Revelation

By , Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
One Sunday he woke up and he knew the world was going to end.

He pulled on a grey T-shirt that hadn’t been washed for days and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He was running out of toothpaste, but that didn’t matter anymore. There was no need to go and buy a new tube. As he shaved he counted the hours he had left and the razor slipped and he felt blood on his fingertips. He licked it away with a swipe of his tongue and swallowed the metallic taste.

He called his girlfriend. She picked up the phone after too long. “What’s up?” she said, her voice heavy with sleep.

“Do you trust me?” he asked her, playing with the telephone cord nervously, wrapping it round and round his index finger.

“Of course I do. Why are you being so serious all of a sudden, darling?” she said, and she seemed a little confused and hesitant, as if she didn’t really know what they were both saying.

“The world’s going to end at midnight tomorrow,” he announced quietly. There was silence, for some time, and then a chuckle on the other end of the line.

“Don’t be silly,” she said at once. The thick black telephone cord unwound from his finger. “Did you have a nightmare or something? Oh, you’re like a three-year-old sometimes. Go back to bed. We can go out for a movie later if you want to. I’ll call you when I’m more awake, okay?” She hung up.

And then he sniffed his T-shirt, and decided he should probably get changed.

---

He went out onto the streets and he wanted to warn people about their impending doom. He saw a beggar under the bridge he always passed by on the way to work, sitting on a heap of rags and fragments of cardboard boxes. He dropped a five pound note into the beggar’s bowl with the chipped rim and asked, very politely, whether he could have a piece of cardboard. The beggar nodded numbly.

He wrote the words “THE WORLD IS ENDING” on the piece of cardboard, and he raised it up for the world to see. Most people ignored him. Some people thought he was a religious fanatic. A woman with brown hair that looked like it hadn’t been brushed for years approached him with the wildest eyes, crying, “Oh, finally!” She clutched his shoulders and shook him hard and then she sobbed into his chest and he let her.

A policewoman came up to him and told him he was causing disturbance and could he please leave immediately. He frowned at her but did as he was told. He returned the cardboard to the beggar and began to go back to his untidy lonely flat to wait for the world to end.

But on his way back he spotted a newly-opened café and it was full of people and laughter and warmth, so he pushed opened the door and listened to the bells jingle as he entered.

He ordered a cup of espresso, which was promptly produced with a dash of whipped cream on the top and a perfect smile from the barista. He took a sip. It was hot and fresh and delightfully bitter. He looked around. There were no free tables, but a woman caught his gaze and he almost let the cup slide from his hand. There was a free seat next to her, so he sat down there. His mobile rang then, playing one of Mozart’s less well-known symphonies. The caller ID displayed the name of his girlfriend. He didn’t pick up, just smiled apologetically at the woman by his side.

“You still have that ringtone,” she said, surprised.

“Yes,” he replied. “I always kept it. My girlfriend thinks I’m weird for liking classical music so much. But I’m not weird. What’s wrong with liking classical music?”

She kissed him, then, and he blinked a tear out of the corner of his eye.

---

They talked about all the things that had happened to the two of them since she said goodbye to him in an airport two years ago. When she had finished talking about her most recent concert in New York, he told her the world was going to end. She looked straight into his eyes and saw that it was the truth, and believed him.

They drove up north and checked into a quaint Bed & Breakfast in a village somewhere in Yorkshire, having decided quite spontaneously that this was where they wanted to be when the world ended. He had brought with him his collection of classical CDs, and that night they had Chinese takeaway while listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. “We played this at the concert in New York,” she said.

“We listened to this on our first date,” he replied.

In the morning, his boss called him to ask him why he wasn’t at work, and he simply told them that the world was going to end and there was no point in going to work, and that they should all take the day off too, and then he hung up before his boss could scream at him.

---

When his watch struck midnight, they were lying on the grass and looking up at the stars, their shoulders touching, and he was thinking about his girlfriend in London, who probably couldn’t see the stars. And they held their breath and waited for the stars to vanish.

But the stars stayed where they were. She looked at him questioningly after a while, and he said hurriedly, “My watch might be wrong.” They waited some more, and nothing happened. She sat up and brushed the grass and mud from the back of her shirt.

“I believed you,” she said, but there was no pain or accusation in her voice. She just smiled, wearily, and offered him her hand. “Come back inside, it’s cold.”

He stared at her, and thought about his girlfriend in London again, who hadn’t even believed him in the first place. Maybe the world didn’t end, but something did, and he liked to think everything happened for a reason. He took her hand gratefully, curling his fingers around hers, and followed her back into their room, smiling at the beginning of something else.





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