Author : Cal Glover-Wessel

I guess I thought there would be more turmoil, more mounting panic, but when you know the date and time of the end I guess it’s easier to accept it. There were no riots; there were no religious upheavals. It was as if the whole world had skipped every stage of grief and was ready to ride this one out. I tried to explain everything to my son, Harlan. He was petrified, of course. He didn’t really understand. He had always relied on me to fix the problems and have all the answers, but here was something so big that even I couldn’t fix it. He saw right through my calm facade. If I was terrified in his eyes, what hope did he have? I’d forbidden him to watch TV as to avoid the hype and the pretense, so he would spend all of his time watching the sky. There were times I needed to shut his blinds so he’d stop watching the stars and go to bed, but sometimes I would watch with him.

I had a dream the night the world ended. I was driving through the desert in my first car from high school, a dark blue clunker of a Buick. The clouds were heavy and thunder rumbled all around me, but there was no rain. Massive gray birds flew overhead, sharply pointed wings cutting the heavy clouds; fat red crests sitting over solemn hooked beaks. They flew towards and perched upon an iron tower far ahead of me, and as I sped towards them they began to scream. Their shrieks grew louder and more frequent as I drove closer to the tower, and soon the screams pierced even the thunder. I drove ever faster and as the monstrous birds screamed the clouds parted above their heads and a blinding beautiful light shone through. As I drew closer the bird’s shrieking squawks become more mechanical and more monotone until they had blended entirely with my alarm and I awoke, my body still tired but my thoughts clear.

It’s dark now in my room, but out the window I can still see the stars. I walk into Harlan’s room and gently shake him awake. We step outside onto our walkway. There are no streetlights in our neighborhood, but I can see the lights from neighbors’ houses. Some of them have stepped outside like us, while others wait indoors. Our own stoop light shines behind Harlan and me, casting our shadows on the lawn. I watch his tiny shadow reach out and clutch at my shadow, and I feel his arms around my leg. I pick him up and hold him as we look at the sky and wait.

First the lights go out.

And then the stars.

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