My neighbour’s house is about 100 meters away from mine. Yesterday, I woke up and could barely see it. My room smelled like a campfire and the sky was murky grey despite a lack of clouds. When I stepped outside with the dogs, who quickly relieved themselves on the front lawn, the sun hung ominously in the sky like some strange, red, UFO.
It has come, I thought with the gravitas of Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds. The smoke, I thought. It is here. It is time.
I don’t believe the end of the world will be brought on by zombies. This is mainly because zombies are stupid and I hate them. I have probably just offended zombie enthusiasts everywhere with my atheism towards the undead, but I just can’t understand the craze surrounding ugly mindless dead people. Why zombies and not, say, giant insects? The invasion of thousand-pound mosquitoes would be not only just as terrifying as zombies, but also more scientifically plausible. Wouldn’t an insect apocalypse–one where they’re all carrying deadly pathogens–be more realistic?
Maybe, but maybe real is boring–especially to people who dedicate their mental energy to creating hypothetical survival guides.
However. Even though mosquitoes have the potential to genetically deviate and/or carry super viruses, of more immediate concern to me is a fire apocalypse. When I was younger, I used to count down the days until zero-degree weather because I figured a tremendous snowfall would be the only way to put out the flames that, otherwise, would certainly consume the entire province, country, and continent. Can fires jump the ocean?, I wondered. If they could, I knew the entire earth might be doomed.
Fires still make me uneasy. You would be uneasy too if you woke up to find ash on the hood of your car. Ash on the car screams END OF THE WORLD, does it not? And so, on these smoky days–when our summer activities, our moods and our backyard parties are dulled by the reeking exhaust of nearby forest fires–I feel the onset of paranoia creep in. I feel, with startling conviction, that the world is ending.
Not really. In reality, when I look out the window and cannot make out the outline of my neighbour’s roof, I feel as though the feeling I’m experiencing is, in fact, the same feeling I would feel if the apocalypse were upon us. This is a horribly wordy way of explaining my thoughts, but both the sentence and the concept check out, I promise.
I had a nightmare, several weeks ago, that I was standing on the beach admiring the summer sunset when suddenly the mountain across the lake burst into flames. It was like some huge fire volcano–a spontaneous eruption that sent myself and a random dream-selection of family and friends running for the hills. The main problem was that the hills we were running towards also burst into fiery deathtraps. Crap! There I was, in the middle of the world’s flaming end, thinking: this is it. This is the moment of death. This is what it feels like. Okay then. Goodbye, dear earth!
This dream was certainly a product of my environment. My childhood home–where I am currently but temporarily stationed–sits on a lovely mountain overlooking a lovely lake. The problem is that, come summer, the trees and the grass and the everything turns desert-dry from lack of rain. This makes fire season into a nerve-wracking game of reverse lottery: everyone hopes their neighbourhood isn’t the one to be struck by lightning–literally.
Unfortunately, forest fires also turn me into a bit of a hypochondriac. Is it safe to breathe all this smoke?! Should I be wearing a mask like people did when SARS was a thing? Will my lungs be permanently damaged?! Is smoke inhalation taking years off my life? Have I, by being outside, reduced my life expectancy?! Will my children be born with genetic modifications?! Get me a mask, get me a mask!
I promise I will never wear a mask.
Like it does every year, the smoke will leave, retreating into the atmosphere like lost balloons. Overnight, the wind will change direction and we, the meek earthlings, will be kissed by the bright morning sun once again.
There have been two days of smoke-sky here in Vernon, though the plumes seem to be clearing now. Good–I do not like this sickly red sun. I prefer a sun that blinds me and makes me sneeze. I await your shining return, oh Mr. Sun.