Imagine you’re living in a world without people.
The how and why aren’t important. Choose your apocalypse if it helps fuel your imagination – zombies, deadly virus, alien mass abduction, Biblical event, dimensional rift in space/time – whatever floats your boat.
You’re alone in a silent city.
All those background noises you’ve taken for granted are gone. No more rattle and hum of engines chugging along the streets, no music, chatter of voices or mobile phones. And don’t forget the absence of other sensory input like traffic fumes or endless guffs of fast food fighting for your attention.
There’s just you and the silence.
How does it make you feel? Merely uneasy? Terrified? Elated? Perhaps you’re the type who never connected with the rest of society and won’t miss it much. Maybe you’re already breathing a sigh of relief. On the other hand would that booming dead air push you to board the train to Insaneville?
Let’s paint some more of this picture, dear blog reader, then come back to the questions, yes?
It’s not just the people who are gone.
As you explore this hushed world you notice something else is missing. There are no birds flitting between buildings or roosting on ledges. There are no dogs running free, no cats slinking between the shadows or lazing in the sun and no rats digging through garbage that will never be collected. A busy pet store window you’ve walked past countless times is devoid of life. There are no hamsters scampering in cages, no canaries pecking at tiny mirrors and water bowls have no puppies lapping from them.
In the local grocery store you find baskets and trolleys at the check-outs, food waiting to be scanned and paid for. TV sets in store windows buzz with static, though a few continue broadcasting. Some TV channels schedule broadcasts weeks in advance and will continue until they reach the last one and require a human to queue up more shows. You watch a news channel but where the anchor once sat there’s now a lonely desk.
It might take you a long time to come to terms with never seeing another human being, maybe never if the lure of catching that train becomes irresistible, yet the thought of living in a world without a single life form could seem unbearable. And as you ponder the implications of living in a lifeless world, you find the courage to search for someone who is thinking the exact same thing.
Surely you can’t be the only one left?
After all, if you’re still here then sure as shit someone else has to be too, right? That prompts you to use the internet and scan the radio waves for a human voice. You’ve already scoured the streets of your neighbourhood and found no one. You try contacting your family and friends – leaving voice mail, sending texts and Tweets. The lack of replies echoes the cold, hard and noiseless world around you.
When the lights go out…
It’s easy to forget important and invisible things like power and water until they’re gone. As if finding yourself alone isn’t bad enough that isolated feeling intensifies when the lights go out. The awful thing is that moments before being plunged into darkness someone replied to your online plea.
You wonder if the loss of power is a circuit breaker being flipped. You try the fuse box. Nothing wrong there. Logic tells you to check outside. The street lights are off. Your neighbours have lights on timers but all the houses are dark too. You find some candles and a torch but the localised light shows how isolated you are.
Surely the power wouldn’t go off so quick? Power stations don’t simply shut down after a few hours do they? It’s possible, given the variety of power stations like coal that need to be constantly fed in order to keep the electricity buzzing down the lines. Maybe they power will come back on at some point.
Must be a glitch.
Has to be because…
Can’t think about that right now.
Someone somewhere will sort it out.
There are two paths before you.
As you creep through your home you remember the reply. You’d read and re-read it dozens of times. You become frantic when you can’t remember the words on the screen. Where did the other person say to meet? What city was it? And something else…something about other people, but what? You scribble down everything you can remember on a scrap of paper, worrying that you’ve got it wrong.
How far away were they? How many of them are there? Why them? Where are all the other people? What makes you and them so different to everyone else who vanished? Can you trust their reply of help? Do you have a choice?
#1 – Train to Insaneville
It’s an inviting way to go to be sure.
Choose your method of madness and step onto the train. Insaneville is an action packed place of fun and laughter with as many friends as your crazy mind can imagine. Run naked through the streets, argue with street signs, howl at the moon, pretend you’re a fish/rabbit/centaur/space man/girl/boy/robot/vegetable/mythological creature or God – and enjoy the rest of your life at “Insaneville – where Kooky is the new normal!”
#2 – The Scary Path of survival
A dangerous and scary path. Obstacles you’ve never faced or even dreamed of stand in your way. It’s going to be a lonely journey for a while, but with courage and hope you may find answers and companionship. It’s a question of survival. Do you have what it takes to keep going through the scary times ahead? Can you block out the sense of loneliness that beckons you to board that train?
Life without luxuries.
Almost everything you take for granted is gone. You’ll need to learn how to go without. As you begin thinking what it will take to survive you realise how much of modern life you’ve taken for granted.
How will you clean your clothes now the washing machine no longer has power?
Water came from the tap and bottle. What will you do when the taps run dry and you can’t find bottled water?
The cooker and microwave are big paper-weights now, how will you cook your food? What you will cook when all the shops are empty or the food has gone bad?
How do you make light? Think about it, when all the AA’s are gone and you can’t find candles or make wax, how do you battle the darkness? Sure, there’s solar and wind power but everything man-made needs maintenance. What happens when you can’t make repairs?
For the foreseeable future items like clothes will be easy to find since it’s just you, that you know of.
And then there are infections, illnesses, broken bones, coughs and colds. What happens when you can’t find medication or antibiotics?
For the modern human in a dead world it sure is a scary place to live.
Jesus Dave, you’re keeping it light-hearted aren’t you?
