While people enslaved themselves with the strips of cotton and linen they called "money," the asteroid hurtled toward Earth. Unaware, the volitional vassals prayed their pointless "jobs" would hasten by. This was how they chose to spend their trivial existences. Ironically, their final moments would almost invariably consist of begging for more time.
To the asteroid, none of this mattered. It was a hunk of errant space debris on a collision course with a celestial body in the middle of nowhere. It was neither compassionate, nor sentient. It was simply part of a vast Universe that cared nothing for man-made contrivances like money, politics or religion.
Two decades ago, it had been well within the ability of these humans to divert the asteroid, via technology. They had chosen to be imprisoned by implements of their own design, as opposed to addressing fixable problems.
As the plunging rock breached the Earth's ionosphere, people developed ulcers over their mortgages. As the impending doom cleared the planet's stratosphere, more than one billion people where on the verge of starving to death.
Insipid television shows were hungrily devoured. Wars were waged, and people clung to their fallacious deities, even though these same gods had allowed nearly half their families to die of cancer caused by nuclear weapons testing.
The Chicxulub asteroid that purportedly eradicated the dinosaurs was roughly six miles in diameter. The celestial body streaking toward Earth on this day in 2002 was nowhere near that size. Still, at 30 feet across, it would lay waste to more than 100,000 humans in the blink of an eye.
Interacting with the gases encircling the planet, the asteroid began to heat up. Where the prodigious projectile struck would be anybody's guess.
Roughly a dozen folks, worldwide, were tasked with keeping vigil for incoming space debris. This was due to a lack of funding, which was tied to the useless and destructive nature of the monetary system.
As the asteroid ignited, a paltry amount of monitoring mechanisms scanned the sky for biotic rubble. Since this machinery was so meager, objects less than a kilometer in diameter were rarely ever detected. Even if they were, nobody had bankrolled subsidies for a mitigation program to prevent the type of collision that was about to occur.
The asteroid - now a flaming mass of annihilation - hurtled toward Earth, and not a single human was so much as aware.
The previous scenario may sound like a chapter from an apocalyptic novel, but it describes an actual event in 2002. Fortunately for the inhabitants of Earth, the asteroid in question exploded in the sky somewhere above the Mediterranean Sea. This detonation - due to intense contact with atmospheric gases - generated 26 kilotons of devastating force.
The Little Boy atomic device - dropped on Hiroshima, Japan - detonated with 13 to 18 kilotons of lethality. Fat Man - deployed over Nagasaki - yielded a 21 kiloton blast.
What's become known as the 2002 Eastern Mediterranean Event was more powerful than either.
Even more disquieting - for the reasons stated above - not a sole human knew this errant asteroid was Earthbound, until it exploded in the atmosphere. Only then were scientists able to detect the projectile's latent presence.
Had this biotic rubble detonated over a populated land mass, the destruction would have been colossal.
India and Pakistan - both possessing nuclear arsenals - were on the verge of war. These two countries are equipped with ineffectual early warning technology. As a result, should the asteroid in question have exploded over either nation, it could have easily been mistaken for a thermonuclear onslaught.
In this case, a nuclear counterattack would have occurred. The result may have been the beginning of "World War III." The ensuing confusion could have terminated in other nuclear capable countries deploying their stockpiles.
Even so, nations continue to make military spending their highest priority.
To any rational species trapped in a cosmic shooting gallery, the top concern should be an escape plan from the celestial body upon which they find themselves incarcerated. If humanity were suddenly faced with having to fend off a sizable asteroid, pandemic or supervolcano eruption, we'd be doomed. We have no place to run.
In addition, we only have ourselves to blame, since we engage in insignificant ideologies - like money, politics and religion - that waste time we should be spending on formulating a solution.
Obviously, the author is not an advocate of the monetary system, politics nor religion. He realizes to entertain such archaic, and pernicious ideologies is to court disaster.
As a species, we've been bequeathed ample warning. In light of our technological capabilities, to lay the foundation for our own demise is lunacy.