Ten Minutes until the End of the World

In ten minutes, the world was going to end. Henry watched the news, barely believing it was actually happening. If reports hadn’t been on every channel, every affiliate turned into the national news, he might have thought it was all a hoax. But unless it was the most elaborate hoax in human history, this was real. The Earth was doomed. This was The End. Armageddon. Ragnarok.

Call it whatever, it didn’t change the fact that Henry Irvine, resident of 127 BB Lame, Apartment 16, had less then ten minutes to live. He pressed the channel buttons on the remote, scrolling through nearly identical pictures. Every time the screen flickered, it showed a stunned newscaster trying to make sense of the unthinkable, while in the lower right corner a digital timer ticked down. The faces changed, but the countdown stayed the same.

Nine minutes. Henry got up and took a look outside. Yep, definitely looked like Doomsday. Outside, people were running around, screaming, crying, flailing about like children in a playground. He couldn’t quite explain his disgust with it all. “C’mon, at least have some dignity,” he muttered. His focuses changed, and his own reflection mouthed the same to him. He hadn’t shaved in two weeks. His eyes were baggy from alternating between being unable to sleep and being unable to wake up. His hair was a jumble of untamed curls. His last shower had been… when?

Eight minutes. He didn’t have time to shower or fix much of his appearance. But he could change the t-shirt and boxers he had been wearing for several days. He could put on pants and run a comb through his hair. At the very least, he could go out with a little bit of self-respect. Looking through his closet, there was a few articles of clean clothing. He picked out a shirt, a white dress shirt, still crisp.

Five minutes. Henry put down his comb after doing his best to tame his hair into something resembling neatness. He slid on some deodorant, and had to admit he felt a million times better. Too bad there wasn’t time for a shower and shave. He pondered why he felt the need to be presentable for the end of the world. It’s about respect, he thought, heading back to his TV. Someone had to be there to watch it all end, if for no other reason then Earth, and Life, and Everything Else, deserved to have at least one witness.

Four minutes. He sat down in front of the TV, and pressed the mute button. The babblings of the news people weren’t important anymore. Nothing really was. An orange light flickered through his window; a fire at been lit outside. He stared at the phone in his hand, not comprehending how it had made its way into his palm. When did he pick it up? Had be been holding it the whole time? Did he ab it while changing? His fingers began touching the keypad, moving on instinct. They moved in a pattern that was engrained his his muscle memory. The phone number may have been erased from his phone, an he couldn’t have told you what it was if the fate of the world hinged on it, but his fingers never forgot.

He watched the call go through before slowly lifting the phone to his ear. How long had it been? Four months? Maybe more. At least four. Time had a funny way of sliding away, he thought, watching the seconds tick away on the TV. The voicemail picked up. A message he had heard hundreds of times played. It was the first time he had heard her voice in forever, yet he knew every word, every cadence of the message. When it finally beeped and let him talk, he found he had nothing to say. There were no words that were appropriate. He cleared his throat. “Hi,” he started out weakly, instantly regretting it. “I miss you. I thought… I thought time was supposed to heal this. Looks like I won’t find out how true that is.” He paused, his chest tightening. “Bye,” was the only word he could get out of his constricted throat. “I love you. Always will.” He closed the call and dropped the phone to the floor, his breath easing immediately. At least he wouldn’t have to pay the late phone bill.

One minute. One minute?!? Had he really spent that long on that call? And that was the best he could do? Fifty seconds. He wanted to say so much more, he wanted to make her understand how much he loved her, how much he hated her, how much he missed her and how he never wanted to see her again. Fourty seconds. Make her know how much she ruined him and how he wouldn’t take back any of their precious time together. Time that was ticking away, a second at a time.

Thirty seconds. The phone rang. He stared down at it. It rang and rang. Twenty-five seconds. It had fallen facedown, so he had no idea who was calling. It rang. Twenty seconds. On the TV, the newsroom had emptied, only the ticking clock remaining. With every tick the phone rang.

At five seconds, the ringing stopped, and Henry waited for The End.

In his pretend life, August Baker is a retail monkey who channels anger and loathing into something vaguely resembling literature. In his real life, he is a Space Pirate.

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