There’s something about the grand open vistas of an apocalypse. What an opening line. Reminds me of, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” But what is it about the crazy open worlds of a post apocalypse, or a dystopian world that are so very enticing?
Your honor, as my first evidence before the court I give you Stephen King’s the Stand and all manner of scary end of the world sagas. Like, The Passage, or possibly the second book The Twelve. Or maybe the fantastic book by Brandon Sanderson called Steelheart (which tells of the apocalypse wrought by super heroes.) Or, maybe this vision is best cast by the book called Bird Box – what an awesome book. So tightly wound. The premise is that a madness is spread by those that see something outside. Which causes everyone to begin hiding inside, boarding up their doors and windows, so that they won’t accidentally see whatever it is.
Or what about movies that just wallow in post apocalyptic madness? Mad Max is coming out this summer. What about 28 Days Later, or I Am Legend? Maybe Book of Eli. Or Oblivion, District 9, or possibly 12 Monkeys and the new television show of the same name. Just so many movies that house their stories in the darkness after some terrible virus, or nuclear holocaust.
I think there is something written in our DNA to understand that all things that have a beginning, also have an end. So we, as humans, are fascinated with the concepts of the end of the world. Something as simple as city streets that are completely empty are amazing to ponder. There are tutorials as to how to capture an empty city street. But why? Because an empty city is breathtaking. It is a little intimidating to consider walking through an empty Los Angeles. Or London (like what happens in 28 Days Later). Or the abandoned city streets of Chernobyl (Pripyat). Here is a video of photos taken by photographers using technology for NASA in order to capture empty city streets that is just fabulous and all but frightening in its hollowness.
I have even taken my own stab at trying to write a short story stuck in a world where virus spreads through the air. What would happen in a world like that? Just like the Passage, where survivors are defined by their ability to power the lights that protect them, my story predicated survival on their ability to continue the oxygen scrubbing necessary to stay infection free. It was a story of silence and quiet, and the fear of power failure was the idea that drove the story along. It wasn’t great… but I enjoyed considering the ideas and fear here in this potential world.
Which brings me to the art of Yuri Shwedoff which was the catalyst for my wondering why it was that the ideas of the end of the world were so fascinating. His painting of the mountainous Challenger surrounded by a wasteland is just gripping to me. Truly brilliant. To see something familiar in such a desolate landscape is beyond haunting. It was so inspiring I decided I had to have one – but I was more curious to sort of investigate the why of it, than the what of it. The rest of the photos in this piece will either be from Yuri’s awesome art or from the Silent World project.
And that brings us to Revelation. If you aren’t into God. Fine. (Well, it isn’t fine, but feel free to contact me, and I would love to talk to you about this later.) But just take a deep breath, and go with me here. Because you’ve got to see this. In Revelation 18-20, the Bible talks about “the end of the world”, well, the end of the world as we know it today anyway. So I thought I would rewrite it, and see how well it fit into the genre of post apocalyptic scribblings I am talking about here. I personally think that the Bible is spelling out Truth (with a capital T) and that is why we absolutely love the apocalyptic.
Revelation (18 & 19 Retold)
The valley was shrouded on smoke. The earth was charred and dead for as far as the eye could see. Off in the distance were the hulking ruins of cities innumerable like the cast off carcass of a civilization gone underground. Steel girders stabbed upwards, in loud shouts of agony, screaming at the sky of curses untold. The slain bodies of Babylon’s great architects lay tossed to the side, her ruins a chaos of fire, rubble and ashes.
The world rulers around the planet had sent emissaries to see the ruin of the great Babylon for themselves. Standing on ship platforms far from land, they surveyed the totality of the damage. The once great world leader in trade had fallen and as a result the planet was thrown into chaos. And in a last bid for control, the Kings convened together and decided that war was the only way to restore the riches of the last world. It was the only way to restore the sanity of this now insane world.
