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The Absence of Tomorrow
The ticking of my watch reminds me that time, which before now always seemed infinite and guaranteed, is running out. It is bitterly ironic that in the moments before death, annihilation, before the departure into blackness and whatever lies beyond, it is in these moments that everything becomes painfully clear. All the wrong turns and regrets, the what-if’s and the possibilities, those half-imagined moments that you clung to like the promise of tomorrow, they flash by in an unavoidable stream. They taunt you with what could have been and what has been and what will, now, never be.
The only sounds in this dying world are the beating of my heart and the loudness of my breath, sounding in time with the ever-present clock. It is so silent, in spite of the bodies pressed towards mine, as though the absence of tomorrow has created a vacuum that has sucked away all the air in the world. Panic has come and gone, leaving only this: the marking of time till the end. Only occasionally is the loudness of this silence broken by the sound of voices. Whispered remembrances, regrets, and secrets, until there is only the inevitable goodbye, as we stand together and wait for the end.
The idea was unpopular from the start. After all, no one likes their own destruction. But the world is so crowded and dirty and not at all the place it used to be. It is our fault. We know that. We know it was our constant burning and growing and clearing that clouded the skies and thickened the air until Earth was not at all a friendly place. And so, though there were protests and battles and every kind of fight against it, they decided that the end was for the best. The bombs were prepared. The warning was given. We were told, over static and panic, that the world would end at noon on February 29.
And so here we sit, awaiting our deaths.
My goodbyes are long over, my heart already smashed to bits as the unwilling words left my tongue. Even now my brain still races, trying to make the words untrue, to make the goodbyes a lie. I know, deep down, that the destruction of the human race is for the best. The world we live in is no longer alive. Everything else has been smothered and covered up and destroyed and now we are all that is left. But knowing that it is right does not make it easier to accept. In spite of our broken planet and our colorless world, love and life still exist. I have those that I need, a life to live, a past and a future that is quickly slipping away from me, as does every miserable person on this suffocating planet. We humans may have destroyed the planet, but there is still something at the core of us that in a different time could have made us redeemable. There is that ability to love and be loved, to make mistakes and be hurt and hurt others and still, in spite of everything, find it in us to trust the world to take our heart and handle it carefully. But now, it is too late. We have gone too far, crossed seas and borders and invisible lines that were never meant to be crossed. And, in spite of that essence, that core of what we are proud enough to call humanity, that undeniable good, the bad has tipped the scales and it is time for the end.
The deep boom resonates through my bones. I brace myself for the ending. For the searing heat and scorching burn of being blown into whatever lies beyond this life. But nothing comes. Could I have imagined the sound? But no, it comes again. And I recognize it for what it truly is. The chiming of the clock tower. It has been years since the clock chimed. Now, as we prepare to die, it chimes above us, haloed in gray sunshine that burns through the clouds of our creation.
I look around. The square is filled with those I have known since I was born into this gray world. My family, my friends, the man who I bought groceries from, the woman who taught me how to knot my shoelaces. Everyone I have ever known, here in this square. And in spite of our differences, of the colors of the skin beneath the dirt, of height or age or language or intelligence, we are united. This is what the end of the world does to people, far too late. It brings us together. All around I see hands joined and arms locked, faces tilted upwards toward the sky we will never see again, eyes closed as goodbye settles heavy on the air.
I keep my eyes open. I am suddenly desperately sad. There is so much I never saw, will never see. So many things lost. All I can do now is keep my eyes open until the very end, drinking in the world I have always known, holding onto whatever I can. I hear the drone of the plane. Unmanned, but armed with our destruction. The bomb will be dropped thirty miles away, but it makes no difference. Not with this bomb.
In the distance I hear the legendary whistle of the drop. The clock chimes a tenth time. My heart races faster and faster toward the end. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to. I love this world, I love life far too much. Another chime. Please don’t let it end. Please make it stop. Please-
A boom. A rush. Unbearable heat. The clock chimes once more as the world is devoured by flames and heat and darkness-
And then there is nothing.
* * *
They were never meant to stay this long.
Humans would have evolved just as every other creature. They should have peaked and shone and then faded away. But they climbed and peaked and then kept climbing with nothing to hold them up but their own ambitions. They smothered me, killing the life that grew green on my surface, drilling me and scarring me and changing everything irrevocably.
I feel now their stillness. They have seen the errors of their mistakes too late. And so now I feel them, for once united as they prepare to commit their final, most misguided crime. They expect me to rebuild myself, to recover once they blast me apart. But they are mistaken. They have taken me beyond the point of no return. All they will leave is death. And me. They will leave me scarred and bound and alone, spinning through space.
The time is soon. My death sentence is imminent. I feel as if we take a final breath as one, Earth and her inhabitants, all wishing that there was a way to take it back, to change the unchangeable. But it is too late. I feel the searing heat, the explosions dotting me over. The deed is done. They are gone, and I am a smoking mass spinning through space, wondering where I went wrong.
I am alone. Finally, after all this time I am alone. But the relief is all wrong.
Because this was never how it was meant to be.