ladies…" "So speaks the prophet." "…Gentlemen…" "So speaks the prophet." Etc. It's really annoying. Frankly, this whole situation is just a little ridiculous.
    It starts to rain but I don't stop walking. We could have very easily taken Ted's car to go get mine, but I needed time to think. Now I have it. I have it by the bushel. Minutes are my currency. Seconds are my money. In this instant I feel like I have a monopoly over time. I am master of my destiny. Before long, though, it slips away like sand in an hourglass. It rains. Falling all around me like a thousand far-flung teardrops, heaven cries on my shoulder. Had I the time, I would listen to the sorrow and the cries of the poor and downtrodden. If I had the time I would be the messiah that these followers wanted. But I don't. They don't have the time to say all they want to say. I can see it in their faces. Their kids are dying. Their homes are burning. People they love are being killed in the streets. Riots are getting worse. These people have a thousand little problems that they have no cure for. They're desperate. They're hopeless. That's why they are following me. Religion is hope. When religion fails, people take crazy ideas that might work and turn those into religion. Religion has failed these people. Now they follow me, asking, chanting, and singing songs of their new hope. They want me to save the world. If I can't do that, they at least want me to bear their worlds on my shoulders. How selfish of me to turn them down. These are the same people that, weeks before this were putting crystals on their root chakra to cleanse it. These are the same people that dabble in Wiccanism because they are searching for a love potion to cure them of their loneliness. These are the same people that are ignored. They are ignored by their friends, their family, and, they assume, their God. These are the same people that wear black lipstick and Misfits t-shirts. But here they are begging me. They want me to be their messiah, their savior. They want me to give up my humanity and bear their cross. People are selfish. People deify because they want someone to listen, really listen, to the little problems they are having in their life. Who better than some cosmic hot-line. For the cost of a call you can have your sins erased. For the long distance charge you can hear God's answering machine message. You can talk and talk all you want and you'll never have a "beep" to cut you off. There is no limit on the time of your message and, hey, maybe he'll call back someday. Wishful thinking. I believe in God. I'm not sure if he believes in me. I talk and talk but no one is listening. People say that he's answering but I'm not seeing it. If the light is green when I get to it, then he's speaking to me. If I find the pencil I thought I lost, he's telling me something. Get more pencils.

    16 hours remaining…

    "Go home. Live your lives. Stop following me." I tell them. It rains harder. "We can't go home" "It's pointless" "We want to learn" are the scattered replies throughout the rabble. They scream and shout. I don't care. I start walking again but they follow me. I walk faster. They walk faster. I look at Ted and he looks back at me, doe-eyed. I run. "Wait!" Ted screams. He chases after me, leaving the rest of the crowd stunned. "What should we do next?" They ask themselves. Some leave. Some stay. Those that stay, I find out later, are led by a man who calls himself Michael Peartree. I think this plays some importance later on. I think.
    The rain falls harder and harder. I just keep running. I don't want to stop. I want to run until my lungs bleed. I want my muscles to burn like acid. I run to escape the world. I run to escape the world around me. My head is clear. My eyes are clear. I've wasted 25 years of my life feeding the obsessions that society deemed fit for me to have. I've worked in a dead end job for money that I spend on useless things. Everything I make is useless. I'm useless. 15 hours 54 minutes until we're all dust. I run until I cough up blood. I stop. I'm crying now, holding my head in my hands and sobbing between the rain drops. A bus stop bench is my only comfort. I'm out of the rain for now, but the tears keep coming. It's just now hitting me how obsolete everything I am doing is going to become in a few short hours. My infamy will be gone. My marriage will be voided by the coming storm. My love will be quenched by oblivion. I'm throwing pebbles at a tidal wave. In the end, everything will be pointless. I cry for my wasted life. I cry for the years that I will never have. I cry for my lost love and my lost hope. I cry because there will be no one at my funeral. I take out the napkin, crumple it up, and toss it away. It lands and rolls, coming to a stop by the leg of the bench.
