by M. R. Lang
“So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”
The recent graduates from Eastly High School started to gather at the park hours ago. It was decided that tonight shall be the party to end all parties. Because, not only is today the last of high school, it is the last day. By the time the party’s over, there will be no more parties. Whether or not they all know, nobody really cares. The two to survive the night, we shall call, Adam and Eve.
Eve stops dancing on the edge of the sidewalk for a moment to think. “Remembered… loved… the last one standing.”
She takes another moment to consider what she’d said. She closes her eyes and raises her arms in victory.
Adam keeps staring at the page taped inside the store’s window: “HELP US WELCOME REBECCA BACK TO OUR FAMILY 6/24.” His eyes stay on the note as he turns his face towards Eve.
“Hey. Rebecca’s back.”
“Don’t know. But I feel reassured knowing she’s back.”
A car blows by Eve going at least 50 and the two almost meet in a very awkward way. She shuts her eyes lightly and savors the wind. Adam leans into a light pole and watches with a smile.
Adam looks as the bank’s digital thermometer turns into its digital clock. “We’re going to be late. Let’s go. We’ll miss the good freaks.”
Stopping her twirls, Eve walks backwards to the car outside the pharmacy, and leans the back of her head on the roof.
“I’m not going.”
He turns to leave, knowing she’ll be right behind him soon.
“It’s the end of the world. Of course, you’re going.”
Sara transferred to the school a few months ago. Her “use your rules to go fuck yourself” attitude won over classmates who thought she was “nu-punk” which meant something to whoever said it first. In reality, Sara’s just a punk. She goes to the parties because there’s always booze and usually drugs. She gets them free. When she doesn’t thank you for them that means you’re cool.
Eve pulls on Adam’s sleeve, as if that’s the on switch for his ears.
“Why are we walking towards Sara? She hates everyone.”
“I like people who hate everyone. Very relatable. Good liars, too.”
Eve goes to the opposite side of the picnic table Sara’s sitting on and grabs one of the drinks Sara didn’t thank anyone for.
Sara mostly ignores Eve, but turns a cocked eye towards Adam.
“What are you guys doing here?”
Adam nods to a wristband on Sara’s left arm. If nothing else, accessories tend to bring attention. Sara wasn’t one for attention, really. Then again, someone like Sara knows how to cut one’s wrists properly. A horizontal cut along one wrist must be Sara’s way of saying, “oh yeah?!” Whatever the answer is to that questions is, it isn’t “yeah!”
“I was trying to… shave… my watch…”
Eve stands and turns. Grabbing Adam’s jacket, she walks them off.
“Well, better luck next time.”
When they woke up yesterday, they both knew. The world would end and whatever comes after would begin. Selected by God, Fate, sheer force of will… they don’t take the time to consider it. Why the world ends, how it will end, why they’ll survive… doesn’t seem to matter. Even if the flow happens to be in the molten steel coming from the skyscrapers that used to live in Main City up north, go with it. Adam can’t stop his nose from whistling when he breathes too hard. Eve can’t even stop the ends of her hair from curling up when it gets too long. The end of the world is over their heads. The world will end, and they will watch.
Alan and James had taken down the Christmas lights from one of the gazeboes in the park, and are now replacing them with 9-volt batteries and many small strings of wire.
Eve tiptoes up on the outside of the gazebo and gets her finger up close to a battery to see how hot it is.
“Where’d all the batteries come from?”
James kicks the box full of 9-volts.
“Smoke detectors. Snagged on our way here.”
“I guess the chance that the fire finally starts the night two toasters steal the detector batteries are slim.”
“Eh,” Alan scoffs. “It’s my stance that if a fire starts, the race needs to remember ‘fire bad’ without the piercing beep noises. Otherwise, Baby Darwin cries.”
Eve touches a battery and jumps back a little.
“So, uh… why?’
“Is pretty,” Alan moans.
“Never thought you two would be much for aesthetics.”
Adam offers Eve his cup of what tastes like paint thinner and sadness to cool off her finger. She dunks her finger in the cup and takes a swig.
