The End of the World Diary Day 1, 30th November
Right, here goes, one message for posterity: an account of what happened
for you folks who find this and wonder what happened.
First of All do NOT open the bottle. It's Serene, probably the most dangerous
thing that we ever had the stupidity to mess around with.
I'm assuming somebody has survived; I'd hate to be the last man alive. Though
from what I heard when the radio was still working maybe there isn't going
to be anybody left to read this; last I heard everywhere suffered...
Thinking about it that's a worry; maybe there aren't any other survivors,
maybe I'm the last human left alive on the whole planet. That's a scary
thought; one I don't want to believe, there has to be someone, somewhere?
Hey what's the future being alone: really alone? I'm not going to let that
get into my mind; the whole of humankind can't have been completely wiped
out: If I survived there has to be others, anyway it'd make a bad video
game just me. Just the hero what would be the point? Still I'm no hero and
looking out the window I don't see no apocalyptic landscape. All I see is
sunshine and rainforest. Picture perfect; the view was why I bought the
house in the first place. Come to think about it that's more disturbing
than if it was a wasteland. Everything is as it has been since the very
first day I moved in. The trees, the birds, it's all the same: no, not the
same, some things aren't exactly the same. The goannas are getting bigger;
least there are bigger ones out there than I have seen before. They're less
frightened too, and getting more aggressive. Anyway I'm getting sidetracked,
there has to be somebody. Still knowing my luck it's going to an Adam and
not an Eve (that's a joke, Ha Ha).
My name is Michael Canarven; I'm thirty-nine years old. I live: at least
where I am now is close to Cairns, in the far northern tropics of Australia,
but if anybody does find this you'll know that already: at least the Aussie
bit. Outside it's hot, real hot. It's been a real dry summer: a perfect,
Like I said I guess by the time you read if you didn't already know you've
already worked out what happened, and probably don't need me to tell you:
but just to make sure you have the whole; the real story of my last days
I need to get it all written down. Maybe this is what they call, what's
Yea, maybe this is my Obituary.
There's a bottle in my pack: call it a souvenir or motivation if you like.
Its also my escape; when things get too much. It contains Serene: probably
the most insidious substance we as the human race ever had the misfortune
to happen upon, and it's because of that, that I can't just assume you already
know how dangerous it really is. You need to understand that it's not just
me just being selfish. We: you, can't make the same mistake twice.
Now after what I've just written about Serene your gunna ask the question:
why something found pretty much everywhere: least if you know where to look,
from a naturally occurring source, that has been proven to be non addictive;
has only the most minor physiological effect, and to all intents is perfectly
harmless: end up being so deadly? Well the fact is it isn't, it's us; mums,
dads, kids; people; it's the users and takers that are the ingredient that
makes it so dangerous, and to get you to understand that I have to take
you back to the real day one.
I can't recall the actual date; or even the month, but I do remember
the moment. For the record it was something over three years ago that I,
and I assume most people first heard of Serene. A few lines in the section
of the paper reserved for quirky, semi believable type news.
I guess that's not how the scientist who had sought a cure for his daughters
disturbing nightmares wanted it announced, but that's how it was. Just a
few lines under the heading 'choose your dreams'? More bullshit media, that's
what you assume don't you? Me too, but it intrigued me. Could we really
do that? Could I do that? The thought fascinated me: okay, it filled my
mind with, well lets just say not with the best of possible fantasies.
But most of the tabloid column filler stuff was made up, or sounded like
it should be, so I turned the page.
In a way it's kind of amusing looking back now; not that what happened was
funny, more that we spend our lives anticipating some event that will be
significant, when the really momentous ones can slip by, and then only slowly
reveal their significance. We know the ends; they come with a great big
full stop; often in some traumatic event, but certainly we know something
has ended. The beginnings, those almost irrelevant events that will fundamentally
alter our lives, often pass us by unnoticed, and without fanfare. Just an
observation, but if I had my time over, I'd make sure I stopped; morning,
noon and night to think how our lives, mundane as they seem, are like mercury,
constantly changing form and direction before our unseeing eyes. Anyway
as I said, I turned the page.
