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Thursday, September 22, 2005

The End of the World...

T-RocketSm.jpg HE END OF THE WORLD, when it comes, will be beautiful. It will be timed - delayed by a couple of hours, even - to coincide with sundown over the western seaboard, where the sun writes "Goodnight" in shadows wreathing Ronald Reagan's tomb.

Tonight I watched a rocket streak across the ocean skies: carrying a secret satellite to space, for once, where usually a dummy warhead catapults towards the Marshall Islands, condemned to not be hit by all-important Missile Defense. This is the fourth I've seen, all launched from Vandenberg AFB some ways up the coast. All of them at sundown; all of them astonishingly beautiful.

The first was on the road to Vegas - I was driving, the family snoozing - and I could only snatch an over-shoulder glimpse of now-and-then. I did not know what I was seeing, and wrongly supposed it an aircraft breaking the sound barrier. The second, summer after 9/11, I was driving home from work, west along the 101, heading into sunset. An apparition in my windshield, looked at first a jet plane heading towards me, into LAX, a bright spot-light, trailing a heavy, curiously curling contrail. The tail so bright, reflecting and refracting the last rays of the sun. Then it exploded, in a silent Puh!, an airborne sphere of water - a bubble - that just grew and grew and grew as though blown by cracked-cheeked Western Wind. A huge ball of waterdrops, wide as the view. And with it, too, the burning bright-white nipple of light. A moment of panic - what terror is this? - and then a second burst, further away and higher, then slowly-dawning realization what it was. A missile; an I.C.B.M; casting off its rocket stages. The light winks out, a parcel of lead, a dummy, is slung along its way to freefall somewhere east of Chile. All that remains to the eye is its tail, and that for a further hour.

Beautiful.

The end of the world, when it comes, will be beautiful. A hundred, a thousand, a sky filled with silent streaks and expanding spheres of steam, and torches winking out.

3 Comments:

Blogger Whisky Prajer said...

Hmm. Beautiful, if not exactly welcome. More than a little "Revelation of St-John-The-Divine" happening there - a book which, once I read it in early adolescence, pretty much put the eternal imprint on my every nightmare.

7:24 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Oh, me too: revelation in high school, especially since at that time I was realizing I had no faith. Then later Dante, which I could not finish it was so scary.

Eventually I realized, though, that in both cases they were written by men, men who had clearly allowed their imaginations to run rampant. Better that, I say, that putting their imaginations to work in making the EotW a reality.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Cowtown Pattie said...

It may be beautiful, but I think I can stand not being there for the last and final roman candle...

11:03 AM  

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