“We’re seeing if it can get hot enough to actually start a fire.”
James puts a battery to his tongue to see if it’s alive enough to use.
“It’s an expression of anger, irony, and boredom. Mostly boredom.”
“I’d say it’s mostly irony.”
Adam watches Eve’s face as she tries to figure out what she just drank. “Irony and 9-Volts. Should totally be a cover band.”
“Electronica covers of Sixties folk songs. We are Irony and 9-Volts,” she sneers with a rock sign, the now empty cup hanging from her singed finger.
They didn’t bother with graduation or the last day of school. Anyone else who survives won’t care if you have a diploma. They’ll just be happy if you’ll share your water or aren’t a zombie foraging for brain meats. They spent the last two days of recorded history together. Watching their favorite movies and shows in case it’s the last chance. Talking about the advantages of living in a post-apocalyptic world. Such as the destruction of Wal-Marts, Starbucks, and L.A. No more ring-tones, no more spam, all the Twinkies that will never grow old. Survivor: Earth. There were jokes about that Twilight Zone episode where that guy’s glasses broke.
The scariest thing about the end of the world is whether or not you and your loved ones will survive. Adam and Eve have nothing to be afraid of.
Amy is both the only student this year to have a parent in World War II and to graduate at sixteen. Seeing her father now makes her think of all the kids to be born to old, decrepit couples living and having sex far, far beyond their years thanks to modern medicine. Amy thinks modern medicine should cure young, poor people before making rich, old people live despite their decaying innards. She also drinks heavily.
Jay pierced his left eyebrow at the start of freshman year. People say he did it to make people think he was punkrock. Later that year, he started walking around school with a cigarette behind his ear around teachers. People say he did it so people would think he didn’t care. Sophomore year, Jay got a tattoo of a lion pouncing on his right wrist. People say he did it so people would say he’s tough. For a time, he wore a beaded dog collar. For another time, he’d speak with a fake, Madonna-English accent. People never say that Jay likes to control what people think about him, but if they did, they’d finally be right.
Alison was a cancer survivor by the age of eleven. It was touted as a miracle and the doctors all told her she was very lucky. Every time she’s screwed up since then, her parents yell and scream about how she’s living her second chance, and about how most people aren’t so lucky. After cooling down, her parents always try to make up for yelling with a gift, and her friends all tell her how lucky she is. Alison spends a lot of her time on Internet journals and forums trying to console terminal patients. She watches specials on TV about good people who are dying from illness. For the last seven years, Alison has never once felt lucky. Every breath makes her feel guilty for surviving.
Ryan thinks about friends who died when he wasn’t around. Steven cries himself to sleep thinking about the horrible people he knows who will all succeed him. Jamie signed her name with hearts until her boyfriend betrayed her with a word.
Standing across the street from the park, Adam and Eve watch their former classmates and co-inhabitors of planet Earth. They dance, they drink, they be merry despite themselves.
“God,” she sighs. “They all look so happy. I hope we won’t have to bury them.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. We’re about to inherit all the Febreze in the world.”
Adam produces a small flask from his jacket, and fills Eve’s little cup back up.
Eve coughs out a little laugh, trying not to cry.
“Here’s to the end of the world.”
They drink and squeeze in close.
The car that almost hit Eve earlier flies by them and the park, seemingly going nowhere. The car’s stereo pumps out the bass that’s probably from a song, but no one can tell for sure. The car’s left headlight goes out as it hits a mailbox up on a curb. The car’s driver suddenly crashes from his amphetamine high. The driver’s car suddenly crashes from the driver’s amphetamine crash. Neither survive the night. Somewhere, a gazebo burns. Really, it signifies nothing.
Adam looks at Eve. Eve looks at Adam. The fires start. The world comes to an end.
Of course, the end of the world isn’t necessarily the end of the story…
M. R. LANG is the leading cause of death among the elderly and infirm. He is not a Commonwealth. His hobbies include the destruction of all you hold dear, and he is a fan of puppies.