Info: This story was inspired by the movie Deep Impact, hence its categorisation.
Come On Death
To look up into that sky, you wouldn't know what's coming. I'm staring up at it, and then I'm squinting, but no matter how hard I strain, I can't see anything. My friends are nearby, but I feel so isolated. I feel like I'm in a dream. Really. I'm floating. I'm light-headed. My vision keeps on blurring for no real reason. Not tears, not sunstroke, nothing that I can imagine. Well, besides fear anyway. Maybe the fear in the pit of my stomach, the fear that radiates out, is radiating straight into my head, making me dizzy and blurring my vision.
We're going to die. It won't be pretty, and nor will I.
No. Wait one moment. I should make a correction. We're not all going to die. Only one of is going down – me. Out of all these friends of mine, my family too, this small gathering here on Portsmith Beach, I am going to be the only one to stop breathing today. My friends will be safe, because of what I've done, and I know I should take comfort from that. But I've tried, and I've failed. My own impending doom clouds my ability to think and feel like a martyr.
Once I'm gone, what will I care about them anyway? I'll be dead, after all. I won't care that they're safe when I'm dead, will I? I won't know enough to care, because I won't know anything.
My stomach churns. I know I'm not the only one experiencing that, but they can't possibly know what it feels like at this time to be me. They don't want to know. Nobody has volunteered to take my place yet. Nobody has turned to me with bright, loving eyes and said, "I can't let you do this, Kerrie… I'll go instead. You have to live."
I've stopped holding my breath, waiting for it.
Kelly stands nearby, squinting up at the blue sky. "Maybe it's going to come around the earth."
I turn my head towards her, noting that her voice sounds different. She sounds calm. But maybe she doesn't. Maybe my fear is affecting my hearing, too. Maybe Kelly sounds like she should sound – petrified out of her mind – and I just don't know it.
She cocks her head, glossy hair shining. "Like, maybe it's tucked 'round the corner, and that's why we can't see it."
"Maybe it was a massive hoax," someone else comments. I think it's one of Kelly's friends. Amanda? Anita? Why does she sound so calm? She has no right, for one thing. No right. And no reason.
It'll only be a few hours, we've been told: three-and-a-bit hours before the end of the world. I can't imagine what that really means. I know I'm going to die, but for now, that's as far ahead as I can see. I can't see anything but what lies ahead. I have tunnel vision, and I'm the only one in this particular tunnel. Kerrie, that's me. I've forgotten my surname.
The hoax theorist – not Anita…her name is something out of Greek Myth, I recall now, but I still don't know what – kicks at the sand in front of her, sending up a fine spray. "Maybe we're all freaking out for nothing," she muses. "'Cause it's a big mother-fucking hoax by the government to scare the shit out of us."
"Why the fuck would they do that?" That's Jet, sounding angry. Ah, at last – someone who doesn't sound utterly serene. Jet, the beautiful Jet. I always loved his black hair, the almost violet eyes that contrast so wonderfully with it. I always loved how he's six-foot-five. I've never heard Jet angry. It's a strange new side to him, I decide as he begins to rant at Agrippa. That's her name. Agrippa.
"Why would the fucking government…fuck with our heads like that?" Jet demands. "I mean, what's in it for them? Huh? They might be selfish bastards at the worst of times…but how would freaking the entire fucking planet out help their cause?"
Agrippa stares for a moment, and bursts into tears. All right, I relent. Not as calm as she had seemed. Jet turns away from her, his face a thunderhead. I clasp my hands together to stop them from working threads loose on my already tattered sweater. I crane my neck to look back at the sky. I press my lips together to stop them from twitching. I unclasp my hands and press one over my mouth, trying to make my chin stop trembling. I fall to my knees, never once taking my eyes off the blueness.
I sob suddenly, startling myself. Then I am calm again. The feeling is gone as fast as it arrived. Under control. It's aaaall under control.
The others continue to talk amongst themselves, paying me no attention. Cowards.
"I think it's up there…just…taking its time."
"Yeah. I think it'll pop out of nowhere suddenly."
"Maybe it'll be like the sky is suddenly ripped apart, like the fabric of…of a pavilion when, like, a sword pokes through it."
"Why would a sword poke through a pavilion? What kind of pavilion is it?"
"That doesn't matter. I was just trying to give you a visual. Like…like the sky bursts at the seams and the asteroid is suddenly there."
"No, I think it'll come gradually. It'll start as a speck in the sky."
"You'd think if it's only a few hours away, we'd be seeing at least a speck by now."
"Let's see if we can see it."
"Yeah, first person to spot the speck wins a prize."
"What kind of prize?"
"I got fifty bucks. I'll put that up."
"That's a lotta money, man. You don't wanna waste that, eh."
