In the winter of 2012 something big was coming. Everyone could feel it; there was tension in the air everywhere. The world economy was tumbling from its pedestal and into the abyss, violence between old enemies was escalating like never before and even every day people were at each other’s throats. What was happening was simple. There were too many factors coming together at once, and something had to give. Pressure that had been slowly building for generations was now coming to the point of bursting like an overfilled balloon. The world stood on the brink of a third world war, climate change was tearing regions apart and no one knew where the end would come from.
But for four scientists living in the Space Station in orbit around the planet, there was nothing they could do but watch and wait while the world went crazy. Of course they had all the amenities; TV, internet, satellite radio, the works. So they were able to get up to the minute updates right up until all broadcasting ceased. They sat, rapt and wide eyed as children watching their first horror movie and watched and listened. They knew they should be doing their research, running their maintenance checks and performing their duty, but that all lost importance when the spotted what was happening on one side of the globe.
“Caleb, what is that down there, is that clouds?” Seth asked, pointing out the window.
“That doesn’t look like any clouds I have ever seen from up here” Caleb said, taking a peek himself.
What they saw on their home planet was like a massive tumor. It was a grey blob over Eastern Asia, near the ocean. It was while looking at that blob on the Earth’s surface that they heard the commotion from the living quarters. They made their way over there, thinking that they could not wait for their time in space to be over, if only so they could actually use their legs for walking again. Inside the common area were the others, huddled around the monitor of the computer watching with horrorstruck faces.
“You guys! Where were you, something is happening down there and we can’t raise mission control on the radio” Craig spluttered when he saw them enter. They went and settled in the group and turned their attention to the internet video on the screen.
It was a YouTube video, of course. There was no sound to it, but from the scene that could be taken as a blessing. It was utter chaos, people running, the camera wielder among them, giving the footage a nauseating motion that was hard to watch. But there were things in the video that were harder to watch, although try as they might, the space geeks as they called themselves, could not look away. The video appeared to be in Shanghai, and showed hundreds of people fleeing what appeared to be a large mass that was neither solid nor liquid or gas. It almost looked alive in fact. And its progress was horrifying, it moved along, swallowing buildings in seconds. The video was only two minutes and nineteen seconds long, but it showed enough. The four scientists looked at each other and saw the same panic and terror mirrored back from the faces they saw.
“Jacob, keep trying to raise communication with Mission Control, Reggie, Caleb and I will try to find out what is going on online” Seth said, taking command because no one else was going to. His voice sounded full of fear to his ears but it was better than that terrible silence that had been smothering them.
The news on the Web was bleak. No one really knew what was happening but everyone knew that there was no way to stop it at that point. Apparently someone in China had been experimenting for some time with what they called “new technology” although no one knew what that meant either. Chinese scientists and government officials, of course, would not talk. Israel had also made claims that explosions had occurred that they insisted Iran was responsible for. There was civil unrest in developed countries, cultural warfare in America and Europe and no one had any answers. No one in the common room of the Space station wanted to say what they all were most assuredly thinking at that moment. Would they have to sit up here and watch the end of the world from the only seats that would catch the whole view?
Jacob reached Mission Control for a bare ten minutes, and what he learned stooped his shoulders and paled his face until he looked like a man thirty years older. When the connection broke again, he threw the receive and put his hands to his face like a tired child up past his bed time and looked around at the others.
“This is it, this is the end, and we are stuck up here while it all falls down…”and with that said Jacob Roberts lay on the floor and commenced sucking his thumb.
Reggie made his way to Jacob as fast as he could and began shaking him “what do you mean? What do you mean?” but there was no answers coming from that soul. Seth answered for him “He means that it’s over, everything down there is over”.
“That is bull, someone will come for us. They can’t just leave us up here!”
“Well, we can hope, but it doesn’t look like we are high on anyone’s priorities up here”
Looking down at the big blue marble, the space geeks came to terms with the fact that they were never going home. The space program had been suspended until further notice due to the end of the world. They watched the grey tumor spread over the planet they had called home. It encompassed all of Europe within fourteen hours and was making its way across the oceans when something new happened. There was a strange rippling motion across the surface of the blob, kind of like when you toss a stone into a pond. The ripples were, of course, coming from where the growth had originated. Something was happening down there alright, and it looked like it was just getting started. It was starting to resemble a pot of boiling water rather than the ripples of a rock thrown into a pond.
They lost track of time, just sitting there watching the world come to an end. The silence encumbered them once more, each lost in his own thoughts of what was to come. They thought about their families down on Earth that were likely already gone, they thought about the plans they had made for the holidays that were now cancelled indefinitely, they thought of their lives that had also been cancelled just as indefinitely. They were educated men; they knew that they had supplies to last quite a while in their home away from home among the stars, but what comfort was that? They were destined to sit up here in space, eating paste and staring out at the once blue but now grey marble they used to call home until they ran out of the paste. After that, well, who knew?
Caleb broke the silence this time, “ha! Never thought they were right and now the joke is on us!”
The sudden noise of Caleb speaking startled the others out of their reverie enough to be confused. “What are you talking about?” Seth asked dully, everything seemed dull now.
“Look at the calendar guys, and the clock, we have been sitting here for about twenty six hours right? Well look will ya?”
They did, and it was 1:11pm UTC on December 22nd 2012.
“The crazies were all right, the Mayan’s were right, they were all right, and the joke is on us because we escaped it, but we are going to die up here a lot slower than those fortunate souls down there”
They sat and absorbed that fundamental truth for a while. So many movies had been made about it, documentaries too but no one had ever taken it seriously. But they had witnessed it, and would be there still witnessing it until they died and longer. Someday perhaps, in the far future, some beings would find them here, sitting at the windows, just skeletons in space clothes, and the remains of their last pasty meals on their fingers still maybe. They were now a living time capsule. Jacob took no notice, just continued sucking his thumb, staring at the wall from his spot on the floor.