Below we present the first chapter of The End of the World by Reverend Billy, leader of the Church of Stop Shopping.
Sparing neither fire nor brimstone, the good Reverend preaches sinners in the hands of an angry Earth. He calls on humanity to change its evil ways before the final judgment, inspiring the congregation to a faith that, after Hurricane Sandy, will not allow any of us to sit on the sidelines any longer.
Can we get an Amen, brothers and sisters?
It was a distraction, as The End of the World approached, that there were still such great sales.
New and improved Apple apps, survivalist yoga techniques, “Drowning Elmo” toys—all kinds of things.
The tsunamis and heat-waves and flash floods and volcanoes and hurricanes bounced on the horizon like Loony Tunes.
The accelerating Apocalypse got us hot.
The really bad disasters were available on Pay-Per-View.
What didn’t kill us made us watch.
We could take a mile-wide tornado off the shelf, hit a button, watch it drop into a city and wow! It was like watching Lady Gaga doing the splits in a dress made of flank steaks.
You can say one thing about the humans: we were a species that scribbled, texted, hologrammed, and burst a blood vessel of pixels in the final years of modern life.
If The Revolution wasn’t televised, The End of The World certainly was
Millions of movies were found on mounds of stinking corpses, still flickering on screens through cold grasping fingers, glowing at the bottom of sodden suitcases.
Of the six known mass extinctions on Earth, this was the self-conscious one, produced and consumed in high-def, broad-color with advanced compression algorithms.
The End of the World was the story-line of all best-selling movies and books. In its own way, this was the perfect happy ending. The media was made, completed, and shipped to consumers. The End was casually tagged “to be continued.”
A kind of eternity was claimed: “Products have the power to survive and you can join them beyond the storms and fires and floods—no money down!” This sustained a certain giddiness in the culture.
But it was not a pretty sight, the day the humans went into the ditch. The bitterness had become embarrassing.
Home-owners fumed at the coyotes and cockroaches that poured through the front doors of their suburban palaces as they packed their SUVs for the final drive.
The “this-isn’t-fair-we’ve-been-betrayed-by-Nature” was a favorite kvetch, as if the new predators were going off-script. And speaking of predators why hadn’t the United States of America already saved the world?
The USA was supposed to be the hero. We’d seen it a thousand times. In fact some consumers thought the world WAS saved, but they were on the wrong channel.
So death was denied and dying was purchased with relish.
That old pre-apocalyptic approach to death wasn’t as good for business as the disaster market, whose growth could only end when every last shopper was grotesquely, operatically dead.
Where are the consumers? Oh, the consumers consumed the consumers.
What do you do?
You stop watching. Stop shopping. You get away. How do you get away? You run across a field and keep running.
JOIN THE ANIMALS
— Bill Talen, aka, The Reverend Billy,Transition Voice
Bill Talen, aka The Reverend Billy, is the author of What Should I Do When the Reverend Billy Is in My Store? and (with Savitri D) The Reverend Billy Project: From Rehearsal Hall to Super Mall with the Church of Life After Shopping. He lives in New York City where he street preaches (and is arrested for doing so) on a regular basis. You can find him at revbilly.com.