Where Are You?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
The news is out. In just a few hours the planet will cease to exist. What would you do? How would you react?

Submitted: April 20, 2016

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Submitted: April 20, 2016

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Where Are You........?

Where are you when the announcement comes? The world is going to end at 2am tomorrow. The Earth will be no more.

I am sitting in the school canteen. We are on our lunch break on a Wednesday that has been like any other Wednesday.
"Ssssshh."
 Someone is trying to get the noise down but that's not likely to happen. We've all been quiet during classes all morning. Break is our chance to let off a bit of steam, to catch up with our friends. And nowhere do hundreds of teenagers do this quietly!
"Will you all be quiet! Listen." Someone is standing up on one of the tables, clearly agitated. It is Bradey, one of the football team, one of the popular kids. Now that everyone knows who is calling for silence, they quieten down a bit.
Bradey has some influence over a lot of the students.
"Find a radio. Anyone. Find a radio and turn it on."
School rules say no mobile phones but virtually everyone has one in their pocket. About 95 per cent of those mobiles have radios and they all seem to be turned on at once.
Funny thing is they all seem to be tuned in to the same station. Instead of a wild cacophony of mixed up sounds all we here is the same voice.
"The impact will take place at 2am tomorrow. It is unavoidable and will be of such a large scale that the Earth will be destroyed."

The few remaining voices in the canteen are now muted.
"What?"
"Is this some sort of joke?"
"Yeah, April fools day!"
"It's March, you idiot!"
Bradey is back on the table. "Will you all just shut up and listen for a minute." He obviously thinks that it is no joke. Can he really believe it is true? Has he really fallen for what must surely be a hoax?
"This is a public announcement." The voice on the radio comes from all around the room. "We have learnt that a meteor of substantial size is on collision course with Earth. The impact will take place at 2am tomorrow. It is unavoidable and will be of such a large scale that the Earth will be destroyed. This is a public announcement......"
A recording then, playing over and over again. Are we going to believe such a catastrophic event is going to occur from listening to a recording?
There are an awful lot of shocked faces around me. It is as though everyone has been stunned into total paralysis. Nobody moves. Nobody speaks. The message just keeps playing over and over again.

The spell breaks and we are all up and running. The IT room has a large screen television. If the message on the radio is to be believed it will surely be covered on the t.v.
"Bry, do you believe it. It has to be a hoax. It has to be." Bryony has been my girlfriend for the last eight months. She is the most truthful person I know, and would never lie to me about anything. I can trust her completely.
"I don't know, Josh. I really don't."
I can't help noticing the tears that she is struggling to prevent from falling. It's true, then. Or at least Bry thinks it is.
The staff and students already in the IT room when we arrive look stunned, shell-shocked. Many of them have tears silently falling down their cheeks. Many of them are sobbing quietly.
I put my arm around Bryony and she snuggles up against me. The television is showing what looks like a massive boulder floating in space. This must be the meteor that is headed our way.
A map comes up on the screen to show the estimated path of the meteor and the point that impact is predicted. That point is about 100 miles from us. There will be no after effects for us to wait for; no gathering darkness as the sun is blotted out. The end will be instantaneous.
And it is this news that seems to open the floodgates to panic.
Somebody screams. Just one voice at first - Alice, I think, but her voice is soon joined by others and they are not just girls. Some huddle in groups and hug each other tearfully while others run around like headless chickens.
Bryony is silently sobbing by my side. Why am I so calm, so detached from all this hysteria? There's nothing I can do about it so what is the point in my weeping and wailing. It won't change the fact that in just thirteen hours time everything I know will be no more.
"Come on, Bry. Let's get out of here."