    "What's this? Goal 1: Have sex. Goal 2: Get married. Goal 3: Have sex with aforementioned wife. Goal 4…" Ted says, sitting next to me with his hand outstretched. He hands the crumpled napkin back to me. "You know, you're pretty fast." He laughingly tells me. I don't feel like talking so I start to walk away. "I'm just gonna follow you, you know?" "Why?" I ask. "I don't know. Someone told me once, a long time ago, that if the world were ending they would take the day to make a connection with someone, a deep connection. I don't know. Maybe I was looking for a friend that would last me until I died. Unfortunately, you're the guy I chose. I didn't choose you because I thought you were a prophet. I never did. You seem to have a firm grasp on reality. In today's day and age, that is really something. Not many people even know what reality is. Everything's surreal. You, though, you have it in the palm of your hand. I wanted everyone to see that. I saw it when I met you. It's just one of those things, you know? Like, sometimes, you like someone and other times you hate them. When I met you, I liked you. I haven't had that feeling for a long time. The business I'm in. It's about lies. Misdirection. Reporters are the modern magicians. They're the modern con men. We tell people what they want to hear. They eat it up. Everything is fake. I'm fake. Everyone is fake. After awhile, the world becomes fake. But when I met you… you were real. The first real person that I'd met in a very long time. It just showed me how fake I'd become, you know? That's why I… uh… I broke down back there. I wanted everyone to see how fake they'd become. Maybe I thought by identifying you as a "sage" or a wise man… they would start to question themselves. I deified you to show them how low they had sunk. I wanted them to see. I just wanted them to see. I really didn't think you'd take it like this. So… I'm sorry." "You know. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have been able to get goal 4 done." I tell him. He replies, "Are you actually doing all those? Sheesh. You're a whack job." He laughs. I laugh. When I unfold the napkin I half expect the words to be gone, washed away by my hesitance. They're still there. "I wrote this when I was a senior in high school. "Things to do before I die". It sounds so trite now that the time's come. I'm on the verge of death and it all seems so pointless." "I know. But we keep living. The world goes on… for a few more hours. They live their lives. You live your life. That's all we can do until the end." Ted tells me. "You sound more like a sage than I do." I say to him, smiling a bit. "I've opened my eyes. There is a real world out there that I've been ignoring for a long time. Not anymore." The rain pours on, but we are safe beneath our plastic hut. We exist in a world where there is no rain.
    Goal 5: Get rich. I don't think fate is gonna send me another freebie like it did with the last goal. This one is going to be tough. Ted and I pass around ideas on how this goal can be accomplished. Pyramid scheme? Too slow. Invent something? Too much work. Create a business? Still too slow. Rob a bank? Too… well… I guess it could work.
    The first step in robbing a bank is to formulate a good plan. This includes scoping out the bank, checking on security, finding all possible escape routes. We really don't have time for that. We'll skip to step two. Get the equipment necessary to pull the job off. This means ski masks, gloves, guns, etc. We don't have time to get the guns. There is a wait limit of a few days now while they do the background checks and everything. We could get guns off the black market but that takes contacts that neither Ted nor I have. Instead, we go to the local department store and buy 2 black ski masks, 2 pair black gloves, 2 water pistols, and 2 Snickers bars. You'd be surprised how uncaring the cashiers at the local department stores really are. Both Ted and I look a little unstable, he with his growing stubble and devilish charm, me with my red eyes and disheveled clothing. We walk through the checkout line without so much as a second glance. "That was easier than I thought." He says. The day is looking a little brighter.
    The alarm sounds as soon as we raise our plastic guns. Confusion ensues. Now what you should probably do in the event of a botched bank robbery is run. So we do. We run. We keep running. We stop about 20 blocks away from the bank after the cops have lost our trail. It continues to rain. "Now what?" Ted asks through his mask. He throws the gun down into a nearby puddle and paces around, breathing heavily. "How are we ever gonna rob a bank. It's pointless. It's futile. There is no way in hell we are gonna be able to pull it off, man. We might as well rob a church." "You're a genius." I tell him. It's a simple scheme, really. It is as old as church itself. Collect the collection. We aren't as amateur as putting our hands in and pulling out a fistful of dollars as the plate goes by. No. First we buy two back packs and a bottle of glue from the local department store. Then, we go to the nearest church and swipe two collection plates. The next part is my own concoction. You get a few dollar bills, fives or tens even, and you glue them to the bottom of the collection plate. Change too. Quarters and dimes. When the glue is dry you stick the plates into the back packs and walk to another church. Now, you have to make sure the church that you are stealing from uses the same collection plates as the ones you stole. If they do, you're good to go. At the end of the collection line your partner creates a diversion on his half of the church. When the deacons look over there, you take the collection plate with all the money and replace it with your own fake collection. Repeat the process again and again. Doing this, we pulled in a cool 15 thousand from the bigger cathedrals in town. Granted, it isn't the best way to earn your money and it definitely isn't for someone with moral scruples. It works for us. And, while 15 thousand isn't rich, it is more money than I have ever had. I take out the napkin and check off Goal 5.
