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The Last Day

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The baby is crying. He is so young. Too young to die today. It’s not fair; he has so much to live for. My little daughter is clinging to my hand, trying desperately to prove to me that she isn’t scared. But I know she is, she is shaking, bottom lip trembling and failing to hide her tears as we stare together at the destruction happening all around us. I want to tell her it’s OK to be afraid, but I’ve spent my life teaching my three children not to let other people see that you are weak, I have taught them not to cry. The top of the great mountain blew off yesterday. We are hiding up in the surrounding hills, hiding from the ash and the fire. This is exactly how I imagined the end of the world would be. My oldest son is dead for sure, and so is my wife. I am alone with my daughter and the baby boy. I want, desperately, for them to survive. I don’t care if I die, as long as my remaining children live. I will die with a smile on my face if they survive.

I kneel down to speak to my daughter, who is crying quietly for her Mama. I whisper that Mama will be here soon, if she can. I whisper that she has to take care of her baby brother if something goes wrong. I tell her of my brother in Rome, and how he will help them. This is a lie. I only have sisters, and they all died years ago. But she seems stronger, more determined to please me, to be responsible for her little brother. I want to hug her, to let her know how proud I have always been of her, but I can’t bear to say goodbye. Because that’s what it would be, if I hugged her now. It would be giving up.

The ash cloud, growing larger and closer, shaped like a mushroom has swallowed up the city now. It’s heading for us. But it won’t get to us up here. I feel so helpless, watching my daughter cry, trying to stop my baby son from screaming. I noticed the burn on his back just a few moments ago. No wonder he’s crying. I’m scared. I’m alone; I need someone to take charge. I don’t want the responsible one, taking care of my children on the last day of earth. I try to stop thinking of my dead family down in the city. I don’t know what killed them, the lava or the ash. Were they buried alive, suffocated in the mud and heat; or did they choke to death on the ash in the air? Did it hurt? I feel like I should cry, looking at the scene of destruction panning out below me. It hurts, inside; to think of the life my oldest son should have lead. He was going to go to Rome, to learn, to work. He was clever, my child. I had such high expectations of him. I hope I didn’t pressure him so hard he hated me today, as he died. I think of my wife, of how I wasn’t home enough. Of how much I loved her and never showed it. I’m so sorry.

The column of ash sweeping from the top of the mountain swirls and cascades up into the sky, swooping down to smite another person down on the ground. I wish I had died there today. It would have been easier. I would never have escaped with the children, I would be lying there, hugging my wife and my babies close to me, praying to the gods to save us, and we would have died together at the end of the earth. There is no future for us after this. There will be no one left. And I make a decision, possibly the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life.

I take my daughter’s hand and we walk together down the mountain, towards the wasted city. There are still some people left, but I don’t see them through the sheen of tears in my eyes. This had been such a great city. I had lived here since I was born. I had never known anything else. And now it was over. And as I step deliberately into the city of ashes, pulling my daughter behind me, feeling the burning at hearing the screams of my daughter, I imagine. I imagine it’s a normal day and I am going home. I imagine that the world is not ending, and that my children are not dead, that I am not murdering my youngest children. I imagine I am stepping into my wife’s arms. And I feel her gentle caress as I fall to the ground. The end of the world has ended. And it ended in pain.




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This article has 15 comments. Post your own!

CookieViking said...
May 1, 2011 at 11:25 am:
wonderful job it was a great tale =] i enjoyed it alot
 
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Firebringer17 said...
Dec. 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm:
This was very powerful, I was moved by this so much, but I need to find something for you to improve on...not much, except extend the descriptions and one part was a little historically incorrect, Mt. Vesuvius didn't have any lava reach any humans before the place was covered in ash. But I'm just trying to help you, it isn't ruined its great. Keep writing :)
 
The_Phantom_ofthe_OperaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 21, 2011 at 6:42 am :

Thank you for your kind words. 

Yeah, I'll look into the historical accuracy, I think you're right! 

Thanks for your comments, Firebringer17 (I love that book btw!!)

 
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rubberducky said...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 9:42 am:
brought tears to my eyes. amazing how you can put yourself in their shoes. Great talent. well deserved number 1 slot. keep them coming!
 
The_Phantom_ofthe_OperaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 21, 2011 at 6:43 am :
Thank you very much, I love receiving comments! 
 
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SpringRayynThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Nov. 16, 2010 at 11:15 pm:
Wow, the ending is so...unexpected. I like how you basically just focused on the thoughts and not the actual surroundings. It really makes a person think about their own life, what if it ended like Pompeii? Just so sudden like that? Nice job!!
 
The_Phantom_ofthe_OperaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 9:25 am :
thank you! I like to focus on thoughts, as my descriptions of people are better than my descriptions of the outside. If there is anything of yours you would like me to read, please let me know!
 
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BurningRose said...
Nov. 16, 2010 at 7:32 pm:

i abesolutely loved this!!!

5 STARS!!!!!!!!!!!!! this was great...especially the...OH WaIT!! it was all EPICC sooooooo i cant say i have a favorite part!!! LOVED IT LOBVED IT LOVED IT!! *adds to favorites* i loveee itt!!!!!

 
The_Phantom_ofthe_OperaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 9:26 am :
Thanks so much! I've never been added to a favourite list before!!!!! again, if you want me to read any of yours, please let me know!
 
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londonphysicist said...
Nov. 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm:
Pompeii through the eyes of a desperate father - I can feel the anguish and the loss.
 
The_Phantom_ofthe_OperaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 9:27 am :
why thank you! I'm glad you share his emotions!! xxx
 
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The marketer said...
Nov. 16, 2010 at 2:28 pm:
This is beautifully written and very evocative - whilst reading it you can imagine that you are there with the characters.
 
The_Phantom_ofthe_OperaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 9:27 am :
thanks! glad you didn't press 2 this time!!! xxx
 
Healing_Angel This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 28, 2010 at 2:39 am :
The detail, flow and dialogue is fantastic! You walked in these people's shoes very well. The ending is unexpected and left me waiting for more. That's good! Well done!
 
The_Phantom_ofthe_OperaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 21, 2011 at 6:44 am :
Thanks Healing_Angel, I'm glad you liked it!
 
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