Terminal

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Sitting on the low stone wall, I pull the last cigarette from the crumpled packet, light it and take a long leisurely draw. For once the oft repeated mantra of friends and family “I wish you would stop. They are bad for you!” does not come rushing to mind and this last cigarette is smoked slowly, savored as the sun sets over the western Atlantic.

I don’t like watching sunrises anymore in fact if I go out of my way to avoid looking to the east since “The accident”. Accident my Arse! It happened because we thought we knew what we were doing. What was that thing my granny always used to say when I mucked something up? “Pride comes before a fall” well boys a dear have we tumbled arse over tit on this one and no mistake!

An errant page from the Belfast Telegraph is caught in a small bush, blown here on always warm breezes from the east. “LONDON FALLS, QUEEN DEAD” screams the headline in 84 point bold text. “That will annoy the Loyalists” is my only thought “now they have no-one to be loyal to, not since Charles and wee lads got caught in Kloisters sking on Day Zero”

Day Zero, ah yes Day Zero! Seems odd to call it Day Zero. That gives it a sort of respectability that hides the fact that we as a species have basically fucked up big time. The world had rumbled along normally the global economy was banjaxed but then I can’t seem to remember when it wasn’t either banjaxed, really banjaxed, or possibly not quite as banjaxed as we originally thought. True global warming was a worry, but hey the effects of that were something for the great grandkids to worry about and what’s a few polar bears and penguins between friends.
America had had a war with Iraq that they won, lost, won, lost, won lost and then it stopped being a war and became an insurgency. When President Bush left office it became a war again cos the new chap was a democrat and of course the it needed a new title because it was all his fault. But all of this was just bland circumstantial wallpaper of little or no consequence. For twas in Geneva that Day Zero would begin at 11:37am on the 18th January.

Geneva, marvellous place, BIG fountain and nice resteraunts. I have never been but I am told it was very nice. However 150m below all that niceness lay the Large Hadron Collider. Thats basically a big scaletrix set for protons where they could be raced around and around this 17 mile track and then be allowed to crack into one another. The results would, they said, tell us more about how the world began. So at 11:37 on 18th January they turned it on and Day Zero began.

Before the internet in Ireland died I looked up shit loads of stuff about this and I think the universe works something like this but I could be wrong so don’t quote me. The universe is made up of Stuff and most of the stuff we know about is made of atoms and atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. No-one knows what the feck electrons are made of but the other two are made of quarks. Now quarks come in several flavours, Up,Down,Charm,Strange,Top and Bottom. Now my old motorbike or that banana you had for lunch is made of stuff built of the UP and DOWN quarks. When 2 UP and 1 DOWN get together thats makes a Proton and 2 DOWN and 1 UP clump up you get a Neutron. Which basically means they are important and in my opinion you shouldn’t mess about with important things, but what to I know I am only a Lotus Notes Developer.

The quark called STRANGE is well, for want of a better word Strange . Now I don’t mean it likes to dress up as a giraffe,wear a gimp mask and chase the CHARM quark around yelling “Marmalade you furry dice! Marmalade!” it has what particle physicists said was a strangeness value of -1. I would have said that my friend Jon had a strangeness value of -100 but he is a programmer and as far as I know has never caused what happened next.

When the quarks in this big machine in Geneva hammered into each other they were going very very fast and in the resulting BANG lots of things happened. First the men in white coats when YIPEE! because they saw something called the Higg’s Boson which basically made lots of men in white coats go “Nah nah nah nah Told you so!” to some other men in white coats. Then they all went very very quiet. Some Strange quarks had got together with some up and downs and formed wee clump of stuff that they could see as a red blob but everything else said didn’t exist.
Normally when a Strange quark appears it doesn’t last a long time. For some reason when lots of Strange quarks get together with exactly the the same number of Up and Down quarks something called the Pauli exclusion principle kicks in and you get a clump of “strange matter” called a “stranglet”. Only one man in a white coat would have gone” YIPPEE Told you so” when this happened and that was Mr Pauli himself but he died in 1958 so was unavailable for any measure of gloating glee.

The men in white coats took a collective intake of breath and in doing so sounded like 300 garage foremen when they first have a look at your sick Honda civic. Thankfully they didn’t say “Welllllllllll it’s not going to be cheap to fix THAT!”

A few people went “OK what to we do now?” the men in the white coats said “That shouldn’t have happened!” which didn’t really help, so while they had a think and a nice mug of tea they left the stranglet whizzing around the accelerator.

Then an unknown person plugged a PS3 into the mains electricity in a chalet on the outskirts of the city. The resultant slight drain causes a spike and the lights dipped in CERN. The men in white coats checked the magnetic integrity gauge of the cyclotron, looked at each other and then quietly put on their anoraks and slipped out the back door. There was no Oppenheimer “I am become death” moment although it has been reported that an Irish Physicist was heard to say quite clearly “Oh Fuck that’s torn it” before he rushed to get the next Easyjet back to Belfast.

The Strangelet slipped the bounds of its magnetic confinement and shot off on a tangent through the rocks under Geneva. Now loads of very important people said what happened next could never happen, but they didn’t think to ask Mr Murphy or Mr Sod who would have told them exactly what would happen next. A strangelet Cascade. One strangelet hits a nucleus, catalyzing its immediate conversion to strange matter. This liberates energy, producing a larger, more stable strangelet, which in turn hits another nucleus, catalyzing its conversion to strange matter etc etc etc Unlike a nuclear cascade this happens quite slowly, 4 kph to be exact. It soon became obvious that there was something amiss. As the little bit of strange matter got bigger and bigger and bigger, energy was released and water was changed to steam which formed a curtain of mist along the edge of the strange matter that was growing behind it. No-one was sure what was beyond the mist but one thing we did know was, if you went into it you didn’t come out.

Satellites were training on it and probes of various types sent in. But nothing useful was ever learned. Basically once the mist passed over something it just wasn’t there anymore.
So having exhausted all other options what did we do? We fired nukes at it! Well I mean to say! Has no-body in the Military ever watched a SciFi movie? If they had they would know firing nukes at something generally has not effect OR it makes it worse. In this case it had no effect at all as the missiles went into the mist and then just weren’t there anymore.

My ciggie is nearly done, as is my tale. I live on Arranmore Island off the coast of Ireland and the line of demarcation has taken 17 days to get here. If I turn around I would be able to tell exactly how close it is. But I am not going to. I am going to sit right here on my wall, smoke my cigarette and watch the waves on the Atlan…………

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