Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The Apocalypse Is Already Here

with one comment

Picher sprang up as a 20th-century boomtown—the “buckle” of the mining belt that ran through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. The earth underneath it produced most of the lead for US bullets in World Wars I and II and enough zinc to literally galvanize construction of the American suburbs. These raw materials were used to create stronger, water-resistant metal alloys, better batteries, and dietary supplements—the base materials of a modern society. Population peaked at 14,000 in 1926. When the lode ran dry in 1970, the mining companies moved out. Picher eventually became a Superfund site, and half a decade ago the state government offered residents an average of $55 per square foot to evacuate their homes. By September 2009, the police force had disbanded and the government dissolved. Picher was a dead city.

Except that a few people refused to leave. They call themselves chat rats, a loose and increasingly self-reliant colony armed with cell phones and Wi-Fi for communication and guns for driving off scrap-metal scavengers. It’s a life bordering on squalid—on the way out of the Gorillas Cage, Roberts spots shovel marks around the base of the burned-out signpost, the beginning of an attempt to steal it. Across the street, a former auction-house parking lot has become a dumping ground for tires. On the drive back out of town, he passes the abandoned high school and notices that the arts and crafts building has burned down. A man appears to be helping himself to bookshelves from an open classroom. Roberts can’t figure out why anyone would turn down the relocation money he’s offering. “Most people have bettered themselves through this process,” he says. “Now there are only radicals left.” Via MeFi.

One Response

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  1. But it’s the second half of the sentence, that you left out of your title, that makes the sentence so fabulous:

    “The apocalypse is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed.”

    — Taking William Gibson’s famous line about the future, of course, and just inserting “apocalypse” instead…

    Stephen Frug

    September 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm


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