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Story Notes:
This was inspired by the use of a classic REM song in the trailers for Rainn Wilson’s show Utopia, which was canceled in November 2020 just to give you an idea of how long this has been sitting unfinished in my drafts. Again, I’ve tried to seed all the information you need into the fic, but just in case:

Lyrics: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/rem/itstheendoftheworldasweknowitandifeelfine.html
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0GFRcFm-aY
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFSKBllxRIw

Picture this: Snowy ash drizzles from the sky. A ravenous pack of dogs surrounds you as the flame at the end of your stick dies out. There's only one hope left for you. The door to my shelter. You pound, you beg, Dwight! Please let me in! But I ignore your cries and do not let you in. You wanna know why? Because you laughed at me! Kevin will be eaten! Pam will be taken slave! Jim will be made a warlord's jester! Creed will write fanfiction without acknowledging that all publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners; the original characters and plot are the property of the author; the author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise; and no copyright infringement is intended! Meredith will do ok. Be assured this day will come. It's just a matter of time.

We open in the FRONT OF THE BULLPEN.

PAM is collating something for MICHAEL. It’s unclear if it’s something for DUNDER MIFFLIN or scripts for the one-act he’s trying to get the SCRANTON PUBLIC THEATRE to put on. DWIGHT is updating his expense reports. PHYLLIS is ostensibly doing client research, although it’s unclear why an Orlando-area resort would buy paper from Dunder Mifflin Scranton. STANLEY is on the phone. JIM is at his desk looking at nothing in particular, wearing a very un-JIM, pensive look.

PAM looks up from her task and notices he’s upset. She looks sad, but says nothing. JIM does not look her way. She returns to her work.

It’s quiet. Very quiet for an audience that was last here watching “I’m the one who complained about you.”

JIM clicks something on his computer and his frown deepens. He sighs and rubs the back of his neck, getting PAM’s attention again. She steels herself, rises and crosses to stand by JIM’S DESK.

PAM (shot through with affection):
Everything okay?

JIM (badly covering):
Everything’s fine.

PAM (everything’s obviously *not* fine):
Jim, what is it?

JIM (shakes it off):
Nothing. It’s stupid.

DWIGHT (not looking away from his expense reports):
Of course it’s stupid, you’re upset about it.

JIM and PAM both give DWIGHT a dirty look, then re-focus on each other.

JIM:
It’s just… there was a plane crash.

PAM (not totally sure if that answered her question):
Oh… did you know someone onboard or…

JIM:
Oh, no, no, it was in Sweden.

So it definitely did *not* answer PAM’s question. She’s still concerned, but completely lost.

JIM:
And… there was that earthquake in Alaska last week. And my sister sent me this article about wakes of vultures descending on towns in Bolivia. No one knows why. And you saw the Buzzfeed post, right? Someone spotted a wild snake in Ireland for the first time in centuries.

PAM (chuckles, still very confused):
Yeah, I don’t know how we’re going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day now. (Then it clicks.) Oh. (She reaches out to touch his shoulder, although she seems to think better of it, and instead assumes her usual perch on his desk.) Listen, you know this is all just coincidence, right?

JIM:
I know. (pause) Pretty strange coincidence though.

PAM (conceding):
Yeah, it’s weird.

DWIGHT:
What are you two gold-brickers gossiping about?

PAM (sighs, briefly turns to DWIGHT):
The Stipe Prophecy. (She then looks back to JIM, not drawing DWIGHT further into the conversation.)

DWIGHT (contemptuous, but also confused, but *absolutely not curious*):
What?

JIM (turning away from PAM):
You know, the Stipe Prophecy. (DWIGHT looks at him blankly.) Michael Stipe, lead singer of REM? Wrote The End of The World As We Know It? (DWIGHT shoots him an irritated look. Yes, the guy who comforts himself by blasting “Everybody Hurts” knows who Michael Stipe is.) Well, he based the lyrics on a vision he had while touring Megiddo. It’s supposed to be an actual prediction of Armageddon.

DWIGHT narrows his eyes in suspicion.

PAM (leans in to JIM, trying to ground him… and again cutting DWIGHT out of the conversation):
…which is silly.

JIM (attempts to agree):
Which is silly. (sighs) But now we’ve had an earthquake, infestations of birds and snakes and an airplane crash in six days…

DWIGHT rolls his eyes at the camera. For once, he’s not going for it.

PHYLLIS (still facing her computer):
It’s just an urban legend, Jim.

DWIGHT (turns around):
You’ve heard of this nonsense?

PHYLLIS (still not really engaging in the conversation):
Everyone’s heard of it, Dwight. Besides, I’m a huge REM fan.

We cut to the CONFERENCE ROOM for a talking head with PHYLLIS.

PHYLLIS:
Last week I tried to look my best for my ID photo. (
hurt, over a brief flashback to PHYLLIS’ photo from “Conflict Resolution.”) Dwight said it looked like I was wearing clown paint. So when Jim and Pam came to me about this, I told them to count me in. (beat) Also, I *am* a huge REM fan. (sings tonelessly) What’s the frequency, Kenneth is your Benzedrine. (pause) Uh-huh.

