Beyond This Place Behind The Stars
Once, not so long ago, the world came to an end. Millions of people ceased to exist all of a sudden, all with no time to prepare. This did not mean that they stopped moving or speaking or producing. It just meant that they ceased to exist all of a sudden. The world had come to and end. Nothing more, nothing less.
One morning, some years after the end of the world, a young woman patiently sat in a waiting room with fourteen other girls. These other women were all roughly the same as her. They were all the exactly the same age, they were all unwed, they were all relatively dim. These three primary factors had brought all fifteen of them together on that day, in that waiting room. They had come because, during the week prior, they had all had birthdays. This meant that they could be legally put to work. So, their names having been run through various machines that do nothing all day except compile lists of names, they received notice that they were to come that morning to that office to be given a job. So that's what they did.
Of course, there was always the possibility that she might be given something fantastic. She had heard stories about girls being given jobs that were fantastic. So she hoped, beyond all hope, that she would be given a fantastic job. It was not to be, of course, but one can always hope. During the hour or so that she spent waiting, she fantasized about being given a job so fantastic that it would make her burst with happiness. Perhaps she would become an events coordinator on a cruise ship or even a scenic director at a holiday resort. Who knew.
One morning, some years after the end of the world, a young woman patiently sat in a waiting room and hoped, beyond all hope, that she would be given a fantastic job. Instead, she was given a job painting pieces of coral. She also painted a plastic word that had been glued to the coral. It consisted of the following four letters:
It was to be her life's work.
The People's Republic of China is a very large place. It is easy to become lost there. Not so much because it covets such vast distances, but because there are so very many people vying for the solitude that such a vastness once offered. There are, at this very moment, approximately 1.2 billion people living in The People's Republic of China. It is one of the most populated countries in the world. There was a time when China was ruled by Emperors who were considered divine. After the world came to an end, the Chinese government spent a great many years telling their countrymen that the ways of their forefathers were wrong. Unfortunately, they did little to present anything concrete that showed them to be any better. But that is the way of the world. Everyone's got to learn everything the hard way for some reason.
There was a time when a fraction of those 1.2 billion people tried to do something to change the way their country does business. But it seems that it made for better television rather than being entirely realistic. So little has changed. Taiwan is next on the list. And thousands of incarcerated criminals still labor to produce cheaply made clothing and souvenirs for stupid North Americans. Oh how ironic, and so on.
Sometimes something is better than nothing. Sometimes having enough is better than expected. There are those that might consider painting clay dolphins glued to coral altogether unappealing, but if it's all you've got then it's something. And sometimes something is everything...
There are tiny little people living inside of your head. Right at this very moment, just as I write this, just as you read it. Some of those tiny little people are making you second guess everything that you take in, whatever it may be. Some of them make you confident, some of them are undecided as to what should be done. Most of them are far too busy making sure that you have enough inner power left to keep you going long enough for you to feel as though you've earned the right to stop. This is the practice of every human being, whether they like it or not. The trick of it must be to ignore most everything and just concentrate on what's immediate to your person. Maybe then everything wouldn't seem so unbelievably gigantic.
There is a peace to assembly lines. More so to those that do not move at an extreme pace. An assembly line that consists of a variety of different work stations is far more attractive than one that employs conveyor belts, ramps, and levers. Mostly because you get to sit down and work. Assembly lines with conveyor belts usually require workers to stand during assembly. Better to sit your life away. Better to have an impossibly uncomfortable chair than impossibly uncomfortable shoes.
The day the girl was shown her work station she had no comprehension of her good fortune. The only elements that she saw were the endless other work stations occupied by a seemingly never ending number of entirely miserable women. Not exactly the best visual influences, no matter ones ability to turn water into wine. Twenty six years later she would look up from her work and watch another young girl, not unlike herself at the time, look about the factory floor with the same quiet disgust. And, twenty six years later, she would crack the slightest of smiles. For by that time in her life she had come to realize that most things aren't about keeping up defiant appearances in an attempt to bomb shelter whatever's left of some youthfully over romanticized inner core. But rather ones ability to convince ones self that life is nothing but a series of impractical maneuvers ending in a standoff with either a disappointing God or a disappointing Devil.
You see, you must realize that before the world came to an end the planet was populated by people that refused to acknowledge their defeats as anything but failures. They had spent evolution winding themselves up over the matter, convinced that forwards was far more interesting than any other direction. Up had nothing to do with it, mind you. Just forwards was involved. Many of these people, unknowingly mired in the hilarity of an altogether make-believe state of emancipation, had come to view their liberties as nothing more than 'things that people are entitled to just because'. That's not to say that everyone was blind to the dangers of the 'Forwards Plan'. For decades prior to the end of the world, a handful of Gas Jockeys, Orange Julius girls, and dishwashers had begun to realize that all was not well with the presumption that forwards was the way to go. And why? Because most of those people spent their lives standing in one place, wishing only that the smell of bullshit would eventually wash out of their clothes. Everybody else kept pushing forwards though. And then, all of a sudden, the world came to an end. It was as simple as that really.