    We looked a little out of place among the cultists and religious zealots that infested the churches. Mainly we felt out of place with the cultists. "Brother, we meet again." I hear from out of the crowd. The voice sounds somewhat familiar. "Perhaps it is fate that guided you to me." He tells me, smiling wide and squinting. His bald head reflects the light from under the door. I've seen him before. He had more hair, though. And glasses. "It is I, Ira." He says. He also didn't talk as goofy. I say as goofy. The pudgy man comes closer and hugs me, lifting me off the ground and laughing. He makes it seem like we know eachother. There isn't anything more uncomfortable than not knowing someone that knows you. You feel bad. You feel like you've let that other person down, like they aren't important enough to remember. I don't really remember Ira at first. He remembers me, though. For a few minutes I am lost in his embrace, not knowing, who exactly it is that has me in a bear hug. It hits me. "Ira. Yeah. You look different. Shaved your head I see. What for?" "Well, after we met. I was a little confused." A little, I think to myself, the guy practically asked for me to slip him the sausage. Pardon my French. I think that is one of two times in my life that I have been really scared. The other was a plane flight through a thunderstorm. There is nothing more beautiful than watching lightning strike from 30,000 feet in the air. It seems so distant, so harmless. It's merely God's finger touching down on some alien planet. You, though, you are the wind tamer. You are the bird. The ground is distant. Nothing can rattle your Zen. Except flying through that thunderstorm. Lightning flashes. It lights up the clouds around you. Turbulence. The fasten seat belt sign clicks on. The plane drops 50 feet, suddenly. The plane starts bumping. Right as you think your time is up, the plane flies through the clouds. You're safe. Safe? You're never truly alive until you're about to die. How else can you really see life if you've never seen death. It's the law of the dichotomy. Without good there would be no evil. Without darkness there would be no light. The universe is looking for balance. Yin and yang. Male and female. All the pieces fit without any human intervention.
    "But in my confusion I found a ray of hope. The golden hand. The Magus, Michael Peartree, has shown me the path to righteousness. I follow the words of the prophet, now." It's true what they say about people. People take good ideas and form religions around them. These religions then set up a standard doctrine and ceremony that will last the religion for the remainder of its half-life. I am sick of antiquated notion. I am tired of dogma. Nowadays, you see churches collecting offerings to build a bigger church. It isn't about the message, it's about the messenger. The problem with religion is they take themselves too seriously. They become so consumed with their own fanfare that they lose sight of the fervor. It becomes more about dollars than doctrine. People take themselves too seriously, really. Everyone thinks life is some great big drama that they have to be a part of. Only a few people realize that life is a comedy. I'm not talking a cheesy romantic comedy, either. I'm talking Monty Python kind of comedy. "What prophet?" I ask. Playing dumb comes so easily when you're half way there. I'm reminded of an old saying that used to be shucked on me all the time.
    Coincidences are only small miracles.
    God speaks to us through coincidences.
    Coincidences are God's vomit. Something like that. You get the drift, right? It's really a bunch of hopeless losers trying to equate the mishaps in their life to some great predestined plan. You were supposed to get hit in the head with that brick. Your hand got chopped off? God's plan in action. Right about now I think to myself, 'bitter aren't we'? Yes. I'm bitter. I'm bitter that the world is ending. I'm bitter that I'll never get to get a tattoo or get my nipples pierced. Sure, it's a little weird, but I will never get to do it. I'm bitter I'll never get to see her again. Her? It. Whatever. It doesn't matter, really. I love her. If she were here I would tell her. Mainly, I'm just upset with myself for leaving before we could consummate the marriage. Damn. "The prophet. Haven't you been watching the news? I haven't, but I hear great things about this guy. I hear he can read people's minds and stuff. You know, freaky things like that. I even heard that he has the secret of immortality sewn into his underwear. That's just crazy, isn't it? I would really love to meet this guy." Ira says. "How long have you been a part of this cult?" I ask. It couldn't be more than an hour. "Oh, I just joined. I was walking to work… because I forgot something… when I saw this huge crowd of people, I'm talking a sea of people. And above them was this man giving a sermon on the evils of living your everyday life when the end is near. It just made sense. So I joined. And here we are now. Are you a member of the church?" "This isn't a church, Ira. It's been around for like 2 hours." "Hey, listen; I don't knock your religion, all right? Don't knock mine." He tells me, his face flustered.
