It was the week that Peta Li got her first assignment in the newsroom. It was the week of Monday the first of January two-thousand and one. It was the week that Peta began reading the newswire.
It was the week that Sydney discovered the secret tribes that lived in the Tank stream beneath the towering CBD. The tribes that were neither indigenous language-groups, nor immigrant clans, but hidden families of silent children, half-blind refugees from public welfare who lived in the underground drains, hunting stray pets, and the odd rat. Who hid from intrepid spelunkers, and surfaced only in the small hours in Martin Place, to skateboard recklessly on its uneven steps, and trade with its half-sleepy inhabitants.
It was the week that Digital Television was first broadcast, poor and haphazard in its initial steps. When the lucky few with set-top boxes and progressive-scan televisions tuned their tvs to the broadcasts, whose pictures at first seemed corrupted by digital noise (as though they’d tuned to simultaneous stations). Who discovered the interference was a second, tightly-interlaced set of video fields – there all along – previously overlooked. A disturbing and threatening transmission, where the inhabitants of Vega informed the public calmly that they had received Earth’s first, furtive transmissions in the late nineteen-thirties, and yes – that they would respond to our apparent excess of ranting, bipedal athletes (a pest problem, they told us) with bombs, missiles, laser-rays and devices that, even as we watched, had been already dispatched and, we were assured, would arrive at our planet shortly.
It was the week that thousands of corpses, revived (by still newborn technology), rose from their graves and wreaked havoc on the living, overrunning them with the unwavering letter of insurance law and fresh allegations of murder. When the exquisite body of Lenin rose from its table of experimentation, accosting the public left and right in clear but archaic Russian, overturning laboratories and hospitals in turn in search of its still-studied brain.
It was the week that the Messiah made itself known (being apparently of neither sex, though having a somewhat-Semitic nose), and refused to confirm whether it was visiting the planet for the first or second time. When it seized control of national broadcasters through polite, but firm intimidation, settling at a news desk in Antwerp where it read from an English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and revealed that there would be a month of prodigies to follow. Whence the Messiah described in detail the wonders and catastrophes in each week from the first until the fourth, proclaiming at the climax that “afterwards will come the fifth week” shortly before going to a commercial from which it never returned.
It was the week that tinfoil was accepted both scientifically and by the advocates of fashion as an effective sunscreen and acceptable device to occlude the thoughts of the mind from Extra Sensory Perception. It was also confirmed as a potent charm against the creeping advances of age.
It was the week that Death drove a train, revealing that it had, in point of fact, been a life-long ambition, where it demonstrated considerable talent. That Famine prepared a banquet for a number of world leaders, leading to serious infection for many, resulting in a surprising lack of fatalities; outlining to others the basic and underlying principles of food resource management that had been lacking for so many years. War was quietly admitted to a private clinic, where media sources claimed that it was recuperating from the effects of a number of psychotropic substances, although its manner suggested more the prominent symptoms of total exhaustion. While Pestilence withdrew from the public gaze, with litigation pending, having fielded poorly questions about a number of well-known and prominent epidemics.
It was the week that American farmers exterminated their cattle in a spontaneous and massive undertaking reminiscent of a similar incident in nineteenth-century Africa by the Xhosa people. Simultaneous was an epidemic of morbid nausea, spreading with a slight lag and in parallel.
It was the week that California fell into the San Andreas fault, to the horror of many and the relief of some.
It was the week that twelve nuclear warheads exploded in their silos, one after the other – seven in the United States, four in Russia and one in the People’s Republic of China – each triggered by the previous blast in a tragic chain of cause and effect, glitches in early-warning systems and poor missile maintenance.
And it was the week that Peta Li calculated the relative velocity of the Vegan missiles, bombs, laser-rays and devices delivering their silent earthward march of death. When she announced that due to an apparent disparity between Vegan Radio-telescope technology and Vegan rocket know-how, that the lethal armada would take approximately four-hundred and sixty-five million years to cross the interstellar divide. With a five year margin of error, hinging on the unknown variable of whether or not their Vegan programmers were twins.
When she talked with certain, more modest, constitutional lawyers in the United States, that had previously avoided contact with the press. In conversation they informed her that in lieu of a Florida decision in mid-November, the presidency had been passed down the chain of command to either an elephant or a donkey – but were unable to agree on which.
When she interviewed Famine and War as part of globe-spanning campaign for a world-wide, simultaneous release of their debut album. Where they discussed the various merits and troughs of the band, and its single Hill of Meggido, and briefly touched on the topic of the Apocalypse stating that they were “tired of being typecast like that” and that they had only brought up the whole matter in the first place as a PR stunt and as “a bit of a laugh”.
When she discovered, along with a great many people, that twelve nuclear warheads had, in fact, not exploded in their silos – by the pointed weight of evidence that the various centres and missile silos in question were actually still there. Who deduced, along with a great many people, that it had, in fact, been twelve early warning systems that malfunctioned and disintegrated – linked, as they were, by fifty years of intricate espionage and ill-advised hard-wiring.
And it was the week that Peta Li and three million other journalists jointly won the Pulitzer Prize – declared somewhat early – for reports too staggering to catalogue. When prodigies and miracles accumulated here and there, and sometimes in-between. When Peta Li declared it “a pretty good week, full of crisis and rumour – good to last a thousand years.”