For those who ponder our world's end.

Art by  Jackie Graham

The sky is blue, red, and black all at once. One might expect a meteor shower to come sprinkling across the sky, but what tears through the air tonight are not the stars. The hands that rip through the heavens belong to the otherworldly beings, who have arrived to take what is ours. All that humans have built for countless centuries will fall - humanity will fall - under the ever so shining light tonight.

.

Everything she has worked for. Everything she earned through blood, sweat and tears. Everything she holds dear and close to her heart. Everything that she has built up, crafted, and perfected until this point in her life - 

All will disappear tonight.

She is on the ground, clutching her hands to her heart because she does not know what else she can do. All she knows is this: there is nothing she can do to stop them, and they will take everything from her.

Everything.

She thinks of all the times she worked those late nights, her vision going blurry and her back aching, just so she could be praised by those around her. Just what were those compliments worth? she thinks, as the sky burns and the stars fade away. What good is that doing her now, when she is still so powerless, unable to protect her life from falling apart?

Once upon a time, she, too, had judged others based on merits and successes. She used to put herself on a scale, to see which way it would tip, and it felt ever so sweet to know that her pile of accomplishments was just a tad heavier than everyone else’s - by not too much, but not too little. She didn’t want to be too different, after all. She was only in her mid-twenties. No need to scare off any potential suitors.

She was so sure that her plan was going to work: marry and settle down before the age of thirty, become a mother before age thirty-five, own a business before she turned forty… everything was carefully laid out so long ago that now she forgets what it feels like to be lost.

She vowed that she would never be lost, because being lost was the same thing as being left behind. She never sat idle and let others run ahead of her; she figured out what she wanted, went after it and caught up with them. 

Life is a race to her, so when it stops being about the chasing and utterly about living, she succumbs to the weight of it all. She is crushed by the sheer pressure to survive. Her life, as she knows it, has been so much more than that - but none of that matters anymore.

As their footsteps approach her doors, she closes her eyes and recalls her beautiful life, so full of dreams and happiness. She chooses to think about the perfect moments, the ones she would like to be remembered by if the world were to perish right this second. She chooses to forget about the blood, sweat and tears - no one will want to know, and no one needs to know. She cradles the picture of the perfect life she built for herself as the rest of the world cries out for help, because at the end of it all, that is all she needs - the perception of strength and accomplishment. Everyone else had believed it. She knows they will, too.

.

He has seen the likes of what people call the most cruel war of humanity, but even then, things weren’t as dire as they are now. For one, the sky never fell apart; two, his war only involved him and other human beings.

The first thing he did when he woke up to the sound of the Earth crashing down was open up all communication channels available to him. He sits at his desk now, watching the holographics on his television screen move this way and that, tracking the movements of their invaders and where they may have come from. A bitter grin crosses his lips, and he is somehow glad that his wife passed at the age of eighty two because he would have done anything to keep this sight from her had she been still alive. He is alone, but he thinks it is for the best. Whoever they are, they can only harm him now.

His eyes glance toward the medals and trophies he received in his younger days, for rescuing a comrade, strategizing successfully in a large battle, rescuing more comrades, being a great soldier, and so on and so forth. He remembers it being almost funny that his country gave him honor in gold and urged him to carry on with what he was doing, when all he truthfully wanted was to go home to his beloved.

His WWIII spoils and tales of glory make for great conversations from time to time with those he does not know very well, but they’re only that: storytelling tools. What he has only told a few souls is that sometimes he’s not even sure what drove him to volunteer for that bloody, spiteful warfare. And now, as humanity faces an enemy it has never known before, he finds himself feeling strangely at ease during this time of helplessness.

He takes his pen to paper and writes: what is war? And why do we fight? The one reason that kept him going during WWIII, even at the cost of being apart from his wife, was that he believed. He believed that one day, peace would come and relieve him of his duty to eradicate. Now, he has no one left to fight for, and no reason to live any longer than he already has. He wonders what will make him fight for his life when they come knocking on his door.

He gazes toward the sky outside his window and sees black, red and blue. He tries to see the beauty in the torn open sky because he knows that’s what she would have done. He closes his eyes and briefly recalls her voice, her mannerisms, her being.

Don’t worry, darling, he silently tells the heavens. I will join you soon.

.

“Is it okay to say goodnight to miss pooch?” she says, holding the dog plushie close to her heart. Her parents’ eyes are fixed on the television, and it is as if they can’t hear her at all. She’s tired because it’s almost her bedtime. She wonders why neither of them has kissed her goodnight yet. 

She tugs at their sleeves imploringly, asking once more. “Can we say goodnight? Please? I’m so sleepy.” Her mother snaps out of her strange television trance and squeezes her in a tight embrace. Her father silently ruffles her hair, smiling faintly. She wishes them both the best goodnight there ever is and trudges along the corridor to her room.

The light that shines through the windows is brighter than usual, so she finds it difficult to fall asleep quickly even though it feels like there are boulders weighing down her eyelids. She cracks open one eye, slowly, and stares at the sky full of red, black and blue.

“Isn’t that weird, miss pooch?” she whispers to her plushie. She moves the plushie’s arms this way and that so it can sit more comfortably on the bed, facing the window in the same way that she is. “The sky is usually blue or gray, but for some reason it’s all three colors at once today.” Then she remembers what her mother has described to her once: sunsets with pretty colors of pink, purple, orange and blue. She nods enthusiastically to miss pooch. “It must be a sunset!”

The minutes go by, and before she knows it she is dreaming of sweets and pink dresses. When she opens her eyes next she sees the shadows of her parents looming above her bed. They’re whispering, using such hushed voices and shaking their heads so fast it forces the words out of her mouth: “Mom? Dad?”

They jump a little at the sound, but turn to her with reassuring smiles. They tell her that they’re going to take her to stay with her grandparents, and not to worry, because they’re coming, too. The thought of her kind grandfather and funny grandmother brings a smile to her lips, and she eagerly nods through her sleepy gaze. “I’m excited!” she says, and abruptly jumps into her mother’s arms for a hug. As long as they’re with her, nothing can scare her - not the strange words about the world coming to an end being blasted from the television, not the strange looking sky that seems just a little bit too dark to be a sunset, and not the sudden trip to gather with the rest of her family. Nothing scary is happening. Nothing can hurt her as long as she has her parents and miss pooch. She just has to remember that everyone she loves is in it together and that everything, no matter what, is going to be all right.

.

They will arrive stomping on your doorsteps and taking everything you love and adore out of sight. They will take you, too, if you aren’t careful. Humanity must ponder their worth, what they’re fighting for, and whom they should keep close. We must hurry, because the night is ending, and tomorrow may not come.