In my universe, the world is ending, and it's clear to everyone that nothing that can be done to save it. Most people have escaped by taking a one-way portal to another world, but there are some people who are stuck waiting in their old homes until they die. What are these people likely to be doing during the last few days they have before the end?

I'm especially interested in the stragglers left behind in large cities. In my story, the protagonist is trying to be the last one to escape through the portal, and en route, he encounters people in cities that were populated and active until only a few days beforehand.

Here are some of the reasons people are staying behind:

  • Some have given up hope for themselves and are effectively committing suicide.
  • Some tried to tie up loose ends before fleeing, but accidentally spent too long doing so and now are out of time.
  • Some were physically incapable of fleeing, such as being crippled or too elderly.
  • Some decided that they loved their old homes too much to try to start a new life elsewhere.

This is a high-fantasy universe with a canon religion, so feel free to use magic in your answers.

  • $\begingroup$ What technology level is this setting? $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2016 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ About the level of technology in the middle of the industrial revolution. Factories and electricity are fairly widespread, but there isn't much in the way of transportation or long-distance communication. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Apr 25, 2016 at 8:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Relevant novel: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Beach_(novel) $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Apr 25, 2016 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ So there's only one portal in the world, that most people in the world have traveled to over the last months? Or is there one per city? Do your "left behind" people include people who tried to go but didn't arrive in time, or only ones who never tried to reach the portal in the first place? Also important: Do people expect the apocalypse to involve a slow, painful death, or will it be quick? $\endgroup$
    – user2727
    Apr 25, 2016 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ Two questions that will determine the answer. Are the people left absolutely certain that the end really is nigh and inescapable? And how many of them are absolutely certain that the end really is the end? (No afterlife of any sort). If both are 100% you get to find out how many people are innately good, and how many avoid evil acts only out of fear of consequences. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Apr 25, 2016 at 10:20

2 Answers 2


I think generally people would try to fill up their bucket list or pray that it'll get better.

If there's a way to avoid the initial apocalypse, such as nuclear shelter or similar, or maybe being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean while it happens. Some people might try those options if they believed it could save them. That kind of information would have likely gotten around before everybody left.

If there's no escape, I personally would go around and rummage through other people's stuff, eat the least healthy food possible, drive my car like I'm in Forza and generally act like I'm the only person in the world and my actions have no consequences on anyone but me. I mean, it's the end of the world and there's nobody left to judge me, why would I act like a civilized person?

Some people might be even less civilized and actively try to hurt/kill other people on top of that. The scientific word for them is "nutjobs" I believe.

Some people might continue to live normally, not believing that the end is coming for any reason, including "it's all a conspiracy" or "the apocalypse doesn't scare me".

Some people might off themselves from the get-go, though if they really believe in the end of the world they might wait until the last possible moment to kill themselves.

The more religious people might try to pray for Jesus or somesuch to come down the sky and take them to paradise or something. I'm not really up to date on the specifics of armageddon according to every religion, but I assume most of them have a "if you're good you'll get to heaven before or after the apocalypse" clause.

The more scientific people might try to create a magic portal to anywhere-but-here. It may be completely impossible to achieve but they'll try it because it beats doing nothing.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not sure about other world religions, but Protestants are the only ones who believe in a 'rapture' (circa the 19th century); Catholics and Orthodox pretty much say, 'yeah, we're all in for it. Pray like hell." Which makes sense: If God doesn't magically stop the Romans from killing and torturing Christians; what makes you so special? $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2016 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ @shiningcartoonist Maybe the Romans weren't the apocalypse, but I take your point. Let's say heaven is promised somewhere around the end of the world, that should cover it all or close enough. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2016 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ I concur. I was actually thinking maybe I sounded more correcting than i meant to. I was more of a 'hey I can clarify some ambiguity for you'. Gonna up-vote this cause I actually did like your answer. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2016 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ This is a great answer and gives me a lot of ideas. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Apr 25, 2016 at 18:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Kevin That would be one good reason to try to make a portal then. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2016 at 18:06

You might look into real-life apocalyptic cults whose predicted end-of-the-world date has passed. Specifically, memoirs or blog posts written by ex-cult-members about their experiences, or historical accounts. What they do is likely influenced by their specific cult's beliefs, but if you look across a variety of different cults (and cultures/countries) there may be similarities.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .