THE SING-ALONG, a story by EllaRose Chary
It is a warm spring day and everyone has gathered for a sing-along. Sing-alongs are best done outside, in the grass, surrounded by trees – or perhaps around a campfire – with an acoustic guitar. The best sing-alongs happen in an open space where the sound carries in such a way that it doesn’t matter whether everyone is off-key. If everyone is on key, then it’s not really a sing-along, is it? It’s more of a performance. Performances make some people feel shy, and that defeats the purpose of a sing-along.
It has been a long time now since everyone gathered for a sing-along. Because, well...you know.
You’re in the post-apocalyptic future. That’s good. Because in that sense the apocalypse is in the past, and now here you are in the post-apocalypse. The post-apocalyptic future. Everyone is holding on to this feeling for a moment, hopefully. This feeling of post-apocalypse. Where the apocalypse is enough behind us that we can breathe. Sing. But also, where it is still in recent memory enough to inspire choices that might prevent the next one.
Well, there will be time for that later. Today is about the sing-along.
Salana is there now, you’ll recognize her when you get there, she’s the one with the music. She lights up the space. Salana’s favorite part is when everyone forgets the words and some people forge ahead with what they think the words are and others fill in with “da-duh-da-da-dums” and “la- luh-la-luh-las” and there’s one group that just starts laughing. And soon everyone is laughing, except Salana and one other stalwart who have remembered the words and found their place in the song and keep going until everyone joins back in. It’s her favorite part, because eventually, everyone does join back in. Even the people who stopped singing and didn’t laugh and maybe got a little nervous because everything got off track. Salana likes how even these people eventually find their way back into the song. Even if it’s not this song, sometimes it’s the next one. She knows it doesn’t matter, eventually everyone sings again.
CHOICE A: If you don’t feel shy, and you’re ready to sing your favorite song. CHOICE B: If you feel a little shy and aren’t sure what the song is and would like a lyric sheet to sing from. CHOICE C: If you’re happy to wait to sing until you get to the sing-along.
Oh, lovely! You are a singer. We love singers. That was really beautiful. Your voice is really special. We hope you know that. We hope you’re ready to share it. We love music. It runs through our roots like blood. It feeds and waters us, it makes us grow, it helps us grow together and as one.
Salana has asked us to find the singers and prepare them. She wants us to identify the people who can help hold down the fort in case of, well, you know, apocalypse.
“Don’t do that, you’ll scare them!”
“They’re not scared! They’re brave! Didn’t you hear them singing? They’re ready to raise their voice!”
“Not being afraid of singing and not being afraid of the apocalypse are not the same thing”
“We all know all about the apocalypse. We’re in the post-apocalyptic future.”
“Exactly! We know all about the apocalypse. It was scary.”
Don’t mind us. We disagree sometimes. It’s okay if you’re scared, we’re all scared, too. But, Salana has asked us to find people who can help hold down the fort. In case things get too...hot. Or, too cold. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when things get really, really, hot, they feel ... cold? And, when people get really, really cold, like hypothermia, they start to feel warm.
Our favorite kind of sing-along is one by a campfire.
“I’m scared of fire.”
“Well of course you are, but we don’t know if it will be hot or cold, we just know it will be a change. And, we need to be prepared.”
Here are the lyrics! Go ahead and Sing!
You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You’ll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
Excellent! We appreciate how practical you are. We can all agree it is a little foolish to just start singing with no lyrics. At the sing-along there will be a songbook for us all to follow along with. We can’t expect everyone to know all the words. And, we don’t want anyone to feel left out. We are connected by our roots, but not everyone is.
Salana has asked us to find the practical ones and prepare them. She wants us to identify the people who can rebuild in the post-apocalyptic future. This one, but also, you know, the next one.
“Really? One post-apocalyptic future at a time please.”
“Look, one is enough for me, too, but we can’t ignore the signs-”
“Shh! You’ll scare them.”
“They’re not scared. They’re the practical ones. They’re probably thinking it, too.”
You were thinking it, too, weren’t you? That we have to prepare. Yes, we should enjoy the sun while it lasts. But, it’s going to get dark pretty soon. Maybe not right away, but it’s coming. We always forget that it’s going to get dark. We have long memories, but somehow this is a thing we can’t hold on to. Quick: where is the sun in the sky? Can you find it? Is it still there? Yes? Good. Okay. Phew. It will be a dark day when we look up and the sun is gone. A dark day. Get it?
CHOICE 1: If it feels practical to sing at the sing-along (it is a sing-along, after all), you can prepare your voice. CHOICE 2: If it feels practical to prepare for the dark, and you want to help build the fire.
We appreciate your caution, your patience, your wisdom. It may be brave and even fun to just burst into song willy-nilly, but we aren’t at the sing- along yet. And, isn’t it kind of a performance to just start singing before everyone else? Isn’t the whole point of the sing-along to join our voices? Isn’t that what we’ve been missing? Isn’t that why we’re going? Anyway, we applaud you and your attention to detail.
Salana has asked us to find the cautious ones. She has asked us to identify the people who can help make good, thoughtful choices to keep us in the post-apocalyptic future.
“You are putting an awful lot of pressure on them!”
“I’m just repeating what Salana said.”
“Yes, but we trust Salana, we know what she means – these are the cautious ones, they aren’t going to just jump because she says so.”
“No one said anything about jumping- ”
You don’t have to jump. That would be a lot to ask of you knowing what we do about you already.
