The Tea Party at the End of the World

So, over on Twitter, @neilhimself has 335,038 followers. (For those who do not tweet, @neilhimself = Neil Gaiman, and 335,038 = a rather lot.) Which means that neither Armageddon nor tea happened when he reached follower 333,333, as he suggested either or both might.

Which I mention because there was an informal contest running, wherein people were taking pictures of themselves with Armageddon and/ or tea, and tweeting them to Neil. It was a contest I had planned on staying far, far away from as 1. I am seriously inept with a camera, and 2. I am at the OMG! Middle French! portion of the dissertation rewrite. (Although, had Armageddon actually happened, I would not have had to turn in the dissertation. Hmmm.)

But then I kept wondering, well, what sort of tea goes well with Armageddon. And then I knew. And then I knew other things. And so then I wrote a very short story about it, which I sent to Neil for giggles, and "If you post it," he said, "I will link."  And so I have done:

The Tea Party at the End of the World


            The pleasure of her company was requested at Armageddon, and tea would be served.

            Amelia looked at the r.s.v.p. line on the card, with the number written neatly in ink the colour of old blood, and blinked. Could one really r.s.v.p. for the end of the world via text message? Her mum’s voice came to mind then, the clipped, precise consonants reminding Amelia that there was no excuse for lack of manners.

            Amelia looked at the “save the date” card again, tilting the slightly oily-feeling parchment until the number came clear. She entered it into her mobile, and pressed “send.”

            The formalities having been observed, she made a note in her date book. It seemed the end of the world would occur on a Tuesday. It was just as well, Amelia thought, as she closed the leather-bound book, and placed her pen back in the enamel holder on her desk. If Armageddon took place on Tuesday, then she would not need to resort to a polite lie in order to break her date with George on Friday. George was lovely, really, but he pinched.

            Amelia thought that perhaps she would bring shortbreads to Armageddon. The invitation hadn’t requested that she bring anything, of course, but with Famine as one of the organizers, well, Amelia worried that there might not be biscuits with the tea. And besides, it would never do to arrive empty-handed.

            The locusts had already begun pouring forth when Amelia arrived at the Mount of Megiddo. She was very glad she had gone with her first instinct and worn a wide-brimmed hat. Even if it was no longer in the first stare of fashion, it was lovely for keeping locusts off.

            Amelia gave her invitation to a figure in brilliant armour atop a sweat-slicked red horse. At least, Amelia hoped the beads of moisture coating the horse were sweat. She clutched the plate of shortbreads, pressing it to her chest as the figure on the horse pointed her direction with a blade that ran with blood. Amelia hunched over the plate, shielding the biscuits from the gore that dripped from the edge of War’s sword. End of the world or not, blood in the biscuits wouldn’t be at all hygienic.

            Pleased that her seat was such a good one, Amelia watched the chaos of Armageddon unfold in front of her, plate of shortbreads balanced precisely on her knees. She was beginning to feel uncomfortably hungry, but tea had been promised. She would wait.

            Perhaps the tea would be served after all the late-comers had been seated. She watched as people continued to file in, and clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. Amelia took punctuality very seriously.

            When Amelia looked again at the field of battle, the Whore of Babylon had appeared upon her seven-headed beast. Amelia was a bit surprised to see that the Whore of Babylon did indeed look like a whore, and not at all like the pope. She gave a brief thought to what else she might have been misinformed about, but there was nothing she could do about any of that now.

            The seven-headed beast raised a fair amount of dust with its passage, and Amelia felt increasingly parched. She was certain that the invitation had said that there would be tea.

            At that moment, Amelia detected the smoky scent of a truly fine lapsang souchong. She closed her eyes in pleasure, and when she opened them, she saw a hand – the bones of one, anyway – offering her a cup made of palest green porcelain. Amelia accepted the tea with a steady hand, and her voice was pleasant and even as she offered a shortbread in return.

            The offer was, somewhat to her surprise, accepted.

            Amelia sipped delicately, savoring the rich flavour of the tea. The sounds of the battle receded as she drank. A skeletal hand reached out and plucked another shortbread from her plate. Deciding that she was rather beyond concern over her weight, Amelia helped herself to another biscuit as well.

            Amelia drank the last of her tea, straining the leaves back into the cup. She looked at the pattern they made, dark against the pale, nearly white, green of the porcelain. The sign was an obvious one.

            She wondered if she ought to volunteer to help clean up, but that was merely putting off the inevitable. But before standing up to take her place in the line that began behind a horse the colour of the cup from which she had drunk and stretched into forever, Amelia placed the plate of shortbreads into a bony hand.

            The end of the world was no excuse for lack of manners.