END OF DAYS SERIES: Under Eden
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“Shite, that was close.”
From the impact, the sky had lit up so bright we could see clearly down the street with its neatly parked cars, perfectly aligned like the teeth of a zipper. But no one was out and no lights came on in any of the homes; our neighbors had all moved to the underground.
When we go we want to taste the air and see the sun going down and not have the taste of someone else’s exhale lingering in our mouths or staring up at a filament, waiting for it to extinguish and be left alone in darkness with only our fear leaning in. The underground was not for us, but I suppose for those who have chosen to stay below, there is something to be said for not knowing or seeing the end coming.
For us above, we enjoy free rein of the big box stores and the design outlets to get all the lumber, tools, and furniture needed to build a roof deck on our flat… something I had always wanted to do for my family but never had the funds to do it. It’s bittersweet under these circumstances, but our roof deck rocks. We have a full working tiki-bar and a well stocked drinks cupboard up here with unobstructed views of the sunsets. And the sunsets have been magnificent lately, even knowing the colors are fed by the ash of every living thing that was incinerated from an impact.
We have allowed our fifteen-year-old daughter, Louise, to drink alcohol along with us, enjoying these last days together as a family. Tonight’s concoction of a drink is a Commet-Kaze, but instead of Triple Sec we used Orange Curaçao– stuff we could never afford but is now readily available at the off-license… free of charge of course. Honestly, I hope the end comes soon because we are running out of clever drink names. My youngest, Alec, is a space nut. When we had a family vote to stay above or go under, he was the most vocal of staying above; he wanted to see what was coming. For the record, it was unanimous, we all wanted to stay above. A weird lot we are.
Ever since the announcement that Earth would pass directly into a catastrophic asteroid storm, spelling out the end for us all, Alec has been glued to his kit of computers and monitors lined up on the dining table. Seated upon his newly acquired oversized luxury office chair with his feet dangling, he has been tracking everything coming in; it’s like having the ESA in our sitting room. He has informed us that the impact we just saw was an 8 on the Torino Scale with a low MT potential… whatever that means. He said if it had been a 9 we would have been okay but we would have had to remain inside for a while, but if it had been a 10, well, that would have been a bit of a damp squib.
Louise has been on a mission every day now, looking for pet stores to liberate or following the barking or meowing of dogs and cats left abandoned in their homes. When we find them, we open the doors, cages and pet food. We even take the freshwater fish to a freshwater canal or pond and take the saltwater fish to the sea, but we need to check in with Alec before going there in case an 8 or 9 hits off the coast creating a tsunami.
My wife, Jenny, has been a rock through all this. Me, well, when you have loved someone for eighteen years, every day as much as the first, someone you would instinctively put your own life before theirs… well… I can’t think about that right now. It’s been a long day. We’re off to bed.
We were awakened by the alarms from Alec’s monitoring alerts, Jenny and I still in a tangle with the lingering scent of our lovemaking around us. We knew the drill. If this was going to be the one to take us out, we wanted to be together through to the end. Jenny would gather up Louise, as I headed down the steps to the sitting room to find Alec inches away from the monitors, the screen data reflecting off his specs as he nibbled away on a biscuit from Marks & Sparks. Now that we were directly in the path of the storm, Alec has been sleeping here on the couch under a litany of graphs and hand drawn eclipses of near misses and impacts, looking for the one that will do us in. He never had a passion for sport or music and had always been a bit of a loner with his technical books and sci-fi pulp fiction, but this makes him happy, happier than I have ever seen him. So be it. The kit he put together came from the Apple Store and smaller bits and PC shops down the block. I’m not sure of what his kit does, but he seems to know of inbounds before anyone in his circle of plusers does. Lucky us.
“Alec. What does your crystal ball show?” I said coming up behind him, making sure to slide my slippers on the floorboards so as not to startle him.
“Daddy, you should see this one. It’s big. A 10 with a high MT.” he said not turning away from the screens.
I stooped over his shoulder, trying to see what he was seeing, but all I could make out was a ball of multicolored elastics knowing somewhere beneath it all was Earth.
“Hmmmm….” was the most meaningful response I could come up with.
“This is the one,” he said without the slightest doubt and proud that his forecasts have always proved to be spot on.
I palmed the mop of his hair, thankful he got the hair gene from his mum. “Let’s get up on the roof then,” and I helped him into his pullover hoodie with the phrase, Waiting For The Asteroid, written in front.
“I’m very proud of you, Alec.” I said reaching down to zip him up, tucking the hoodie around his ears to keep out the chill. When we got to the roof, Jenny had the mushroom heaters going and a hot tea for me in hand. We sat close together on the outdoor furniture, our overly fluffy slippers up on the ottomans while passing the tin of peanut butter shortbreads, from Luigi Zuck. This was our routine; no one should have to go out without the finest shortbreads at hand.
“See it!” Alec said jumping up and almost losing his glasses.
It started as a white dash in the night, elongating and brightening as it raced toward us.
“It’s traveling at 24.360 Kilometers per second,” Alec said. He moved to the edge of the deck, leaning over with his hands on the rail, then looked back at us with a child’s innocence.
I reached over and pat Jenny on the knee. “He’s right about this one.” And stood up to join my son at the railing, my arm draped around his tiny shoulders, pulling him tight. I was proud of him and he knew it. Jenny led Louise to the railing, standing beside me as I reached for her hand and felt the wedding ring I had slipped onto her finger eighteen years ago. We looked up at the dash in the sky, its cobalt blue tail under a gown of white forming a cone. It was beautiful, I had to admit, like a slow moving shuttlecock entering the atmosphere. Then from the tip of the cone, the object projected outward, a second stage, plunging into the lower atmosphere and growing brighter, affording us a clear look down the entire block of flats as if it were daybreak.
“Shades down everyone.” And I helped Alec with his before my own. It was bright, even through the welding goggles we were wearing. I knew Jenny was looking over at me and I turned to see her smile beneath the dark lenses.
“Don’t think you’re getting your back scratched, tonight,” she said as a statement of relief.
I laughed. “It’s been wonderful, Jen.” and I leaned in for a kiss, her head tilting to the side, her lips slightly parted and I knew her love for me and I for her would never dim. As we kissed, we drew in Alec and Louise. There is something to be said for the human spirit, something that feels it will never extinguish, even where it can’t exist.
Author’s Note: This third short was inspired by a fellow G+’er, Mark Lynch (Lynchy), who lives in London and posted a beautiful sunset of his street. It moved me and I knew the story to come with it belonged here. Thanks Mark for the image and please extend a thanks to your lovely wife for the ‘squib’ reference… I’m still laughing……
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