Have you ever wondered how the world would end? Of course you have. Everyone has. Will the Earth be struck by a huge meteor that wipes us all out, or will Global Warming melt the ice caps, raising the sea level above all but the tallest mountains and drowning the entire world’s population? Not even close.
It actually all started when I was on my way to work. I’d just set off walking from my house, heading towards the train station on the outskirts of town (Doncaster in England). As I walked down the main road of my little village, I saw 2 lads on the other side of the road. They were probably about the same age as me: Mid-20’s-ish. They were walking side by side. “Probably a couple of mates”, I thought. “Probably just a couple of mates on their way to town”. The weird thing was though that they both had their heads down. They were both just looking at the floor silently. Not like a couple of mates at all. “Maybe they just aren’t used to being up this early”, I thought. “Maybe they’re still just half asleep and don’t feel like talking yet. Or hell, maybe one of them just got broken up with, or a family member just passed away. There are a million different reasons why these 2 lads would be walking in silence at half 8 in the morning with their heads down and their eyes staring at the floor. Anyway, it’s none of my business is it.”
And so I continued to just walk. By the way I realise that by normal people’s standards, half past 8 is not early at all, but I oversleep most days. I’ve just accepted it now. I accept that I’ll be last into work and last out. I was even late for my late train this particular morning. I was trying to rush to the station because I’d left my house 10 minutes too late and was running the risk of missing the late train I catch. That would be unacceptable, although it had happened once or twice before. But that was the risk that I often ran. That’s just me. It’s just how it goes. It’s just my lot in li… I glanced back over at these lads and they were still just walking along side by side. Staring at the ground. Silently.
“I’ll cross over the road”, I thought. “That’ll do it. I’ll cross over the road and walk in front of them. Then it won’t bother me that they’re acting so strangely. Out of sight, out of mind.” So I did. I looked right, and then left, and then right again. The coast was clear, so I crossed the road and continued walking on the other side. The lads were behind me now.
The thing is, as quickly as I was walking to catch my train, the one that I had set off late to catch and was still running the risk of not catching, these lads were a fair bit taller than me. Their legs were a bit longer, and so their strides were a bit longer. Over the next few horrifying seconds they started to catch up with me. They emerged over my right shoulder at first, but then before I knew it, they were both walking alongside me, and I alongside them. We were now a line of 3.
My stomach turned as I made the realisation. I was trapped. I couldn’t walk faster than these lads, on account of their longer natural gait. I couldn’t run away because they’d think me mad. If they saw me walking to the station the next day, they’d say “There goes that mad bastard again, let’s spread the word and have the community ostracise him.” I considered slowing right down and letting them pass me, like Luke Skywalker does on the speeder bike in Return of the Jedi, but I couldn’t afford to slow down and miss my train. My already really late train that would already get me into work at half past unacceptable. So I kept on walking. We kept on walking. We kept our heads down and we kept on walking. And that’s when I realised – These weren’t a couple of mates, suffering from an unusually early start or a breakup or a bereavement – These poor bastards were as trapped as I was.
By the time we reached the train station, we were a line of 6. We’d recruited another lad, a middle aged woman, and a little old lady on a mobility scooter. And when my turning came up, I realised that I didn’t want to leave. I was a part of something now. A fellowship. I couldn’t throw that away for work. So we kept on walking. We kept our heads down and we kept on walking.
By 6 o’clock that evening, we’d recruited the United Kingdom, Western Scandinavia, The Netherlands, Belgium, and parts of Northern France. By midday the next day, the whole world was walking. The whole world was walking in a straight line. We kept walking. We kept our heads down, and we kept on walking.
Eventually we all starved to death.