A Pre-Apocalyptic World

Normally I wouldn’t respond to a Daily Prompt like this, because it’s not very jolly, is it?

Eat, Drink and Be Merry…

…for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell us about your last dinner – the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation.

However, I have just finished reading We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, a novel in which scientists discover an asteroid has a 66.6% chance of colliding with the earth in two months’ time. So you start to think about it.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, Simon and Schuster, 2015

I’m not sure why I haven’t heard of this book already. I raced through it, even if it difficult to pinpoint why I enjoyed it so much: it’s about the end of the world, after all.

The story follows four very different teenagers about to finish high school, all facing the typical pressure to make decisions about the future. Peter is good-looking, popular, the star of the basketball team, and is going to college on a scholarship – a total cliché. Andy is the opposite: a slacker with a toxic best friend who doesn’t know what he’s going to do. Serious, straight-A student Anita will be off to Princeton, if her father has any say in it (he does). Eliza, an outsider, is looking forward to escaping to a college on the other side of the US.

With a possible apocalypse a matter of weeks away, suddenly they realise how fragile those futures were. When everything’s going to come crashing down – or an asteroid is – do any of these things by which we define ourselves matter? Is anybody really that different from anyone else? Would we unite against this common ‘enemy’, or would it tear everyone apart? Would we do all the things we’d been scared of, or would we carry on as we were? Would we start really living (whatever that means)?

It turned out they’d been right here all along, standing in the darkness, appealing to the stars for some sign of what was to come, and never getting anything back but the shifting constellations of a swiftly spinning, precariously tilted planet.

– Tommy Wallach, We All Looked Up

I won’t give away much about the plot or the ending, because for me these questions were more than enough reason to read it! I just thought it was engaging, sad, sweet, thought-provoking and smart: I learnt about Pyrrhic victories, where someone technically wins but loses so much in the process that it feels like defeat; and the word ‘karass’, invented by Kurt Vonnegut, which is a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner. There are a couple of hints for you.

In this situation, I think we imagine that we would go out and do the things we had secretly wanted to: jump out of planes (if pilots were still working and there was any fuel left) or get tattoos (because your skin’s never going to get wrinkly now) or go after that guy/girl (because their rejection isn’t the end of the world, but that’s coming anyway).

Really, though, we would probably want to spend as much time as we could with our loved ones, and that means doing a lot of normal stuff we take for granted, like having dinner together. I would eat carbonara and turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and chocolate and cheesecake, because the world is ending, dammit! My friends and I would chat about all the fun and stupid things we’ve done, embarrassing each other. My sister and I would probably spend most of the time conversing in Friends quotes, as we do. Charlie, our dog, would be staring at all the food. Dad would give him leftovers and mum would probably still want to wash the dishes. In fact, it doesn’t sound that different from dinner with friends and family at the best of times! Just (marginally) more food than usual…

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