On the way out of the school we meet up with Owen, Cathy and Martin. Without saying a word they join us as we make our way through the corridors. Staff and students seem to be everywhere, going in so many different directions, most weeping silently. We pass several people that are just sitting huddled on the floor, perhaps too shocked to move at all.
"Can we join you?" Owen asks as we reach the main doors and push our way outside.
"Of course." I lead the way to my car. It's old, rusty and a bit liable to breaking down. I was saving to get a new one but of course I won't have to bother any more.
"Do you really think it's true?" Cathy is either still not convinced or just doesn't want to accept what we are being told. And who can blame her?
Bryony gets into the back of the car with her. Martin joins them and Owen gets in up front.
"I think," says Martin, "that they wouldn't have said anything until they were certain. Look!"
There is total chaos on the streets. No one is going by the rules of the road now. It is everyone for themselves and already there have been a number of collisions. We won't be driving anywhere.
Climbing back out of the car I don't even bother to remove the keys. I'll let someone else make a getaway in it if they want to chance it.
"Let's face it. This heap of junk isn't going to be any good to me any more."
It's strange but I suddenly realise that we are all bag-less. It is unheard of for us to be leaving school without being weighed down with books. And that's when it hits me; no more school work or homework, no more exams, no more future to prepare for.
For a moment I stumble. I want to break down and rail against the injustice of it all. Is it really fair that our lives should be so short? But I don't. I hold all my feelings in and I keep control.
"What should we do?" Cathy again.
"I don't know." Owen sounds like he is barely holding it together.
"We should go home, see our families if we can." Bryony sounds pretty calm now.
"Yeah. Good idea, Bry. But let's meet up later, all of us if you like. We could have a party up on Corley Rise. An End of the World party! Invite whoever you like, the more the merrier, I guess. But no one is allowed to be sad." I look around at my four best friends and I force myself to smile. "Okay?"

We each return to our respective homes. Mine is furthest so I get back last. At first it doesn't seem like anyone else is here.
"Dad. Mum." No response so I try my little sister. She's bound to be here somewhere. "Sophie. Where are you?"
She pops her head round the top of the stairs. "Come and see, Joshie. Come and see! I'm making my toys safe for the end of the world."
She doesn't know what she is saying. She has no concept of what it means. And at five years old how could she have. It hits me like a ton of bricks as I trudge up that staircase; Sophie will never get older!
"Hi, Sophie. Show me what you've done then." I will not be the one to make her afraid. I won't point out that there will be nothing to make her toys safe for.
All her favourites are arranged on one side of the bed. She has put a lot of thought into their placements with Bertie, her almost constant companion right next to her pillow.
"And see, Joshie, there's still room for me. I'm gonna snuggle up, hold them tight, keep them safe until it's all over."
I turn away to hide the tears that are forming in my eyes. "You're a good girl, Sophie. They are going to really appreciate you making them feel safe like that. Where's Mum?"
"She's downstairs cleaning. She said the dust was making her eyes run but I thought she was crying."
"Okay, Sophie. I'll go find her. See you in a while."
I leave her happily talking to her toys.
Mum is in the lounge. She is attacking everything in sight with a duster. The vacuum cleaner is left running in the middle of the floor.
"Mum," I say but get no response. "Mum, what are you doing?" I talk much louder this time so I know that she'll have heard. She doesn't turn round but I see her shoulders start to shake with her almost silent sobbing.
I go to her, turn her round and hold her. Just for a few minutes so she can let it out then regain some control. There is nothing I can say, no words of comfort I can give, so I don't talk at all.
When she's pulled herself together Mum takes a step back. "Oh, Josh. Why?" She reaches up to stroke one finger down my cheek. Her face is a mask of pain and confusion.
"I don't know, Mum. But you'll have to be strong. Sophie doesn't understand but if she sees you upset she'll know that something is really wrong. Have you heard from Dad?"
"He can't get back. The roads are in chaos. You know, after twenty-two years together we will never see each other again."
The tears are back. Why did I have to go and ask when she had more or less got herself under control. So I'll never get to see Dad again. The only consolation is that we weren't arguing last night. We'd spent our final time together as friends.
"Don't worry about the mess. Just leave it. It's just not important any more." I try to summon up a smile. "Go spend some time with Sophie. Tell her stories, play games; just don't think about tonight, okay."
"Okay, Josh. I'll try. And how come you are being so calm?"
"We're having a party up on Corley Rise. An End of the World party! When we came out of school and saw all the panic it just seemed so stupid. There's nowhere safe to go after all, so what's the point in trying to escape. We might as well try to enjoy it right up to the end." I attempt another smile.
"Okay. I admire you kid's attitude, I really do. Take whatever you want, we won't be needing it after tonight. Have a good time and see it off with a bang. If it wasn't for Sophie, I'd probably join you."
As I head off to the kitchen I turn back for a second. Mum is okay now; still with tears in her eyes but managing a smile all the same. I couldn't really expect anything more.

