This was at a time when my writing voice was only just beginning to re-emerge, after many years of slumber, but the dream state experience was so powerful, I felt the need to bring the fear and confusion that it surfaced to resolution through my writing. I also was acquainted with many skeptics at the time in the engineering/scientific community, something you can see reflected in the story.
I attempted to publish the story around 2006 (and that is the version given here), but I was a novice short story writer, and it was rejected. In fact, I recently came across one of the rejection letters from "Asimov Science Fiction Magazine". Even so, I did receive encouraging feedback from at least one editor (not at Asimov) on what really was my first attempt as an adult at any sort of fiction.
I thought it was oddly coincidental that the 2012 movie included a relationship between co-workers in India and the U.S., even though quite different in nature. The relationship in my own story was actually based on my supervising an engineer in India around the time frame when I wrote it.
The First Day
Copyright © 2002-2012, Susan Larison Danz. All Rights Reserved.
On the last day, I awakened to what seemed like a normal sunny morning. But it wasn't a normal day at all. It was the last day. The last day. Although we had known this day would come, the reality of the moment was almost impossible to comprehend. In fact, I was astonished I had slept at all.
On the news last night I'd heard millions were planning to revel until dawn. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow...” and so it went. I wasn't much into reveling, being a more contemplative and reserved individual myself. In fact, I was relieved things hadn't gotten too far out of hand. I had earlier entertained notions that society would break down in the streets below right before my eyes. But it seems that in the end, the human race was turning out to be more dignified than anyone would have dreamed.
And then of course the news had said millions more would be spending the evening in church, and no doubt the churches would see even the most recalcitrant of souls today. As for me, I had no plans to be among them. Despite a solid Catholic upbringing, I had abandoned that path long ago. We would collectively discover “all that is” or “all that isn't” soon enough, no church required.
For some masochistic reason, I decided to turn on the news once again. I had always been addicted to the news, not really sure why. After the first major terrorist attacks in 2001, I must have watched the news for days. And the sporadic attacks over the years since hadn't helped my addiction any. But the ultimate reality of 2012 had finally stopped even the terrorists in their tracks. No doubt they were reveling in their own way today, delighted that their God was going to do their work for them. Even the governments they loathed had failed in all attempts to circumvent what had now become our inevitable fate.
As I turned on the television, my curiosity was met with “This is the emergency broadcast network. Please stay in your homes...” It didn't look like there would be much news on today, which was quite a disappointment to me.
I walked out on my balcony and gazed up at the sky, but everything looked perfectly normal. On the other side of the world, I would suspect the sight was quite something to behold. But I would see it again soon enough, for a final few hours. After that, nobody really knew what was going to happen. Theories had been popping up like wildflowers, many of them not really new, just repackaged for a curious populace.
Perhaps the most fascinating theory suggested we were all about to be burned alive as a super-heated atmosphere rapidly incinerated the planet. Proponents of that theory pointed to a layer of ash in the worldwide fossil record dating back to about the time the dinosaurs disappeared.
An oceanic event was no longer predicted, but mesmerized by the various movies over the years depicting such a scenario, I actually had a secret fascination regarding the prospect of getting a final glimpse at a monolithic tidal wave breaking over the city.
And then of course there was the prospect that perhaps I feared the most, the notion that this really wasn't the last day, but just the first of a slow, horrific demise, somewhat similar to a nuclear winter. As amazingly stoic as society had proven to be to date, I knew it wouldn't be able to preserve itself in that eventuality. And of course plenty of newly converted survivalists were hunkered down, prepared for exactly that possibility. As if prolonging the agony was really a fate to be desired.
I turned on my computer in hopes that I might actually be able to get on-line. It was hooked up to my satellite phone, so I figured I had a chance at a connection. Sure enough, it looked like I still had internet access. I tried jumping to my favorite news sites, but as usual in these final days, they were basically inaccessible due to the millions of others with the same idea. I tried to check email, but not surprisingly, the server was down.
