Playing the Odds

Officials said that while the long period comet would pass within the moon’s orbit, the chances of it striking the Earth were only 1 in 3,000,000. They’d been saying it all summer. When the news was first announced it went through the usual media blitz, cycling down after a few weeks and then reemerging at intervals as if for the first time. Until a week ago.

Then there was a revision. Impact with Earth: 1 in 3,000.

When it comes to astronomy, the numbers are generally, well, astronomical. All of a sudden the numbers didn’t have enough commas to keep people comfortable. Some people, anyway. Most didn’t think we had another 100 years left in us, so what’s the harm in some high-stakes dice rolling at the eleventh hour?

The comet missed of course. A lot of people forgot about it until they overheard their coworkers complaining about not being able to watch it pass last night because of the clouds. It wasn’t until another day passed that the comet struck us a devastating blow: not the haymaker we’d feared, but the kiss it blew us as it waved goodbye.

The comet’s tail left a chunk of ice the size of a refrigerator in an intercept path of an illegal and covert US weapons platform which promptly dropped a payload of 48 tungsten rods the size of light poles across the Kara Sea. As a spear fishing exercise it was a failure, but it was remarkable in its ability to provoke responses from equally covert and illegal satellites belonging to Russia and China, which elicited more of the same from the US again.

The world powers tenderized each other over a span of minutes. The comet didn’t have to strike us; we were all too willing to strike ourselves. The odds were never really in our favor.

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