You should probably be reading this story a little faster.
According to the ancient Mayans, the world was going to end today. In fact, it may already be gone, since it's Saturday in Australia. So don't be surprised if you step out the door and see nothing but smoking ruins and -- if you live in Coral Gables, where strict zoning laws prohibit the apocalypse -- municipal code inspectors frantically writing citations.
OK, before we go too much further with this, it's possible that the ancient Mayans didn't actually prophesy doom for the world on Dec. 21, 2012. "They absolutely never said any such thing, nothing like that, nothing at all," fumes a frustrated Marta Barber, who is (or, possibly, was) vice president of the Miami Science Museum's Institute of Maya Studies.
Most scholars of Mayan history and culture agree with Barber that the idea the Mayans circled the date on their calendar and penciled in "apocalypse coming, don't forget to buy milk" is a crackpot New Age misinterpretation, a cynical ploy by doomsday merchandisers, or both.
But that hasn't shaken the firm conviction of millions of people around the world that Friday's the day to link arms and sing a chorus of Turn out the lights, the party's over.
--So many religious pilgrims were trekking to Uritorco, a sacred Indian mountain peak in Argentina's central Cordoba province, that authorities blocked access to it earlier this week for fear of a "massive spiritual suicide." The mayor of Bugarach, a tiny mountaintop village in the French Pyrenees believed to be a frequent rest stop for alien spacecraft, banned end-of-the-world UFO watchers who were streaming into town, but undaunted local farmers continue renting out their houses for $2,000 a night.
--Tikal, a large Mayan archaeological site in northern Guatemala, is awash in not only New Age spiritualists but Star Wars geeks who believe the fact that scenes from their favorite movie were shot there mean it's certain to play a key role in the Mayan spectacular. "Something big is going to happen," businessman Ricardo Alejos, the vice president of Guatemala's Star Wars fan club, told Reuters. Cops have been generally tolerant, but did eject 13 naked women dancing and chanting around a fire near temple ruins last week.
--If you were planning to wait out the apocalypse on Rtanj mountain in eastern Serbia, where space aliens concealed a protective pyramid during a secret visit more than a thousand years ago (oops, guess that cat's out of the bag now), better forget it. All the mountain's hundreds of hotel rooms are booked. Serbian tourism officials, though slightly abashed, aren't giving any of the money back. "Our official stance is not to support such mythology," tourism boss Sandra Vlatkovic told Agence France-Presse.
--In China, the Christian group Almighty God, in somewhat contradictory proclamations, told its followers that Friday is the apocalypse but also that they should overthrow communism. Chinese security decided to take the second proclamation seriously just in case the first one is wrong and have jailed more than 1,000 Almighty God members.
--Various cities throughout Russia and Lithuania have suffered survivalist runs on everything from salt to candles to vodka. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a televised plea for everybody to calm down, probably
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