We return to the CONFERENCE ROOM, this time to sit down with JIM.

JIM (initially quite cheery):
I wasn’t sure about this when Pam first suggested it. A lot of people involved, a lot of moving parts… and it’s a little nuts. But we got to brainstorming and she had some great ideas about how to make it happen. (falters for a moment, and doesn’t fully recover) And hey, leave it all on the field, right?

And to the CONFERENCE ROOM again, to check in with ya girl PAM.

PAM:
Jim’s been out of the office a lot recently, sales calls and appointments and stuff, and he’s been putting in some real work when he’s here (a quick shot under the last part of this sentence of PAM at RECEPTION looking at JIM charming a client by phone). When that happens, Dwight gets (considers the right word) out of hand. Like yesterday he decided to inspect the pictures on everyone’s desks to make sure they were office appropriate. Angela’s jazz babies made the cut. Me and my sister at the beach didn’t. (Under these two sentences, we see DWIGHT behind RECEPTION, leaning over PAM aggressively, taking her picture and dropping it in her trash can, frame and all, while staring at her directly in the eye to establish dominance. Then we pop back to the CONFERENCE ROOM.) So we’ve got to do a lot just to break even.

And once more to… the CONFERENCE ROOM, where DWIGHT completes the quadruple header.

DWIGHT (mildly outraged):
Phyllis *claims* she’s a huge REM fan. (As he continues in voiceover, we shift to a corner in DWIGHT’S FARMHOUSE, where DWIGHT, wearing a t-shirt reading “Shining Happy People Holding Hands,” presents to us his shrine: a poster from the “Green” Tour; a guitar pick framed with a certificate of authentication that it was used by Peter Buck while recording “Radio Free Europe”; and a six-pack of “(Got My) Orange (Crush) Soda.” ) But has *she* been to 39 different shows? Did *she* live in her car to follow the Aneurysm ’95 tour for three weeks? Did *she* drive to Duluth, Minnesota to make the pilgrimage to the birthplace of drummer Bill Berry? (We return to the CONFERENCE ROOM.) Because *I* have, and I’ve never heard of this “prophecy.” (pause) And the family who owns the Berry house now wouldn’t even let me inside!

We return to the FRONT DESK CLUMP, where DWIGHT is shaking his head and sniffing at JIM as he types something into a search engine which is DEFINITELY NOT GOOGLE. His eyes go wide as results pop up. He clicks on the first link, and pulls up what appears to be a legitimate news organization’s article about the Stipe Prophecy. His mouth falls slightly open as he reads.

We cut to a talking head in the CONFERENCE ROOM featuring RYAN.

RYAN:
Kelly wrote it, then got me to build a dummy copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer website as a “going away” present for Jim. (rolls his eyes, because JIM is *totally* going to Australia, honest.) She just kept talking until I agreed. (pause) She could have saved us both some time by saying we were messing with Dwight. You know he *still* hums “We Didn’t Start The Fire” at me?

We return to the BULLPEN, where DWIGHT is reading the article with rapt attention. JIM is watching him very carefully, preparing to jump in if necessary. We do a quick check-in with PAM, who is observing this with a soft smile she hides under her hand.

DWIGHT (under his breath):
“Mr. Stipe has publicly acknowledged that he was hospitalized in 1985 after collapsing during a tour of Megiddo, which the Bible names as the location of the final battle between good and evil during the End Times. He has always denied a connection to any of his music… but sources familiar with the incident tell a different story. Multiple participants in the tour…”

We cut to THE ANNEX, where KELLY is reading off her computer screen.

KELLY:
“…including the guide in an interview published a full year before the 1987 release of the hit single, have confrimed Stipe muttered a strange phrase over and over as he regained consciousness: ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.’” (She turns her computer monitor to the camera and looks straight into the lens.) Guess it’s Kelly Kapoor story hour now, b(word bleeped out)!

Returning to the CONFERENCE ROOM.

JIM:
The fake article! Yeah, that was Pam’s idea too. Not the sort of thing we could get away with using all the time… (trails off) …but very effective. I mean, who is Dwight if not someone who believes everything the Internet tells him?

And what does PAM have to add?

PAM (initially cheerful):
Go big or go home! (beat, then less happily) Seriously, it’s been really uncomfortable around here.

Back in the BULLPEN, STANLEY hangs up the phone.

STANLEY:
Pam, when is Michael due back?

PAM:
His dentist appointment was at 2:30, so probably half-hour tops.

STANLEY:
I gotta talk to him about my vacation. My sister wants to reschedule.

PAM:
Oh, no!

STANLEY:
There’s a hurricane coming to the Carolinas. If you believe the weather people, going to be the worst since Hugo.

DWIGHT exchanges horrified looks with JIM and PAM, who nearly break when they meet each other’s eyes. We can see DWIGHT mouthing the lyrics and counting on his fingers: earthquake, birds, snakes, aeroplane, eye of a hurricane…

Back to the CONFERENCE ROOM to hear from STANLEY.

STANLEY:
I don’t mind Jim’s nonsense because it keeps Dwight from bothering me while I’m trying to work. If I get involved, it defeats the point. But Pam talked to me about this the day I hit the annual limit on prescription meds covered by our insurance. In May.

And to hear from PAM:

PAM:
I heard him complaining to Toby about it while Kelly was showing me something in Cosmo. I’m trying to… (catches herself) the wedding planning is mostly done, and most of the rest of it I can’t do at the office, so I’m back to having a *lot* of time on my hands.

And from JIM:

JIM:
It’s definitely more labor when it’s a team thing like this, but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one Dwight is slowly driving to the brink. Plus… (beat, then a little more wistful) planning’s half the fun of it.

Back in the thick of it, CREED ambles into the FRONT OF THE BULLPEN from his desk, carrying a briefcase he definitely did not bring in that morning, and heads for the coat rack, where he retrieves a jacket that’s definitely OSCAR’s.

CREED:
I’m taking the rest of the day, Priscilla.

PAM (slowly, as if dealing with someone potentially dangerous):
Where are you headed?

CREED:
Just checked the news. I need to stock up on canned goods.

Cut to talking head with JIM.

JIM:
Yeah, that was just luck. (pause) It’s possible Creed actually thinks the world’s ending.

Cut to a talking head in front of the building with CREED.

CREED:
Do you know how many times I’ve been busted for possession? Well, I don’t. But it’s a lot. The guy whose name I always give the cops is going to be in prison for the rest of his life. (seriously, even a little intimidating) Narcs have it coming.

We cut to DWIGHT, shopping at a SUPERSTORE, with an overly full cart. The below starts in voiceover, as we jump from quick cut to quick cut of Dwight pulling things off of the shelves.

DWIGHT:
My bunker, which, again, you do *not* have permission to film, is quite well stocked. (DWIGHT adds some chicken wire to his haul.) I’m already fully prepared in the event of a hurricane, an earthquake, fire or medical emergencies and to defend against various animal attacks, and I’m combat ready at all times. (DWIGHT picks up a stethoscope, tests it against his own chest, and rejects it.) Book burning is easy enough, and bloodletting… well, leeches aren’t that hard to find if you know what you’re doing. (DWIGHT examines a grappling hook and throws it in the cart.) I *am* going to have to put together a radar capable of detecting low-flying planes. Going to need to improvise a little on supplies for that, Homeland Security’s appeals process is slower than you’d hope. (DWIGHT cuts open a box with his pocket knife, pulls out a large metal bowl, holds the open side to his ear with one hand, then solidly thwacks the base with his other, frowns, and puts the bowl back in the box and the box back on the shelf.) “Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom.” (We cut to a talking head with DWIGHT in the POWER TOOLS AISLE, where he takes a beat.) Explosives, obviously, but also… I wonder how you can go about poisoning a jelly bean.

Uh-oh.

We return to the conference room to hang out with JIM.

JIM (reflecting):
I haven’t made as much of an effort with anything as I have screwing with Dwight the last few years. (JIM pauses contemplatively, giving us time to consider the various layers of that statement.) You know, it gets me through the day. But it’s not like it’s going anywhere. (quick sigh, than reconnecting with where he is) I mean, it can’t be a whole office prank every time, right?

And now PAM gets the last word.

PAM (ironic):
Who knows? Maybe this time, Dwight’ll get the message.

It’s a little joke between her and the camera. Nothing ever changes around here.

 

 

NETWORK NOTES: REJECTED. Dammit guys, I *just* got this song out of my head.

Also, there’s no episode between Conflict Resolution and Casino Night to use this in, right? Am I completely misreading the production calendar? Because we’re definitely not dropping the telekinesis gag for this.

Chapter End Notes:
And then Jim interrupted her talking head interview to ask her out to dinner and she said yes and he bought a ring a week later and asked her to marry him while fireworks went off at Toby’s goodbye party and she said yes again! That’s what happened, right? It’s been a while since I watched.

There actually *was* an earthquake in Alaska in May 2006, which was either a strange coincidence or I looked it up when I started this fic and subsequently forgot.

Buried somewhere in this script is a reference to a VERY old, VERY lame pun. If you identify it, I’ll give you a cookie.

There have been a lot of music references in these cold opens, any of y’all notice that? Not at all intentional. By the way, fun facts I learned after this was mostly written: Michael Stipe does in fact claim that he frequently has dreams about the end of the world, making this either a lot less creative or a lot more ominous than I thought when I first came up with the idea. #FeelingPrettyPsyched


darjeelingandcoke is the author of 21 other stories.

This story is part of the series, Rejected Cold Opens. The previous story in the series is Eight Letter Word, Astronomical Adjective.

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