Apocalypse, Inc.

“The seas will turn red and boil. Blood will rain down from the heavens and the four horsemen will sweep the land, destruction and despair following their trail!”

“Meh, kind of boring and, well, it misses the point by a wide margin.”

Larry looked at me with his hands still raised above his head in a grand gesture. I kind of liked it when Larry got stumped, he always got that kind of lost expression on his face that I found hilarious. He slowly lowered his arms and glared at me. “What’s your problem?”

I sipped my coffee, a disgusting brew coming directly from the coffee-maker from hell we had in the office. It was black as the night, bitter as regret and no amount of cream or sugar could mask the taste of tar. It was also strong enough to give a narcoleptic sloth heart racing, which was the reason we persisted in drinking the stuff.

I looked at the wall full of concept art behind Larry and shook my head. “First, that’s all old stuff. I mean, boiling seas? The four horsemen? It’s like every other apocalypse we have seen. Second, I find your reliance on Christian symbols a bit of disrespectful of some of our customers. We are planning the end of the world for a widely varied audience with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds. And third, we have children in our audience.”

Larry’s eyes bulged, it was quite funny. “You can’t be serious. Are you telling me that we have to make the End of the World PG rated? The Apocalypse is not a dinner party!”

I put my mug on the desk, shuffling a bit of paper aside to avoid to stain some important document. “Quoting Mao is not helping your case, and it also kind of brings me back on my second objection. We have a strong Chinese audience. They have different sensibilities, we have to cater to them too.”

Larry became agitated, he waved his arms before stomping to the wall and pointing to different pictures showing an admittedly evocative if pedestrian end of the world. “I understand the christian origin, but this are archetypes that have permeated the world culture. Most people may not know the source material, but everyone knows the four horsemen!”

“And that is the first problem. Everyone knows them, probably nobody will be surprised when they appear.”

“Obviously nobody will be surprised, we announced the end of the world!”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t put a bit more effort in it. It’s not the first world we end, we can’t repeat ourselves.”

Larry deflated, I felt almost sorry for him. I knew he had worked hard for it, but it was better to sink any doomed projects now than in a later development phase. As fun as it was poking at him, he was a great worker and seeing his efforts wasted was a tad sad.

He sulked a bit. “Why do we care so much? It’s the end, there won’t be anything after it.”

I stood up and put my hand on his shoulder. “The Boss cares, so we care too. And you know there will be something new after this, the guys on the upper stages have already begun the development. We also have a certain fame we have to keep up.”

Larry sighed, but the gears in his precious little head had begun to turn again. “Can we have a few different apocalypses? You know, something that leverages the different cultures?”

I shook my head. “Sorry, no budget for it. We have a lot of money for a single spectacular ending, but if we begin to differentiate then it will stretch thin fast. Come on, you know the dance, it’s not the first time we do this. OK, it’s a bit different from your usual stuff, but you are not a newbie in the business.”

He turned around and picked a picture from the wall, it depicted a cloaked figure over the burning ruins of a city. “And the rating?”

“PG is the upper limit. We all thought your Ragnarok was awesome, but this time we have to use less gore and sex.”

He sighed, sat down and stared at the wall. “Man, I never thought that closing Barbie’s World Online would be so freaking hard.”

Apocalypse, Inc.