When Heaven Falls (2)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
On the last day before the earth is annihilated by a meteor, a man reflects on his life, and searches for God.

Submitted: November 22, 2011

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Submitted: November 22, 2011

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WHEN HEAVEN FALLS

by Noah Rockmore

The world was coming to an end. Not in some hypothetical occurrence in the distant future but tomorrow.

The meteor had been tracked for years, and many efforts were made to divert it or destroy it. All were futile. Now a space rock the size of Australia was headed for earth, and the population could do nothing but await their complete annihilation.

A rock like this would rip the planet to pieces and scatter its ashes across the universe. There would be nothing left of the planet. No life. Not even the evidence that the planet had ever been inhabited at all. It was this fact that created an epidemic of despair among the people.

Throughout history people have come to accept death as an inevitable. But the consolation, from the mightiest to the lowliest, was that there would be some residual left over; a memory or some artifacts; stories of lives, and even their bones in the earth; their spirits or their essence would remain, as long as the earth lived. But this was not to be. There would be no memories of people, no evidence of their civilizations, no stories of their accomplishments and follies, no proof to remain that they had in fact ever existed.

Even the most spiritually devout were thrown into confusion and despair. Where was God in all of this? And where does this event fit into the prophecies and scriptures? Others resigned to this being the will of God, and drew connections to dozens upon dozens of human follies and natural catastrophes. To them, this was the punishment for disobeying the commandments of God.

Jeff woke with a sickness and heaviness in his chest. What would come out he did not know. Only that with each passing day this sickness and heaviness grew more and more. He wanted to sleep, but he had slept enough. He wanted to rise, but was filled with so much pain that he could not.

Each day was the same. As he lay in bed the pain would hide itself enough for him to pull himself up and get on with the day. Today was Sunday and Jeff had overslept again. Though he taught as a youth Pastor, he did not feel any regret about missing the service this morning. In fact, everything in his life became of significantly less importance. He felt a bit selfish, but not regretful.

In town, the air was quiet and mournful. Each day, Jeff saw less and less people around. He figured they were with their families.

Jeff, himself was too far from his own family to even make an effort to see them one last time. He had called his parents, hoping to feel some sense of reconciliation, but it did not come. His parents, and even he, spoke in total denial of the facts that were first in each of their minds. Not once was their coming death even hinted at, and Jeff felt such shame that we could not bring himself to call them again, which only made him feel worse.

Each day Jeff wondered, with each activity, whether it would be his last. Would it be his last laugh, his last cry, his last walk, his last sleep, his last sight, his last meal?

Regrets came to the forefront of his mind, and each day there seemed to be more and more to the list. So much of his time had been wasted on things that now seemed entirely useless. There were no great accomplishments. There were no significant memories. He was unmarried with no children. The few relationships he had had with women in his life seemed frivolous and forgettable. He wondered if he had ever really felt what it’s like to be in love. He doubted it.

What were the things that brought him joy? There seemed to be none that he could remember, though he had been a fairly happy and well-adjusted fellow before the meteor news. The children he taught made him happy, but he felt that no more. He wanted to see them again but what could he do, and what could he say to them? In any event, they had probably stopped attending class anyway. What would be the point?

“Does it feel colder out today?,” David, a friend of Jeff’s asked in the convenience store, as Jeff grazed for breakfast. “I swear I can hear the wind. I can’t remember if I ever had before. I don’t mean rustling leaves or that whooshing sound, but a hollow sound outside, in the open.”

“I don’t think it’s colder,” Jeff replied. “But it does feel strange out there.”

David shook his head. His voice was low and matter-of-fact, and his speech was slow, as though time itself were slowing down. There was a blank quality that Jeff noticed in him, like the words were coming out of him without his knowing. Jeff wondered if he appeared the same.

“I can’t quite remember the wind, if it was always that way,” David again spoke. “The air sounds like it’s crying. Does the earth know? Does nature know? Is it conscious, like us?”

Jeff pressed his eyes closed, partly in annoyance, partly out of despair, and said no more.

As Jeff made his rounds through the town he could not shake the pain that was in him. It did not hurt him so much as drain him. His spirit was gone out of him, and he felt empty and slow.

He grew annoyed with himself as his mind kept asking, begging, God for deliverance. Is this really going to be the end, he wondered. All of his efforts to live a good life and now the end would be total annihilation of all human history by a random act of nature.

“Why, God?,” he asked once more before turning his thoughts to other things.

Danica pulled her car to the side of the road when she saw Jeff sitting in the grass. Danica was an old classmate of Jeff’s, and though they did not remain close friends as they grew up, they cared for each other as close friends do.

When Jeff saw her, he let a grin rear itself for a moment, and he thought of their youth. Danica was the girl that his mother always nagged him about asking out. He never did. They just did not have that kind of relationship, at least he thought so. She grew up to be a great beauty, but their lives had gone in different directions. She looked as she always had, as though not carrying the weight that the rest of the town seemed to be.

