The Absolute Faith of Asteroid Disaster Denial

Submitted for Contest #55 in response to: Write a story where the readers are in on a secret that the characters are unaware of.... view prompt

32 comments

Aug 16, 2020

General

It's a lovely day in August in the town of X; the sun is shining brightly, a pleasant breeze is blowing and an asteroid 3,280 feet in diameter is hurtling towards it at a speed of 53,000 miles per hour.


But this is not the story of the asteroid.


This is the story of that lovely day in August in the town of X.


A is sitting on a bus, sweating profusely. Not because of the heat, no—it is actually much more cooler than he expected. The cause of his unnatural perspiration is seated right next to him, C, who unbeknownst to A is suffering from the exact same predicament. Why are their apocrine glands on overload, you ask? Well, essentially, this interaction between these two clumsy teenagers is what is called in social convention as a 'date'. But as of right now, a 'date' it is but in name. Neither of them have advanced past the initial meek 'hi's and nods and thus are now sweltering in an oppressive atmosphere of absolute awkwardness which grows every passing second. C has lost her favorite 'I'm a disaster waiting to happen' keychain (which doubles up as a good luck charm) and hence her self-confidence is at its lowest ebb. She is out of the first round. The onus is now on A. Will he deliver? He decides to man up and bites the bullet.


"Uh-hmm, so, what do you, uh, what do… you..." A trails off as his overtaxed brain shuts down and bails. A damp squib. He sits there in absolute horror and shame, unable to form any coherent thoughts or words. C whimpers, her soul crying out in agony. She gathers all the little courage she has and decides to go all or nothing.


"W-what do you...l-like?" C croaks and screams internally in despair. It sounded so much better in her head. But A is past any such minor goof ups, having transcended to the highest plane of awkwardness, and is now much more calm and prepared. He is a changed man.


"I like... air." A transcends further.


"I l-like it too."


"Nice."


"Yeah."


"Hi."


"Hello." 


C wants to jump out of the window but its dimensions betray her. She instead resorts to pumping her leg up and down, but steps on A's foot by mistake. A yelps. C is mortified.


"S-sorry…"


A, his almost non-existent thought process even more muddled by the stinging in his foot, blanks on social conventions and goes for a gamble.


"Welcome."


C's life flashes before her eyes.


A suddenly remembers the godly advice he received from the reputable site 'thepickupguru.com', which they claimed was guaranteed to make any woman fall head-over-heels in seconds. He is unexpectedly back in the game, confidence pumping through his veins. He takes a deep breath, tries to make his voice huskier and then goes in for the kill.


"Hey babe, does it hurt? Cuz it looks like you fell from heaven."


C is in complete awe. Not because of the line itself, or the utter braindeadness of using a pickup line on a date, but because of the immeasurable courage she knew it must have taken to spout that monstrosity. She knows because she follows the same site and had discarded it as too high level for her to use. Task failed successfully, A.


C suddenly realises how embarrassing she must look with her mouth open staring at him, but all her worries are for naught. A is too busy congratulating himself for being an absolute marvel. Anyway, the ball is in her court. She has to respond, or let the damning silence reign again.


"From t-the heavens? Ha ha. Like an...asteroid? That would be a disaster...uhh..." C's soul has departed to higher worlds where it hopes to be treated much less cruelly.


A cannot believe his ears. Not because of the astronomical level of cringe, but because, contrary to expectation, this is an absolute soft ball for him. Why? The Pickup Guru to the rescue again. The site had theorized that extensive knowledge in any field is impressive and inherently attractive. It makes one look way smarter than their actual 'so-stupid-I-google-how-to-approach-other-humans' self. And what did our hero choose? 


Yes, asteroids. He studied asteroids to impress his date. 


And still he manages to get that one girl in the whole world who butchers social interaction so hard that she somehow brings up those very same damned asteroids in conversation. One lucky bastard he is, eh?


