Tag Archive: cataclysm


End of the world


It is night.  Roving light in red and green filters through the cracks in my bedroom curtains, making me stir.  The colours play over my eyelids; I turn, semi-conscious, onto my side and feel my sweat-soaked hair cool and wet against my forehead.

I open my eyes.

For a long moment my brain works to interpret the play of prismatic light that pierces the humid darkness.  It can’t work it out: what could be green, shining through my curtains, and what could be red, in the middle of the night…?

First my right leg, then my left swings out from under the duvet.  My hypersensitive feet touch the gnarl of the old carpet; I flex my toes.  Then, walking towards the window with rainbow hues dancing an aurora on my bare chest, I breathe deeply with a twitch of anxiety between my lungs.

I open the curtains.  I feel my eyes strain in their sockets.  On the other side of the grimy glass the back garden is illuminated like a surrealist’s mixing palette: a low forest of herbs, the rough corners of a boundary hedge, and a garden shed with windows reflecting the celestial drama high above:

The sky is full of light and colour.  Where usually I would see only a smattering of pale, twinkling stars, I see now an immense array of pinks and greens, swirling across the heavens in thick gaseous swathes.  A centrepiece is the moon, but it is broken: shattered into a genuine crescent with splinters of pale rock still lingering in the primary orb’s diminished gravity. 

Dominating the sky is a half-risen planet, its diameter spanning the width of the horizon, a purplish-brown bloated monster.  It looms, surrounded by wisps of galactic mist and those meteoroids unfortunate enough to get caught in its massive fields yet lucky enough to survive, locked in endless complicated orbits.  Diaphanous swipes of frozen space-ice form broken rings around this fearsome dome, with stars shining through the thinner ribbons from behind.   This planet seems close enough to reach out and touch.

All around, broken pieces of shattered asteroids and distant moons plummet through the atmosphere.  They burn with low, scraping rumbles, the sound of massive engines.  As the scorched segments break up in the intense crucible of light and heat they flare up suddenly in blinding displays of orange and white.

It is the end of the world.  The universe has slipped into a jumbled chaos, drawn into itself, and the effects of this cataclysm are evident in the unravelling atmosphere of Earth that disappears from the stratosphere into cold space, letting in the biting teeth of frozen vacuum.   

I see all this from my bedroom window, and observe the microscopic fragments of human civilization rushing upward through the sucking tear in the atmosphere. 

The devastation sweeps closer, and the gargantuan planet grows larger as though on a collision course with our barely significant planet, and all is dwarfed by its relentless approach: heat and colour and the bass trembling of objects much larger than I colliding in boundless space.


I read an article recently on the BBC News website.  Although all the science articles featured on the BBC are almost always filled with the most embarassing errors, this one stuck to the simple facts and managed to escape scrutiny unscathed.

Apparently, a supermassive black hole may have been observed in the process of being hurled from its parent galaxy at high speed.  May have.  There are a number of different possibilities for this bright streak of luminous energy.  But it’s a possibility.

Tiny red circle = speeding supermassive black hole

The authors of the article believe this could be the result of the merger of two smaller black holes.  Or – the author failed specify – the failed merger of two black holes, resulting in one ‘hole’ being slingshot around and right out of the proverbial park.

One of the things that interested me is the term ‘merger’.  Researching, which is what I do – not perfectly or accurately or thoroughly, mind you – confirmed that this is a term used in the field.  A merger.  A merger of two black holes.

Maybe it’s me.  Maybe it’s because I’ve had low-performance jobs in in high-performing businesses the last few years.  But this sounds like a very formal term for what must be a violent and colossal event.

2012 - Bollocks

2012 - Bollocks

Surely it’s beside the point, though.  Am I the only one shit-my-pants terrified of the idea of black holes flying from one end of the galaxy to the other at high speeds!?

This is an object with gravity so powerful that it sucks in light.

Light, which is the fastest-moving thing in all the known universe, cannot escape a black hole.

One of these things could be hurtling towards us right now. We’d never know it, probably.  We’d just be gone.

Singularities – the spherical core of a black hole – can be as big as a sun or as as small as a pinprick.  Maybe one of these pinprick singularities are zooming through the cosmos towards us right now.  It could bore a hole right through the planet.  What would that do?

Singularities do not dress in suits.  An event horizon is not easily explained on a flipchart.

This is no time for business.  Such an event would be catastrophic – apocalyptic.

A merger.  Inappropriate?  Are we so enterprise-driven?

Not THAT Enterprise.

Are we, culturally, in a mind-set that endorses managerial bollocks-speak when discussing peculiarities of the universe of such magnitude?


I would hate to be witness to, say, a wormhole conference.

I wouldn’t like to sit in on a supernova downsizing brainstorm.

What concerns me is that to describe a cataclysm we are using terms from the most banal aspect of our lives.  We’re stapling the face of something so boring, so stressful, so tiresome, so can’t-be-fucking-arsed right on top of the sort of thing words like ‘god’ were invented for.

I’n’t that weird?

— db