It started just like any other judgment day.
On the Internet, websites were abuzz with jokes about the end of times while in the streets of Manila, the squalid creatures under bridges and along mucky rivers haven’t even heard about the importance of the day. On this topic, just like with any other piece of knowledge worth talking about, the masses weren’t part of the discussion. In other words, access to armageddon was limited.
I was in my cubicle, busily inventing a tale of nonfiction before I start with the day’s copies.
What’s really striking about the whole affair is that it was so Hollywood. You’d think the Son of Man would defy everyone’s expectations regarding his second coming but it seemed he cared less about originality than the purpose of his visit. And so it was that when the building’s windows to my right seemed a bit too bright and murmurs started floating around the office, I stood up, looked outside and saw… something.
It was indeed something rehashed. It’s the very thing you’ve heard from your Bible-maniacal teachers, priests, parents and friends who joined fellowships about the Man way up there and his much-hyped return. For I saw the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life; something that sent shivers down my spine and made my heartstrings tremble. When I saw it, I instantly knew what it was all about. There wasn’t anytime to think “this shit is crazy.” There was nothing left to do. As supremely creative as I felt that morning, I had to leave that epic non-fiction on my computer screen unfinished in the middle of an incomplete word. I went outside.
We all went outside. Our chests overflowing with a feeling of finality to a whole life’s worth of work, confusion and misery, our legs couldn’t help walking very slowly. There was no hurry. It was the end anyway. There was enough time for everyone to silently weep.
I saw people walking hand in hand with their friends, crying on their shoulders as we made our way toward the fire exit. In a moment of clarity only the witty devil could’ve conjured in my mind, I thought it was pretty amusing that some folks chose to wait their turn at the elevators before they could meet their Maker.My supervisor and I glanced at each other. Alas! This was one time that very helpful man couldn’t help me in any way.
Outside, a huge crowd had already gathered all over the streets and EDSA. As cliche as it sounds, traffic was at a standstill. There wasn’t any “noise”; just the sound of mute beings scuffling to get a better view of the Thing up in the sky. But this wasn’t like your regular pop concert where the audience mangled each other for a better look and howled at each other’s ears. No, everyone could see It with mouths gaping open. I guess it was part of the grand plan for everyone to witness the grand finale.
Needless to say, ABS-CBN and GMA weren’t covering the big event, neither were any station the world over. Somehow, I wondered what Mike Enriquez could be doing that moment. Just as there was no way to document the beginning of history, there was simply no way to document its end.
We were rendered illiterate like the primeval primates, like dinosaurs and the beings before them. And this is no exaggeration at all. The feeling was that of deep naivety or idiocy. Everyone went back to being children or rather, everyone realized they hadn’t grown up at all; like they were putting on papa’s big shoes or mama’s smeary lipstick for a whole week and now the angry folks were here. We were going to get spanked.
There wasn’t any need to talk to the guy transfixed at the sky next to you. An overwhelming sense of futility overcame every soul. After all, this wasn’t about the matters of men anymore. The instant you see that Thing, that marvelous Thing up there, all your issues melt into nothing. Me, I wasn’t thinking about the next payday anymore, or capitalism, or the RH Bill, Manny Pacquiao, my family and my girlfriend. Once in a while, a little stupid thought would still pop in my head, like Mike Enriquez, but it would disappear just as quickly for the only thing left to do was to immerse yourself at the certitude of the situation. This was the novel’s resolution, the final step in a long, arduous journey, an actor’s shedding of his costume when the curtains fall. The only relation left was between every man and his undoing.
I guess what Hollywood missed was that the occasion made chaos impossible. Last-minute looting, shooting, binging, smoking, copulating, jacking off and raping weren’t possible. For how could anyone even bring himself to do something “evil,” let alone do “something” when there wasn’t any purpose to anything anymore? Even purposelessness was purposeless. Nihilism and anarchism were reduced to empty terms–but to be fair, just like any word. “Dog” didn’t mean anything, neither did “Apple” or “love.” It’s the closing of the closed; what Marxists termed the “negation of the negation” but definitely not what they imagined it to be.
To be sure, regret flooded the sea of humanity over the face of the earth. But there wasn’t any desperation. Each and everyone somehow knew that he should keep the regret to himself, however earth-shattering that regret was. No sin was big enough to make someone shoot his head or throw himself over a billboard. After all, wherever you were going, to hell, purgatory or heaven, you were surely on your way there and your guide was nothing less than the merciful Creator or, for the majority, the merciless Death Reaper.
And don’t you even suspect that skeptics were quietly criticizing the phenomenon. No way. The most brilliant scientists kept their mouths shut and the sharpest philosophers kept their minds blank. No one could question anything. It took a long time for people to learn it, but finally, people understood and took to their hearts the value of acceptance. And my god, how they could accept every little thing that day. No one was scratching his head over the validity of tools of measurement of sin. All the atheists, the agnostics, the people who hadn’t thought of the concept “god” since third grade wholly accepted their fate, the certainty that there was no tomorrow after this fateful day.
Suddenly, the clouds opened up and a powerful beam of light shone on the multitude. Again, like Hollywood. No one expected for the affair to be so literal an enactment of Bible verses, too. That psalm that said, “The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground”–that’s exactly what transpired. The first to literally get lifted off their feet were the shabbiest of the shabby: men who never heard it on the news that today was judgment day, men who were so busy finding a way to live that they hadn’t been living their entire lives. They were the greasiest, the most emaciated, the creatures who the globalized, industrial world had consciously forgotten about. And they rose up from the cruddiest corners of cities. A shower of dirt and pieces of garbage from their feet rained upon the face of humanity who understood a little too late what that profitable holy book really meant. Acceptance was replaced with Shame. The most well-dressed cried the hardest.
Congregations waiting with their spiritual leaders anticipated air below their feet any moment–but many of them were disappointed. It seemed the Thing up there didn’t particularly care how frequently one practiced the “sacraments” or if someone knew the savior’s correct name at all. In fact, the ignorant tribes in the forests, savannas, mountainous and icy regions were the first to ascend. These people weren’t familiar to this monotheistic god. In fact, no one was really counting how many supernatural beings were there now. Nobody cared how many were out to get us. What mattered was, they’re out to get us.
Then I kept looking at my feet. Several times, I half-thought they were rising, too. I couldn’t help running through all my sins and “good deeds” though I knew the activity was fruitless. It’s up to that Thing to decide what to do with the helpless child that was me. But scenes still kept appearing in my mind: porn sites, street children I turned down, those countless hours in the bathroom. I knew I wasn’t the only one but it didn’t comfort me at all.
Then I thought I saw my mother flying toward the clouds, riding the mighty light, and even if that person wasn’t her, I knew she’s one of the chosen ones. Finally, her endless chores were over. Her back won’t break no more.Toil was over and it’s not a revolution that ended it but a seemingly ordinary, quite boring in fact, Saturday.
A symphony of sounds sang by a billion heavenly voices swept through the crying crowds. It’s coming. Funny that everyone was just Facebooking and tweeting about it just that morning and now it came to harvest its crop. The tremendous feeling of my insignificance and the universe’s impenetrability hit me with an enormous force in the stomach and my knees buckled. Breathing heavily, squinting, I thought I saw a face slowly unmasked by the clouds.