Now building upon his breathtaking comeback, A begins his sermon on the unlikelihood of an asteroid disaster:

"No need to worry at all, my fair child. The asteroids capable of causing a global disaster if they hit the Earth are extremely rare. They probably would need to be about a kilometer or more in diameter, that is, about 3,280 feet wide. Fear not. Such bodies impact the Earth only once every 100,000 years on average. Other objects of a similar size, such as comets, impact even less frequently, perhaps once every 500,000 years or so. Therefore, the chance that any such substantial object will hit us in any given year is roughly 1 in 300,000—nothing to lose sleep over. I profess unto thee with total certainty, my sweet child, that such a calamity won't befall in our lifetime."


C stares at him with wonder and reverence, tears in her eyes. She has just undergone a spiritual experience, and has at long last found meaning in life in the absolute faith of asteroid disaster denial. She had never thought about those pieces of rocks floating in space in her entire life, but has now been convinced by the soul-stirring sermon that her purpose lies somewhere in their non-collision with earth. She feels like a new person altogether; she will never be the same again.


She is shaken from her reverie of edification by the bus coming to a sudden halt. They have reached the town center. They both stand up in haste, bump into each other, offer thanks, step on the other's feet and fall out of the bus in a heap. But since they have gone through cringe beyond what was thought to be humanly possible, they are immunized to such minor slip ups. Rather it makes them nostalgic of a time when they were mere mortals in the field of awkwardness.


Both of them feel the deathly silence threaten to engulf them again, and thus they pull out their trump card:


"Want to get some coffee? Cause I like you a latte…"


As they say the words together, their eyes meet and they forge a connection so deep and meaningful as which cannot be expressed within the mere dingy confines of human language and expression.





As our clumsy couple wander and stumble along blindly in the treacherous minefield of dating, survivalist and conspiracy theorist S is sprawled across his tiny bed, staring intently as if trying to decipher some meaning out of the bland steel ceiling of his meteor-proof bunker. From his youth, he has had an abnormal fear of meteors; the thought of a giant boulder of space rock crashing into the earth brought to his mind uneasy comparisons of a shoe crushing a cockroach, of which incidentally he also had a fear of. His specific phobia was that of an asteroid about 3,280 feet wide, enough to flatten a city but not the whole world. The thought of it made him queasy, like crushing only a part of a cockroach and seeing the headless arthropod running around. Yes, S was a man of atypical fears.


But today seems different to him. He doesn't know exactly what it is, but for the first time in his bunkered years, he feels odd. As if he isn't where he should be. He fidgets and flails his arms around in the bed, trying to push that idea out of his mind. He is the only sane man left, he reassures himself, and the plebs above ground will only understand when the reptiles controlling the government eventually show their true colors and summon a 3,280 feet asteroid to crush X town. He gags as an image of a headless roach frolicking around surfaces in his mind. 


He gets out of bed, equips himself with a lightsaber and opens the trapdoor slightly, through which a solitary ray of sunlight descends to the floor. He squints as he assesses the state of anarchy the world is in. He is disappointed again as he sees nothing dystopian or extraordinary other than two exceptionally clumsy looking teens loitering outside a cafe. He shields his eyes as he feels a magnificent aura of awkwardness emanate from them as they try to enter through the door at the same time and get stuck in the doorframe.


He looks on in awe till he is distracted by a newspaper lying closeby. It was a special edition of 'Meteoritics Daily' by the revered astronomer and meteor specialist Dr M. Even though S has a negative figure of trust in most government institutions, he holds a begrudging respect for Dr M. He is a X town legend, and the current head of the much-esteemed World Asteroid Impact Prediction Task Force (WAIPTF), fondly known as WTF.


The headline proclaims: X Town Tops List of Least Likeliest Places on Earth to be Hit By An Asteroid For 20th Straight Year. He sucks in a breath. Another sign? He looks outside once again. Was he really not meant to be where he was, down in the protective meteor-proof embrace of the earth, but rather meant to dwell like a pleb in the harsh surface realm? He takes a deep breath of fresh air with an open mind. He feels a sense of enlightenment as he decides to follow his gut feeling. The feeling which for the past decades had told him to bury himself away from the chaos and entropy of the universe, now tells him that if there was one day in the entire history and future of space-time when an 3,280 feet wide asteroid won't hit X town, it is today. And he decides to trust his gut, paying no heed to the fact that his gut is often dead wrong and the 'feeling' is most probably just acidity.





