Turning Forty

Turning Forty

 

“Aw, come on Dave. I tell you, it’s a total myth. It’s just an outdated idea that somewhere around forty life becomes a heap of crap. It’s for losers. Just look at you! You are in a rut; a wife who, let’s be honest, has lost interest in …well, you know what I mean; two kids who are more interested in their iphones and computer games than anything else; your job is going nowhere; it just pays the mortgage and an occasional beer. What I am trying to say Dave, is that you only feel like this because you are not really satisfied with life at the moment and can’t see such a bright future. You need to go out and shake the tree a bit, change jobs, take up squash, maybe even get a mistress, well ok I know Jane is really a wonderful girl, forget the last bit. Sorry mate.”

I knew deep down that he was right. Maybe I was just looking for an excuse to blame it on something else. It’s just that I have been feeling so down lately. Twenty years ago I was a happy-go-lucky guy, a different girl each week, enjoyed my job and thought that I could change the world. Now I seem to be just full of doubts. My back aches most of the time; I get angry at the news, up twice a night for a pee and even when Jane is in the mood it takes me all my effort to manage it. Bobs right about one thing, I need to do something about this or I am a dead man.

“It might seem like a myth to you Bob, but for me it’s real and I can’t seem to get up the energy to fight it. The mid-life crisis is as real at this beer!”

It was easy for Bob to talk like that. He has just had a promotion and is looking to become CIO within a couple of years; a six figure salary, no family, golfing wizard.  He seemed to have it all, but even so, somehow nagging deep in the back of my head was the feeling that I still wouldn’t want to swap with him. I love Jane and the kids. They are what keep me going.

“Look at it this way Dave. Would you be feeling like this if you were me? No, of course not! You only feel like you do because you are not happy. You need to get up, be confident, and enjoy life a bit more. The mid-life crisis doesn’t exist, only your misery. Come on what do you say? If it is as real as that beer, then let’s drink it down so that it disappears and at the same time swallow the blues with it.”

Bob perked me up. I knew that he was right and made a momentary promise to myself to do something about it.

“Cheers Bob, and thanks. Next year, same time, same place? You will see that I am a different bloke.”

“Cheers. I really hope so Dave because you are not the same guy as last year when we met. How many years is it now? It must be more than fifteen years that we have met here on the same day each year.”

“This is the seventeenth year. We’ve met every year since uni, except for the year of my bike accident.”

We drank the rest of our beer and left, promising to meet again next year. I told myself that the next time, Bob would meet a different mate; One with optimism. I had had enough of this stupid myth talk.

*****

The following morning at breakfast I looked across the table at Jane. I stared at the small wrinkles forming at the corner of her eyes, her lips were tighter than I had realised. But the thing that struck me most was her eyes. Whereas before they had sparkled and beamed a feeling of thorough happiness throughout the house, they were now blank, dulled by the effort of bringing up a family on a shoestring, tired through lack of relaxation and sleep. “My God,” I thought. “Here I have been so bottled up with my own situation; I had forgotten to see what is happening to the rest of my family. I have been as blind as if I had no eyes.”

On a sudden rush of compassion and impulse I said, “Jane, you know, I have been thinking. The kids are old enough to look after themselves for a week. How about you and I take off to the beach on our own? We need a break.”

Jane looked so surprised. The instant look of excitement was enough to convince me that I had said the right thing. I would find the money from somewhere. “Can we really afford to do that? I thought you were worried about our credit cards already becoming to high.”

“Don’t worry,” I casually responded, trying to give a confident smirk. “I have been saving a few pound each month for exactly this occasion,” I lied.

“Oh Dave. How lovely. I can’t wait.”

And so it was that the year started to improve. We had a great holiday. Jane got a bit of her sparkle back. We made love on the beach at night and swam under the stars. I was faced with a mixture of pride and jealousy as I saw her being eyed by some young guys as she lay by the pool in her bikini. She really was such a beautiful wife and I slowly was nudged back into the reality that I was a lucky guy.