    In a dying world procrastination is already dead. Everything is in fast forward. Everyone is trying to leave their mark before the end. In a matter of hours hundreds of doomsday cults spring up. Unlike the cults of the past, these cults actually have an accurate day for when the world will end. Go figure. But right now Ira continues to follow me as I walk away. His Buddhist looking robes sag under the weight of fresh water and they drag on the ground behind him. "So, where you guys headed?" "Away, Ira." I say. "Can I join you… I mean… if you don't mind, that is." Ira asks. His voice is kind of whiny again. He sounds like a lost puppy at the door to go out. I sigh. "Fine." Another person to follow me around. Great. Wonderful. Grand. This day is looking so much brighter. "Hey, aren't you…" Ira starts to ask. "Ted Chalmers. Nice to meet you." "Oh, ok. You aren't who I was thinking of… but thanks, anyways. Ira is my name."
    I am a study in futility. Call me subject A. If you watch closely subject A is trying desperately to claw his way out of the cage he has been put in. I am God's lab rat. I am an experiment in the pointlessness of living. Water logged. Soaking. I am the bubble bath prophet. I doubt I'll get any sleep before the end comes. I'll meet God with bags under my eyes. Oh well.

    15 hours remaining…

    It's stopped raining for a bit and everyone is back on the streets, hustling and bustling towards the end. I know I say that a lot, but you have to realize that the world is ending. How can you not think of it all the time? It's on the tip of everyone's tongue. It's a conversation piece. It's a pick up line. It's the boogey man for all the kids. I can almost imagine mothers everywhere saying, "Johnny, if you don't brush your teeth, eat your vegetables, drink your milk and go to bed on time the world is going to end that much quicker." I can imagine my parents telling me, anyway. My parents. I guess this is the part of the story where we sit down and have a nice chat about my family. Well, I was raised by Nancy and Earl. Earl was a Bible salesman, so he was never home. Nancy was a stay at home mom. Now, Earl started his job when I was about 13, so I had the bulk of puberty under the care and supervision of a woman who didn't really understand the changes I was going through. There I was, stuck in a house run by a woman. My dad called home, sure, but there was never a real relationship between the two of us. Whenever he did come home it only ended up being awkward. Neither of us knew how much the other had changed, you know? He was the voice on the telephone to me. He was the distant and vengeful God whose wrath I was weary of. I got in trouble all the time but can you blame me? I never had a male role model. The one I had was never there to discipline me and my mom wouldn't even try. Every time I got in trouble he would call home and try to reason with me saying, "Listen here, pal, you have to treat your mother with some respect. I know this is hard on us, but I have to do this. I want you to have the stability that I never had". Have you noticed that parents are always trying to rectify what their parents did to them by doing the opposite to their children, who are just as messed up as their parents? Then the cycle continues. Life is a cycle of disappointments. For you. For me. For everyone.
    We are a generation raised on television. We are a generation with radio waves in the blood stream. We equate ourselves with what we see on a glowing screen. Pop culture is about being skinny and looking great. There is no such thing as a real Pop hero. There aren't even Pop heroes. Only icons. Icons are things that are prayed to, images of divinity and chastity. Images of purity. We make the ones in front of a camera 60 feet tall. We make them invincible. We do this so we can feel better about ourselves. We deify them to make ourselves feel more human. When your idol shows his faults, you can feel better about your own. When he's caught naked with a sheep, you can at least say you are better than that. You can comment on the corruption in Hollywood while you sip your martinis or drink your beer. You can be honest to yourself about that. But that's it. No one wants honesty. Honesty is hurtful. I remember when I was a boy, raised on the "never tell a lie" doctrine, and I told someone that I didn't like them and I got in trouble. It was a stark lesson on reality. Honesty hurts people's feelings and we are a society of people too afraid to step on anyone's toes. We don't want to offend anyone. We don't want to speak our mind. Why? Because no one wants to hear what you have to think. In the end it all comes down to conformity. There are no black sheep when the herd is in darkness. So they tell you to sit down and shut up. To speak when spoken to. They tell you what is right, what is wrong, what is beautiful. They tell you everything. Big brother is watching.