Dr M is perplexed. It is not often that the revered astronomer, meteor specialist and the current head of WTF finds himself disconcerted, hell he doesn't remember if he'd ever been, but today presents such an abnormal scene. The object of his bamboozlement is an ancient Nokia phone, and the specific part of it so vexing him is the message on the screen. It reads in big glaring letters: BATTERY LOW. Dr M was stunned when it suddenly popped up on screen while he was trying to beat his best score in Snake. He tried to click it off but there it stayed, plastered across the screen. He felt bullied and close to tears. This strange incomprehensible message brought with it a sense of betrayal and loss as he mourned the treachery of his old friend and only companion for fifteen years. But now having consulted his teenage daughter through the even more archaic contraption known as the landline telephone, he finally understands that he needs to charge it (after several unsuccessful attempts at comprehension as she told him "it's just outta juice" and that he should just "juice it up pops").


He clutches the unfamiliar device known as the charger which he didn't know existed, having never performed this procedure in the past decade and half of owning the Nokia. It apparently needs a socket. And there is only one in this room and that was occupied. To get the whole picture here, it is necessary to understand the circumstances Dr M is in. Contrary to popular belief, the World Asteroid Impact Prediction Task Force does not reside in an hyper-advanced AI enabled sprawling headquarters, but in a small hole in the ground (Dr M calls it a crypt), and it's only member is M himself. He vaguely recalls the day when he was appointed by the Agency with much fanfare and public adulation, but was subsequently completely forgotten about by them. He doesn't even know if the Agency realizes that the task force still exists, and honestly he isn't sure if they still exist anymore. Hell, the last time he received a check was fourteen years and seven months ago. But he doesn't let his work get affected by such minor trifles; for he is not just a man, but the hopes and dreams of a people. 


He prides himself on winning the 'Most Trusted Person in this Godforsaken World' twenty years in a row, his reign beginning when he started writing the ever-so accurate asteroid impact predictions. The people were awed: now this was a man who, in contrast to every damn official in the world, knew what he was doing—if he says the asteroid won't strike, it just won't. To be honest that is the only thing he ever says as no asteroids seem even remotely interested in gracing Earth, and M doesn't believe he will ever get the privilege of actually issuing an asteroid warning in his lifetime. 


That brings us to the issue in hand: the solitary socket is powering the only piece of asteroid detecting machinery of the WAIPTF, which is a 1989 model CRT computer running on Windows XP. Dr M mulls over the probabilities and is pleased to find that the chance of an asteroid hitting the earth today is only about as much as the chance of encountering a man in a bear costume wielding a lightsaber saying "the surface realm isn't as bad as I thought", and that is about as close to zero probability as you can get. The doctor feels a load lift off his shoulders and replaces the asteroid warning system with his Nokia phone. He waits for a few hours but the process seems to be taking too long. He stretches and decides to go out for a walk. He climbs out of the hole.


And encounters a man in a bear costume wielding a lightsaber saying "the surface realm isn't as bad as I thought".


At the same time A and C stumble out of the cafe and are bewildered upon seeing a bear wielding a lightsaber and the revered Dr M crawling out of a hole in the ground.


But their confoundment is interrupted as they spot a magnificent shooting star. Their hearts now aflutter, they close their eyes and hold hands after a few unsuccessful attempts. They both wish for the progression of their singular romance, unheeding the panicked cries of the survivalist betrayed by his acidic gut and the doctor deceived by his trusted Nokia.


And thus unbeknownst to the lovely couple, the sky above X bursts into flames as the asteroid of diameter 3,280 feet comes crashing towards them at a speed of 53,000 miles per hour, ready to flatten the whole town.


But that's a story for another day.


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32 comments

Aditya Pillai
10:31 Aug 16, 2020

Author's Note: VERY EXPERIMENTAL. OK, this one is a hard swerve in style and theme for me. This is my attempt at absurdist humor or something vaguely resembling that ;) Had another one of those flash of inspiration thingies upon seeing the prompt. Much of this is rambling though, I know. Totally new genre for me, just trying it out. Would love to hear your feedback!

