EARTH—UPI—Informed sources have reported that the world is coming to an end.
A Spokesman for the Pentagon said, "Although the End of the World has not been proven, indications are that this phenomenon will come about in the near future."
The exact t ime of this occurence has not been fixed, but preparations are in progress. Hotels, motels, and other places of lodging, especially those near graveyards, are cleaning up for a great influx of risen souls, angels, ghosts, etc. Mass Transit systems and rent-a-car corporations are also readying themselves for a booming usiness. The three major television networks are negotiating for broadcast rights for the sounding of the Trumpets of Doom.
Elsewhere in the world great preparations are being made. The Arabs and Israelis have drawn up a treaty for the development of designated areas, notable the plains of Armageddon.
Documentary crews are in readiness to film the entire event to be shown later, that is, if there is to be a "later."
MORE DETAILS, PAGE 12B
March of the Damned
The mass slowly shuffled along. Carlos did not know where he was in respect to the beginning or the end, if there was a beginning or end. He could not see either.
A pall of dust hung over the crowd of silent people as they trudged through the empty streets. Carlos could hear no voices. The other nameless, uncountable people shuffled along, raising dust. Carlos shuffled along with the mass. He had no where else to go. There were only uninhabited streets, thick with dust.
The streets were walled by houses standing shoulder to shoulder, empty. Their windows regarded the passing people with blank stares.
There were no birds, no trees or other plants. There were only shuffling people, with faces as blank as those of the houses.
Intersecting streets stretched out on either side at regular intervals, but the side streets lay void; the timeless dust blanketed the cobblestones.
Carlos trudged on, unthinking. There was no need to think, no need to talk, no need to do anything but continue on.
The bleak sun passed behind the houses. The world darkened. The mass did not stop. It shuffled mindlessly along, raising dust.
A few stars showed themselves. They did not twinkle. They looked down on the streets indifferently, pale spots of light on a dull black sky.
The houses remained dark. No light showed. No one stopped. The houses remained empty. Carlos continued with the rest of the mass. He was not tired; he was not fresh. He was not hungry; he was not full. He did not feel.
A break in the houses appeared. Carlos crossed a bridge over a dry, empty riverbed. The houses closed in again.
The people trudged along. They came from no where; they had no destination. They kicked up dust as they passed the rows of houses. The dust swirled around their feet, rising among them, curling in eddies around each body. The people did not cough or sneeze. They did not breathe.
A blank moon rose. It lit the faces of each person dimly. They did not notice. They did not stop. The mass passed on into infinity.
Bicycles are back,
The SST is dead;
Consumer goods now last,
The Russians are our friends;
And the cow
Jumped over the moon.
The Successful Conqueror
James Norman lay asleep in his bed. He was getting some much needed rest; ruling the world was a tiring business. All the inhabitants of the earth bowed down to Him—James Norman, Emperor and Supreme Being. His position had been reached only after a long, arduous struggle. He had to conquer all the nations of the world, one by one; the last being the might United States of America. Troy, Marathon, Thrmopylae, Salamis, Guagamela, Zema, all of these were mere skirmishes compared to the last battle of the world.
The armies of Norman Augustus were overwhelming as they marched down from what was formerly Canada. The sunlight sparkled from hundreds of thousands of spearpoints and gave the impression of a gigantic thundering tidal wave sweeping down the continent. The knights followed, their burnished shields flashing and dragon crests on the banners writhing, the nodding plumes on each helmet swayed to the movement of the fierce black chargers, snorting and champing at their bits. Swarthy men armed with crossbows tramped behind.
The royal guard with their silver breastplates and blue flickering steel swords trotted beside Norman’s litter on white steeds as the swept toward the waiting forces of Nixon, legendary king of the U.S.
The usual noises of the camp were hushed that night. The men had marched many leagues and the great encounter would be tomorrow. Norman slept soundly, assured of victory.
He awoke the next morning to the sound of six million voices calling his name. He rose and stepped outside; The cheers and the sound of swords rattling against shields shook the earth. The armies of Norman were ready for battle.