Communication was indeed a challenge these days. Phones based on land lines or cell towers were virtually unusable as well due to the heavy traffic. And not too many people had satellite phones, which I was fortunate enough to have as part of my work. Besides logging in, there really was no one I needed to call today. An only child, I had lost my parents years ago. And as for relationships and friends, it seems I was mostly a loner these days, except for a few acquaintances at work.
My closest friend had chosen an easier path some weeks ago, a fate shared by many in the past year. But as for me, I was curious enough to stick around for the final show. Hopefully, I would not live to regret that decision. Of course, nobody was going to live to regret much of anything much longer.
My reverie was broken by the sudden alarm of the computer. A co-worker in India wanted to chat with me via our work conference link, although nobody was working today. This would no doubt be interesting...
Naresh: Chris, what's happening there?
Chris: Nothing interesting to report. So far, it's like a normal day, which I must say is amazing! You would think there would have been absolute chaos in the streets, something like that old “Star Trek” festival episode, but nothing like that has materialized yet.
Naresh: You should have seen the sky out here a couple of hours ago. It reminded me of that scene in “Close Encounters” where the drunk man talks about the sun coming out at night.
Naresh and I loved chatting about sci fi trivia. Of course, it wasn't a UFO Naresh had seen. I chuckled about all the wildly hopeful theories people had entertained in recent months. One group was intent on the hope of being rescued by intervening saviors from an alien parental race. That's one outcome I too would have found fascinating, but not so surprisingly, intervening spaceships had yet to appear. Alien beings may well exist, but like my favorite old “Star Trek” series, perhaps they had rules about intervening with the primitives, even in the most extreme of circumstances.
Yet another alarm sounded on the computer. An old friend and co-worker in England wanted to join our conversation.
Lauren: I'm on to something. I just know it. It's key, key. How do I begin to explain it.
Chris: I sure hope you're not going to start with that broken record regarding the Mayan predictions because you know how I feel about that. Yes, 2012 was the end of their calendar, that's old news now.
Lauren: Chris, I'm telling you. Did you even read any of that stuff I gave you on the Mayans? You have it all wrong. It's not supposed to be the end, but the beginning.
Naresh: It sounds like a bunch of superstition to me. And I can tell you, I've had my fill of that out here. It's bad enough on a good day in India. You can only imagine what it's like tonight.
Lauren: Please listen to me, guys. It's really, really important, and I promise you, this has nothing to do with superstition or religion. This is key, key, but I'm not sure how to get you in on it.
Chris: In on what?
Lauren: Did you ever read anything by Richard Bach? Maybe that would give you a clue.
Chris: You know I don't like that metaphysical nonsense, trying to masquerade as science fiction.
Naresh: Well, it may not be traditional science fiction, but I kind of liked “Illusions” myself.
Chris: I read it a long time ago, but I could never figure out what people saw in it.
Lauren: Would you please just listen. This is absolutely key. And so very simple. All you need to do is believe.
Chris: Believe what?
Lauren: Just believe it's going to be ok, no matter how far-fetched that may seem. That's all. It's the key.
Chris: Right, and that's really going to help? Just how the hell do you expect anyone to “believe”, on today of all days?
Lauren: I knew this was probably a waste of time. It's actually a lot easier convincing my religious friends who already believe in prayer. But prayer isn't the only answer, it's the belief itself that's key.
Naresh: I understand what you're getting at Lauren, but it just seems a bit too late. Too much fear is on the loose now, and that makes it tough for people to believe anything.
Lauren: Well, my hope is that it won't take a lot of people. For all I know, maybe it will just take one, one person with a belief strong and pure enough to exercise mind over
So much for chatting with the outside world. I knew I was being somewhat intolerant of Lauren, but I simply wasn't in the mood for such a wildly optimistic approach to life, especially today. We had known each other for years, but we had never been quite on the same page. I hadn't really read the article on the Mayans she had given me; I'd seen enough of that in the news. But since there was nothing else better to do, I decided to take another look at it.