What Will the End of the World Be Like?

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armageddon

Either we’ll figure that question out today or (more likely), things will proceed as usual. Yawn. In case you feel like goofing off at work today — and who wouldn’t, with the End Times so nigh!? — we’ve assembled some of our favorite apocalypses for your reading pleasure:

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov

“*First Sun: This era begins in the year 1-Reed and ends in 4-Tiger. The inhabitants were eaten by ocelots and were turned into fish. It lasted 676 years.

** Second Sun: This era ends in the year 4-Wind. The inhabits were destroyed by strong winds and were converted into birds. It lasted 364 years.

*** Third Sun: This era ends in the year 4-Rain of Fire. There are floods and fiery rains. The inhabitants die from burns and are turned into monkeys.

**** Fifth Sun: In this era there is cosmic balance, thanks to the fact that not a single force predominates. This era or Sun could be destroyed by earthquakes, hence its name 4-Movement (Nahui-Ollin), which is also the year in which it will end, but we do not know how long it will last, because we are still living in it today.”
Leyenda de los Soles (Aztec creation myth, adapted from Mayan antecedents)

Apocalypse fresco in Macedonian monastery
Apocalypse fresco in Macedonian monastery

The night the world was going to end
when we heard those explosions not far away
and the loudspeakers telling us
about the vast fires on the backwater
consuming undisclosed remnants
and warning us over and over
to stay indoors and make no signals
you stood at the open window
the light of one candle back in the room
we put on high boots to be ready
for wherever we might have to go
and we got out the oysters and sat
at the small table feeding them
to each other first with the fork
then from our mouths to each other
until there were none and we stood up
and started to dance without music
slowly we danced around and around
in circles and after a while we hummed
when the world was about to end
all those years all those nights ago

“In Time,” W.S. Merwin

Last-judgment-mohammad-modabber

“So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth’s fate, watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away. At last, more than thirty million years hence, the huge red-hot dome of the sun had come to obscure nearly a tenth part of the darkling heavens. Then I stopped once more, for the crawling multitude of crabs had disappeared, and the red beach, save for its livid green liverworts and lichens, seemed lifeless. And now it was flecked with white. A bitter cold assailed me. Rare white flakes ever and again came eddying down. To the north-eastward, the glare of snow lay under the starlight of the sable sky and I could see an undulating crest of hillocks pinkish white. There were fringes of ice along the sea margin, with drifting masses further out; but the main expanse of that salt ocean, all bloody under the eternal sunset, was still unfrozen.”

―H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine”

The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Durer
The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Durer

There came a rain of resin from the sky.
There came the one named Gouger of Faces: he gouged out their eyeballs.
There came Sudden Bloodletter: he snapped off their heads.
There came Crunching Jaguar: he ate their flesh.
There came Tearing Jaguar: he tore them open.
The were pounded down to the bones and tendons, smashed and pulverized
even to the bones. Their faces were smashed because they were incompetent
before their mother and their father., the Heart of Sky, named Hurricane. The
earth was blackened because of this: the black rainstorm began, rain all day,
and rain all night. Into their houses came the animals, small and big. Their faces
were crushed by things of wood and stone. Everything spoke: their waters jars,
their tortilla griddles, their plates, their cooking pots, their dogs, their grinding
stone, each and everything crushed their faces. Their dogs and turkeys told
them:
“You caused us pain, you ate us, but now it is you whom we shall eat.:” And
this said the grinding stone” “We were undone because of you
Every day, every day,
in the dark, in the dawn, forever, because of you.

This was the service we gave you at first, when you were still people, but today
you will learn of our power. We shall pound and we shall grind your flesh.,”
their grinding stones told them.
And this is what their dogs said, when they spoke in their turn:
“Why is it you can’t seem to give us our food? We just watch and you just keep
us down, and you throw us around. You keep and stick ready when you eat,
just so you can hit us. We don’t talk, so we’ve received nothing from you. How
could you not have known.? You did know that we were wasting away there
behind you.
“So this very day you will taste the teeth in your mouths. We shall eat your”.
And the dogs crushed their faces.
“And then their tortilla griddles and cooking pots spoke to them in turn:
“Pain! That’s all you’ve done for us. Our mouths are sooty, our faces are sooty.
By setting us on the fire all the time, you burn us. Since we felt no pain, you try
it. We shall burn you,” all their cooking pots said, burning their faces.

-Popol Vuh (K’iche’ creation myth)

"Then the awful fight began," (Ragnarok illustration) by George Wright
“Then the awful fight began,” (Ragnarok illustration) by George Wright

And then, of course, the greatest hits:  Eliot, Yeats, Ragnarok, Revelation, Willis/Affleck. What’s your favorite apocalypse?



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