During the holiday I had lost two pounds, which continued after we got back. We also made the effort to go out more and met some like-minded couples. Gradually our social life improved and we managed to find the extra money for some enjoyable social evenings with our friends. We were moving out of the rut that we had somehow, unknowingly, slipped into.

A few months later my boss called me into the office. I knew that there were redundancies on the horizon and feared the worst. “Shit, I thought. Just as life was beginning to pick up, here comes the next major blow.”

I walked into the bosses’ office; stoop shouldered looking at the floor. “Hey, Dave. Come  on in. Sit down. Christ Dave, you look awful. What’s the problem?”

“Come on Richard. Spit it out and get it over with. I know there are redundancies on for this month.”

Richard initially laughed out loud but quickly he frowned and became quite serious again. “You’re right Dave. We have to let eighty-six go by the end of the year. That’s nearly a third of the workforce. My problem is that I need to downsize and amalgamate some departments. I have decided to bring all IT departments together under one CIO. The three departments are operations, development and your small group in new projects. Dave, I want you to lead up the whole team and be our new CIO. We need to discuss the details but you are looking at around a fifty per cent increase in salary if you want to take the job. What do you say?”

That evening as Jane and I sat at our celebration dinner, I relayed to her the whole story about my discussion with Bob six months earlier. I told her that I was now ashamed of feeling the way I did, but at the time everything was just getting on top of me. Here I am now, ten pounds lighter, much healthier and fitter, enjoying life as it should be. When I told her the tale of my stupid mid-life crisis and how Bob had suggested I take a mistress and change job, we both laughed. I told Jane that in a strange way I do have a new mistress. Her! She was the only one I ever wanted and now that she seems much happier again she really is like a new woman. She blushed at my comment.

“So, it really is just some stupid myth Jane. Life is what you make it, whether it is during mid-life or not. I can’t wait to see Bob in six months’ time to tell him that he was right all along.”

*****

I sat with such anticipation. Bob had always been my hero; I looked up to him probably too much, but he was the successful one. He was well off, good looking and carried an air of confidence that I could only dream about. I sat in our usual corner thinking how pleased and impressed he will be to see me smiling and confident. I even bought some fashionable new clothes to complete the picture.

It didn’t’ surprise me when, after half an hour, he was not there. He was never one for good timekeeping. I had just ordered my second pint when the pub door slowly opened and an old guy stepped in dripping from the rain. I took little notice and continued with the sms that I was writing to my son. He was stuck on his German homework and wanted to know what a battle-axe was in German.  I was just in the middle of writing ‘Schreckschraube’ which is a combination of the words ‘fright’ and ‘screw’ in German, which made me smile, as many translations do, when I suddenly had a genuine fright. When the old guy across the room removed his wet coat and glanced around the pub I saw that it was Bob.

I waved to him and he caught my eye. “Can anyone age so much in a year?” I asked myself.

“Bob, Hi! Sorry old mate, but you look awful. Whatever happened?”

Bob then began to relay the events of the past year. His company began to lose money rapidly after the banks started to slide. They were a major financial consulting company in London and along with the cutbacks was the total outsourcing of their IT. Bob was made redundant six months ago, which had not worried him initially at the time, as he was confident to find another good position. Because of this he waited until the end of his notice period before he earnestly applied for a new position, only to find that it was much more difficult that he had expected. He had been out of work since then, often being told by his interviewees that they were looking for a younger man.

Probably due to his financial situation his latest girlfriend has moved out to be with a younger guy, citing in the harsh words of their split up, that she had never planned to spend her life with a loser.

Bob began to drink heavily and in those short six months has become unkempt, dissillusioned and ten years older.

“You remember last year Dave, when you told me about the mid-life crisis?” he nervously stammered after a few minutes.

