Hey, remember last year when the world ended? I don’t blame if you missed it, what with the holiday rush and all, but yeah, we’re all gone. Up in a puff of cosmic smoke. Or overrun by zombies. Or some kind of plague. The details are still a little fuzzy; I had a ton of Christmas shopping to do.
All right, so the Mayans blew it and we’re all actually still here. Life’s full of little disappointments. Fortunately, twelve writers from the SFFWorld forums got together and managed to end the world anyway. And it’s a good thing the apocalypse didn’t happen after all, because we wouldn’t have been around to see The End: Visions of Apocalypse hit the top of Amazon’s list of free e-book anthologies. A best non-seller, if you will.
In celebration of our successful efforts — and of the planet still being here for us to do so — some of the authors have been doing a blog tour. Each week, one of us has been picking a story from The End and blogging about something about it that stuck with them, caught their eye, or otherwise made an impression. And as you’ve probably guess by now, I’m up next in the rotation.
For my entry, “Empty Nest,” I decided something as huge and cataclysmic as the Apocalypse was best met with as much absurdity and humor as possible, since they’re two of the things mankind is best at. And so, instead of primordial flame or our own self-destructive folly, I decided the whole ball of wax goes up with Mother Earth reaching retirement age. Long years of being influenced by Douglas Adams and Monty Python are definitely on display here, and I like how my story stands as a bit of comic relief amid the other weightier stories. I’ve always been the joker throwing quips from the back of the class, so it seemed most appropriate.
One of those other stories is “The Last Hand” by Peter McLean. At first, it doesn’t seem all that apocalyptic, depicting as it does a man who gambles his way into debt with a demon. But what we’re seeing here is the prologue to the end, not the end or its aftermath. And when McLean does finally let ‘er rip, it’s with as good a bit of awe-inspiring Old Testament-style fury as you’re likely to see:
I looked out at London, and shuddered. Whole city blocks were burning already, huge flares roaring up into the cloudy sky. I could just make out the gigantic, shadowy figure of the Burned Man, standing as tall as the sky. It strode through the hellish waste, setting fires wherever it passed.
“Burn!” it roared, throwing its mighty arms wide.
The night sky flared crimson, the flames racing towards the horizon in an ever expanding circle of blazing fury.
I could only stare, wide eyed with horror, as I watched the world begin to burn.
Yeah, I’d say we definitely dodged a bullet with that one. And even before that fiery climax, “The Last Hand” is a great, atmospheric story for anyone who’s a fan of Harry Dresden or John Constantine.
And there’s plenty more good reading where that came from. The End: Visions of Apocalypse is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords for the unbelievably low price of absolutely nothing. Which is what you’ve got to lose by checking it out. Besides, the world didn’t end. You’ve got a lot of free time on your hands now.
If you’d like to check out the rest of the blog tour, here’s the ones that have been posted so far: