The Day the Music Died

This article was originally published on Medium on Nov. 24, 2019.
**End Note**

When NASA first found out how bad the meteor strike would be, they kept it a secret from the general public. At least until a do-gooder decided that the information was too important to be hidden and leaked the news to the press.

Dozens of national space agencies counterchecked the calculations. The vice president looked like he was about to throw up as he announced what was basically the end of the world. He walked out of the conference room, pulled out an unregistered firearm, and put a bullet in his brain.

People noticed.

Panic and pandemonium erupted around the world. Social conflict rose on an unprecedented scale as people turned against each other, first on class lines, then on race lines, then on religious lines.

Civilization had collapsed. We slowly reverted to the beasts we had always been suppressing. The final paroxysms of the dying organism that was humanity were the worst. Cities fell, societies collapsed, entire countries turned into gigantic conflagrations in minutes.

The observant reader will even now be asking me about the enclaves, but keep in mind that almost nobody knew about them at the time.

A few humans survived. They were lucky, of course, that a group of intellectuals, activists, and general do-gooders across the world spent their last days deactivating the nukes.

Why they did that was a question nobody could answer. Why would you spend your final days disarming nukes when the world was going to end in a week?

I watched the mess from my satellite uplink and wept. BBC stopped broadcasting news three days into the chaos, but some enterprising soul kept up a constant stream of 80s and 90s hits that we listened to as we went about our daily tasks. There was little chaos amongst us, for we were the few who had renounced the earth.

We hadn’t believed it at first. Then we raged, first at each other and then at the world. We tried bargaining, sending messages to out-system AIs to no avail. We were in the penultimate stage now. Despair put dangerous questions in our minds, but we had been selected for mental toughness.

Nobody succumbed to despair.

One or two made trouble, but the psychologists rooted them out quickly enough. We forced them out of our little bubble with tears in our eyes.

As we neared the fateful hour, the chaos seemed to subside, as if humanity had exhausted itself with its death throes and was now merely waiting for the end. We watched with bated breath, hoping against hope that the agencies were wrong — but knowing deep in our hearts that the earth was doomed. Our physicists had confirmed it, and they were never wrong.

A few minutes to the end, as the faint strands of music drifted to my ears, I heard Jan scream in disbelief. I quickly made my way to my station, and the blinking notification icon almost knocked me to the floor. I had thought us forgotten.

My, my, Miss American Pie…

‘Open it!’

My sharp command snapped him out of his daze. As he clicked on the icon, the message loaded.

“However long it takes — save us.”

Jan stared at me, and I almost couldn’t bear the hope in his eyes. The others filed in, ready for anything after Jan’s scream. Whispers spread through the group as the message disseminated across the crew, and I could see everyone’s spirits rise.

We had reached the depths of despair, but the message gave us something that, at that moment, I felt was the most beautiful thing ever.


As Jan composed a reply, I heard the last strains of the song. I couldn’t help but feel their purport.

The day the music died…

As the music faded and the meteor hurtled ever closer, a second message popped up.

A single word.


The Urge

This story is the second of a trio I wrote in 2017. It’s interesting to see how my writing has developed in the meantime.
**End Note**

Who am I?

A question I asked myself often enough when growing up.

Do you normal people think of such things?

I am not normal.

The fact that I’m answering a question I asked myself should give you a clue or two. A clue or two… is that alliteration? Or rhyme?

Anyway, why am I abnormal?

It’s all because of the urge.

They all told me that it would end up hurting someone. But it’s an intrinsic part of me, so I guess that means I would be the one hurting someone.

They blabbered on about masters and servants but, truthfully, I wasn’t even listening. Why would it be a bad master? How would it even be my master?

Why would it be a bad master? How would it even be my master?

Right now, the very notion is laughable. But back then, it made sense. Perfect, terrifying sense. I knew that I was an abomination. I knew the madness that resided in my soul.

And sense wasn’t enough to hold me back.

It started small. Very small, with matchsticks and magnifying lenses. And that was normal. Every kid plays with it. Everyone is fascinated by the bewitching dance of destruction that fire portends.

But for me, it went further than mere fascination. It went deeper than a passing fancy.

Each time, I went a little further. First with pages out of a notebook. Then with old clothes and rags. Once an old car in the woods.

That was a bad time. It caused a forest fire that raged for half a day. Maybe not much in the grand scheme of forest fires, but still… how many animals died? Did any person perish in the fire I called up?

To this day, I don’t know. I ran. Ran and ran until I knew not where I was.

But then, everything changed.

The call came.

It came as a tingling sensation in my veins. A half-formed thought roaring through my body. A nascent power awakening.

You may laugh if you want to.

I would too, if I heard a stranger saying this. But I’m merely telling you what happened.

What was I saying?

Oh yes… pyromancy.

What happens when a myth materializes within you? What happens when the manifestation of that myth aligns with your deepest, darkest, desires?

What happens when a pyromaniac discovers pyromancy?

I happen.

This is my secret. No longer do I have to fear a flame. No longer do I have to hope for the best every time the urge calls. No longer do I have to worry about my loved ones.

It started small. Very small, with sparks bending to my will. And that was abnormal, very abnormal. Nobody can control that raging force of destruction. Nobody should be able to.

Each time, I went a little further. First with embers in my room. Then with fist-sized flames in the woods. Once I roamed an entire day with a ball of flame suspended in my pocket.

My power could be used for greatness. There would be countless applications. Not to mention that my very existence would imply the existence of others.

Others like me.

They could generate infinite amounts of electricity using our power. They would find dozens of medical applications.

But they would push us. Scientists and militaries alike are never satisfied with boundaries. There is always a great evil to conquer; there is always an end that justifies the means.

They would help me break my constraints. They would push me to near-infinite power.

They would turn me into a weapon of mass destruction.

And that I cannot condone. That alone, I fear.

But till then, till they find me, I live simply.

No heroics. No supervillains. No deaths of loved ones.

For I am selfish.

But even more than that, I am happy.

I am content.


This story is the first of a trio I wrote in 2017. It’s interesting to see how my writing has developed in the meantime.
**End Note**

He walked through the streets of the burning city, mind numb, body sagging.

If anyone had seen him, they’d have wondered how and why this once-revered defender of the city had fallen so far.

But he did not wonder. He did not think. He did not care.

For him, it was catharsis.

And under the excitement and exultation, a small part of him knew he wouldn’t survive this.

Was this madness? This bleak, desolate maze his mind wandered in, was it insanity?

It was just a dream. He would wake up any moment now and find himself with her. His baby. How he loved her.

But no. Even the bleakness was better than that.

He couldn’t bear the pain that ravaged him, worse than any of the physical injuries he had suffered. He couldn’t think of her, not now, not never.

He was old. And now he was broken as well.

He tossed his head back and laughed.


A loud laugh broke the silence that had settled over the burning city like a shroud over a corpse. An apt analogy, he thought, since the city was more dead than alive.

Those residents who hadn’t died in the initial waves of destruction had fled the hero’s wrath. All that remained were those too weak, helpless, or hopeless to run.

And then there were people like him. Those too mad to escape. He was mad, wasn’t he? That’s what they had told him in Hell. He hadn’t believed it at first, but they couldn’t all have been lying to him. Or could they?

The continuing laughter snapped him out of his reverie as it changed. It almost sounded like sobs. But beneath the sadness, the anguish, there was another note. What was it?



Was there another madman around? Maybe he ought to talk to him. Madman to madman. That would be fun.

He rose and walked towards the laughter.


A figure approached him. No fear, no anger, no judgement, nothing in his gait or face. He couldn’t see the stranger’s face.

The stranger peered down at him.

“Why do you laugh?”

He considered the question. His daughter was dead. His wife would have been better off dead. His beloved city in flames. And yet he laughed?

Was he insane?

“Because I’m mad.”

The stranger looked at him for a long five seconds. He idly wondered whether he should disintegrate the stranger. Why not?

As he began to form the thought that would accomplish the deed, the stranger did something entirely unexpected.

He broke into laughter. Low, pensive, chilling laughter.

But underneath the pensiveness, below the chill, he heard something else. What was it?



Finally, someone who understood. Finally, a friend. His old friends were de- no that hurt too much as well. Better to be mad than to experience such anguish. Was he mad?

He joined the stranger in his laughter.