“Yes, of course I do. I left here thinking long and hard on what you told me Bob. And you know what it was good what you said to me, you were absolutely ri…”

He cut me off, and put his hand on my shoulder. “I felt bad about what I said ever since. I was too stroppy and should have taken you far more seriously. I have now learned that you were totally right all the time. Of course the mid-life crisis is as real as a common cold. It cuts you down and you don’t know how to get going again.”

I looked at him with sincere and sorrowful eyes. I didn’t have the heart or the will to tell him of my good fortune over the last year. Having waited half a year to spread my luck and good news to Bob, all I could reply was, “Thanks Bob, the mid-life crisis is no myth. Let’s drink to our future.”

Earth 2

Earth2

 

“I’m telling you Sir. They won’t go. We have evacuated the rest but this group on the island of Stuke are determined to stay until the end. We’ve tried everything to convince them, but they will not budge,” explained Commander Justin Spencer of the Earth1 evacuation team.

His job was to supervise the evacuation of all remaining humans on Earth1. The overall evacuation program had been running for nearly two hundred years, since 2836. The atmosphere had spiralled out of control during the first century of the millennium. Those crazy people, if only they had stayed with their nuclear energy programs instead of reverting back to fossil fuel, and being so naïve as to imagine that they could control the atmosphere with that backward technology. Well, mankind has certainly paid a high price.

After the 21st century ended things began to move quickly. The atmosphere was so polluted that we were driven underground. Population reduced by ninety-eight per cent to just fewer than 100 million; Most animal species died out; Water rationing; Food in tablet form; Babies manufactured in the lab.

But mankind survived by adaptation just as in the past. We evolved to the new life. Now we were being hit again by the power of nature. The Earth was heating up, not the three or four degrees which caused panic back then but eighteen degrees centigrade per year. The cooling systems were breaking down now on a regular basis. This year of 3029 would be the last on Earth. As soon as we turn off the lights and the cooling systems go down, the shock to the crust will be so immense that it will erupt within days. That will be the end.

Jork Tipper is the supreme commander leading the last fleet out to our new home, in the solar system HD10180. Earth2 was discovered over nine hundred years ago but at a distance of over a hundred light years was until recently too far away to colonise. As usual mankind found a solution and managed to harness the hyper drive warp technique just in time. By warping through the worm hole G64 we could be there in a month.

“Commander, we have two days left. How many entities are there remaining on the island?”

“Two hundred and fifty-six humans and eighteen thousand animals, if we include the rats, Sir.”

“Ok then. I want you to patch me in with their leader at two o’clock. Come to join me for lunch so that we can discuss the options.”

Commander Spencer had been trying for months to persuade the Stuke people to join the fleet, but they were the last remaining religious group and also believed in the final salvation here on Earth1. He was convinced that they would not be prepared to go.

*****

“If we leave our homeland, we go against everything we have lived for,” shrieked Tulcar. “We have lived according to the holy scriptures of our Lord Meninsulah for nearly a thousand years. Our parents have taught us as their parents taught them. Was it all in vain? I say we stay here on Stuke Island and take our chances. God will protect us.”

I heaved a sigh. The decision was mine alone. Only one was trusted with the divine right and since reaching manhood this was conferred on me. My name is Jesuah Markon; I am the leader of the Meninsulites here on Stuke Island. The burden is heavy. I have listened to the arguments for over a hundred years and have been swayed by each debate.

“I am meeting with Commanders Tipper and Spencer this afternoon where I will make my final decision. I will retire to my sanctuary until then. Please God help us to find the right way.” At that I waited for the murmur of acceptance, studying the eyes of each of my congregation. They all show such open trust and faith, not only in our God, Meninsulah, but also in me. This faith sits with ever-increasing weight on my tired shoulders.

I turned slowly and left to the fading whispers of “God be with you Lord Jesuah. Please save us.”

Alone in my sanctuary I pondered the same questions that had been haunting me since childhood. “If we leave for Earth2 the most sacred of our beliefs is lost forever.  We live on the Island of Stuke, because this land was blessed by Meninsulah Himself. Our forefathers accepted the home with the promise that we would always remain and look after this holy land. If we leave, where do we go? What is our destiny? We could no longer exist as Meninsulites.”

