Author: Bryant Benson
With only twenty one seconds left until the world ended, each moment seemed to pass more slowly than the last. Despite knowing in advance the world was going to end in nine days, I still felt some odd confidence in a supposed future.
Seventeen seconds left and it was quite a sight. Reddish streaks, etched lines across a solid black canvas. The dense silence of a normally vibrant jungle canopy was interrupted by a distant siren. A pale pink horizon carved itself out along the bottom of the fleeting night sky as if desperately trying to squeeze out one final day.
A moment later, the glowing vanguards of humankind’s destruction reached their destination. They punched through mountains that dissipated in quiet puffs of dust. Distant flashes were followed by plumes of gray smoke as the dull thumping became a pounding that shook the ground beneath us.
Eleven seconds left. I watched alongside a vaguely familiar stranger. Another researcher who was plucked from civilization to wait out the end away from everything she knew and loved. Her name was Martha and she was alone like me. I squeezed her hand and wondered if she thought the same things as me. I wondered if she wished she was back in the city, ignorant to the fast encroaching fleet of shattered meteors hurling toward us.
The collective panic of mankind was quelled when our warheads made contact with the giant asteroid. When word spread that it only created a new problem for our planet, the higher ups decided it was better to keep the people quiet. “Let them go out in blissful dignity,” is what I believe the general said. For those of us in the know, we were extracted and brought to the facility to watch and mourn the loss of our species together. I hadn’t known any of those people for more than a week. I only learned of Martha’s name earlier that day and couldn’t be sure she even knew mine.
With seven seconds left it was nearing that moment. The last one. The most important one. My only thought was that of worry because I couldn’t think of what to say to the one who chose to stand beside me. To my surprise, her fingers pressed back into my hand. I looked at her and her gaze was fixed on the diminishing horizon. Her lips were still. Like me, she didn’t participate in the bulk of our group who were counting down the seconds. Even in my final moments I felt anxious about joining in. Odd how some things don’t change no matter the circumstances. I wondered if she shared that anxiety or if the sight of oblivion was too distracting to pay attention to anything else.
Five seconds left. In a flash, it seemed, the destructive masterpiece being painted before us became one color. Maybe it was more of an amalgam of colors but either way, it was something I would never have the words to describe. I didn’t feel her pull away or toward me. I hardly knew her but I spent the last moment of my life with her. Was that love? After all, I spent the rest of my life with her all be it, brief. I cared for her more deeply in a moment than I had cared for anyone. Perhaps it was the weight of the moment. Perhaps it was only then I knew the value of a moment because it was the only moment I was certain would be the last.
It appeared our count was off by about four seconds.