The Longest Day
Judgement day was full of surprises.
Firstly, there was the moon of blood. Only the astrologers cared at first, until Coca-Cola found a way to trace their corporate logo across the scarlet disk with a high-powered white laser light. Then the sky went black, leaving the entire world under the dull red light of the blood moon. Photographers were mildly encouraged that the afterlife might resemble a dark room, and torch manufacturers recorded record sales. The police predicted a massive increase in crime in this world that looked like a perpetual sunset, and were prepared for riots and looting.
Thankfully, something to do with the presence of the all-mighty and the imminent judgment of all souls kept people mostly at home. The only places that were busier than normal were the churches, which found themselves packed to the rafters with sudden converts, and the tanning parlors that saw increased traffic after a popular fashion magazine reported that the red moonlight made some celebrities look pasty.
Some people questioned the notion of a judgment “day” in the following weeks, when it appeared that the all-mighty may have slipped on his delivery date for this one. The church’s official response was that a day is measured from sunrise to sunset and since the sun had failed to rise, there had not been a new day in five weeks.
Just as life was returning to a semblance of normality, the dead began to rise from their graves. Or at least they tried to, but the very practical burying of the dead six feet down did serve as some impediment to the tired and frankly unfit and under-exercised corpses who now found themselves boxed and sunk with not so much as a trowel or small pick-axe. In countries where cremation was preferred to burying there were no such problems, although roving and strangely mischievous dust storms were reported in several cities. Most of the dead were quickly rescued from their underground internment, although comments were made in several quarters about the lack of forethought in burying people one on top of the other.
With no known date for the end of judgment “day”, several companies began offering “casket management systems” that claimed to remove multiple caskets simultaneously from a single grave and arrange them vertically for easy access. There was little call for these, however, as most the industrious undertakers, having discovered that there was now no death, had reinvented themselves as “loved one retrieval specialists”. The dead who were trapped underneath patios or in the foundations of buildings were more difficult to get at, and it was these that the undertakers found to be the most lucrative jobs.
The police were initially keen to track the retrieval of these concealed corpses, but lawyers were quick to point out that since the dead had risen from the graves, all current or potential convictions for murder should be null and void. Thus, with no new criminals to defend, the lawyers found a burgeoning market in getting the old criminals they had failed to keep out of prison in the first place back out of prison on a growing list of judgment-day technicalities.
Several weeks into the dead-raising, the first practical problem of having dead people back among the living arose. It had long been a stated fact amongst environmentalists and people of low social tolerance that the planet was overcrowded. When the sodden earth disgorged its population, most people became strangely inclined to agree. Whereas many of the recent dead had relatives who were happy to put them up in cupboards, or underneath the sink, there were many that did not having any living relatives. Entire families, colloquially referred to as being “at the end of the line”, found themselves with nowhere to go.
Thankfully, the inventors of the “casket management systems” were quick to pounce on this problem, and quickly converted the now defunct machinery for getting caskets out of the ground into machinery for putting them back in, and then out again, ad-infinitum. Thus, as the living built their buildings taller and taller to cope with their growing population, the dead found themselves digging deeper and deeper until their subterranean refuges had grown large enough to accommodate their considerable numbers. Thankfully, with no death, the difficult matter of people moving from the world of the living to the world of the dead was not encountered. Automation of the underground facilities was increased until it was possible for a corpse to be popped from its casket and whizzed to ground level in a matter of minutes at the touch of a button.
Time moved on, as it had a tendency to do despite the conviction of the church, and the dead and the living found themselves cohabiting with surprisingly few problems in the early months of judgment day. Problems did occur however when the dead started to get a bit bored and began to think about getting themselves jobs. Through yet another legal loophole, it was discovered that the dead did not have to pay any form of taxes, making them ideal employees for anyone who wanted to pay a wage as low as possible for work that no one in their right mind would want to do. Although most of the living were uninterested in this; the teenagers who discovered themselves discharged from their jobs stacking shelves, serving burgers, or collecting glasses in pubs were greatly disgruntled. This disgruntlement was exacerbated by the fact that, as time passed, it became clear that they were not aging and were destined to be trapped in the form of hormonally raging unemployable pubescent psychotics for the rest of eternity. Or at least until the end of the day.
And so it came to pass that “Peter Pan’s Law” was drafted by the international court. Australia was nominated as the continent of the teenager and all people over the age of eighteen or younger than twelve were required to relocate to another continent, an evacuation that was completely remarkably swiftly once everyone was told that an uncountable legion of teens were about to arrive. Country by country, the nations of the world rounded up their children and transported them to Australia where they were placed in the careful care of the “Oz-Rangers”. Not only did the Oz-Rangers provide a much-needed security service, but also solved the problem of what to do with all the criminals previously housed in prisons who now, like the dead, had nowhere to go.
Naturally, the church initially objected to the treatment of the world’s sons and daughters in this way, until it was pointed out that perhaps God would be able to deliver the rest of judgment-day more expediently if the living organised themselves by size.