To the south waited the forces of Richard Nixon, smaller, but still deadly. Also in the area were five hundred legions under the command of the great general Spiro Agnew. Also commanding on the American side was the brilliant military tactician Melvin Laird. Then there were Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie, former rivals of Nixon and Agnew, but allied against the might of James Norman—the invincible.
The advance guards of the Imperial forces met with several cohorts of Nixon’s army. The alarm went out and Norman transferred himself to his golden chariot. An ominous rumble rose as over five million swords were loosened n their scabbards.
The armies spread out and swept south in masses of ten thousand each. Suddenly, legions upon legions of American men poured out from behind a string of hills, unleashed clouds of arrows. They were met and cut down by almost a million powerful men from Siberia armed with axes. The pikemen split into two groups as the cavalry thundered through, lances level.
Nixon’s forces were soon reinforced when Agnew arrived, shouting his famous curses, But the American armies were being decimated. Archers from Brazil showered poison darts upon them, and entire legions were being cut to ribbons by the great chariots with razor-sharp spinning scythes.
The plain was a black swarming sea of fighting soldiers. The roars, the sounds of clashing steel and men in agony created an ear-shattering din. Norman charged right into the thick of the battle, his bloody mace rising and falling as he killed hundreds of men.
The day wore on and Imperial legions still poured in. But from the west stormed the army of Ronald Regan and from the south and east came the grim fighting machine of Lester Madden to swell the American forces. However, the greater might of Norman Augustus continued to create havoc. Eventually, when the sun reddened in the west, the banners of the Imperial Dragon and the American Eagle met. James Norman came face to face with the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, whose name had caused people to tremble before the rise of Norman.
Sparks flew as their swords met, shields clashed and helmets shone. Nixon, the former Terror of the West, was soon laid out under the tremendous two-handed strokes of Norman’s broadsword. The Stars and Stripes fell to the dust; the battle was won. Norman sat wearily on a rock. For all intents and purposes, he was now the master of the world.
Back in his chamber, he rose and strode out into the hall.
“Slave!” he roared, “Get me my secretary; I am going to issue an edict!”
The man dressed in white looked up and then addressed a woman. “Damn it. He’s out again! You’d better give him another sedative, and put a straightjacket on him till he calms down.”
The Supreme Being of the World was led frothing back to his room.
Wolfgang woke up and struggled to his feet. He Was in a large intersection of corridors, a sort of main forum of the two hemispheres. Signs over each corridor told the general destination of each.
“Express line to Spinal Cord Station; To Memory Banks; Available Facts Reading Library—3 km.; Motor Nerve Centre—1.5 km.”
He looked over the various signs and picked one at random: “To Thinking processes.” It was a long way to the thinking processes area, made even moreso, since the route had to bypass the pituitary systems. He also had to pass through warehouses filled with personal recollections—jokingly called “Memory Lane.” Then there were corridors lined with locked doors. And side-tracks, filled with dust and clinging cobwebs, usually coming to a dead end. But gradually, as he drew nearer to the thinking processes area, he was surrounded by activity. Messengers ran back and forth, carrying sheaves of paper, files, and spools of magnetic tape. The door lining the corridor were now unlocked. He could peek inside and see rows and rows of metal cabinets and racks of cinema film. He followed the general stream of messengers and pages and eventually came to a huge doorway into an area called INPUT.
This was the entrance to the thinking processes area. All the material from the memory and factual resources rooms came here to be fed into the mental mill. Here, all the tape cassettes were loaded into the scanning machines and huge decks of punched cards were pushed into slots in the wall.
Wolfgang squeezed through the crowd of bustling activity and passed on to the digestion room. He saw there a number of large cyclotrons where the data, now converted to electrical impulses, were mixed up and turned over to be considered before the final commitment to the intellectual centre.