"Why? Not like I'm gonna head down the mall and clear out the store in my last hours on earth!"
"Yeah, I guess…"
"We're not going to die!" Agrippa shrieks, and everyone stares at her…then at me. I stare at her alone, saying nothing. She blushes. Looks away. That's right, I tell her silently, experiencing a flash of sudden hatred. You are not going to die. Congratulations.
I can't take this anymore. It's driving me crazy. They were chattering away, chattering like this is nothing. Chat-chat-chattering, like my death is of no consequence.
You'd think they didn't even realise how fortunate they are.
Thank you, Kerrie. You are a true angel. I'll never forget you. I love you.
That was what Andrea said. Andrea, my best friend.
Then Jet stared at me, looking deep into my eyes, and all he could say was: I don't know what to say. If he'd been waiting for sympathy in my eyes, he'd have waited a long time.
After he'd turned away, it was Milla's turn. She smiled weakly, and I watched a few tears trickle down her freckly cheeks. I'm so grateful, Kerrie. You're so…so selfless. I could never be as brave as you.
The endless wave of grateful, weak people only served to strengthen my conviction that these people no longer resided in my heart.
Have I truly ceased to love them? It seems as I stand here staring in at them, me on the outside and them on the inside, separated by that curved sheet of glass, that I could never have loved them less. Anybody who would allow their friend to die for them, without even putting up a fight; who would stand there against the glass and dare to look mournful – that person is not worthy of my love. But have I truly ceased loving them? I can't tell for sure, because I feel like a block of stone, stony all over as well as in my heart.
And this is goodbye. I am saying a last goodbye to the only familiar faces left to me. I'm saying a wordless goodbye as I stare into various pairs of eyes, as I lift my hand to wave. I'm saying adieu, catch you later; I'll see you in heaven. I'm staring with a numb face and a floating arm, a floating hand that won't fall. I'm watching their grim faces. Some of them are weeping. Some of them look happy. I see two girls chatting. How dare they? Disgust and horror choke me up as I look at them. Do they even know I'm dying for them? Or did they forget already?
It's time for them to leave. I can see that the preparations are all made. I step back, and back again, increasing the distance. But suddenly I'm locked on the spot. I can barely breathe for fear. I may be hyperventilating. My brain screams, Why are you doing this? I have no answers. And anyway, it's too late now. I'm the one left out here. I don't want to be. I don't want to be out here by myself, waiting for the tidal wave that will end me, preparing for the finish of everything. I don't want to die alone. I don't want to die at all. I'd rather everybody else die than me. I'm only seventeen. But if I have to die, then I shouldn't do it alone. I shouldn't be alone!
I'm not alone. Thousands will die with me, or near me. The coast will be obliterated. But I don't know them, and they aren't right here with me, and those I do know are leaving me.
I stare in at faces of those people, the ones I am supposed to love, and I realise that I really have shed them from my heart. I don't love them anymore. I don't care at all about them. I don't even hate them. I just feel nothing for them. But I do know it's not right that they should live, those people who have proven themselves worthless.
My little sister Hailey – there she is. She's in there with the rest. I realise in a flash of amazement that she is one of those I no longer care for.
I feel calm, but I realise that outwardly I'm not showing the same face. I am bawling, wailing in terror and crying waterfalls. My knees buckle but I won't fall down, I won't drop to the sand below, I will stand up and watch their useless faces as they float away, faces uncaring, unimportant and undeserving. Nothing to me.
I will stagger forward, arms outstretched, knowing it's useless but trying anyway to grab hold of the vessel in which they reside, the vessel that could've taken me to safety if I hadn't been noble. Reflecting against my will on my choices made, I will wail like a small child, a toddler who just saw her mother gunned down, a child lost in the supermarket, a wife at her husband's funeral.
I am crying at my own funeral.
"DON'T GO," I scream, my throat burning, my tears making patterns in the firmly packed sand. On my hands and knees, I'm clutching at the sand, staring at the spots where my tears are impacting with the earth. Crouching there, I see one little tear make a bigger mark than would the meteor that is heading for earth. This small truth I know, and it seems profound to me as I huddle there, keening for my life, the only life that matters.
At that moment I find that I wouldn't even mind seeing my parents dead before me, to know that their deaths secured my survival. While I'm thinking such things I'm also thinking, You have truly lost your mind. But it's the first voice, the vengeful, angry, distraught voice of my broken soul, which sounds out louder. It drowns out the voice of my conscience. My human decency is washed away in unwearied waves of tears.
The waiting game. That's what I'm playing now. And there's no point trying to cling onto sanity, because that has already deserted me. My head is broken.
I look at the sea and shout silently, Come on death. Come and get me!