I say this only to make point, you understand. For you see, despite that fact that the girl ended up painting clay dolphins and coral for the majority of her existence, she was granted something in the way of compensation for her complacency. She was given a son. And that might not seem like much to you, but that's only because you're waiting for the lights to change.
The world is spherical. An incomprehensible number of years ago something rather odd occurred. Something quite large and altogether volatile decided to explode. This sent a great manor of things every which way, some of it good and some of it not so good. Things flew, things cooled, things boiled, things adhered to the cosmic rules of magnetic repulsion and attraction. All in all it produced some rather interesting side effects. The most important of them being, of course, The Tilt-A-Whirl and The Garden WeaselÔ.
There are those that contend that the world was created by an all powerful force, perhaps even a supreme being. There are those that contend that the world was created by a galactic event of unimaginable magnitude. There are those that contend that Elvis Presley is still alive and, if not, was actually a talent beyond compare. It's a crap shoot really.
1] The universe is expanding. Throw some deceleration in there and you've got yourself one hell of a deity killer.
2] Did ancient peoples really begin building a massive tower in an attempt to reach God only to be made to speak different languages so that miscommunication would halt construction?
3] Why did Pink Floyd perform at the pyramids on the eve of the millennium?
People are stupid. I did not come up with that on my own. I had help. The world, entirely in love with itself, has come to condemn all things opposed to the fundamental aspects of 'safe intelligence'. Some might say that we are intelligent simply because we can communicate with a variety of complicated sounds and can recognize the indoctrinated difference between the moral and the immoral. Drop anything on its head long enough and you'll probably get the gist of what its trying to say. Twist my arm and it'll pop off come Sunday. Timing is everything. It could have been Wednesday.
Men are pigs. It is universally acknowledged that all men are just looking for one thing: sex.
I couldn't agree more.
Females, considered by experts to be far more mature than men, have been cheated out of millennia of consequence free clam baking. The end of the world aside, to all things a backlash. Take feminism. In the years leading up to the end of the world a great many women were prancing around in revealing tops and tight little skirts. Most of them believed that such attire should not diminish the respect that they should receive as women. That's the problem with having your cake and eating it too, I suppose. I would love nothing more that to walk around wearing a shirt with a giant arrow pointing downwards, but I have this strange feeling that most people would take it as some kind of sexual suggestion rather than an attempt to infer ones final destination. The ability of the standard human being to realize that most things aren't literal is next to none. So why, in the face of such knowledge, do people play such ridiculous games? Nothing better to do, I suppose. At least women know what men want. Mostly they want sex. Sex and relative silence. It's not their fault that women have skipped several steps in the evolutionary ladder, now is it? Were it so simple for women then I highly doubt that men would have ever been given the chance to take control of this planet. Instead, women would balk at the notion of using sex as a control mechanism. They would simply use the other thing that they seem to have in abundance. An entirely unique and irrational adaptation of common sense. This, of course, would divert the connection between sex and singular devotion towards the unexplored regions of sex as a sport, leaving men either a) too tired to cause trouble or b) too hungry to.
That resolved, we are left with sex's primary function in nature: procreation. The most powerful weapon of all. Despite what you might think, there is no greater force on the planet than the deliberate multiplication of a people. History is filled with examples of sexually minded warfare, as it would be altogether boring if nations of conquest were to have gone to the trouble of defeating their enemies only to turn around and go home. Back in the good old days soldiers were often promised rape and pillage as reward. This was done for a number of reasons, two of them being: a) To ensure that your men were contented and realized that you, their leader, wanted them to be so - b) To impregnate local women, forcing them to give birth to illegitimate children that would, if all went to plan, ultimately lead to the complete disappearance of the afore mentioned conquered peoples, leaving a unified realm for the conquerors heirs. It all rarely worked out, of course, but on occasion it did leave lasting impressions. The problem with such an undertaking is time. To see something such as the deliberate 'breeding out' of a people come to fruition one must ensure that the people in question remain conquered long enough to be 'bred out'. It is far easier to wipe out a people than breed them out. It's just no where near as fun is all.
