The last hour of the last day

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A short story about the end of the world. This is dedicated to my Colleen, who is a constant stream of inspiration and support


 

 

As the man crested the gentile slope he was walking up, he spotted the source of the drum beats he had been hearing on this, his last leg of an incredible journey. A long, ragged procession of destitute humanity came into focus. Men and women (both either naked or very close to) bearing clapboard signs commanding people to repent, to love their god or burn in hell for all eternity. While others beat so fiercely on their drums that the man swore they were close to tearing through the membrane which exuded so much noise. And still others flogged their own backs with whips, tearing deep fissures into their skin which oozed dark red blood onto the steaming asphalt. All of this conspired together to create a horrid noise that chilled the man to his core. He kept far off to the right shoulder, walking quickly and with his head down. It was then that he realized that none of the fanatics were wearing any shoes. Their blistered and bloody feet left a visible trail behind them, scarring the earth long after they had passed by. It was 9:52am on Monday the 22nd. 59 minutes until the end of the world.

 

********    *

 

Humans, having been lords over our planet for far longer than anyone cared to remember, believed ourselves to be all but invincible. It was this arrogance which took our eyes off of the vast unknown beyond our own atmosphere, and instead focused them within. And so, by the time the object hurtling towards us at 25 kilometers per second was discovered, it was a mere six months from impact. Humanity temporarily set aside our differences and worked collectively to solve this all-encompassing problem. Countries that had been fighting each other for decades put down their arms and worked side by side, along with the rest of the civilized world. Trillions of dollars were spent. Innumerable man hours exhausted on trying dozens of solutions to the same problem. But in the end, nothing caused any real change in the objects trajectory. And the leaders of the free world had no choice but to conceded defeat to the masses. After which a global society that was already in turmoil, was pushed over the brink, never to return to normalcy again.

 

*********

The man continued walking down the road at a brisk pace, wanting nothing more than to increase the distance between himself and the parade of fanatics that just past. Thick black smoke rose from somewhere up ahead. He altered his course to head directly towards it.

Sweat dripped down his filthy brow and into his tired eyes. After wiping them dry for what seemed like the thousandth time, his vision cleared enough to see the short main street of a small, suburban town. One which his long journey had been leading up to. From a distance you may have been fooled into thinking that it was just another day in small town America. This was anything but true. 35 minutes until the end of the world.

As he walked down main street a curious sight came into view. The body of a portly, middle aged white man in what looked to be an expensive suit hung by its neck off of one of the streetlights. A crude, hand drawn sign with the words “Eye for an eye” written in red paint was plastered across his chest. The man puled a worn blue bandanna out of his back pocket and went to tie it over his mouth. And as he did, he looked past the hanging man, only to see many more, stretching almost the entire length of his field of view. Large people. Small people. And everywhere in between. It was the small ones which caused the cold dark to burrow deep within his already broken heart.

Glass crunched underfoot as he pressed on through the main drag. A horde of flies droned on overhead. Almost every single window had been smashed. All of the stores had been looted long ago. And several of the buildings had been reduced to nothing but ash. Farther down, an inferno raged to his right side. Growing in size enough to engulf several of the hanging bodies. He tried his best not to breath in the rancid smelling smoke as he passed. Cars were parked haphazardly on the street and sidewalks. One car was buried deep into the front end of a coffee shop, leaving a dark red trail from the sidewalk to within. Here and there hollow shells of what once were humans darted in and out of the shadows. Every now and then, the man would make eye contact with one of them. And in that briefest of seconds he could see a glimmer of the old world. But only for a moment.

More bodies lay in broken heaps here and there. He could tell that some had been murdered, while others appeared to have self inflicted wounds. He briefly wondered if the fanatics he passed had anything to do with all of this, secretly hoping it was true so that he would have someone to blame. But as he walked on he decided that it simply didn’t matter. Religious fanatics or atheist. Husbands or wives. Cops or criminals. All of these titles fall withing the great umbrella of humanity and thus, we were all responsible. 20 minutes until the end of the world.

After what seemed to be a very long time, he left the abysmal state of the main street and was once again on a fairly rural road. He obsessively checked his watch, and kept up his pace accordingly. The normally tranquil area was invaded by the sounds and smells of a world gone mad. Pillars of black smoke rose from every direction. Screams and wails were carried on the gentile breeze to the mans ears. The death throes of humanity only spurred him ever onward. He found himself praying to a God he didn’t believe in, begging for his destination to still be intact.

 

“Please. Just this once.” he said breathlessly

 

With but five minutes remaining, he finally reached the driveway which signaled that the finish line to his journey was within reach. And when he did, he ran. All of his joints screamed. His muscles wailed. His lungs tried their best to rebel against this change of pace. He ignored the pleas of his exhausted body and only ran faster. The sound of his feet crunching on the gravel driveway and of his own ragged breaths droned out all others until they became deafening in their intensity. The man crested the final hump of the driveway and leapt upon the front stoop. He crashed through the front door of the home he had been so desperate to reach. He tumbled through the living room of the modest suburban home and finally came to the back porch bathed in brilliant sunlight. The man opened the final door, and that was when he saw her.

She stood facing the east, choosing to meet her end with dignity and poise, only averting her gaze when she heard him approach. She turned to face him and their eyes met. And it was in that moment that all of the anguish, the desolation, lunacy, aberration. All of the degeneracy, viciousness and nefarious actions. The depravity of man in all of its horrible glory. All of those things simply melted away. And were replaced instead by love in its purest form.

She ran into his arms and pushed her body firmly against his. And for the briefest of seconds, time stood still for the man and his woman. He felt peace come creeping back into his heart. And for the first time in months, a genuine smile came across his sun-chapped lips.

 

As he held her wrapped deeply in his arms, he had time to utter just three words.

 

“I love you”

 

 

After which, the object collided with the earth. The man and woman were reduced to ash, along with the rest of the old world. Time continued to march onward, as it always does, stopping for nothing and no one. During which the ashes of the lovers lay forever entwined with each other, along with their mother earth. And as the many millions of years past by after humanities rein ended, life sprouted from what once was, and began wholly anew.

 

 


Submitted: February 27, 2018

© Copyright 2020 Jake P. Fortin. All rights reserved.

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