    Goal 6: Find out the meaning of life. Hmmm. From get rich to the meaning of life. That's a smoothe transition, don't you think? I head to the nearest book store to gather information. Books are pretty helpful when it comes to finding out the meaning for things. People just don't take the time to read anymore. They read romance novels. You know the ones, the novels with the dramatized pictures on the front of a burly Adonis, shirt off, in front of a kneeling woman. It's garbage, though. Like soap operas. People don't read anything meaningful. Anyways, there we are, all of us soaking wet, camping out in a bookstore around the philosophy section. I have Ira and Ted looking for the meaning of life too. Ira complains. "I already know, man. The meaning is: live. That simple. Live. Come on guys, that's what the magus…" "Do you wanna go back to where we found you, Ira? Because that's where you're heading." I tell him. "Sorry. I was just telling you the answer you wanted. Sheesh." He says and keeps looking through the Self Help section, all the while making faces at me. "I don't know about this one. This 'goal' of yours seems like something you need to learn on your own. You aren't gonna find the meaning of life in a book or a story. You aren't going to find the secrets of the universe in words. You have to look inside, you know? You have to find it out for yourself." Ted says, sitting cross legged with about twenty books stacked up on his legs. "I know." I say. "Excuse me, sir. I'm going to have to ask you and your friends to refrain from reading the books here. We aren't a library. Did you see the sign out front? It said book store. Book store. Like a place where you shop. Do you catch my drift?" "Yeah. Sorry." I tell him. We leave. Eventually we end up back at my apartment. Ted watches T.V. Ira tries meditating on one foot. I'm not quite sure why. I am alone in my room.
    What is the meaning of life? "Live!" I hear Ira yell. "Shut up!" is my reply. Outside I see the lights of the city, see the headlights drive quickly through the streets. Everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. They're going to be with friends. Lovers. Brothers. They are going to be with someone before this whole thing goes "bang". I have a pad of empty paper in front of me, a pencil in my hand. This is harder than I thought.

    11 Hours remaining…

    The clock is ticking on and on. The second hand catches up with the minute hand and the minute hand chases after the hour hand in one never ending race. I'm lying on my back staring at the spinning blades of the fan. I've been this way for a few hours now, just thinking. Thinking about everything. My life. My goals. Everything that I haven't accomplished. You know, when I was in high school I had all these dreams of being famous. Unfortunately, things don't work out the way you plan. College creeps up, then jobs, then payments on bills. Before long the responsibility is so great that it over burdens your dreams. They give out and fall into oblivion. I don't even remember how I was going to get famous. I just remember thinking that I had to become famous. I thought it was one of my goals or something. "You are meant for greatness". That's what my parents used to tell me. In their eyes I had so much potential. If I wanted I could stop the world with a sigh. They didn't believe in me, though. They believed in their image of me. I was a totally different person. I wasn't their little boy. I wasn't their darling son. I was a man lost in the sea of my future, struggling for some life line that wasn't there. No matter how hard I fought I could never reach it. In the end, I just gave up and sank deeper into myself. I could never live up to my parent's version of me. It was the golden calf, the idol. I worshipped at the alter of my once and future self and drank deep the liquor of my own self hatred. Nothing was good enough. Nothing is good enough.

