Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is there anybody out there?

Is it weird that I sometimes dwell on the possibility of life after humanity? When I'm feeling particularly morbid, I imagine myself living alone in a post-apocalyptic world, kind of like that guy in The Twilight Zone episode who wants to have enough time to himself to read all the books he can possibly get his hands on. Then in a cruel twist of fate, he breaks his glasses after finding himself alone in a devastated post-nuclear-attack world. He is stranded without a companion and without the ability to read the books he so covets.

Today when I was having my dinner, I started thinking about how all the food I have in my room (and in the refrigerator that I share with my flatmates) is perishable. How if by some freak occurrence I became the last person on Earth, not only would I have to hope I don't break my glasses and my vision prescription doesn't get worse, keeping me from being entertained by books and old DVDs, but I'd have to pray I could consistently find food that was not destroyed or spoiled.

I'm probably the only person I know who occupies her time with such strange thoughts. It seems almost a waste to think about things like this unless you plan to become a science fiction or fantasy novelist. If the entire population of the world were to cease to exist, I most certainly would not be the last person alive to tell the tale. So there's nothing to worry about, really.

Yet I still see specks of neuroses in my past and my present indicative of the disturbed yet persistent belief that I need to prepare should something like that happen.

When I was little I had this little bomb shelter under the desk in my room. I put several of my favorite books underneath the desk, along with my diary and a few stuffed animals. Just above my desk was a little locked box with about 15 dollars in cash stashed inside it. That could certainly keep me alive for a few days at least after an apocalyptic attack. I was sure of it.

In the early days of my bunker, I used to spend time sitting under it, preparing for when it would stand as my one survival tactic in the event of some great disaster. It was ridiculous - just like putting up a wall of pillows and labeling it a fort, necessary for protection against ghosts and monsters. But the comfort it provided made it a quirk worth having.

Why was I dwelling on something so terrible when I was so young and innocent, though? To be honest, the only thing I can think to trace it back to is the plethora of scary films I saw as a child. All of these things begin to prepare you for the worst, giving you expectations that may never match your actual experience, but always have you ready for the worst kind of reality.

One of the more sinister (and hilarious, in retrospect) parts of my bunker was a little container I had filled with rocks and twigs. I stored it alongside my books in the bunker. It stayed there for a long time and gathered dust along with the rest of my supplies.

Sometimes I'd take the container of rocks and twigs with me if I was going to be running around the neighborhood with my friends. It felt stupid having a big pile of stones in my backpack, but at least I was prepared for any forthcoming stonings or zombie attacks. Perfectly reasonable explanations if you asked the younger me (even though the actual usage might have been against the boys in the neighborhood should they try to sneak into our little neighborhood clubhouse/hideaway).

Over time the bunker became less and less often used. When I took over my sister's bedroom after she moved out, it became entirely obsolete. I'm not even sure what happened to all the supplies contained in it. They probably required a good dusting. Or maybe my dad threw them out.

Regardless, though the accoutrements of my under-desk safehouse were disposed of, my fear of the unknown never was. To this day I still think about what life would be like all on my own. Occasionally I have to remind myself that it is just a thought and not actual reality. Looking outside my window or even just getting on the internet are little pieces of proof that the world is still a world. I can read all the books I want even if I do break my glasses. There's always an optometrist somewhere, working in his office.

Maybe this has become a topic of extra concern to me what with the December 21st blasphemous hypotheses. Even though I don't believe it, just as in that fateful day in seventh grade when I heard that an asteroid was headed towards Earth and there was some miniscule chance that it might hit us and cause a natural disaster over night, I like to brace myself for the worst.

That night when I was 12 I went to bed crying even if I knew I had no reason to. And maybe now I'm just being reminded once again why it's so great to be alive and not be aware of any true end of the world, any real possibility of post-apocalyptic chaos. Because we can make up all that we want to about the world ending, but the truth is we have no idea. Any divine predictions to the contrary are not true. But it can be fun to think they are despite logic.

Yet now more than ever I just want to stop pretending I'm in a horror film. Because it would be pretty hard for me to hide everything I want to keep under my bunker now. Especially because those things have nothing to do with books or journals anymore. They're people. And memories. And intangible things that I simply can't store under a desk.

So I don't think there's much of a moral to this story. Only that as we grow, our priorities may change. And while physical objects may seem very important (and admittedly they continue to be that way for me), there's nothing saying your glasses will hold out in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. So enjoy them while you can, and be happy for the things in your life that don't require you to own something. Like comfort, friendship, happiness, safety. And love.

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