QUE SERA, SERA
There’s something badly wrong but we can’t expect the authorities to fix it. In fact, they won’t admit there’s anything wrong. They’re afraid to publicly acknowledge what everyone already knows. There’s a shit storm on its way. If they admit this, then we’ll expect them to take action and get shitty themselves.
It all started with a blah feeling that everybody experienced at the same time. It’s a “why bother?” thought that comes over you so suddenly and strongly that you can barely make it out of bed much less leave the house.
And so the streets have become very quiet, because everyone is indoors, lying down and staring at the ceiling. Most folks aren’t even watching TV. That would take more oomph than is readily available. Some glance at their smartphones, trying to distract themselves with social media, but it’s hard to get excited or pay attention to any one thing.
The next day a smell arose. It’s like that of a wet dog, a not terribly clean one, at that. At first the wet dog smell seemed tolerable, but by the end of the day people were losing it. The smell has become oppressive and there is no easy way to mask it. Adding fragrances just makes it worse.
The announcements began the next morning. “There has been a significant event. In the days that follow, most services and rights you have taken for granted will not be available. Some will return, but others will not. Things have changed. An explanation will follow.”
We have been waiting but so far nothing more has been said. It seems that nobody cares enough to demand an explanation. No one has enough drive or conviction to protest. It’s like that Doris Day song from a long time ago. “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.”
The language changes have come about so gradually that not many noticed at first. Because there are few Bulgarian speakers living in the West, the gradual substitution of Bulgarian words and phrases for English hasn’t drawn much scrutiny. Nobody reads much anymore, anyway. After six months or so, about ten percent of all printed vocabulary is Bulgarian, but in Roman type, not Cyrillic.
Likewise, radio stations are programming Ghanian music at a steadily increasing rate, supplanting whatever they had been playing before. By Christmas, half the carols will be in Ghanian dialects, with West African instrumentation and beat. Again, no one seems to notice because no one is really paying attention.
When Burger King stopped serving beef and filling its Whoppers with thick slices of beets, people just assumed they were experimenting with a new menu. Fast food restaurants do that sort of thing all the time, to test customer preference. With enough ketchup, mayo, lettuce and onions, customers rarely complain. Besides, everybody knows a vegetarian diet is good for you.
By now, the re-broadcast of movies and TV shows from even a year ago requires subtitles for some people to understand them. Is this the exciting new future that we had been promised all along? It’s hard to know where the boundary between ruinous change and exciting progress lies.
Upon close inspection, our top government officials have been replaced by look-alikes. These are actors who resemble the people they are standing in for, but only as closely as B-list TV actors resembled the A-list film stars they were meant to imitate in the past. No real effort has been made to cosmetically or surgically make them the spitting image of our often-photographed public servants. Again, no one cares to look closely at anything anymore. As we rapidly scroll down our smart phone screens in hopes of finding something worthy of our full attention, it becomes habitual, automatic, and so we scroll even faster. We’re in a hurry to ingest as much fabricated nonsense as possible, before the gig is up. Before the whole thing blows up. Before the whole system collapses under the weight of so much trivia.
So we are in a hurry to get nowhere. If we arrive, will we know it? Or will it simply seem another roadside rest stop on the way to a roadside attraction that no one is really sure exists?
If, for some reason the Internet is down, we blame ourselves. Why didn’t I buy a better computer or router when I had the chance? Why don’t I understand more about electronics? And cars…don’t get me started on cars. If only I were rich, or happily married, then I wouldn’t be having these problems. We hear rumors of blackouts and food shortages in nearby counties. They say that refugees from nearby states are being stopped by the National Guard at our state’s borders. At night the railroad tracks are full of boxcars with the word FEMA written on the side. Helicopters hover over our city parks.
Time passes. We are standing by for that official announcement, that explanation we were promised.
We were as surprised as anyone by the closure of our national parks. At first they said it would be temporary, allowing for deferred maintenance, but now we have learned that during that interval most of the land was sold to corporations who built lavish resorts for their highest ranking executives.