You noticed the not so subtle dark undertone to this post, dear blog reader? There’s a reason why I’ve painted such a bleak picture, though one persons bleak is another persons happy-fun-time-adventure.
I recently read Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones on my kindle, where the author tells a tale of a world without life. It follows a New York journalist struggling to come to terms with the sudden loss of all life around her, get out of the city and travel north to the only survivors she had contacted on the internet before the power failed.
The story had some faults – too much detail where it wasn’t needed, and not enough where it was (not to mention the issue I had with the bike) but the premise had me thinking for days after I finished the last page. It wasn’t the usual zombie apocalypse or end of the world doom and gloom scenario I love. There was very little dialogue and the story was held together by the main character, her thoughts and reactions to the sudden change of the world.
A few days after I’d finished the book I was in the kitchen making some toast. I’d just put some clothes in the washing machine and was sending a text, looking for butter in the fridge, listening to the TV in the living room and wondering when I was going to write a long overdue post on my blog.
At the back of my mind I knew I had to get fill the tank on my car before the garage shut so I didn’t have to rush in the morning on the way to work. And that got me thinking about work – emails to send, reports to write and print out, training schedules to sort out, and so on.
I don’t know what triggered my train of thought to hark back to Extinction Point.
I stopped and looked around me.
I was surrounded by modern luxuries that I took for granted.
The more I thought about it the weirder it felt to have the toaster on, the fridge keeping food chilled, the washing machine chugging away, the TV blaring out and my thoughts about emails.
And for a moment I felt oddly disconnected from it all. It didn’t feel right somehow, as if I was an infant incapable of looking after myself without mechanical slaves to do my bidding. As my toast burnt to a cinder I thought about big worrying issues like peak oil and the end of fossil fuels and what impact that could have on our world.
I realised we’d be screwed without our modern conveniences.
Another book I’ve recently read is Last Light by Alex Scarrow. The author paints a scary picture of how quickly the UK, and the rest of the world, would hop back to the Stone Age if the oil stopped flowing. Turns out he researched how fast things would get ugly given how reliant we are on basics like food, water and oil.
The UK would be in deep shit in less that a week.
And that reminds me of a documentary I watched called Collapse where Michael Ruppert talks about the end of our natural resources. Some might say he’s bat-crap crazy and convinced the world is riddled with conspiracies and doomed to disaster. Whatever your views, now or after you watch the documentary (if you do) the fact remains that he explains the logistics of how the human race consume natural resources in a way that seems hard to argue with.
Some of his arguments make sense but not all. Go see for yourself.
I haven’t embedded the video but you can find it on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPL2CReZaHI – if the link doesn’t work just search for Collapse – The End of the Age of Oil. I thoroughly recommend you watch it. Not so it can scare you, but so you’ll be that little more informed on how there’s a finite amount of resources in the world and maybe you’ll appreciate what you have while you still have it.
There’s a positive right? Please say you’re going to end on a positive.
Hell yeah there’s a positive. Personally I don’t have the ability or the funds to go and live in an eco-home somewhere isolated where I can live in harmony with the planet. Like you I’m a slave to the modern world, like it or not. But that won’t stop me from thinking more about my impact on the planet.
If the world runs out of oil and the modern world goes down the crapper, will I be scared? Sure. No doubt. I won’t be the only one who’ll be forced to do things they never thought of doing, horrible scary things that will test the very core of your moral compass.
Okay, I admit that’s not positive but think of what might come after a collapse.
For a while it would of course be more than freaky not to be able to use your mobile phone, check your email, get video on demand or zap cheap tasteless junk in your microwave. I believe a better way of life would follow the end of the modern world. Humans managed perfectly well for thousands of years without electricity and oil and every convenience they bring.
Imagine spending more quality time with family and friends. Cleaner air, fresh wholesome food instead of mass-produced garbage from the supermarket. Think about how fulfilling it would be to tuck into your evening meal knowing you’d worked hard for it.
I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era and I’d be much happier back in the days before electricity, steam, oil, internet and endless days of staring at one screen or another.
Humans aren’t designed for our modern world. To some extent they’ve adapted to it, just not very well in my opinion.
So whilst I wouldn’t want to see the pain and chaos caused by the end of the society we live in, I often yearn for a simpler, better, cleaner, more wholesome way of life. One that isn’t enslaved by gadgets and gizmo’s. One where we’re not hooked on HD, Bluetooth, Bluray, 3D, 4G, WiFi, oil, internet, electricity, 24/7 everything, everywhere, right now, gimme, gimme, gimme!
Sadly I do like some of those things but I still want things to slow down.
And finally for my positive thought which I hope doesn’t come across as preachy or patronising. In my heart I truly believe in these things. Maybe you’ve heard the saying: “you’ve got an old soul.” I think that suits me because I look for these things every day and when I find them I’m happy.
My positive mantra.
Enjoy the little things,
Enjoy the simple pleasures in life,
Take nothing for granted,
Spend less time Facebooking and more time facing people,
Make eye contact and smile,
Use a pen to write a letter instead of an email,
Talk to people instead of Tweeting or texting them,
Embrace and experience the seasons, hot or cold, wet or dry,
Be sincere, angry, sad, happy, morose, cheery – emotions are good,
Think, feel, love, laugh, dance, sing and shout,
Be anything and everything you can,
Because if you can’t you’re no better than our modern soulless conveniences.
Because if you don’t you’re taking your life for granted.
Because if you won’t you’re wasting the gift of life.