Author : Gray Blix

He awoke to a darkness reverberating with car crash sounds from the street below, a helicopter’s whomp-whomp-whomp overhead, and screams of injured and frightened people radiating from the flats around him to the neighborhood beyond. Was Liverpool under attack? Attempting to get out of bed, he lurched dizzily and fell on his face. A deafening boom followed by a fireball that lit up the room sent him scrambling under the bed, where he cowered. His cell phone rang and he reached up and grabbed it off the bedside table.

“Paul, it’s Layla and I’m under the covers and I’m so woozy I can’t even lift my head and it sounds like a war going on outside. What’s happening?”

“Dunno. But if it’s happening to you in Old Swan and me in Allerton, then it’s something big, maybe all of Merseyside, maybe…”

“Maybe it’s a temporary phenomenon,” said the Prime Minister, hopefully, head on his desk, speaking into a secure line at 10 Downing Street.”

“And maybe it’s the end of the world as we know it,” said the President, flat on his back in bed as Air Force One flew high over the Pacific.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions. Fortunately, I’ve got a can of Vimto and a bag of Wotsits here to feast on, so all is well.”

“I have no idea what that is, but you’d better enjoy it. It may be your last meal.”

Suddenly serious, “When did you last talk to your pilot?”

“A few minutes ago. He and the co-pilot are slumped in their seats. Can’t hold their heads up long enough to fly this thing. It’s automatic pilot to the mainland. It could land itself if there were an airport without planes and debris blocking the runway. Haven’t found one.”

Lennie made his way through Wichita neighborhoods of tangled wreckage and burning structures, ignoring distractions as he’d been taught. A dog was biting the face of a man sprawled on the sidewalk, but that woman who talks to herself chased it away and started taking the man’s clothes off and tossing them into her shopping cart.

“Not supposed to do that,” Lennie said under his breath. “Not supposed to do that.”

Most of the morning crew was standing by the front door of the thrift shop. Dorothy had put her clothes on backwards again. George would have to send her to the bathroom with one of the other girls to fix that. Lennie’s watch, digital because he couldn’t read analog, said 9:03. George always unlocked the door at precisely 9:00. Something was wrong. He pushed aside the others and saw George lying face down just inside the door.

“Wake up, George. Please can we come in?” he said. “Wake up, George. Please can we come in?”

A conference call participant summarized, “So, you’re telling us the Sun’s orbit around the galaxy is taking it and the rest of the solar system through an interstellar cloud of cosmic dust and gas, and that’s why I have fallen and I can’t get up?”

“Yeah, that’s my theory. But I’m going to have a tough time proving it crawling around the floor of my lab.”

“We are so screwed. We’re gonna die right where we are, clutching cell phones…”

“Shut up all of you with that negative crap! We’re scientists. We’ve got enough collective intelligence to think our way out of this.”

“No, it’s just the opposite. Intelligence is the problem. I can see my neighbor’s retarded boy running around the yard like he always…”

“Don’t call him ‘retarded.'”

“Right. We should call him ‘King of the World.'”

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