While revisiting my favourite story of Nick Hornby I started thinking about the end. Not completely unrelated to the story, because this one in particular was about the end of life as we know it. How would I feel if I knew the world was going to end? What would I do? How do you know if you made the right decision? I guess that doesn’t matter anymore if there is no life. The questions kept lingering in the back of my mind until I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to ask him. The story wasn’t entirely clear on who he was, but all I needed to find him was the story. I was going ask the main character of Otherwise Pandemonium if he was happy with his final days.
I entered a pre-apocalyptic Berkeley, but the end was already showing. Streets felt empty and people looked sad. Stores were closed but the news was on everywhere. I had arrived in front of the house I needed to be in. The main character was inside, maybe still watching TV. I slowly walked in, looked for his mom and snuck upstairs. I heard TV noises and knocked.
‘I’m not your mom. My name is Polly.’
‘Do I know you?’
‘No. But I know you. I’m here about the VCR and the future.’
‘You’re from the future?’ I saw his eyes light up, some form of hope had appeared.
‘I’m sorry. I’m not.’ I doubted about telling him the truth. He had seen crazy things, so he might be able to handle the truth, but I didn’t want him to freak out like Dorian Gray. ‘Let’s say I’m from somewhere else. Not the future or the past, just somewhere else.’
The boy looked at me and decided it wasn’t worth the headache.
‘You’re here to see the tape.’ I nodded and he asked me to come over. He showed me the footage of the people in New York, hiding underground, the moment the news took over TV and finally the Static. It felt eerie in its reality. I looked at the boy. In the story he hadn’t seemed that young to me. He had acted more mature, but sitting next to him while he fast forwarded the world, I noticed that he was just a fifteen year old boy.
‘Are you scared?’ I asked him when the Static had been on for 10 minutes.
‘Not scared, just worried. It’s a weird feeling.’ I nodded. There was a skirt lying on his bed, which meant Martha already knew.
‘Do you think you’ve made the right decision about your last weeks? Being with Martha?’
‘Yes I do. I really like her. She’s nice. And I think she really likes me. Too bad we… I’ve made the right decision.’
‘Accentuate the positive? Like your mom always sings?’ He looked at me weirdly.
‘How do you know what my mom always sings?’
‘You have a VCR that shows the future. Is it really that weird that I know a song your mom sings?’
‘I guess not, if you look at it that way.’ He still had a puzzled look on his face and I started laughing. This made him look even more puzzled, but eventually he joined me in laughter. I still saw some of the sadness Martha had talked about in the story, but that was ok. Everyone would be kind of sad in his position.
‘Don’t you feel like you need to warn anyone? You have all this knowledge, don’t you feel you need to do something with it.’
‘I did, at first. But I don’t think it will matter. I can try to save the world and probably fail, but I can also do things I like and be happy for my final weeks.’
‘But don’t you wonder? What if you can save the world? And you can be happy for the rest of your life.’ He stared into the Static a while before answering.
‘I don’t think it will matter.’ We kept quiet for a while. I didn’t know what to say and neither did he.
‘I think I would try to save the world.’ I knew I sounded like a child with big fantasies about being a hero, but then again, I kind of am.
‘You wouldn’t. There’s nothing to save, nothing to do to prevent the Static. Not now at least. Maybe were you are from, or maybe in the future, but not now. Not here.’ Looking at his sad young face I knew he was right. There was no stopping the Static. But there was some happiness, for as long as he had.
‘For someone who says to be kind of a slow thinker, you’re still a good talker.’ Surprised by my compliment the boy smiled.
‘I need to go. I need to see if my world needs to be saved.’ All the boy did was smile and nod. ‘Say goodbye to Martha.’
I walked outside and returned to normal reality. At home I turned on the TV and checked for future fast forwarding and Static. Nothing happened. We were still good. There was still time to become a hero.