By John McNeil
Partygoers at a New Year's Eve celebration on the eve of the new Millenium are fooled into thinking their worst fears about the new Millenium have come true.
Greg (a friend)
Christine (Simon's wife)
Voice of TV announcer
A 1999 New Year's Eve party, at 10 minutes to midnight (which may or may not be the start of the new Millenium, depending on who you believe). All the usual party trappings are evident. The partygoers are in various small groups. Some are really in the mood and eagerly anticipating the countdown, while others are apprehensive.
Simon: (Draws Greg to one side) Midnight minus 10 minutes. Is everything ready?
Greg: Yep, all systems are go. All the technical details are covered - the rest is up to you.
Simon: Great! Time to start winding them up a bit, then.
Greg: I think Christine's already doing her bit, if I overheard correctly.
Simon: (Thumbs up) Good one.
Christine: (In a small group) Good grief, Sal, you're game. There's no way you'd get me on any aeroplane in the next 24 hours, mother-in-law or no mother-in-law.
Sally: But the airline says their flight computers have all been thoroughly checked, and there's absolutely no cause for alarm.
Christine: Just what you'd expect them to say. But a friend of Greg's who has a friend who's an air traffic controller says he's dead worried about it all. Apparently a secret report last month said the computer consultants could not guarantee 100 per cent that there'd be no problems.
Sally: I've tried to talk Barry out of flying up to Wellington on New Year's Day. I wanted to take the ferry instead, but he says we can't afford the time. What'll I do?
Christine: Oh dear, I shouldn't have worried you like this. 10 to one everything will be perfectly safe. You just relax and have a good time.
Simon: (In another group. Holds up a book.) I've been meaning to pass this book on to you, Lindsay. Thought you might enjoy it.
Lindsay: (Takes the book, turns it over) The Prophecies of Nostradamus? I've heard of him.
Simon: Yeah, it's quite amazing how his predictions have come true over the centuries. You know, he predicted the sinking of the Titanic, the rise of Hitler and the Second World War, and even the death of Princess Diana.
Bystander: Aw, c'mon. Those prophecies are all so vague, they could apply to anything.
Simon: You can scoff, but those things all happened just like he said.
Lindsay: (Laughs to hide nervousness) Does he have anything to say about the new millenium?
Simon: Sure! Listen to this. (Flips a page open) 'When the three circles rise, and Mars rules the skies, the stars turn to blood midst the deepening flood.' You see! 'The three circles' - that can only mean three zeros as in the year 2000, and Mars is dominant in Capricorn right now. Sounds to me like a nuclear attack, just like the Bible predicts in the Book of Revelation.
Lindsay: (Starting to get worried) Where does it say that?
Simon: It talks about the stars falling, and the water turning bitter - all the sort of things you'd expect after a nuclear bomb. I'll see if I can find a copy of the Bible to show you. (He leaves with a sideways smirk.)
Bystander: (In yet another group, which Christine has joined) I can't wait to see what the new Millenium brings us. If it's anything like the last hundred years, we're going to see the most amazing technology breakthroughs. A permanent space station! The first manned mission to Mars!
Bystander 2: Let's hope Bill Gates is not designing it!
Christine: Mega cities dying in their own pollution, traffic gridlocks all day every day, And that's if you're lucky enough not to live in the Third World, where a village would kill for the leftovers we'll throw out tonight.
Bystander: All these things could be solved overnight if it wasn't for the politicians playing power games. Never mind - the global village is making them more and more irrelevant.
Christine: I had a strange dream last night. I dreamed there was a Y2K bug in the DNA code, and at the turn of the millenium the world came to a grinding halt. Birds stopped flying, nothing grew any more, rivers stopped flowing, the works - the whole of creation broke down.
Bystander 2: (Trying not to show concern) Boy, you've a weird imagination.
Simon: (Centre stage) Hey folks! It's almost midnight. Are you ready to count down to the dawn of a new age? Let's turn on the TV and watch the broadcast from the Chathams at the same time ... and then there'll be supper! (He looks at his watch, and begins counting down, with everybody else joining in.
(Everybody joins in singing the chorus of Auld Lang Syne, followed by general yahooing, hugging, 'Happy New Year', etc. Simon goes to the TV and starts to turn it up.)
Simon: While we're waiting for Christine to bring in the supper, let's see what's happening in the Chathams.
Christine: (Enters) Simon! The microwave has stopped going! I can't warm up any of the food.
Simon: That's odd. It was working fine this afternoon. I'll come and look. (They both exit. There are some slightly worried looks among the other partygoers. They turn to the TV.)
We interrupt the Millennium celebrations to bring you a special news bulletin.
Astronomers at the Joddrell Bank observatory have spotted a large shower of meteorites heading towards earth. While the majority are expected to burn up in the earth's atmosphere, the astronomers fear that some are as large as 100 kilograms, and if they reach the earth will have an impact equivalent to an atomic bomb. The United States has put all defence staff on full alert.
Mount Pinatubo has erupted again in the Philippines. An explosion similar in size to the 1991 eruption was recorded at 6.20pm this evening, and the resulting ash cloud has already blotted out a large portion of the island of Luzon. Scientists fear another unexpectedly cold winter globally as a consequence.
Cyber terrorists claim that the worldwide Internet will become almost totally disabled within 24 hours. A group calling itself New Dawn Hackers claims to have been circulating a secret virus for the last six months which will begin activating as computers around the world tick over to the year 2000.......
(The lights suddenly go out, and the TV goes dead. Simultaneously, any background music stops. For a brief moment, there is utter quietness, then pandemonium breaks out among the partygoers. Cries, such as "What's happening?", "What's going on," "Hasn't someone got a light?" "The Millenium bug has struck," etc. People mill around, falling over each other, achieving nothing. One woman is becoming hysterical, and several try to calm her down.)
(Suddenly a torch can be seen entering. It is being carried by Simon and Greg.)
Simon: Quiet everybody and calm down. I'm sure there's nothing really to get upset about.
Greg: Probably just a fuse blown on the pole at the street.
Christine: No, I think it's more widespread than that. I've just been upstairs and I can't see a light for miles.
Simon: Do you have any candles, Christine?
Christine: No, I never thought.
Greg: Tell you what then. Seeing Simon and I have a torch, we'll go and see if we can find a dairy open, and get some candles or another torch. Everybody else stay inside here, and sit quietly, till we get back. If things have gone wrong, it might be dangerous to wander about outside in the dark.
(The partygoers are not entirely happy, but don't know what else to suggest. Simon and Greg exit down the centre aisle.)
Greg: Well done, Simon. You and Christine psyched them out perfectly.
Simon: You were spot on, too. I must say, that news bulletin was an inspired touch.
Greg: News bulletin? What news bulletin?
Simon: (Suddenly very worried) You mean you didn't .......
Greg: (Pause) Just kidding.
(They exit, laughing)
© John McNeil 1999
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