Sit down, Ben. I’ve got some bad news for you.
I just looked at the Amazon page for The Last Policeman, and --
What? No no no. The bad news isn’t a one-star review. Are you kidding? A book by you? With that premise? What’s not to love? It’s just that --
No, Ben. It doesn’t have anything to do with the sales rank, either.
Look, forget I said anything about Amazon, O.K.? Let’s just say I saw some of the promo copy for The Last Policeman somewhere, and this line jumped out at me:
What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
It’s a good question. But it’s one we could be asking ourselves right now, no asteroid needed. Because...are you ready for this, Ben? Take a deep breath and nod when you’re ready.
O.K. Here’s the thing.
We’re all going to die.
You’ll notice I’m not shouting that. I’m not telling you to repent repent! I don’t own a THE END IS NEAR sandwich board. It’s not Armageddon I’m talking about. It’s just death.
I figured it out when I was maybe 8 years old. Those 10-cent goldfish that kept disappearing from the fish tank? Mom lied. They didn’t “escape.” Well, they did in a way. They escaped the fish tank. That just didn’t work out so well for them.
Sooner or later, I realized, we’ll all escape our little individual fish tanks. And what comes next for us isn’t any more pleasant or dignified than the traditional goldfish “burial at sea” (a.k.a., taking a dip with the Ty-D-Bowl Man.) We’re nothing, we’re born, we live, we die, we rot, we’re nothing. That thought’ll keep an 8 year old up at night, let me tell you.
So what did I do, really do, once I knew my days were numbered? I tried my damnedest not to think about it, that’s what. I played with my friends, I watched too much TV, I ate too many cookies, I had fun. I lived.
Tell me an asteroid’s coming, and it would be more of the same. Except with beer instead of cookies. Or maybe beer and cookies. Why the hell not? I’ve got six months to live and I’m going to worry about the size of my damn pants?
Oh, and I’d stop worrying about my Amazon sales rank, too. That actually might be kind of a relief.
Steve Hockensmith is the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Holmes on the Range and several other books that will live on long after he’s scooped out of his fish tank. Or so he likes to tell himself.