I have the back of Mum's car loaded up with bags and boxes when I head off to pick up the others. It suddenly strikes me that if it doesn't happen, if the meteor doesn't hit, it will take a long time for people to get their lives back in order. And no doubt there will have been many lives lost in this panic and they will be gone for good.
I make it to Bryony's house in the car but it is so slow going and the wreckage on the roads is only getting worse the nearer to the town centre we get. I take out as much as I can carry and lock the car doors, putting the keys safely in my pocket just in case. It's a nice car. If by some chance we are still here tomorrow I wouldn't want to have given it away.
Bryony comes out of her house and joins me by the car. She is carrying almost as much as I am. "This is going to be some party," she says, trying to smile. She didn't manage to hide the quiver in her bottom lip so she is close to tears.
"The party to end all parties." I search her eyes for understanding that this is the only way I can hold myself together. She gives a slight nod and we head off to meet the others.
Up on Corley Rise, we find Owen, Cathy and Martin. There are about ten others, most of whom I recognise from school.
There's Matt from my maths class and Angela from history. The others I know by sight but not by name. But tonight, who cares. We'll get to know each other a little bit and it won't really matter if we like or hate each other because there won't be a tomorrow to carry things on.
Martin has brought his old boom box, a present from his father's past."Had a bit of a problem finding batteries but we managed it in the end."
Martin has also brought some of his Dad's old tapes. Amazing to think that they still work after all this time but they do. Depeche Mode, Human League, B52's (his mum's apparently) and REM. Looks like we will be dancing 1980's style tonight.

In spite of the music no one seems to be in to dancing, so for a while we just sit around reminiscing, telling jokes, talking about anything and everything apart from the impending collision.
 I put my arm around Bryony and Owen leans in to give Cathy a kiss. I always thought there was some kind of attraction there but neither of them had ever admitted to it until now. Now, when it is too late. They've still got a few hours to get to know each other a bit better though. The world's not over yet.
We have bottles of beer and bottles of wine. We drink but nobody gets outrageously drunk. The food we brought remains mainly untouched. There are not enough hours left for real hunger to set in so why waste time on eating.
Then I see them, walking up the hill; Mum and Sophie with Bertie in her arms. I lift Sophie up and twirl her around until she can't help but laugh. And her laughter seems to lift any sombre thoughts that were starting to creep in.
I give Mum a hug which she returns. "Thanks, Josh," she whispers.
"Come and join the party, you two," Bryony says.
Nobody looks at their watches. We all want to ignore the passing of time right up to the end if we can. 'Love Shack' by the B52's gets some of us dancing, some of us laughing. Sophie dances with Bertie then Martin whisks her around so much that she can't help giggling and we can't help smiling. And then we hear Michael Stipe. 'It's the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine."
We all join in with the words. It's one of those songs that everybody seems to know the chorus of. The track finishes and we are still here. The world hasn't ended. "Play it again," says Matt and Martin does.
There is a change in the atmosphere. The light dims and the temperature drops. We all keep on singing.
I look at Bryony and see the tears running down her cheeks. I reach out a finger to catch one and it is at that moment that something changes. Without saying a word we gather into a tightly clustered group.
 We all look up and it is kind of beautiful; the colours all mixed up, the darkness and the flames in stark contrast to each other. It is a bit like staring at a burning log; kind of hypnotic but so obviously dangerous.
But it is getting closer, becoming blacker. There is a hissing noise. I don't know if it is coming from the meteor itself or if it is in my ears alone. I cannot bear to watch but equally I cannot tear my eyes away. It wasn't a hoax, a joke, a deception. The world really is about to end.
 We stand in a huddle, barely breathing and staring upwards into........nothing.

 

 


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