Magic Stories but Small
MAY 16, 2023

Fire & Ice

Do you fear the world is ending?


Dear Friend,

The world is ending. You must be seeing the signs, too. 

Plagues are sweeping across the globe. Wars are ravaging continents. And there is that politician who has all the markings of the Antichrist. 

If you fear the world is ending, you are not the only one. 

In the fourth century, the French bishop Martin of Tours had already sensed the coming of the Antichrist. He was sure the world would end in 400 AD. A millennium later, Pope Innocent III arrived at his doomsday prediction, 1284, more mathematically. That’s 666 years after the rise of Islam. Christopher Columbus called it at 1656.

My own childhood was defined by anticipations of apocalypse. 

I was ten years old when I found the Comet Hale-Bopp in the lens of a plastic telescope and rumors circulated in school that it was going to hit. Alternative theories on the nightly news brought no comfort. Apparently there were some who believed that the comet was being trailed by a UFO. These people – and they were adults – decided to kill themselves so that they would pass through the cosmic opening known as Heaven’s Gate.

I really was relieved when the comet passed without incident.

The relief did not last, however. Because I soon learned of another, more credible, prediction about the end of the world. A long time ago that great astrologer Nostradamus had foreseen an eschatological figure called the King of Terror – and pegged his arrival to my thirteenth birthday in July 1999. 

Somehow I escaped that fate, too. I managed to become a teenager. A few weeks later, I heard about Y2K. The computer virus was going to strike at midnight of the new millennium – at exactly 00:00 on January 1, 2000 – and proceed to destroy the digital infrastructure of the world. 

My heart filled with dread as I followed the TV that New Year’s Eve. In preparation for the technological apocalypse, which would trigger famines and blackouts, families were mobbing stores and buying up paper towels and energy bars. I just couldn't understand how my own family was eating and dancing its way through the countdown to the end of the world. They must have believed we would somehow survive it. 

And we did, of course. We survived every prediction until, eventually, I stopped fearing that the world was actually going to end. 

That is when the real terror dawned. And I began to fear a much more daunting reality...

The world was not going to end.

Or at least not for a very long time – not in my lifetime, anyway. No spectacular death awaited me. Nor was I anointed to witness such a big moment of history. I would not be around when the waters rose to reclaim the world, as the ancient Egyptians believed. Or when the sun, having become a “red giant” according to scientists, would scorch the earth in about six billion years. 

All those signs that I’d spent my life looking for – it turned out they were not signs at all. 

The plagues and wars of my world were in fact minor incidents compared with the catastrophes my own grandparents had witnessed – let alone theirs. That politician was actually quite a mundane fellow when measured against the mad kings and actual dictators who preceded him. It had only been wishful thinking that had made him the Antichrist. 

I was not so special. Barring a sad accident or some great heroic commitment, I was about to grow old and die like everybody else. And when the world finally did end, it would do so without poetic significance or numerological value – without meaning. 

That really was the fear underneath the fear all along. The “end of the world” was just another childhood monster – a stand-in for the true terror that began trembling in my bones. 

I remember those days so fondly now. Those were charmed and happy days, when I feared the end of the world. 



More Magic to Come

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