The sudden increase in airfares took everyone by surprise. We had become used to the idea that a person of normal means could fly anywhere, but now only the super rich can fly, go on vacation, hunt or fish. Professional sports teams were bought by these same corporations, and seats for the games are now reserved as VIP perks for people who mattered. Private audiences with celebrity athletes have become a part of the athlete’s job, for which they were well compensated. Convention centers and stadiums that had been built with public bond issues are now accessible only to the very wealthy or well-connected.
By now we have stopped pretending that health care is a right available to all citizens. Huge public hospitals with waiting rooms that seat five hundred people are now the norm. The rich frequent private clinics and research hospitals. At last, we have universal coverage, free for all, but you get what you pay for, and what is free is hardly worth taking.
These changes have come about so quickly that most people became aware of them after it was too late to do anything about it. The few newspapers and television stations that aren’t owned by the same media conglomerate report watered-down criticism, while the rest parrot only happy news.
Strange new expressions creep into daily speech. “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on” is popular with the teenage crowd. “Tan my hide and call me a boll weevil” can be heard among young divorcees. Middle-aged men, usually immune to fads in anything but business-speak, are now spouting “I’m as horny as a priest at a playground.”
Pizza for breakfast is the latest substitution for what had been the norm. Soon it will be hard to find a breakfast menu with anything but pizza on it. Tennis has fallen completely out of favor, replaced by a sudden fascination with badminton. Now, everyone is playing badminton, everywhere. Celebrities endorse high-end badminton rackets. The most popular names for baby boys have become “Buster” and “Howard.” For girls they are “Daphne” and “Clytemnestra.”
Many people hold themselves awkwardly and the few who walk in public are often tilted to one side, the downward arm dragging on the floor or sidewalk. When anyone tries to bring this to public awareness, that person is attacked for making fun of the handicapped, so few bother to comment. Drooling and projectile sneezing are also a fad, especially at formal occasions.
About this time a new superstar has arrived on the international scene, a very tall, skinny man from Ghana, who calls himself “Der Bingle.” He sings in a smooth crooning style which recalls the late Bing Crosby. Partnered with a chubby comedian of no apparent talent, they have resurrected the Crosby/Hope “Road to…” movies of the 1940’s and become immensely popular worldwide, almost overnight. Even though most people in the world have to read subtitles to understand their comic sketches, they surpass even Mr. Bean in most markets.
The more improbable a development, the more likely it seems. It is now apparent that something is going on that is novel, twisted, askew, perhaps broken, maybe malevolent, and many fear that means forces of darkness are behind it. Rulers have vowed zero tolerance, promising trials and executions, if necessary.
There is nothing anyone can do more than accept the current situation. No amount of wishful thinking or power-driven effort will effect substantial change. Sure, certain efforts might result in sporadic and superficial improvements, but they will soon fade.
Some contemplate suicide. Others act on it. No one is keeping score, but most agree that hopelessness is endemic. In the contest to win hearts and minds, despair is clearly winning.
By now young people no longer make plans of any kind. The most ambitious of them confess to have been “thinking of selling stuff online” but have gotten no further than that. Many teenage boys now think of themselves as gender-less, while girls have become super-bossy. In one European country, scores of teenage girls drowned themselves en masse in a local river while their teenage boy friends lounged on the banks watching passively. The boys twirled their parasols in reaction to the loss of these girls, and giggled en-masse.
The authorities are understandably concerned, but no action has yet been taken because any proposals are shouted down for supporting outdated sexual stereotypes.
There is finally a statement from the authorities. It seems that two-thirds of the population has dropped dead overnight. Morning found them dead in their beds. They had simply stopped breathing during the night. Survivors note that most of those who died had been noticeably listless and actively bored. It is thought that they no longer cared to go on living. The effort to breathe was simply too much to ask, so they stopped asking.
Survivors are scrambling to incinerate an absurd amount of bodies at once, but eventually nuclear fires will be pressed into service, and the ash will be disposed of as safely as possible, given the abrupt nature of this last turn of events. Within a few months, government psychologists assure us that we will forget about those who are longer with us. Initially these psychologists were called “Grief Counselors,” but now they are called “Attitude Adjusters.”