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Rambling Beth
10:16 Aug 17, 2020

This was incredible! I've never read anything like it. The different characters all interconnecting at the end was skillfully done, and I could read on and on about this universe. I loved your choice to use letters as the names. It really added to your story. Also, I genuinely think this is one of the funniest stories I've read for a long time. The humour was perfect, from the awkward first date to the WTF task force. I'm completely in love with this. :)

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Aditya Pillai
15:37 Aug 17, 2020

Thank you so much for your lovely and generous words! Really glad you liked it. It means a lot :)

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Anoushka Jain
06:18 Aug 17, 2020

Wow! I absolutely love this! No really, this has to be one of my favorite stories on here! Absolutely fantastic, and your sardonic humor made me chuckle! However, I am sorry to inform you...........I have no feedback for you. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I'm looking forward to reading more amazing 'experiments'. This deserves to win! ;)

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Aditya Pillai
15:39 Aug 17, 2020

Thank you soo much for your lovely words! It means a lot! :) Also waiting for your next ;)

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Anoushka Jain
03:30 Aug 18, 2020

No problem! :) And I hope I'll be able to write one soon, but I'm all out of good ideas. :(

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Jonathan Blaauw
15:54 Aug 16, 2020

Your experiments are paying off big time! Trying new things is very brave and is commendable in itself. Trying new things and getting a result like this is beyond commendable - it's admirable! Keep following your writing intuition, it hasn't let you down yet. I do have some minor suggestions, a sentence or two that could be tweaked a bit, if you're open to that? I'll wait till I can get to my computer though, because I'm useless without Grammarly to hold my hand 🤣 I think with some tiny adjustments we could have something approaching w...

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Aditya Pillai
05:54 Aug 17, 2020

Thank you! Glad that this wasn't a flop, it's hard to judge the quality of own work especially when trying something new. And of course I welcome all suggestions! (except inserting talking squirrels, that's where I draw the line lol ;))

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:09 Aug 17, 2020

Okay, so I’ve analyzed more carefully now. Opening bits are so important in short stories, and to create the best possible first impression I’d rewrite it slightly. Something like: “It’s a lovely day in August in the town of X; the sun is shining brightly, a pleasant breeze is blowing and an asteroid 3,280 feet in diameter is hurtling towards Earth (*or ‘the town’ or ‘X’) at 53,000 miles per hour.” Changing ‘of’ August to ‘in’ August is something I’d do when it comes up later as well. Same with the speed and diameter of the asteroid word...

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Aditya Pillai
08:09 Aug 17, 2020

You absolute marvel! Thanks a bunch for this, pretty much everything you said was on point. You're right, it's well-nigh impossible to edit one's own work. The brain's like "ofc everything you write is correct! ( skim over this, don't look at this, fuck the tenses)—see, absolutely perfect! Thanks again, you're a saviour! (Hmm probably you're right, maybe I should add in an asteroid-worshipping talking squirrel, that would take this up a notch ;))

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Helen Jett
13:13 Aug 16, 2020

I just loved this. Everything about it was so well done! The dry humor, the nameless characters, the ending. I really hope this wins because it totally deserves to :)

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Aditya Pillai
14:48 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked it :) Your generous words mean a lot!

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:15 Aug 16, 2020

"C's soul has departed to higher worlds where it hopes to be treated much less cruelly." INCREDIBLE. One of the funniest things I've read in a while, hands down (either that or I'm just a sick bastard that enjoys this type of thing). Well done, I think your token writing style actually works well with this genre, so even though this is a departure from what you normally write it was still damn entertaining. I was curious to see how people pulled off this prompt and this might just be the epitome. The nameless characters, the semi-omniscie...

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Aditya Pillai
13:12 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you so much! Really glad that you found some amusement in this, I had fun writing it too :) This is one of those where I don't sit and brood about the plot, outline or characterization but just start rambling and writing whatever amuses me or tickles my fancy! Your story was great, absolutely nailed it.

