/ Fiction

The End of Days

The END OF DAYS was much more peaceful than anybody expected, but really, that shouldn't have surprised anyone.

When word got around that THE END was in fact near, there was a small spreading of initial panic. Many preached of fire and brimstone raining from the heavens, great cracks appearing in the ground, and the sun engulfing the moon, but when all of these failed to actually materialize, people relaxed somewhat. Then, like an aftershock, some began to worry about the lack of cataclysm itself--was it, perhaps, the calm before the (even more terrible) storm? In time, though, these nerves passed as well. What many failed to consider was that, though destructive in nature, THE END OF DAYS was still a natural event, and as such, nature had planned it accordingly. THE END OF DAYS ended up being, well, more of an end of day.

THE LAST DAY was almost a holiday of sorts. It came sometime between June and August--the exact date has been lost to time--and thus the birds began singing long before the earliest rays of sun pierced curtains. Those that normally rose early, rose early, and slowly but surely the sun rose with them. The clouds were splattered with ferocious oranges and blazing reds that had never before touched eyes, much less the sky. The soft drone of distant lawnmowers coated neighborhoods (after all, there was no reason for lawns to not look nice when THE END came) and provided a backdrop for the growing volley of jovial conversation and sounds of grilling preparation; as mid-morning came and passed, clouds of grill smoke soared above houses and folding chairs sprung up like weeds on front lawns. The temperatures in the sun and in the shade were perfect for everyone, no matter their preference.

It was as if all the joggers, strollers, dog-walkers, and gardeners decided on a single time to enjoy the weather and then decided further to simply not return inside. Smiles were all around, thrown as if they were going out of style, and none but the most pleasant of greetings were exchanged between perfect strangers. Dogs greeted all who passed by with wagging tails and perked ears, and above it all, a golden light filtered through the trees. It was not the blinding, overwhelming sunlight of a late summer's afternoon, nor was it the burning sunlight of mid-day. It was instead a soft, all-illuminating glow from above that seemed adept at bringing any color out into a far richer spectrum, a more full version of itself. The golden light seemed to slow time itself to a crawl, leaves making dappled waves and patterns on the ground below.

But, as nice as it was, it was still THE LAST DAY, and in time, night fell. Rather than being invaded by harsh shadows rising to meet the roofs of houses, though, the night resulted from only a dimming and absence of the earlier light. It was more replaced by the ambient glow of reflected streetlights and the moon above--for, after the magnificent display by Sol, what cruel Nature would deny Luna its final celestial dance? None of this immediately stemmed the flow of voices, however. Families and communities gathered around backyard fires, sharing as many memories and stories as laughs. S'mores were, of course, made (they were, by this point, something of an END OF DAYS tradition, after all), and the most expensive bottles of wine were uncorked, since surely, if any occasion called for them, it was this. Elsewhere, couples shared tender moments under the moonlight, on piers and boardwalks, near streams and on beaches, as reflective as the waters over which they looked.

In time, though, rest was inevitable. Many turned in, issuing calls of "see you tomorrow" and "have a good night". Stragglers hung on, as they so often do, pondering alone the nature of things, and around three in the morning the most reluctant of night owls pulled themselves snug in their covers. And for the next few hours, the world was more quiet than it had been in millennia.

And so THE LAST DAY ended, and did the END OF DAYS come to pass.

And when morning again came and the people awoke, they spoke for years about how it had been the best night's sleep they'd ever gotten.