The Spectre’s Tale

Classical alchemists called it The Great Work: not changing base metals into gold, but uniting separate and opposing forces in perfect equilibrium, generating Astral Light, the ultimate epiphany. It happened as the latest and last exchange between global bully states at the end of postmodern times. Escalating brinksmanship impelled the failing, flailing superpower to launch “the big one” in a preemptive strike immediately countered by the Intel-warned enemy superpower. The two superpowerful warheads collided in mid-air, resulting in the long-avoided MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), an unearthly flash and glare of Astral Light, twilight’s last gleaming… and then deep darkness, Earth and all its life forms vaporized and gone forever: The Great Work finally accomplished.

Like lingering acrid smoke from an ash heap, only The Spectre remains, insubstantial yet fully observant, the I who is not an I but a cosmological eye, an ethereal witness scanning the dead world, acknowledging the universal exit of this once-vibrant sphere just near and far enough from its sun to sustain the possible paradise which humanity turned into a living hell. Only now the tale has ended can it be truly told, in wordless gusts of timeless time in the silence of endless space. The passive ignorance of the Many and the driving force of the Few whose lust for profits and power knew no bounds — this was the deadly combo which put The End to life’s bittersweet short story on that precious planet in the right time and place to teem with countless creations, only to have as its stewards an unstable lot of sadomasochists who did it to death. If The Spectre could smile a wan smile it would. It (neither she or he, of course) cannot regret, but it also cannot forget… and so the story goes.

The late, great world of animals, vegetables, and minerals ended as it had begun, with a flash and glare of Astral Light. A small piece of the timeless fireball (later called “the sun” by humans) was flung off, a fateful spark settling into an advantageous orbit around its solar progenitor, and within some millions of years this globe, once fire, became mostly water (go figure) with an ever-molten core and a surface atmosphere conducive to amoebae and on up the food chain, life in all its miraculous manifestations — lobsters, adders, eagles, apes, to name a random few. Then came those humans, who not without reason imagined themselves the crowning creations of this “Earth,” the very apex of animality — and yet these creatures soon revealed destructive and self-destructive tendencies despite the amazing tech and stuff they made, and “there goes the neighborhood.” The Xtian Eden myth shows awareness of their fatal flaw, the parable of the perfect couple in an upscale enclave who couldn’t help but overreach, mess up, and get evicted to a down and dirty world of hurt. Strip lies from “history” and read their doom foretold.

Hard to believe how so many humans made such a fuss over epidermal hues, inventing “race” and polarizing people into such artificial categories. It was convenient to posit the innate inferiority of those you would subjugate, and although “whites” weren’t the only ones to do it, they did it on the grandest scale. In those pre-End days which seem so distant and innocent now (tho’ they were really recent and not innocent at all), consider the people of color growing up still stigmatized after centuries of outright slavery and then second-class citizenship in the vaunted “Land of the Free,” where insults were added to injuries, lending more than just an existential edge to her or his social experience, to say the very least. But now the glowing dust has settled on scorched Earth.

“See something, say something” (as was said). So the I-not-I says that pre-End era was some piece of work or something else again: a time of institutionalized hypocrisy, optional ethics, and alternate facts, where day was night and wrong was right and the Doomsday Clock tolled dolefully one minute until dead. Homing in on that “most favored nation” of know-nothings, exceptionalists, deplorables, cons and marks (often one and the same), so easy now to hind-see how those slaves to money, power, screens, cars, peers “and much much more” thought they ruled, gorging on their nothingburgers and watching endless re-runs of Feelgood Apocalypse on pay-per-view. Smart, swart scribe Wideman summed up something key: “Difficult to accept that a tangle of self-interested deceptions is as close to the truth as anybody ever gets.” But Ms. Mogul decreed “The truth is boring!” as the world went up in smoke. So let bipolar poet Lowell say it neat: “If we see a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the light on an oncoming train.” This floating time-space eye espies that night and the Jesuits will never return; there’ll be no more smiles or tears, no grass, no bees, no fruit, no trees, no sex, no life nor death. No more. The time to do the right thing is gone with the ill wind; there’s only the cold dim vasty void, but there’s no sorry about that — it is what it is.

Now The Spectre unceremoniously disintegrates into the void, on to another galaxy or universe perhaps. There could be life some other place or time and the I-an-eye might be there too, tho’ Earth was long its favored home and haunt — if only those supreme animals knew how lucky they’d been for so long, and how fragile had been their world in truth: well then they wouldn’t have been them, now would they? If they’d husbanded and nurtured more than despoiled, plundered, and polluted, shared alike rather than beat or competed… but hey, it was not to be. And so the spirit moves on, if it does, somewhere out there, where or why y’all will never know because all y’all are dead and gone forever — call it just desserts after all those feast and famine days. Perhaps the dead never really die. But, as a fine, fat musical human mused: “One never knows, do one?”

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash


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