Headlines, big or small come and go but this one buried deep, and while
I didn't do anything straight away something prodded me a couple of weeks
later to Google a bit more. It seems the man had been a chemist and his
daughter had, had some pretty horrific nightmares. Wikipeadia told me that
he; as a father does, at least one with his skills: began researching. Apparently
he read everything from serious to bunkum equally thoroughly, and with an
open clinical mind.
I don't remember for sure if it was herb or toxin, or whatever, but somewhere
in the great mound of data that scientists create he found something; well
actually he suspected something. A by-the-way comment some other chemist
had almost absent mindedly added to the end of a science paper, saying that
maybe psychiatrists would like to do further investigation on its effect
on the unconscious mind. No one had, until this desperate chemist began.
From what I read it wasn't easy to do any kind of practical research, he
worked for a company that had something to do with plastics: in fact according
to the bio he was barely working as a chemist at all, just doing quality
control stuff in a cramped office cum work area. He sure didn't have all
the facilities or much experience to really investigate, but through a friend
of a friend, who worked in big drug companies lab, who in turn had a relationship
with a scientist who.... but that's not the point, the point is that he
got something underway. At first at his own cost, but they did find something,
and the scientist offered to help for free; free being a cut in any success.
The chemist loved his daughter so he was prepared to agree to anything;
all that mattered was that he got help for his child. The scientist arranged
some animal trials. It was at this line that I stopped reading. I don't
approve of testing anything on animals, and anyway how can we know what
animals dream, do they have nightmares? Sure I know my dog used to run in
his sleep but was he running away from a bigger dog in fear, or running
to his food bowl in anticipation, it all seemed more pointless research
so I clicked out.
Around a year later there was another article, this time in a much more
respectable publication, giving a warning to parents of newborn's and toddlers
about a so-called sleeping remedy, named Serene. I don't have any young
kids anymore; they're all
What drew me in to keep reading was that it apparently worked, and the article
claimed overtired mums and dads were cleaning out the herbalist shelves?
That upset a lot of people, me too truth known. Now I ain't got a problem
with drugs, but feeding babies: no way.
Late as usual the government had stepped in to get a couple of researchers
to do an emergency analysis. That didn't go well; all they found was that
everything was as natural as claimed, and worse still there seemed to be
no side effects. So what's the government to do, stop horses eating grass?
Anyway this apparent endorsement made it even more popular, and several
generic brands came on the market. This was when the big pharmaceuticals
began to bring out their own variety, using all their clout to maintain
it was as harmless as Aspirin. But as the journal concluded, Aspirin wasn't
The magazine also gave it its own unofficial medical classification; Pleasure
Syndrome: and a new nick P.S, which on the street soon became perpetual,
sleep. I've often wondered if whoever came up with that lived long enough
to want to eat their words; it was probably all they did eat?
Things pretty much snowballed after that. Mums and dads started popping
alongside their children. Teenagers began having what they called Serenity
parties. I had to laugh when I heard that; some party, everyone laying over
the furniture and floors fast asleep? But I was way off mark, these kids
were still partying in their dreams, at least they claimed they were. If
they took a tab and then fell asleep touching or even close by others, they
had a shared dream. That really made me laugh; that couldn't happen, it
was illogical. Anyway imagine, a teen party without the next day tantrums
and hangovers. Obviously the Serenity party was the dream. Still the kids
didn't think so, and in the end I succumbed.
I never found out the reason, but I never did see any marketed directly
to adults: maybe it was some advertising ploy, maybe kids doses made it
look safer. I don't know, but the instructions on the bottle were aimed
at children and recommended the child be in a safe environment, and surrounded
by toys they loved. Then place one of the tabs under the child's tongue.
