Media had not been to the Titanic, though she’d been nearly everywhere else.
Back when it sank, she was still in the forms of her sisters, the one of print and the newborn one of radio, and she was not as she was now. They didn’t have the same capabilities back in the icy day. Her recollections are fuzzy and limited, and not even through static, as they usually are--through stained pages and faint whispers, as most older memories tend to be.
She didn’t know what it looked like, beyond grainy photographs (she did store them in her endless reserves, of course, but it wasn’t as vivid in her mind as other disasters.) There was some audio. Shouts and last transmissions of doomed operator-men trying in vain to Morse their way out of death. It was endearing, really; she’d always liked the old codes, and the silvery movie-star romantic in her mixed with her trademark twisted New sense of humor. Oh, the floods.
And of course she’d seen it all in Technicolor when they made that movie, where the poor sap tries to grab onto the door, and they do all those ridiculous poses on the prow of the ship, and they blast Celine Dion. But movies were movies, and though she did obviously love movies, they weren’t the same as eyewitness information.
Which is why Media only found out about the song much later.
She’d been a hoarder of information for ages. That was just the way she was. But she somehow had not picked up this particular fact. Later on when her horizons expanded infinity-fold and she never ran out of eyes, ears, and storage vessels for knowledge and events, she did as much research on it as she possibly could.
“Nearer, My God, To Thee” had begun as a poem hymn written by Sarah Flower Adams in Essex, England, and traditionally set to a number of English folk melodies. Its lyrics have to do with the passage from one world to another, the afterlife and beyond, a great gleaming ladder extended to Jacob so as to reach the heavens. It is most famous for the fact that it was reportedly the last song played by the orchestral band on the RMS Titanic when it sank. Survivors reported hearing the melody ringing out in the last moments of the great dying ship, like a swan song.
Media, on June 01, 1980, did not know any of these things, and did not have access to internet search-lines or long trails of watching in the ways she would soon in the future. What she did have was a clumsily thrown together glamour made to sit in on the meeting that founded what would soon become one of her favorite vessels of power.
Course, she only half paid attention to what everyone was saying in that meeting; she knew how it would go down anyway, she was busy checking out the appearances of all the executives. This would be another of her organizations soon, just as soon as she got close enough to the boss to make a deal, so she was already thinking about what she could change. (The boss Ted Turner’s mustache was a goddamn travesty and she was going to tell him to shave it off right after he finished pontificating about his latest big idea, and after she got her roots in this place stable and set up.)
Media companies were fun for the deity of that name. Media would often shift to a masculine form (for some reason, humans were still decidedly sexist) and discuss ideas for new programs with the executives, planting ideas in their minds that he wanted to get done. Or he would sneak into a storage room where no one was looking, shift back into something a bit more natural (read--incomprehensible color-bars and flashing waveforms) and run through the contents of their entire archive at once. She never understood why humans had a concept of boredom, not with the sheer amount of content they were producing nowadays. It was delicious.
This new thing was even more exciting to her. A twenty-four-hour news cycle. More information than you could shake a stick at. Looking back, her future self still did love the idea of it, just not always the execution--it had caused her exhaustion and stress beyond measure.
Something that the boss was saying broke through the distracted haze of reminiscence.
“Barring satellite problems, we won’t be signing off till the world ends.”
What? said a staffer.
“We'll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event. And when the end of the world comes, we’ll play “Nearer, My God, To Thee” before we sign off.”
Turner clanked his coffee cup down on the desk and sat down triumphantly. He’d started something. He was so caught up in his leadership wave that he didn’t notice that meanwhile, at the seventh seat at the table, one businessman had turned very green, almost flickery, and bore an expression of pure terror.
Every year, you pass the moment of your death without knowing. There are some, however, that know the way in which they will die, and it is a terrible curse. It was more common in the Old Gods--they tended to live long enough lives for proper destinies to form themselves. Baldur in one of his older incarnations saw the mistletoe and shivered instinctively; Meleager felt a chill when beholding a flaming hearth.
Just the name of this song, this blasted song, sent the cold sort of liquid static, the harsh and sharp kind, dripping down Media’s neck. She didn’t need to hear Turner explain any more of it, she didn’t even need to see the damned video itself (which was filmed later). Her form began to melt slightly; she shivered and her eyes flashed test patterns again.
