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Chapter 9
Alternate Alternatives

Priming Armageddon

by SASKATCHEWAN KOLONOSCOGRAD, Alternate Reality News Service Existentialism Writer

Mary McIlthwaite looks over the ruins of Washington and says simply, "Jesus is late." Then, resigned, she goes to a burned out Wal-Mart and tries to find something to eat. "Canned peaches are good," she comments. "You can't go wrong with food in tins...can you?"

The nuclear war that has turned most of the world into a burning, radioactive cinder ended three weeks ago, and true believers are starting to wonder why they weren't raptured up to heaven. "If I had known it was going to be like this," Marty, 17, stated, "I wouldn't have stayed a virgin. I mean, I thought it would be hard enough to get a date before..."

Their faith hasn't been helped by the pronouncements of the Reverend James Dobson, the most prominent evangelist to have survived the war. When the United States first traded nuclear bombs with China, Reverend Dobson called on the faithful to pray, telling them that they were about to be rewarded for their faith. More recently, however, doubt has crept into his speeches.

"Why am I still here?" he asked on a recent radio broadcast. "I've led a righteous life - I didn't deserve to be left behind. What about Pat Robertson or...or Jerry Falwell? Do you believe Jerry Falwell was called? Jerry fucking Falwell? Let me tell you about what that shit was really like..."

Reverend Dobson went on to sob uncontrollably for 20 minutes before his show was finally taken off the air.

Proponents of Armageddon thought it might come as early as 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, whose leader, Saddam Hussein, was rumoured to have weapons of mass destruction and the will to use them. Imagine their disappointment! The invasion of Iran, which definitely had a nuclear programme, showed more promise to bring the End Times, but it, too, fizzled out before sinners had the opportunity to burn in hellfire on earth.

A trade dispute with China, below the radar of most evangelical Christians, was what triggered the nuclear conflagration that most Millennialists had been devoutly awaiting. "Go figure," McIlthwaite commented as she strode past the rotting fruit towards the Wal-Mart's dead refrigeration units.

A poll recently conducted in Texas showed that 77 per cent of surviving Americans were still hopeful that they would see the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, this number is down from 86 per cent who said the same thing last month, and a whopping 98 per cent polled just after the bombs started falling.

While this poll suggests that Americans are losing faith in Armageddon, a couple of caveats must be considered. Since we don't know how many Americans survived the nuclear war, we don't know if the Texas sample is representative of...anything. This is especially true given that most communications systems have been destroyed, and the sample population consisted of a dozen people huddling outside the polling company's headquarters.

"Those crazy bastards," Rabbi Meyer Fox stated from the ruins of his synagogue. "I mean, I knew that they believed this would happen, but I - I would never have kibitzed with them in return for their support for the state of Israel if I had known that they were serious...

"Not that it would have made much difference," Rabbi Fox glumly concluded.

According to Millennialist beliefs, 144,000 Jews have to convert to Christianity in order for Jesus to return and establish his kingdom of heaven on earth. However, once the bombs started flying, the first targets were Jerusalem and New York, which decimated the world's Jewish population. Fewer than 144,000 Jews may have survived.

"My heart bleeds," Rabbi Fox dryly commented.

"I know, I know, I know," Reverend Dobson stated, "I'll convert to Judaism. Yeah. That's it. We'll get a hundred thousand Christians to convert to Judaism. Then, we'll convert back! That will fulfill the prophecy! And, we'll all be saved. We'll be saved! We'll be saved! We'll be saved!

"Fucking Jerry Falwell."

As the dark ash from the nuclear explosions settles in the upper atmosphere, experts suggest that the environmental fallout from the war could last for centuries, if it doesn't permanently alter the planet's climate.

"You see?" Warren Blush, an EPA representative in the final Bush administration, said. "We told you not to worry about climate change. We told you the Kyoto Accords were worthless. So much wasted economic potential!"

Mary McIlthwaite doesn't know anything about that. "If it's the good lord's will that I wander around a burnt out wasteland, slowly dying of radiation poisoning, well, amen to that," she says, adding: "Does this fish look good to you?"

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