They let out a warning to tell us that we only had 24 hours left. It was an alert that startled many in the early morning, but not for those who worked or were lost in the void of 3 am, or the demons who only grew stronger at this hour. Some people called their mom, dad, best friend, brother, sister, whoever just to tell them goodbye and that they love them. Many gathered at the church and held hands with strangers and prayed through tears, hoping for a miracle. The streets were filled with wails and crimes, It seemed something about the world ending encouraged the urge to be reckless and crazy, for in the end why did it matter? After all, it would be over in a few hours.
Others, like my dear friend Toby Taylor, took it as an opportunity to confess all his love to Mia Carr, his coworker and crush. She excepted and they stayed in each other embrace for the rest of the day.
On the other hand, there were cases of people like my landlord, Mr. James, who'd rather die by his own hand then by any other cause.
I watched him jump from the top of the building as he free-fell to his death, his wife screamed at her god, that was all she could do in that moment.
As the night fell and there were only two hours remaining for the end, my friends and I stole every bit of liquor we could find from the deserted stores. We all crammed into one small apartment and drank every drop of alcohol. We blasted old music stemming from Jazz to 80's hip hop, and we danced like animals in the wild night. Unlike the others, we didn't count down the final hours or minutes, to us, time had lost all meaning; there was only now, and there will only be now. When the music and poison became too much, I stumbled down the stairs to the ground floor. That's where I saw you.
I didn't acknowledge the sloppy hair or the bags under your eyes, no, what I first noticed was that you were reading a book. I had no idea what kind of book, but it seemed to make you happy; you smiled at the pages. In a slurred voice I had asked you what you were reading, but you claimed you weren't reading, but instead just feeling nostalgic. We talked for a few minutes simply exchanging small words. You gave me water to help me sober up, and I did, but it wasn’t just the water that made me sober, the other part was you. You talked about literature with passion I’ve never seen before, with many hand movements and a higher voice. I could’ve listened to you talk all day, but we didn’t have that. And as the night rolled on and the dread in my chest grew, so did my admiration for you.
I never asked you for your name and you never asked for mine, but thank you, stranger. The world is cruel and this end-of-the-world event is proof, but for a minute, you made it seem ok. As if discussing books at 2 am is the kindest thing to do for a person in the world.
The rest of the world counted down the final moments as if it was New Year's Eve and the ball would be dropping soon and it would be a new year, a new beginning. I looked at you in those final moments and I saw the religious pray, Mia Carr and Toby Taylor sharing a final kiss, and Mr James's wife crying on the bathroom floor, and I wonder, what had you felt that day? Did you cry, or kiss someone, or even get angry at whatever god is above us? Who did you call to tell that you loved them? I would never know, for I never asked. Your secrets and life died with you, but your book and smile will live on with me, along with tired but passionate eyes and worn out appearance. But I have to wonder, did I help you by listening as you helped me? It doesn’t matter, but I will wonder, were you happy by my side for an hour? Or did you wish to be somewhere else, with someone else. I’ll never know.
I could hear the loud chanting from above the ceiling in the apartment, on any other day, I would've believed it was New Years.
A giant light blinded me, and I felt a heat incomparable to any stove or fire I’ve ever felt. I wish I knew your name, I thought it wouldn't matter, but it does, and now I have only a small conversation I had with you that is keeping me attached to all of this. I survived, but at what cost? I'll probably lay here for another hour and I'll most likely be gone by then. It all hurts, so much. Everything is hazy and hot, when will it go away? When will my pain end?
My screams pierce the air and the fire around me trembles, but does not weaken, but instead grows, like my pain gives it its power. Why did this have to happen? Why do these things happen? I want to throw up but I feel that it’ll only hurt more if I do. I try to push the rubble off of me, but I’m too weak. I turned and saw your lifeless body lying near mine, your burns were worse and a concrete brick found it’s way to your arm. So much blood. It’s over. My skin is pealing off and I can hardly breath beneath the remains of the old apartment building. The weight of a thousand lives filled with sorrow and joy laid upon me in the rubble. I feel faint, I want to close my eyes, I want too, but I can’t. I think about your last words that make me want to hang on for a little while longer; my last and only connection to life.
"I don't want to die."
And to be completely honest, neither do I.