This should be the last story I ever do. I am reporting the End of the World.
More accurately, I am previewing the End of the World which is due to happen at 11am tomorrow, which happens to be my day off.
Now before any of you pedants out there write in to tell me that I am misinterpreting the Mayan calendar, let me say I know that. I have done my research. The Mayan calendar, according to Fox News (always reliable) works in units of approximately 400 years, known as ‘baktunes’.
The cycle of 13 “baktunes” which started on (approximately) 13 August 3114 BC ends tomorrow. The Mayans would not regard this as the end of world but the end of an era or cycle of time. Which is not unlike our concept of calendar time, which works in centuries.
Not that this stops those who are flocking to Tikal, the centre of Mayan culture in the jungles of Guatemala, to wait for the End. (According to Reuters, 13 women were arrested last week at Tikal for dancing naked around a firepit. There is, however, no video footage of this.)
This is a global phenomenon. A cold war era nuclear bunker located 56 metres underground near the Kremlin has been converted into an all-night party venue full of red alarm lights for those Russians who can afford US$1,000 to avoid the apocalypse.
The Chinese authorities have detained 93 people form the “almighty God” cult who were giving out leaflets.
The French village of Bugarach, rumoured to be the only place on earth which will be spared, is in lock-down awaiting an influx of hippies, new agers and other doomsayers – although so far it’s mainly TV crews.
Many religions, including Christianity, have theories about the end times, usually to be heralded by turbulence and terror followed by the return of the Messiah. Conquest, war, famine and death are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a devotee of the Mahdi, the lost saint of Shi’a Islam, who disappeared in 873, and is expected to return at any time. I once visited the Bright Future Institute in the holy city of Qom, where believers man a hotline so if people see a sign they can call in to ask if this is really it. (They also have a newsroom. The day I visited the lead story was “British Journalist Visits Bright Future Institute.”)
So, come 11am tomorrow, it could all blow up as we’re hit by a giant asteroid. I, of course, am a sceptic. But you never know.
I like reporting the big events of history, so it would be just my luck if the end came on my day off.
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