If you stop to consider the implications of time (and the ability of mankind to spread like anthrax through a dairy field) you'll come to realize that nature has always had time in abundance. Nature has mastered time, as it has existed long enough to have become intimate with the forms and functions of necessity as they apply to perpetual endlessness. Thus, it is only a matter of time until nature itself uses this weapon against her inhabitants. The world will one day become too small to offer separation and, as the globe shrinks, the inevitable union of all peoples will occur. One day, in a future that neither you or I can possibly imagine, the world will be filled with a single people. And knowing full well that you can change the clothes but not the man, we will have no choice but to look to the stars in hopes of finding someone else's ass to kick. If anything, predictable we will always be.
If nothing else, at least we were given the ability to live forever. For that is what you do through your children. You attain immortality. That's not to say that things always work out as planned. Just that they work.
The years sped like clouds in wrathful passing. Last year she was 25, this year she's 42. Somewhere along the way she encountered a man. And then, some years later, they had a child. And then, some years after that, the man left. It is not unlike men to leave. It is entirely unlike women to let slip the guard of their true selves. And, for their children, they perish slow deaths so that their young might rally in their stead and get a little back for their sake. Some men, the good ones, know the difference between aiding in this principle and foolishly battling against it. But it is not unlike men to leave.
Time had stood still. It had been unkind, true, but it had stood still besides. In the mornings she would often find herself staring at the seat of her chair, contemplating the fact that it was there that she had spent the majority of her life and it showed no signs of it whatsoever. It was cold and hard. It reflected the loss of herself. Everything here is as far away from the carefree days of a cruise ship events coordinator as is possible. Here you paint coral and the word MAUI in prison succession. Somewhere else, presumably in MAUI, tourists purchase the coral and send it to the people back home that they care little for. It's choral after all. One life, in one chair.
She named her son Jack. She had always liked that name. She did not know that it was actually John. She did not know a great many things. Lucky her.
When Jack was born, his father, who had also worked at the factory, accidentally dropped him. The boy tumbled from his grasping hands to the floor and sustained massive head injuries. From that day on Jack became what professionals like to call 'special'. Jack's father left, lest he kill the boy by accident in the future, or so the story went. Jack never did learn to speak like normal people. He never did learn to swear or talk about girls with his mates. He had no mates. He was special. Special people only have friends on specific days of the week, depending on the state of health care. One life, no chair, and friends with union benefits.
The day that it happened she was doing what she always did. She was sitting painting coral. Water based paints were applied to the choral and then quickly brushed over to allow the natural white to highlight the ridges. Then she painted the letters blue and put the finished product in a box. The box was then collected and taken to another table. And someone at that table glued a plastic dolphin on to it. And that's how it had been going on for almost thirty years. The day that it happened was no different.
That morning Jack hadn't eaten. Some days he ate, some days not. It depended on his mood really. The friends of special people rarely tried to push the matter. If he didn't want to eat then they didn't bother trying to make him. They just went back to playing cards and let him sit in his wheelchair, staring out the window. On that particular afternoon Jack's eyes closed and never opened again. His mother, to whom jack was everything, was most likely painting coral when her son slipped quietly away. Perhaps Jack had no comprehension concerning the ramifications of mortality and his part in it. Then again, he could have been doing quantum physics up there. Who is anyone to presume otherwise?
Pat, who was perhaps the greatest person I have ever known, once told me that special people were not special at all. That they were, by her reckoning, cognizant disciples of humanity come to test the waning compassion of man. I used to simply wish that they had a better assignment.
Jack was not discovered by the friends of special people. They thought he was sleeping. No, his mother walked into the room, ran her fingers through his hair, and realized that he was cold. And she was left there, alone to rediscover the horrible truth. It is not unlike men to leave.
What now? Where do you go from the end of the line? Sometimes, in rare instances, someone will pop cork and depressurize enough to bolt and make a run for it. But it's rare. After time spent encouraging ones self to ignore everything in hopes of simply surviving, it's difficult to launch future probes into the unknown. You have been cheated, most likely. There is nothing to be done, I'm afraid. Just sit by the sea and think of things as they could have been. And you within them.
Retirement offers little reward. After everything is said and done you get to go gallivanting across the globe packed like lemmings into tour buses, cruise ships, and charter airline seats. There is no consolation in it. Just the resigned conclusion that you'll take what you can get and shut up about it. You've done your bit and maybe the kids will learn from your mistakes and do better. Who's to say. There should have been more to it than all of this. For the sake of ourselves if nothing else.
One day, not so long ago, the world came to an end. A woman, her years a lie to the truth of her true age, stands on a beach, her feet brushed by the advancing and retreating water. In her hand she holds a piece of coral emblazoned with a word and a little dolphin. She is standing on that word. She is looking out to sea, talking to her son.