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Rayhan Hidayat
13:32 Aug 16, 2020

Honestly I think the best stories sometimes come out like that. The inspiration just hits and then, BAM, suddenly it's 2am and you have a masterpiece in front of you. My take on this prompt was very spontaneous too as a matter of fact!

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Cricketer Amogh
12:26 Aug 24, 2020

It's a wonderful story! Please read my latest story The Secret Organisation { Part 2 }

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:48 Aug 24, 2020

I can see this was an experiment but executed very well. I am usually not into sci-fi but I really enjoyed this one. Well done!

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Shruti Saxena
16:23 Aug 17, 2020

HILARIOUS. Oh god, this is amazing. So silly, absurd, ironic and just totally witty! What genre can't you write in?? I love this so much, seeing the poor characters (btw those names are great lol) getting set-up for the grand ironic finale was so funny. And the title is so good, it's wackiness sets the tone perfectly. Would love to see more of this!! I hope this wins, it seriously can ;)

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Aditya Pillai
07:21 Aug 18, 2020

Thank you so much for the lovely comment! Really glad you enjoyed this :)

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B. W.
22:20 Aug 16, 2020

i really liked this! you did amazing with it

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Aditya Pillai
15:40 Aug 17, 2020

Thank you!

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B. W.
16:56 Aug 17, 2020

no problem!

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S. M
06:55 Sep 01, 2020

Incredible talent!

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18:55 Aug 31, 2020

the same thing is like people came to me talking about i love u an shii but i said its ok cause i didnt have an time to talk im in class an i need u to be quiet cause u is diussing something we not talking about in the cause room but we all have the sanme the to the people that have the akk gdtehgcbcdgfgbfefbhbgdbfv ygfbfguyebfeyfgyefbhefeg bnsbkjsgifdbfdbdggffdbct good thins jtftbdgccvdbgddbdgbd thbjbg gdgfbgfghpdjfqwgwjgowfwewevuvwohwohiohhhwdjvoudsvhdoshvowdodigvwownwhvcwdhvwhwouwighohhhvdwhowhvohvoejhuhowhgrghgfhvvouhwuohwvhnwhfwhouhgow...

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D. Jaymz
19:57 Aug 30, 2020

This is a great story 👏 The subtle humor is well done and the story is very well written. The details make the story more concrete and believable. The letters used for characters and the town was a great touch so that this could be happening anywhere, to anyone on the planet. Excellent. Great work 😊

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Keerththan 😀
02:33 Aug 30, 2020

Woooooooooooooow!!!! I loved this. Wonderful story. The asteroids dimension was so big. I want a part 2. Keep writing. Great job. Would you mind reading my new story "The adventurous tragedy?"

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D. Holmes
04:24 Aug 26, 2020

Wow. Just...wow. My favorite part was the two teens in the beginning. Their awkward interaction could honestly be an amazing story by itself...but wait, it gets even better because there's more! You absolutely crushed this dramatic irony prompt.

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S. Closson
19:26 Aug 22, 2020

This was a fantastic read! Your writing clicks well with my sense of humor, because you had me chuckling from beginning to end. Also, I really felt inspired by your use of storytelling through interconnected characters, even though it was a short story, it flowed like a novel, and I really dig that. It's certainly a style I need to practice. I'd love to get your feedback on my story, "Grandpa's Last Gift." Thanks, and keep up the awesome work!

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Yolanda Wu
03:21 Aug 22, 2020

This story was definitely very interesting. You managed to make me remain curious throughout the story with the interactions between the characters and the nice descriptions and language. I thought the different characters have one letter names was a nice little detail. Amazing work!

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Jamela Faye
12:24 Aug 20, 2020

Oh please, don't kill me with your words... I'm trying really hard to understand, there are a lot of new words in the story for me. Over all, I love it! 'If you had the time please give feedback on my new submissions... please?'

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21:29 Aug 19, 2020

Wow. This is really good. Your characters are quite quirky and your grammar is impeccable. I like it.

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Krishi Norris
14:52 Aug 18, 2020

I'm so so sorry... you asked me to read your stories a few weeks ago and I swear I thought I did! Great job! (Do you mind checking out my story, 'Polly'? Thanks!)

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