The Fingertips Project: Everything Is Catching On Fire

This is a brand new project which will run weekly, every Thursday, for 20 weeks. This is a series of brief fictions, each using one of the Fingertips from They Might Be GiantsApollo 18 album. If by some fluke, you’re unfamiliar with this record, the Fingertips are 20 different songs, each no longer than a minute — usually closer to 10 seconds — to replicate the sound of a K-Tel record TV spot. On the CD, they’re each indexed separately to lend themselves to shuffle mode. (The title appears to be a reference to The ResidentsCommercial Album, which has a similar concept (a Top-40 chart of songs exactly 1 minute in length) as well as a song titled “Fingertips”.

Each of the pieces in the Fingertips Project will be posted in the order the songs appear on the album, each song used as a writing prompt. Like the songs, most of the pieces are pretty short — some more so than others. So here we go!

When I woke up from taking a nap on the couch, I looked outside our big picture window. The sky was dark — not dark like night, but like an extremely overcast day. Almost like dusk — except everything was brown. A rust-like dirty brown.

I turned on the television and saw the special report. The plastic dolls were reporting that the Bombs Had Fallen and that, well, we were all doomed. The older, more respected-in-the-community one explained the political circumstances while the younger eye-candy looked serious and nodded. Unlike the other Important Stories he’d nodded to, there was a strange look in his eye. Just the sense of not knowing what to do.

That sense made sense — after all, there was no way out. Soon, we’d all die; radiation, nuclear winter, whatever — it didn’t matter, just as the situation leading to this point didn’t matter. In a perverse way, it felt — I wouldn’t say GOOD, per se, but at the very least, interesting — to be united with every living person on Earth in this. Perhaps never before had every human on Earth had the same basic feelings at the same time.

Sure — there were different spins on it; some were eagerly anticipating the afterlife, others fearful for the same reason, others trying to convince themselves they could still survive, perhaps climbing down a mineshaft with their family to keep the human race alive while realizing that such ideas were mere shaft dreams. I wasn’t sure how I felt. While admittedly a fan of the idea of an afterlife or reincarnation, I wasn’t necessarily sold on it. While I’d love to be proven wrong, I wasn’t exactly holding my breath. And there’s always the question of what HAPPENS next, what non-existence feels like, but, as I always said, I’d tried it for quite a long time. Didn’t really care for it. But it looks like things are going back to that. I knew I would sometime, just didn’t want it to happen so soon, or, well, to be honest, ever, really. Existing is pretty grand when you think about it. Sensing, communicating, dreaming.

But that was all over. The realization had hit the newsdrones and they awkwardly paused, unsure of the point of reiterating what everyone either already knew or could damn well figure out for themselves. Occasionally the younger one would venture small talk, but the older would just sort of make non-committal noises, sometimes an empty “yeah” or “sure is” without any meaning, weight or positivity behind it. Neither man looked sad or even winsome, really. Just… vacant. Empty. Their brains had decided they’d had enough of shit like this coming down and checked out. They had their own things to worry about — throw the autopilot switch on the standard respiratory functions, and hole off somewhere private to work things out and ultimately make their peace with the situation and themselves.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do either; I kept an eye on the TV and decided that these things happen. I did think it was surprising that the power was still on, but, well, the entire situation was surprising. After all, they’ve got bombs to get rid of people but keep structures and paper, perhaps these were bombs that kept the grid intact so folks could roll in and set up the occupying forces without much hassle. Of course, there was a bit of overkill in this case.

So, I did what I always do with things I can’t do a thing about — ignore them. The anchors had stopped talking completely, so I turned the channel and put a movie in.