He looked around and saw great insulated cables and conduits running into a long hallway. He followed them through the hallway seeing nobody except for an occasional maintenance man or electrician. As he travelled further, Wolfgang noticed an increasing din about his ears. He pushed through a door marked “Process Control.” Inside were banks upon banks of whirring computers. The room was illuminated by the flashing lights of their control panels and dials. There was the noise of heavy machinery about. He passed through an unmarked door and suddenly burst into a huge hall containing the central thought machinery. The room was full of plunging pistons and revolving wheels which were of all sizes and rotated at different speeds and in different directions.
By this time the noise was getting to be a bit too much. Wolfgang turned and went out a different way. He found himself in another computer-filled room—smaller than process control. He passed through, dodging an occasional disk-drive unit.
Activity surrounded him again. This time he was in the output room where the digested material was returned to be redistributed to the various infinite filing rooms.
Next he wandered toward the motor and sensory regions. He was passing through the biological storage area when he heard bangs and crashes through one of the door along the wall. On the door was a sign: “Warning—Loose Information!” Wolfgang’s curiosity got the better of him and he opened the door a crack to look inside. Before he could do anything seven words burst out, knocking him down. “Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.” They ricocheted off the wall and raced on down the corridor. He rose quickly and slammed the door before anything else could escape.
Somewhat shaken, Wolfgang continued down toward the sensory and motor nerve regions. He began to pass through great areas of stored cinema film and video tapes. Soon he found out what it was all about. A pair of glass door appeared on his right, declaring themselves to be the entrance to the “Mind’s Eye.” It was merely a series of projection rooms and a large cinema screen. The mind was evidently trying to figure out which street Oxford Balliol College was on. It kept confusing Balliol with Oriel College and the whole thing was slightly distorted.
Wolfgang went on. It was getting late and he wanted to see the motor control centres. In order to get there he had to go through the light and sound receiving stations. He looked into each as he passed by. In the sight station the images received by the eyes were projected onto two screens. In another room the images were combined and shown in three dimensions. This was recorded and piped directly to process control and the memory banks.
The auditory stage was all microphones and tape recorders, nothing much of interest.
From there it was only a short distance to the motor control area. Wolfgang was slightly delayed , however, by a posse of thought-collectors trying to round up the seven words which had escaped from the biological storage area.
When he finally reached the motor control centre, Wolfgang was faced by a fork in the path, one side labelled “Voluntary Systems,” the other “Involuntary Systems. ”He took the corridor marked Voluntary. At his destination were thousands of operators, all working at large switchboards, plugging and unplugging connections and receiving and passing on orders from the central thought machinery. It was a scene of busy and endless activity.
Since it was the starboard hemisphere, this switchboard complex controlled all the voluntary muscles on the left side of the Body. The switchboards in the port hemisphere controlled the right side of the Body.
On his way out, Wolfgang checked the involuntary systems. There he saw banks of automatic switching equipment, almost completely independent from the thought process department.
By now, things in that department were beginning to slow down. The transmitters in the brainwave area were changing to different wavelengths and patterns as the Mind settled down for the night. Wolfgang headed back toward the central regions where it would be safer. Strange things steal out of the blind alleys and subconscious wilderness to prowl the corridors when the thought machines are shut off. But he could evade most of them by taking the lower pathways and tunnels. The night prowlers tended to head to the dream stages where they acted out their weird dramas.
Wolfgang had to move with caution. Even in the quieter precincts he could be bowled over by a howling phobia or caught up in a battle between manics and depressives. He quickly pressed himself into a dark corner as a band of murderous thoughts trotted by, their knives dripping blood. The floor vibrated and the air rumbled as the pain machinery was prodded into motion. By morning the entire head would be throbbing.
Finally, after a few close calls, Wolfgang made it to the safety of one of the central fuel intake rooms. He lay down on a soft artery and slept soundly. There would be more places to visit tomorrow.
A room, or the back wall of a room. Stage right, on the wall is a window showing a blank, white background. Centre, on the wall, is a toilet; the old pull-chain type with the letters W.C. stenciled on it in black paint. Stage left contains a bed. In front of the window is a round table with three chairs, one of them occupied by Arthur.
Enter Nat. He walks over to the window and looks out.
Nat. Man, that sure is a pea soup fog.
Arthur. No, it's a mashed potato fog.
