The changes were sudden and had a profound effect on society. Initially it was only aesthetic. Interior decorators became very much in demand to replace pastel shades suddenly become vibrant and aggressive. Hair-dye and wigs were selling in droves. New wardrobes became essential for almost everybody not irrevocably wedged in the 1970s. Anti-racism became fraught with unexpected perils as writers tried to think up rhymes about Greens living in harmony with Oranges that sounded convincingly sincere. There were more far reaching effects however.
"The power grid cannae take it." exclaimed the Presidential Advisor on Unexplained Happenings, accidentally lapsing into the bad impression from a certain SF series that used to be one of his few talents when at College. "It seems that the power output from all our stations has fallen dramatically. We just can't meet the demand. Especially since the current cold snap started."
"So what's causing it, Bobby?" asked the President, who called everyone Bobby to save himself the effort of remembering names.
"The boffins tell us it's something to do with the light, sir. They call it `Photon de-energization' or some such. It's just like the power has been turned down."
"And this is what's made the sun get so much colder?"
"Yeah, apparently, yellow-orange light with bits of ultra-violet is more energetic than puce. I don't really understand it myself."
Of course nobody did really understand it. They couldn't have. There are some things that seem just too absurd. The first signs had been there for a while though. Scientists had noticed for decades that light from distant stars was the wrong colour. They called it "Red Shift", said it proved that the universe was getting bigger and left it at that. Then there was the so-called "Missing Mass" problem. In the simplest possible terms, there is just not as much of the universe as there is supposed to be. Scientists had a name for this as well. They called it "Dark Matter" and said it proved that there were some strange particles that nobody could see yet. Many scientists found these arguments convincing but they were tragically wrong.
The next stage came a few months later when an orbital telescope noticed some distant stars wink out. A flurry of explanations from the scientific community followed.
"Gravitational lensing effect --- we've found some of that dark matter."
"It's a black hole, couldn't be anything else."
"Extreme red-shifting similar to the new effect on Earth."
"They put the damn camera in backwards again."
In the corridors of the Cyan-House (as it had become known until it could be repainted) people were worried.
"I'm worried Bobby." said the President to his Advisor on Unprecedented Scientific Phenomena Likely to Affect Polls (the Advisor on Unexplained Happenings having been sent to lie down for a few months due to severe over-work). "This kind of thing makes people think we're not in control. Is there anyone we can blame for this?"
Things were soon to get worse. By the time the week was out the devastation of the star-field was becoming apparent. Entire star-signs were vanishing piece by piece. Astrologers were having a rough time firing people's imaginations with the idea that they were born under the sign of Leo the Line or Pisces the Vanished Completely. Conferences were arranged and join-the-dots experts were hired to compose more accurate star-signs but somehow it never got properly sorted out.
It didn't stop there of course. All the stars went, one by one and then the planets, in strict order, Pluto first and heading inwards. Not unsurprisingly, people began to panic. Some partied, some wept, some joined religions and some joined the circus. Appeals from world leaders to "Just settle down." and "Try to ignore it, it's nothing to worry about," seemed strangely lacking in conviction. Even Mother Theresa was seen to look concerned. Some wars started, some wars stopped and U2 booked Wembly for an "end of the world" party. It was a terrible time to be alive in.
The wave of disappearances skipped Earth, took in Venus and Mercury and then returned to claim the moon. Workers on the Thames tidal barrage were given the day off.
Eventually, God appeared to the Pope to try to explain. He'd considered the President of America but wasn't sure He could take being referred to as Bobby. In any case, the Pope was meant to be His representative on Earth. Firstly, He appeared as a burning bush but set off the sprinkler system and had to retire for more than an hour while the place calmed down. Given some bad advice that may, or may not, have been meant as a joke, He manifested himself as Jimi Hendrix and was ejected by the Swiss Guard. Finally, he appeared as Albert Einstein and sneaked in by the back-way.
"Who are you?" asked the Pope sitting up in bed and running his hands through his turquoise hair (Rainbow day had been particularly unkind to him).
"I'm God." said God, since He thought honesty was expected of Him.
Naturally, the Pope didn't believe him at first. However, the omni-potent can be genuinely convincing when they want to be and a few simple tricks were enough to convince him.
"Oh my God." said the Pope, who was a man with a poorly developed sense of irony. A bit late but with undiminished piety he began to avert his eyes.
"Look, errmm.. my child," said God uncomfortably, "there's no time for that. I only came because I felt I owed you an explanation."
"An explanation?" asked the Pope, who having just seen that God was, in fact, Jewish felt that nothing else could bother him.
"You know, for all the changes."
The Pope merely looked at Him blankly.
"Look, I want you to understand that none of this has been my fault. Really, I'm just as pissed off about it as you are."
God waited for some response but could see that there was little chance of anything more coherent being said and so plunged on regardless.
"It's the cuts you see. I've been having to turn the power down for years and the last few months this entire universe has been on borrowed time. All the protons are well out of guarantee and most of the leptons should have been retired millennia ago. The neutrinos have been fluctuating all over the place and..." He could see He was getting nowhere.
"Look, the simple fact is that we've got to shut down. There's no future in humanoid artificial meta-intelligence. You've not even got to the stage where you can understand what meta-intelligence actually is. Anyway, they're moving me to this project with some sentient lobsters and..."
"Shut down." interrupted the Pope weakly, having finally taken in some of what was being said.
"Sure," said God, "now we've still got a bit of cash left and we were going to spend it on a bit of a do in the lab but we wondered if you'd like one of those Armageddon things you are always talking about."
"Not really." said the Pope.
And so the universe ended.
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