I closed my eyes, so heavy with sorrows. “How could I find the strength to help my people? God please help me! Show me the way,” I called, staring down into the bowels of the earth towards heaven and the home of our Lord.

As I concentrated, trying to clear my head to think, a voice suddenly entered my mind. I had heard from my father, and he from his, that during the Great War of the planets, when it seemed as though all was lost, my distant predecessor Lord Mastow had heard the same voice. Somehow I knew this was the time. I heard the voice, but there were no words, no sound, and no command. It was as if the voice was just there, in my head; Thoughts, but not my own.

I immediately knew the answer that I had been searching.

*****

I called to the vidcom to connect and instantly the stern countenances of two grim senior commanders came onto the screen.

“My dear Lord Jesuah, it has been a long time since we met. I hope that you and your people are well and still managing to cope with the temperature fluctuations. We are doing our best to stabilise, but you know how it is I think. We are at our maximum limits. Within days the systems will break down.” Tipper was straight to the point. This would be a short conversation.

He went on,” We will need at least twenty-four hours to load the entities…. er people and animals onto the ships. We must have a decision from you this afternoon. You must choose between a life on Earth2 and a certain death here on Earth1. How do you respond?”

I smiled. The life on Earth2 would be no life for the Meninsulites. I calmly looked them both in the eye and said with a confidence that surprised even myself, “My dear gentlemen, as you know we have habited this island for nearly a thousand years. We have survived ridicule from the other clans. We have survived disease and famine, and are now threatened by a new danger. We are more afraid of your Earth2 than remaining here to face our fate. We will stay and share the future which is written in the stars.”

The frustration showed on their faces. I suspected that the next promotion, especially that of Spencer would depend on his success at complete evacuation.  He broke in, “But this is crazy. No-one believes in this rubbish any more. Get real man….”

At this Commander Tipper showed anger and quickly touched the arm of Spencer to stop him.

“Commander Spencer, you know the law. We cannot legally force the Meninsulites to leave Earth1. The choice must be theirs and theirs alone.” Turning to me he said “Lord Jesuah, your decision is noted. We will leave you as much protection and supplies as possible, but the fleet will leave tomorrow morning. There will be no return.”

“I thank you and wish you well on your long voyage Commander. God bless you.”

We had much to do but somehow I felt lighter. The decision was made. There would be no going back.

The following morning we all came to the domed hall to watch the spectacle. The final evacuation fleet of hyperdrives was forming in the sky. The sight was awesome. The sky was filled with a cloud of dots, each one holding a small village of people, animals, and plants. In a flash they all moved as one. A second later the sky was clear; they were gone.

I turned to my people. “We must move quickly. We have little time.”

We spent the next day and night herding every living creature on the island down into the deepest caverns. The supplies left by Tipper followed. We had enough to last quite a while.

*****

The Earth shook for months. We spent the days praying, sleeping, and tending our duties. Meninsulah would protect us, I was sure. I had followed exactly the commands of the voice.

Slowly the tremors subsided; the worst seemed to be over. We remained down in the cavern for another twelve years, fearing the intense radiation and heat of the surface. On the foretold day I asked my son, Jesuih to go to the upper level and bring news of the surface conditions. The journey would take some weeks as all transport means had ceased to function during the time underground. We waited and prayed those long empty days.

After his return with the news that we could surface, it was a time of great celebration. We made music, danced and sang, just like in the old times. After a week of celebrations we began to gather what few belongings we had and move back up towards the surface.

That day alone in the sanctuary I had been told that in order for Earth to survive we must rid ourselves of the main cause of its destruction. Mankind had almost succeeded in wiping out the Earth and all its’ creatures, but with them gone one small group of Believers, the Meninsulites, would begin all over again to establish a new order.

I looked at the stars with awe and wonder. “Good luck Commander,” I murmured. “I hope you all do better the next time.”