    9 hours remaining…

    "Hey, hey, come take a look at this." Ted says in the other room. I go and look. I watch as the city burns. Looters and rioters trash most of the department stores, torching the ones that have no useful merchandise. Police are powerless to stop them. "It's really pandemonium out there." Ted tells me. Thanks for the newsflash. "Yeah." I reply. The flames rise higher and higher, licking the sun drenched horizon. The fire spits smoke in every direction. "Why do you think they're doing it?" "I don't know. Maybe, since they know they're going to die, they all just want to kill themselves or get killed. Who knows? The mob mentality is usually a stupid one." I say. "Yeah. I hate when people just go along with things cause it's cool." Ira blurts out, crossing his arms and scoffing. Ted and I stare at him. "What?" He asks. "I want to get out of here." I say as I stretch. "Where we headed?" Ted asks. "God knows." I reply.
    We wander aimlessly around the city. The money we stole is safely in the apartment. Luckily the looting hasn't gotten that far so it's safe for the time being. I can't stop thinking about Jessica. Her eyes. Her hair. Her smell. Her taste. It all combines to form a sensory explosion that leaves me breathless. I wish I could find her. I wish I could kiss her and tell her the troubles I'm having. I'm sure she'd understand. I don't even understand but I know she will. You know what? I didn't use to believe in love. I didn't believe in the over hyped rituals and ceremony of courtship. Love used to be bull shit. I believe now. I've felt it. I feel trapped in a romantic comedy. The only difference is that at the end of this comedy the guy and the girl don't get back together. They don't meet each other by chance somewhere and reconcile. This is real life. It's a bitch.
    I'm standing in line at McDonald's, running the change in my pants pocket through my fingertips. "This just in: Michael Peartree, the leader of the Golden Hand cult has committed suicide with, around, a thousand of his faithful followers. More news on this cult suicide as it comes in." A television blares on the other side of the restaurant. I always knew they would turn it into a death cult. I order and sit down. "I think I have this meaning of life thing figured out." I tell them. "Awww. Ew. She put pickles on this. I hate pickles." Ted replies. "Did you guys just see the news? My entire religion just died." Ira says, sounding astounded. "I was thinking about it back at the apartment." I say. "I hate pickles. They're just… ugh… disgusting. All shriveled up and green and lumpy. They're like an old guy's dinghy after he just got done masturbating with a can of green paint." Ted tells me. "My whole religion… gone" is Ira's reply. "I think I got it." I say. "I'm gonna have to go get these taken off." Ted retorts as he stands up and takes his tray back up to the counter. "I can't believe I didn't see it was a doomsday cult. How could I have been so blind?" Ira asks me. "I don't know, Ira. I don't know." I reply.
    "I'm really just here to escape it all, you know? I just want to be away from the world." A familiar voice speaks into the microphone. She walks away from the camera as the new anchor picks up. "That is one of the members of what is being called 'the biggest going away party of all time'. Barbara?" "Jessica?" "No, man, her name is Barbara. She's pretty foxy, though. She looks like a Jessica, too. I wish I could drop anchor in that, if you know what I mean…" Ira said with a chuckle. "Where is that party?" I ask. "I don't know, man, it kind of looks like the park. Kind of. I don't know." Ira tells me. "Well, then. We're going to the park."
    I never imagined myself in this position. Never in a million years. Here I am, off to find the girl I love with a disheveled news anchor and what can only be considered a fat Buddhist reject. What an odd bunch we make. It's nice to know that I have friends who will be there with me till the end, though. That's comforting. At least I won't have to die alone. That has always been one of my biggest fears. Being alone forever. This is another thing that I'm going to blame society for. From childhood we're raised to believe that there is someone out there for everyone, and love is waiting for us. It just isn't like that, though. Love is hard to find. It blooms in the most unlikely places. Love is like a white rose growing on the highest mountain's peak in three feet of snow. Or a lotus blooming 200 feet beneath the Earth. You have to dig through a bunch of shit before you can even find a glimmer of love's true nature. If I had the time I'd court Jessica the right way, but I don't have the time. This is guerilla warfare. I have to get in, woo her, and get out. Hopefully with her. Sounds simple. What isn't simple, however, is finding her in the biggest party in history. There are thousands of people dancing around, bumping into each other, getting drunk. It is one last kegger before the curtain.
    "Jessica!?" I scream to no avail. A few girls with the name "Jessica" turn towards me. I point at Ira and tell them it was him who yelled. This goes on for 30 minutes. When I finally see her my heart stops. She is making out with another man. My heart shatters again. Love is stepping on the broken pieces of and twisting the boot but I make it over to the two of them

    My story. Feel free to use what you like