Author : Beck Dacus

In the middle of filing my taxes, I got a phone call. I hoped it would be some kind of relief from this stress, but it wasn’t to be; it was my wife’s lawyer calling, saying she wanted to meet about the settlement and matters of custody over lunch on Wednesday. I told the man I was working a double shift that day to scrape up the last few dollars for my rent, but he wasn’t budging. Presumably, Annabelle wasn’t either. I wasn’t used to thinking of my soon-to-be ex-wife as a bitch, but I couldn’t help it right then.

I hung up on him while he was in mid-sentence, and I knew Annabelle was going to make me pay for that (probably literally), but I didn’t care at the moment. I got back to the taxes. Then my doorbell rang.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I said, getting up and going over to turn the knob. Out on my porch was a man in a tuxedo, reaching in his pocket to hand me something. He said, “Welcome to the end of the universe, son.”

I thought he was reaching into his pocket to hand me a pamphlet, and I said, “Sorry, I’m not religious. Maybe you can get someone else to think it’s the rapture.” I tried to close the door, but his hand pushed it back open. Surprised at this guy’s audacity, I looked at what he now held out to me in his hand. It looked like a detonator, and it might as well have been.

“How’s your day been? Are you having some adult troubles?”

That was a weird term for him to use, but it was pretty accurate. Which was also weird. “How’d you know?”

“I did my research, Mr. Dumphein. That’s why I’ve decided to give this to you.” He urged the detonator thing into my hand.

“Just tell me what this is, man.”

“It’s something that will give you what you want. Childhood.”

The look in my eyes told him to go on.

“This button will make the entire universe revert to the way it was twenty-four years ago, when you were eight. Do you remember that, Mr. Dumphein?”

I did. Most of that time, I spent laughing. Watching cartoons I could no longer remember the name of. Sneaking candy from the pantry with my brothers as accomplices. It was just… fun. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

“This will take you back there. It will revert everything in the universe, including this planet, you, and me. Which means in twenty-four years, I will return to make this same offer. And you will give me the same answer. That is why the universe ends today, Mr. Dumphein. Time never goes past this point.”

“Only if I say yes,” I retorted. “And how do I know this works, anyhow? Why should I believe any of this?”

“No harm in it if it’s fake, is there?”

That was a fair point. The thought of being that young again swelled in my mind, blocking out everything else, all other reason. The “detonator” felt good in my hand. Like that candy from the pantry. Like the sun on my face in Milwaukee, in 1992. Like the simple life of a child.

The last sound in the universe was a soft click.