“Jeff, is that you?,” she hollered as she approached him. Jeff looked up at her and pulled himself to his feet. For a moment he felt light again, and he breathed easy. “Thought that was you.”

“Yeah, just walking around,” he replied. He wanted to say more but nothing more came out. When Danica got close enough, she hugged him. For a brief second he felt weightless in her arms. Then the pain returned with the thought that this might be the last hug he will ever receive.

“You looked like you were praying,” she said. “I thought you’d be back east with your family.”

Jeff was not sure what to say. After an interminable silence he shook his head and found a few words, “I couldn’t get back. I talked to them…but…that’s the best I was able to do.”

“I’m so sorry, Jeff,” she said. Jeff could see that she was about to cry.

“It’s okay. This is my home, anyway,” he assured her. She nodded and swallowed hard. “Where’re you headed?,” he asked.

She wiped her eyes and said, “My family’s driving to Flagstaff. I’m going to meet them there.” Then she offered, “Why don’t you come? So you don’t have to be alone.”

Again, Jeff felt a moment of weightlessness, but it quickly subsided. Though her offer was heartfelt, and he wanted to take her up on it, he knew deep down that she was only being courteous.

He shook his head, “I think I’ll stay.” She nodded and swallowed hard again. “It’s kind of peaceful here. It’s home.” She continued to nod and could not bear to look him in the eye. “But I’ll see you around.”

They both allowed a laugh, the irony of which would quickly turn sorrowful if they gave it a thought. Slowly, Danica backed up to her car.

“I’ll see you,” she said with a small wave. She wiped her eyes and disappeared down the road.

Jeff hadn’t thought of Danica for quite a while, but she was on his mind for the rest of the afternoon. He was surprised by the amount of genuine affection he had for her today, and could not help but wonder if she might have felt the same.

Jeff tried not to torture himself with such thoughts. It was pointless now. What did love matter anyway, since it would all end tomorrow? It would not have done any good to tell her, and it certainly did him no good to imagine what could have been. The only reality now was death. All else was a human invention, and was useless.

He did not want to go home. This was the last sunset he would ever see, a thought that nearly made him sick to consider. He dropped down onto the ground and wept like he had never wept before.

“Oh, God,” he cried. “Please don’t let this happen. Please, God, what can I do? Just please show me, tell me what I can do? I’ll do anything. Don’t let us die like this.”

He wept so long and so hard that he missed the sunset. When he realized this he did not care a bit. But the night quickly grew cold, and Jeff longed for his nice warm bed.

When Jeff woke, his clock said 9:32 a.m. He felt a strange relief but also did not feel like he had slept. But peace was in his mind and heart, and the pain was lighter.

He knew that there were only a few hours left but could think of nothing that he needed or wanted to do. He kept reminding himself what was about to happen but did not feel the terror or urgency of the day before. He felt that all was settled, but one thing.

Jeff walked to his church. The whole town was dead silent, and eerily still. Not a bird chirped, and even the wind was hushed.

He was surprised to find that the church was full, and all eyes were on him when he entered. Groups of families were bundled together in group prayer and gave Jeff a nod before he continued in.

Jeff sat near the back, so as to not interrupt. The Pastor walked down the aisle, past the families and sat next to Jeff. “I’m glad you came, Jeff,” he said.

“Me, too,” Jeff replied. “I’m sorry about yesterday, Pastor. I just had to….” He could not find the right words.

“We all did, I suppose,” the Pastor finished for him. “You doing okay?”

Jeff thought long and hard. “I guess so,” he said, then confessed, “I was so scared yesterday. I couldn’t believe that it’s all going to end.”

“Maybe it’s not,” the Pastor replied. “It’s okay to be scared though. Everyone that’s ever lived has had to face death eventually. And I’ll bet you that each of them wished that the time would be some other time. But it catches us. Even for true men of faith, that moment just before becomes the greatest test, the greatest leap. It’s the last chance to decide, or to realize, what you really believe.”

“The thing that…that I can’t shake is the realization that all of human history, everything that’s been learned and achieved is all…gone,” Jeff lamented.

“Does that make it of less value?,” the Pastor asked.

“It’ll be like we never existed.”

“But we did,” the Pastor said. “And our fingerprints are on time.”

“I don’t know why, but that’s what I think about. And that’s what troubles me most. We all know that we have to die, but for some reason there is comfort in knowing that things will continue.”

“That you’ll be remembered?”

“That something will.”

“That the community in which you existed, humanity, will carry on the traditions. That we will all continue to share existence.”

“Perhaps.”

The Pastor pointed to the others. “Jeff,” he spoke with great compassion. “That’s why they’re here, too. You’re not alone. This is community, and we all share it.”

Jeff smiled as though it was the most obvious thing.

“I remember being so afraid yesterday,” Jeff confessed.

“But not today?,” the Pastor asked.

“No,” Jeff said, surprised that it was the truth. “I feel…okay. I don’t know how, but I do.”

The Pastor grinned and put his hand on Jeff’s shoulder. “It’s not your doing,” he said. “It’s God.”


© Copyright 2017 Noah Rockmore. All rights reserved.

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