Nevertheless, it would be prudent to remain concerned. For, like death, IT would come: Armageddon. There would be-without exaggeration-a series of catastrophes. As a consequence of the evil in man...-no mere virus, however virulent, was even a burnt match for our madness, our unconcern, our cruelty-...there would arise a race of champions, predators of humans: namely earthquakes, eruptions, tidal waves, tornados, typhoons, hurricanes, droughts-the magnificent seven. Floods, winds, fires, slides. The classical elements, only angry. Oceans would warm, the sky boil and burn, the ice cap melt, the seas rise. Rogue nations, like kids killing kids at their grammar school, would fire atomic-hydrogen-neutron bombs at one another. Smallpox would revive, or out of the African jungle would slide a virus no one understood. Though reptilian only in spirit, the disease would make us shed our skins like snakes and, naked to the nerves, we'd expire in a froth of red spit. Markets worldwide would crash as reckless cars on a speedway do, striking the wall and rebounding into one another, hurling pieces of themselves at the spectators in the stands. With money worthless-that last faith lost-the multitude would riot, race against race at first, God against God, the gots against the gimmes. Insects hardened by generations of chemicals would consume our food, weeds smother our fields, fire ants, killer bees sting us while we're fleeing into refuge water, where, thrashing we would drown, our pride a sodden wafer. Pestilence. War. Famine. A cataclysm of one kind or another-coming-making millions of migrants. Wearing out the roads. Foraging in the fields. Looting the villages. Raping boys and women. There'd be no tent cities, no Red Cross lunches, hay drops. Deserts would appear as suddenly as patches of crusty skin. Only the sun would feel their itch. Floods would sweep suddenly over all those newly arid lands as if invited by the beach. Forest fires would burn, like those in coal mines, for years, uttering smoke, making soot for speech, blackening every tree leaf ahead of their actual charring. Volcanoes would erupt in series, and mountains melt as though made of rock candy till the cities beneath them were caught inside the lava flow where they would appear to later eyes, if there were any eyes after, like peanuts in brittle. May earthquakes jelly the earth, Professor Skizzen hotly whispered. Let glaciers advance like motorboats, he bellowed, threatening a book with his fist. These convulsions would be a sign the parasites had killed their host, evils having eaten all they could; we'd hear a groan that was the going of the Holy Ghost; we'd see the last of life pissed away like beer from a carouse; we'd feel a shudder move deeply through this universe of dirt, rock, water, ice, and air, because after its long illness the earth would have finally died, its engine out of oil, its sky of light, winds unable to catch a breath, oceans only acid; we'd be witnessing a world that's come to pieces bleeding searing steam from its many wounds; we'd hear it rattling its atoms around like dice in a cup before spilling randomly out through a split in the stratosphere, night and silence its place-well-not of rest-of disappearance. My wish be willed, he thought. Then this will be done, he whispered so no God could hear him. That justice may be served, he said to the four winds that raged in the corners of his attic.
William H. Gass (Middle C)