The Lesson Is: It Can Always Get Worse, Even If “It” Is The End Of The World

How upset do you get when you read or watch fictional depictions of disaster? I’d rank myself as “pretty fucking upset,” because I do feel those very real symptoms of panic, particularly when I recognize a landmark or element of human comfort being destroyed by natural or equally horrifying causes. Like: well, there goes Yonge Street. Or there goes the concept of wearing shoes.

Last month I finally read Station Eleven because friends kept recommending it. I liked it very much, but also I am still having waking nightmares about it as a concept!! For those who haven’t read it, the book moves back and forth between present-day life as we know it (running water, traffic infrastructure, flights, fashionable protection from the elements) as a truly Biblical virus decimates like 90 percent of the population, and the 20 years since, as the few survivors create new communities and travel around looking for resources and avoiding dangers. And there’s this community of traveling actors and musicians who perform PLAYS and SING SONGS because HUMANITY’S SPIRIT WILL NEVER BE CRUSHED or whatever.

One friend was wise enough to warn me that a great deal of the flashback scenes take place in Toronto, in case I found reading about the collapse of society through the lens of my former home perplexing, but I was like pfft, who cares, it’s not real. And I was…wrong. The first chapter takes place at the Elgin Theater; the references to an abandoned Yonge Street and wandering through Allen Gardens in the snow and descriptions of the packed emergencies room at Toronto General Hospital were all made easily vivid in my head. I thought of how often I’ve watched the biggest cities in the world get destroyed on screens and been like, well, sure, that’s what that would look like, without too much emotional involvement. I remember being pretty upset about The Road, and Rachel’s recent post about the last safe places in America gave me all of the “aAIWHFhjFALSD” feelings, but I guess I’m one of those assholes who only really cares when the devastation happens in their backyard.

On the opposite side, when I mentioned this to Alex, she said she finds stories about a post-apocalyptic world comforting; it’s proof, if even only in the speculative sense, that people will keep being people. Our wants and needs would stay constant but the avenues would change, should an asteroid hit the Earth, or some similar blockbuster trope. So, that’s a nice comforting thought, that even the worst scenario you can imagine wouldn’t really change people at their core. Also a good tagline, if any Hollywood executives are reading this: The Earth’s core might be heating up, but humanity’s core… stays the same.

Have you read a book that forced you to confront your deepest darkest fears lately? I will also accept movie suggestions.