Nat. Mashed potato? You're kidding.
Arthur. [reaches out the window, scoops out a handful of fog an throws it on the table.] There you are. Mashed potatoes.
Nat. [takes some fog and eats it.] You're wrong too! It's Cream of Wheat!
Arthur. [tastes the fog] By George, you're right!
Nat. [eating some more] Could use more salt.
Arthur. No, the wind's wrong. [pause]
Nat. Have you ever seen a Cream of Wheat fog before?
Arthur. Only once, in Ipswitch. They're rare, you know. [pause]
Nat. It's so thick out there. It sometimes makes me wonder if the rest of the world is still out there, or if we're somewhere else, maybe in France. [pauses] Where are we?
Arthur. Same old place.
Nat. Oh, yes, of course, but wouldn't it be exciting to suddenly realize that you're suddenly far away from where you were in the previous moment?
Arthur. It would be a bit of a shock.
Nat. But say if I really believed I was somewhere other than where I was, could I really be there?
Arthur. Only if you didn't exist.
Nat. But what if I do exist?
Arthur. Then you would be where you always were and least expect to be.
Nat. Do I exist?
Arthur. That's up to you.
[enter Peter and Angela]
Peter. Now that's a mashed potato fog!
Nat & Arthur. Cream of Wheat!
Peter. God, I haven't seen one of those since I left Ipswitch!
Angela. Nor I.
Arthur. They're rare, you know.
Peter. It makes you wonder if everything beyond is still there.
Nat. Or changed.
Angela. Or maybe somewhere else.
Peter. Where are we?
Arthur. Same old place.
Peter. Oh, yes, of course.
[Angela sits on a chair by the table. Peter crosses over, closes the toilet and sits on it.]
Angela. What are we doing here?
Peter. Nothing in particular.
Nat. There isn't anything else to do with a mashed-er-Cream of Wheat fog. For all we know, the outside world is somewhere else, maybe in Africa.
Peter. Or America. But maybe the rest of the world is in the same place, and we've moved.
Angela. Perhaps everything has moved, or changed. Where are we?
Arthur. Same old place.
Angela. Oh, yes, of course. [pause]
Peter. [to Nat] Have you a cigarette?
Nat. Of course.
[Nat hands him a cigarette. Peter puts it in his mouth backwards and tries to light the filter. He then realizes his mistake, produces a pair of scissors from his pocket, cuts off the filter and lights the remaining tobacco.]
Angela. What are we doing here?
Nat. Didn't you ask that before?
Nat. What kind of response did you get?
Angela. "Nothing in particular."
Nat. Oh, yes. [to Peter] What are we doing here?
Peter. Nothing in particular.
Angela. Then why are we doing it?
Angela. Nothing in particular?
Peter. To occupy ourselves, I suppose. [Peter rises, puts out his cigarette in the middle of the table and leaves it there. He then goes over and sits on the bed. Angela suddenly rises.]
Angela. Why don't we have a game of cards?
Peter. That's a good idea. [to Nat] Do we have any cards?
Nat. I don't know. Do we?
Nat. Have any cards?
Peter. I don't know; I was just going to ask you.
Nat. I thought you did.
Nat. Ask me.
Peter. Ask you? About what?
Nat. If there are any cards.
Peter. Oh, are there?
Peter. Any cards?
Nat. I don't know.
Angela. Does anybody know?
Angela. Besides God.
Arthur. Yes: there are no cards in this room.
Angela. Are there any cards in the building?
Arthur. I don't know. But there is a store across the street.
Angela. There's too much fog to cross the street. And there's a good chance that niether the store nor the street is there anymore.
Nat. Well if it's now the Champs Elysees, there is sure to be a store there.
Angela. There's no more chance that it's the Champs Elysees than it's the original street. It might be the edge of a precipice.
Nat. In that case, we had better organize a search of the building.
Peter. [rises, leaps onto the toilet seat and raises his fist] We must search the building! But for what?
Peter. Oh, yes. Cards! [he sits] Don't we have any here?
Angela. If we did, we'd use them.