Salana is also cautious. She wasn’t sure if this sing-along would be a good idea. It was not that long ago when this sing-along would have been a terrible idea and she wouldn’t have tried to do it. But, you know that. And, you also know why we have to have it now. And, we know you know that because you are here. You thought about it, and you decided that coming to the sing-along is important. Because we cannot really prepare for, and we certainly cannot prevent, the next apocalypse on our own. If there’s anything we know from where we are standing in this post-apocalyptic future it’s that apocalypses can be lonely. We did not expect that. Did you? We expected fire, or ice, or darkness, or bright light, or noise, or maybe even eerie silence, but we didn’t expect to be alone. We are a ...we, connected at the root. How can a “we” be alone? But, we felt it, too. Oh, good. The sing-along is happening soon.
Hey, psst! Yeah, you, hey – I’m over here. Hi! Shh! We have to be quick and quiet.
I need your help. I don’t know what they told you, but you and me? We have to disrupt the event. Business cannot continue as usual, don’t you agree?
I am not trying to be an agitator. I am not trying to stir things up. I like Salana and sing-alongs as much as you do. Or they do. Or whatever.
The status quo has failed us. We all get that, right? And, I don’t know about you, but I am still reeling from the last apocalypse, frankly. I’m not really anxious for the next one.
And, seriously, who knows what Salana’s apocalypse is going to be like – could be elemental – heat - fire, water – rising oceans, ice – melting, earth – poisoned. Could be bugs, again. But, like, what kind of bugs, maybe the buzzing kind – freaks you out to think about it, right?
Oh – your face – you didn’t realize – didn’t you know? The reason everyone keeps talking about the next apocalypse is because it’s her apocalypse. Duh.
We can stop it, though.
No! Not by destroying her! What are you thinking? Of course not. We need her. We love her. She’s ... ours. We just need to change the course of events.
How? Well, I don’t know! You’re supposed to be the one who knows. You’re the one with the voice. You have to say something.
Here is what I do know: we can’t do it alone. I can’t do it without you and you can’t do it on your own either. We don’t need a hero, we need a movement. We don’t need destruction, we have plenty of that, that’s how we got into this mess. We need builders. We need...seeds. We need songs. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to all be on key. But, we have to all sing. You know that, that’s why you’re here.
Hey, psst! Yeah, you, hey – I’m over here. Hi! Shh! We have to be quick and quiet. I need your help. I don’t know what they told you, but you and me? We have to burn it all down.
Start fresh, right? Everything is beyond repair and a couple of major chords around a campfire aren’t going to cut it. You know that, if you thought otherwise, you’d have chosen to sing.
We signed up for Salana’s apocalypse and we’re not going to let her down.
Oh – wait – sorry, what? That look on your face. I didn’t realize. You didn’t know that’s why you’re here?
Oops. Okay. Here is the deal. I have been here a long time. Like, I’ve seen a couple of apocalypses. They are always so freaking disorganized. Like, COME ON. We know we’re mad. We know there are things to fix. We know there are things beyond repair. If we’re going to burn it all down, let’s burn it all down. But, OH NO, everyone SAYS burn it all down. Everyone says catch a spark and light it up and make a difference. And then they hem and haw and get stuck in committee meetings, and the next thing you know it’s burning down but WE didn’t burn it down. Do you see the difference? Control. Organization.
I do not want us to make that mistake again. Do you? I didn’t think so.
Which is why you’re here. You know the status quo has failed us. You know what’s coming. The temps are gonna rise. The ice is going to melt. The oceans are going to rise. Our faces are going to melt.
We can stop it. But, we can’t do it alone. I can’t do it without you and you can’t do it on your own either. We don’t need a hero, we need a movement. We need passion, we need fire. That’s why you’re here, right? You’re ready to build a fire. The best sing-alongs happen around a fire. The heat, the warmth, the glow, it brings everyone together. We don’t have to be perfect, we can ebb and flow. But, we all have to show up and keep it going. You know that, that’s why you’re here.
So just remember, it’s okay if you don’t have the matches, someone else will. It’s okay if it takes you a while to find the fuel, it’s out there. You’re at the sing-along, which means, you’re here to share your spark.
Salana arrives. You see her. Suddenly you understand all of what you have been told.
She is big, and beautiful, and fiery, and singing.
She is singing a song you know well. In fact, it is your favorite song.
And everyone around you starts singing with her. You feel compelled to sing too, how can you resist? Any trepidation you’ve had along the way is gone completely. You understand that this is why you are here today. To sing this song, with Salana and everyone else.
It is a sing-along after all, but not like the ones you grew up with around the campfire. Because, Salana IS the sing-along. She is the fire. And she is the song. And she is the earth. And the sun. She is everything you want to protect, and everything that you have seen destroyed. She is human. But, also, that’s not quite right. She is...the thread between humans. She is the thread between humans and the earth. And she is somehow also a bird.
There is a ripple in the crowd. This is the moment you’re expecting. This is the moment you’ve been prepared for.
In seeing her, you realize that all of your choices have brought you here, but you also realize that it’s possible no matter what choice you made, you probably would have ended up here. It is a strange feeling. Free will mixed with predestination. Is Salana inevitable? Is her destruction? Is her preservation?
You start to feel all mixed up. What did you come here to do? Did you come here to raise your voice in song? Did you come here to raise your voice in protest? Did you come here to burn it all down?
Someone in the crowd starts singing. The song is somehow all of the things at once, a call to action, a protest, a song you know and a song you don’t – one thing is clear. The song is fire.
Is this it? Is this the next apocalypse? So soon? You were expecting more of a break. More of a chance to breathe. But, now the air is thick with smoke. Raise your voice. Burn it all down. Everything is on fire.
And, then it is not. And, something begins to rise from the ash. And here you are again, or still, in the post-apocalyptic future. Ready to rebuild.