It would dissolve in moments and the herb, or whatever it was, would be
absorbed. I had no idea how many tabs I would need, and I ain't suicidal,
not even now: well not yet, so I put the bottle back on the shelf, and instead
asked around the younger staff at work. Sure enough one got me the party
size, but it didn't look any different. Whatever I gave it a go.
The tab came without any directions, so I followed the advice I'd read on
the bottle, especially about making sure I was in a safe environment.
The guy who had supplied me had smiled as he said. "Don't try any Superman
dreams. A couple of weeks ago someone sleepwalked right off a fifteenth
floor balcony." The smile faded as he rolled off the possibilities.
"Other than that just lay down and think of a dream. Any dream. Like
eating? Then dream of the finest meals, in the best restaurants. Like sex,
." he smiled again, "It's up to you. Travel, fast cars;
anything, just go to sleep thinking of whatever you want to happen."
So I did, but it was no dream. It was a nightmare. I was in a clear glass
box, around me people were having a great time: the time I had wanted for
myself, but I was a voyeur, watching without experiencing. Next day I saw
the guy again and he said there were people like me, people who the experience
had no effect on; apparently I have the wrong genes or something. There
weren't many of us, hardly any at all, just a tiny percentage, of a percent.
I heard they called people like me the excommunicated; outside, but watching
people in heaven; course the other name was looser.
Then at last the government banned the sale. It caused an outcry, but
I thought that was great news; if I couldn't enjoy then why should anyone
else? It came out that the government had forced the pharma companies to
do in depth, overdue clinical trials. But I think what had finally got the
government to act was that so many kids were missing school that classes
were being cancelled: and adults were pulling more and more sickies; not
just the odd one now and again, but lots, and in rapidly growing numbers.
In fact companies sometimes didn't have enough staff on hand to open up.
It didn't take a science degree to see that people preferred to live in
the 'other' world they frequented more and more; and in preference to the
one we do live in. Trust governments to only care when it affected the tax
It was almost too late now as people slept rather than living. Then the
At first, and most disturbingly it was the young and healthy that literally
starved to death. Their calorie intake had fallen dramatically as their
bodies adjusted to the almost continual at rest, sleeping state; some, the
really hooked ones didn't stay awake long enough to eat, so the government
was forced into more action and made taking Serene a criminal offence.
But by now it was far too late, as the drug gangs replaced the legitimate
suppliers, forcing ordinary mums and dads to join the illegal trade, just
to get those few hours in blissful sleep they relished, and had come to
believed was so desperately needed.
I ain't no expert so I don't know what definition makes something a drug,
or not a drug. Can something be neither, yet still hook you and make you
As PS tightened its grip there was no shortage of so called experts throwing
around their opinions; but it all came down to the same options. Addicted
or weak willed, Serene filled a space in everyone's life. It didn't create
a craving; instead it created a place where everything in the world was
right, even if it wasn't. A place where the good did win, a place where
we could live the dream, and forget everything else, but we were too obsessed
to see the consequences of spending our lives somewhere that could never
And that's about it. Towards the end even the cops and pollies were joining
in; then in hopeless overwork the doctors and nurses began wasting away.
The last I read about Serene, before I lost the feed into the net, was that
it changed the neurons in the brain; creating loops where there should have
been none, and once started it kept on reconnecting. It don't leach out
or get watered down, it just carries on twenty-four hours a day, isolating
and plugging the pleasure zone into the areas of our brain that live in
fantasy; at the exclusion of everything else. It didn't create a dependency,
it did something far more dangerous, it actually changed they way we think
and act: the way society functions. It gave us a choice we were never meant
to have, a choice we cant handle.
Chrissie Hynde used to sing about pleasure and pain. Given that choice;
pleasures is what we choose every time; and we did, but life ain't all pleasure,
there's a fine balance. We have to have a little pain; I know that now.
That was the last I heard of Serene: the last time the newspapers were printed
and the last time the web was updated. For a while after there were still
a couple of radio stations going, urging people like me to go to places
where we could be together and maybe start again. Maybe I will.