She excused herself to powder her nose. Once she was in the bathroom, she broke down. Fragmented into sharp hissing white noise and color flashes and sound where no one could hear or see her. Fuck, it hurt. Not physically, or even cognitively, but existentially. Fate was a knife sharper than any laser, any new method of beaming light into minds or sound across spaces.
It was the first time Media, in her newer form, had ever encountered Entropy for herself. Honestly, she’d thought she had escaped it when she had killed her sisters. The deed--locking the one of print and the one of sound in a metaphysical attic, taking their domain from them--had tricked her into thinking that she had somehow evaded Death.
This broadcast thing, too, it had seemed to be the solution to time’s limitation. A pathway of information that never ends, never goes off-air for the night, never lets the eye of darkness peer in through the cameras. It was a beautiful and powerful idea and it was so ironically perfect that it would hold the weapon that could kill her.
Slowly, Media collected her thoughts, and her form, and her disguise, and emerged again to greet the harsh skyscraper light. She made her conversations and her deals and finally ended up concocting a good arrangement with Turner (and his damn ego and his mustache) and went off through the world and wires again, satisfied enough. But it stuck with her. There was a bomb on her back now, it felt like, something that could be set off at any time, and she felt the beeping, the ticking.
She did her best to keep it secret. She warned every one of her people about this thing. She didn’t explain it in full, no, that would be too dangerous, but just warned them, warned them to never play the tape with the red X, never give eyes to the green fuzzed-out images, do not let the sound in. If they were afraid of it, she reckoned, none of her anchors and actors and everything else would ever accidentally trigger it, and maybe it would never come to pass.
Of course, this was all just to make herself feel better about it all. She knew that wasn’t how it worked. Media in fact knew exactly how the old thing would go down.
Old Gods would talk, sometimes, of a Song that ended the world. The song was not what would cause the end, and Media knew this. The gods and the men would cause the end, and the song would be the last thing that ever rang out.
Because the Doomsday Video was not a weapon, no, not in the conventional sense. It was a weapon that only Media could use against herself, at the very last second, at the end of the very last broadcast. And she would not be able to stop herself when the time came, because that was what fate called for, and that would be what would happen.
Some day in the far or near future a man in a suit (would it be World? Mars? Polis? Tech Boy, or some other newborn magnate?) would press a button, and a mob of too-eager flames would race out of cannons, shoot into space and back down again, and there would be panic and screaming and tearful goodbyes from men and gods alike, and then there would be explosions, and then there would be silence.
Or maybe, it would go slower; the oceans would melt the ice and the sky would gradually turn red and brown; Media’s old lover Ostara would close her eyes and breathe out a final toxified breath, and the poisoned planet would melt the faces and functions of humankind.
Or maybe, some other doom would befall them; an asteroid, perhaps; she thought that one was rather poetic, or maybe that was just one of her favorite glamours again clamoring to see something from the stars come down to us. It would be funny, in that New God way, if space killed us in the end, and it would be better for them all no one was guilty.
But in every situation, every possible future-film she ran at night while the local stations that still DID sign off at night slept, she was the same. She was, at the end, the sole survivor, because it was her responsibility to turn off the lights before they went.
When the end of the world came, Media herself, in whatever form she found suitable, would go on-air and play the tape. And that would be it. It would be her last line, her last call, her final blip before the equipment shorted out.
The thought of it haunted her. She watched the video over and over and over. Maybe if she steeled her resolve, she could fight Entropy herself with her hands dripping static and glass, and come out victorious. (She was lying to herself, as she did to everyone else.)
She thought often of some other past lover of hers, one who made theater and plays, discussing Shakespeare along the banks of some river in Europe, talking about those who are left behind at the end of tragedies. Who look dead-pan into the eyes of the audience, and ask them; “what did we learn from this? how could this have happened? what did we do? how do we move on?”
At the end of the world, Media would be that Prince, that Benvolio, that Horatio, and she hated it, because there would be one thing different.
At the end of the world, there will be no one there to watch you. And that is what will kill you, not the song.
╣Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!╠