The year is 2021. The governments that once held our societies in order have fallen, collapsed under the weight of the brutal new world order forced upon us by the rise of the seas and the fires that rain from the skies. The water is poison. The crops are toxic. Only a fraction of humanity lives on, crossing the flooded landscape in small, armed flotillas that float up to one another with violent paranoia, their passengers’ hunger and thirst having turned neighborly kindness into a luxury too expensive for anyone to afford.
Some say “Old Town Road 2021" was the cause of the Great Decline; others that it merely soundtracked the inevitable. This doesn’t matter. What we do know is that something terrible was roiling in the guts of the planet when it arrived, heralding the two years of unimaginable calamity that would forever change human history.
A lone, thin man on a rusting boat polishes his tire iron under the unblinking eye of a blood red moon, and wonders: “Why can I only remember ‘Old Town Road 2021?’ Weren’t there other songs? What was this world it described like?”
“I was there,” he thinks, setting down his weapon to eat the last wriggling worm left in his Protein Bucket. “But I just can’t remember ...”
The man receives no answer from the cruel skies where, it is said by some, a benevolent god used to watch over our species. Instead, he sings the parody verses of Cardi B and Jerry Seinfeld, Katy Perry and the guy from Smash Mouth, Pope Francis and Oprah, rubbing his temples until the skin cracks and bleeds in an effort to summon up memories of yesteryear—the time before the Decline.
We had survived “Old Town Road” remixes before. That this one would usher in the end made no sense. There was the first, an initially novel version of the track from Diplo. Soon, there was another, featuring Young Thug and Mason Ramsey, the yodelin’ Walmart Boy. All throughout the summer of 2019, people made jokes and promises of further remixes soon to arrive. We were innocent then, not knowing that a goofy video featuring every conceivable pre-Decline celebrity would be the last artifact of human culture. We laughed at the emoji-headed versions of Seinfeld, Perry, Cardi B, Oprah, Smash Mouth guy, Daddy Yankee, Willie Nelson, Robert De Niro, Shakira, and Dolly Parton. We thought their little parody verses were cute.
We were naive. We did not know this was the last song we would ever hear—that we were living beyond the boundaries that our planet would, or could, allow and that, as the last ever Lil Nas X joke played out, the Earth’s own Gilded Age was about to end.
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