My life and yours will be ended by a rock. Not just our lives either. A rock puts an end to human history. Last month, it was a faux news article stuck to the break room fridge by that joker Nelson. Today it’s a fact, an ugly sooty little fact that feels like a piece of popcorn stuck between my teeth. I worry and pick at it, but nothing I do budges it. Frustration, helplessness, everyone at the observatory ate these for every meal for a month.
Yesterday, the president informed the world of its fate. An asteroid the size of Australia was on its way, and no rushed nuclear solution had been launched. For two weeks, the rest of the nuclear club opposed the launch of any American vehicle carrying nuclear weapons. By the time we’d thrown enough charts at the politicians, it was too late.
The president’s speech was the best of his career, and as usual, people listened and took…some kind of hope from his words. There was panic, but not to the scale anyone expected. Maybe they realized the government could have chosen to remain silent, and let our nation pass away in the night, continent spinning off into the darkness with all the rest. Instead, he trusted us to do what should be done on the eve of apocalypse. Pray. Forgive. Make love.
Last night after the speech, my family collapsed onto the den rug to huddle together. The kids were old enough to accept the fact, but not the reality. They’d cried harder when I grounded them from TV for a month. Clair had known since I had, though every day she’d expected some intervention. Even that night, she didn’t lose it completely like I did. She lay in bed behind me now, a crumpled snowdrift of kleenex tumbling off the sheets.
I couldn’t see the rock now. It would hit on the other side of the world. Yesterday you could see it without a telescope. I was glad I couldn’t see, glad it wasn’t hanging in my sky, an obnoxious obviousness.
“The universe doesn’t keep score, and we are not waiting for points to be tallied as this round ends. We are a beautiful creation, painfully beautiful…and nothing but our eternal opponent could bring us together like this. For the first time we can see that we are a family, and together as a family, we are moving on to the next step.” God, he had a way with words. Belief shone from him; belief in his message and belief in us.
Music started up somewhere down the block. In the movie it would be a grand soaring orchestral number, raising goose flesh on your arms. Instead, it was “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls. It made me angry, that my last moments would be demeaned by this music. When I thought about protesting, the anger fell straight out through my feet. How silly could I be? In a way, the song was thumbing its nose at the universe. It wasn’t a dirge; it was just life, common and anchoring.
When I’d convinced myself I had no good reason for watching the sky, I slid back into bed and spooned up against Clair. She slept, arms curled around the kids, our big dumb dane stretched across the foot of the bed.
How many things would come through with us, to this ‘next step?’ Would religion weather the transition? Would wrong and right? My brain just wouldn’t shut up. Fantasizing about what was to come wasn’t helping. Nothing could help. I might as we—