Over the years, I’ve interviewed a lot of people who wanted to discuss the end of the world with me, but Jeremy Smedley was a bird of a different color. He didn’t have a standard preferred pseudonym, for one. He was willing to speak with me on the phone without turning on any dodgy homemade anti-surveillance devices. Most significantly, I didn’t have to meet him in a church sub-basement, a hidden personal library, or anything one might describe as a bunker. Jeremy felt no need to conceal his galactic insights, instead offering to meet me on a charming grassy hill overlooking an otherwise charmless Midwestern town.
Jeremy really rolled out the red carpet for me, or at least that’s what I thought when I caught sight of his little campground on Kiyama Hill. He’d rented some next generation sound system that any pre-partying drunk could set up solo, hooked up to a series of redundant generators that also powered the strings of lights and flood lamps. Inside the illuminated perimeter was an impressive spread – salty snacks of every description, fruit and vegetable platters, a giant grill warming up for the burgers, sausage and kebabs, several coolers full of beer, bottles of mid-shelf whiskey and rum along with a cluster of two-liter soda bottles. The only thing he was missing was the buffet of narcotics.
“Quite a reception,” I said. “Usually I’m lucky if they only greet me with a punch to the face.”
“It’s not for you, Mr. Gainsborough…not solely anyway.” Jeremy didn’t stop moving for a second as he spoke, lost as he was in his frenzied preparation. “It’s for the party.”
“For when the world ends.” Jeremy laughed like it should have been obvious to me. “Why else would I invite you? Or…let me guess, you think this is strange?”
“I’ve seen worse excuses to get drunk. So, where’d you get the idea?”
“Well, I figured out about the end of the world about a year ago. You see down there?” Jeremy pointed to a big warehouse-looking building in the shadow of the hill. “That’s where they’re cooking up the end. Not on purpose, mind, but they are.”
It’s rarely worth asking how the person knows the end is coming, so I skipped to the juicy part. “So why not try to warn everyone?”
“Well, I’m not trying to stop it,” said Jeremy. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It’s like a dream come true”
“Most of my dreams are a little less cataclysmic.”
“Yeah, I know, because you’re trying to build something or hold onto something. But that’s not what life is about.” Jeremy got a little animated at this point, swaying to a galactic melody that I just couldn’t hear. “Life is about experience, y’know? It’s about novelty. It’s about seeing everything there is to see. Now tell me, did anyone see the birth of the world?”
“Depends on your religious affiliation, I guess.”
“The answer’s no one. So, what’s the next biggest event in the universe? The end of the world, right? Well, that’s what I wanna see. I’ll put it like this, so you’ll understand – you’re a big-time well-respected journalist, right?”
I didn’t have the nerve to break it to him. “Sure.”
“So, you got this great rep, right? How long do you think it lasts? Not forever, and not even just because it’ll all end eventually anyway. A lot sooner that, I guarantee. Right now, you are doing something that will be considered terribly offensive in fifty years. Maybe sooner!”
“So, in fifty years they’ll think you’re swine. In a hundred years, you’ll just be another fossil. In two hundred years, almost no one will know you! And halleluiah for that, because reputation is a distraction. It’s a distraction from what we’re here to do, which is dance at the edge of the apocalypse. Is there any better reason to party?”
Jeremy had a point (or at least I couldn’t think of a refutation) and so I spent the evening drinking with him. No one else showed up, which just meant no fighting over the rum. Needless to say, the world did not end. There was no gloriously epic light show in the heavens as we were torn apart on a molecular level. Jeremy was disappointed, but he figured he was only off by a year and invited me back for the next party, which he promised would be better attended.
Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it. Still, I hope that if the world has to blow up then at least I get a box seat. I’ll even sneak Jeremy in for free.
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