Peter. Then why don't we?
Angela. There are none.
Peter. What are we looking for?
Peter. But there aren't any.
Angela. There are none in this room, but maybe there are some elsewhere in the building.
Peter. [standing on the seat] We must search the building!
Arthur. Then we'd better get on with it.
Arthur. The search.
Nat. Oh, yes. [exeunt Arthur and Nat]
Angela. Aren't you going with them?
Angela. On the search.
Peter. For what?
Angela. Are you going to help them search?
Peter. I suppose not.
Peter. Because I am still here.
Angela. [indicates toilet] Are you going to stand there until they return?
Peter. [looks down and realizes he is still on the toilet.] No, I guess not. [He gets down and sits on the bed] Why don't we...
Angela. Make love?
Peter. Make love?
Angela. Yes, I've seen them do it in the movies.
Peter. What do you do?
Angela. I'll have to figure that out. [she sits on his lap] I think this is the first move.
Peter. What does it mean?
Angela. It gets us closer together. [she puts her arms around him and hugs him] How does this feel?
Peter. It's a good way to keep warm.
Angela. Now we're supposed to kiss. Do you know how? I don't.
Peter. I've heard of kissing!
Peter. It's just a matter of rubbing our noses together; very simple.
Peter. But I think it would get you pregnant.
Angela. That wouldn't do at all.
Peter. Is there anything else we're supposed to do?
Angela. Not that I know of.
[re-enter Nat, brandishing a revolver]
Nat. Look what I found!
Peter. What is it?
Nat. A gun.
Peter. A gun?
Nat. Yes, for shooting people.
Peter. Are there no cards?
[re-enter Arthur, unobserved. He approaches Nat.]
Nat. Yes, Arthur has them.
Arthur. What do I have?
[Nat is startled, turns quickly and shoots Arthur, who throws a loose deck of cards into the air and falls on his face. Peter stands abruptly, spilling Angela to the floor. He stares at Arthur for a moment, runs to the toilet, opens it, sticks his head in and makes retching noises.]
Angela. [from the floor] What have you done?
Peter. [from the toilet] What have you done?
Nat. What have I done?
Arthur. [raising his head a little] Am I alive?
Nat. That's up to you.
Arthur. Then I suppose I am alive.
Peter. He's alive! [he leaps onto the toilet and, as he has not closed it, one foot lands on the rim while the other lands inside with a splash]
Nat. [to Arthur] Are you hurt?
Arthur. It depends on whether you hit me. Did you?
Nat. I must have.
Arthur. Then I am hurt.
[Peter removes his foot from the toilet and steps down.]
Angela. Why don't we have a game of cards?
Peter. We can't. Arthur's been hurt.
Nat. How do you expect to have a decent game of cards with only three people? It just wouldn't do.
Angela. What are we doing here?
Peter. Nothing in particular.
Angela. Why don't we do something?
Peter. Like what?
Angela. Something interesting.
Peter. What's interesting around here?
Angela. We could read to each other.
Peter. That's an idea. Do you have a book?
Angela. I've got an Amsterdam telephone directory.
Angela. It's in Dutch, though.
Peter. Even better! Let's go to my room.
Angela. But the book's in my room.
Peter. Your room it is, then. Let's go.
[exeunt Peter and Angela]
Nat. [walks over to the window] It sure is thick out there. I wonder if that house across the street is still there.
Arthur. It does not exist.
Nat. It doesn't?
Arthur. Nothing exists any more. Peter and Angela are gone, therefore they don't exist. The house across the street is hidden in Cream of Wheat, therefore it does not exist.
Nat. But I just saw Peter and Angela a few moments ago, and they were very real.
Arthur. To you, maybe, but not to me. Even you have ceased to exist. Only my mind exists: cogito, ergo sum--I think, therefore I am.
Nat. Are you am?
Arthur. Are I am or am I are; it makes no difference. My mind exists, the world is a figment of my imagination, I am a figment of my imagination; nothing exists, nothing. [long pause] Where are we?
Nat. I thought you knew.
To the next page.