Here though, standing amidst the valley of darkness, it seemed like madness multiplied by madness. Insanity multiplied. War to end War? Hostilities to end hostilities? All I could see sulfur, a choking and burning chaos. Between the snarling tendrils of smoke though I could see for a moment a shock of white shot through the haze and the smoke. Brilliant white. Blindingly white in this cough of grey, and then it was gone again. Urgently I squinted through the smoke hoping to see it again… straining, leaning closer to see what I had seen before. It was gone though, replaced solely by silence and the whisper of wind that seemed to say, ‘all the nations’… ‘have drunk the maddening wine’… wait, what? ‘of her adulteries.’
And with a clash of symbols and rolling thunder behind me, I turned and saw the world’s armies assembled for war. Wave after wave of rolling terror was assembled in this valley and for as far as the eye could see. Such an assemblage of armor and military greatness has never been known before and never again. The land was a roiling mass of chaos ants coordinating to overrun their target. The earth shook. And the heavens moved as they rolled forward. Instinctively I dove for cover, began scratching into the scarred earth to create some form of cover. But I knew there was no hiding from this final end. There was nothing but to watch and wait for the end of time to come.
Burrowing my face into the scarred earth the crashing of the treads spoke aloud. The stomping of the troops pounding in time to a chorus of angels that seemed to say, “Your merchants were the world’s important people.” The engines whined and churned up the ground as the ripped toward their goal. “And by your magic spell all the nations were led astray.” The grand hubris was awe inspiring. We were on the brink and yet, instead of slowing they rushed forward into the breach.
I swiveled on the ground, and stared back into the haze behind me. I squinted and strained in hopes of seeing another glimmer of white I saw only moments before. But the charred earth lofted gases and exhaust like a grieving mother mourning her dead children. And the realization of what had been lost, what was about to be lost, overpowered me as I screamed into the void, “In you is found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people!…” I found myself gagging on bile, and lapsed into coughing. Not ceasing, I suddenly threw up in a reflex as if I’d been punched in the gut. And as I wiped my mouth on my sleeve and turned to look again at the on coming armies I finished what I was saying, now in a whisper, “of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
And still onward the armies marched.
The scream of a thousand eagles released for the hunt then hit me. I flipped to my back and watched as fighter jets flew over head and arced their payloads at unseen targets beyond me. On the eagles screamed for their targets without slowing or tiring. The armies of the earth had unleashed the truest and most powerful fighting force and they would not be turned from their mission. It was then that the tanks and the surface to surface missile batteries joined the carnage and their dogs of war barked and growled to life. Chomping and biting at their leashes they tore each other to pieces as the clamored to be the first into the fight.
Laying prostrate on my back, staring at the penumbra of war, I marveled at the hostility that man was capable of. But it was then that a song was growing in me, growing out of the earth. I felt it not in the tremors of war, but in the triumph of my spirit. It was then that I was overcome by the majesty and marvel around me in spite of where I was and the carnage unleashed. I tried to hold back the song, to keep quiet the refrain that launched into my spine, my ribcage and my lungs. I physically clammed down on my mouth, but the song would not be contained any longer. And sensing the growing refrained could not be squelched, I sprinted to peak of the nearest valley edge and not in defiance of the army en route, but as statement of fact I yelled out.
“Our Lord God Almighty reigns.” Remembering the tune of various classical pieces by Handel, I began to sing the words. “Let us rejoice and be glad! Give him glory!” I was overcome by a coughing fit and still I continued unabated, “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” I had absolutely no idea what the song meant, until the man in white rode through the smoke on a flaming white steed and stood next to me overlooking the valley.
Granted, I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. And throughout both the Old Testament (Ezekiel, Daniel, etc) and the New Testament (Revelation, 2 Peter, etc) it speaks of the end of the world in something like 150 different chapters of the Bible. So the end of the world is definitely a subject that should be front and center in all of our minds. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? The scale of it is just mind boggling. The terror of it would be natural. Especially if it isn’t going to go well. I personally think it’ll go just fine… though tumultuous. And if you too would like to think it’ll go just fine, I’d be happy to talk more with you about how to make that happen. Because I plan to stand on the battle field of Armageddon and scream out: “Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”
even so Lord Jesus… come quickly.