by Philip Webb Gregg
It was Tuesday, and as usual, the world was ending.
I could hear gunfire and distant screams drifting in from the open window. Floodwater was rising around my ankles and embers were falling gently in the streets. The night sky had become something like a furnace, almost beautiful in its brightness. Red and pink and violet. Deep, rich, and bold. It reminded me of the body of a tropical insect, or the rare bloom of a desert flower. It made me think of lust and love, or the insides of the human heart. Perfectly exquisite, painful and pure. I promise you, there is nothing quite like the colour of the moon as it hits the earth.
Of course, I wasn’t worried. That night, I’d decided to wait it out with a bottle and a decent view. Sometimes I get entangled. Try to play the hero. Go out in a blaze of screaming blood and glory. But it never works. No matter how extravagant my heroics, the world ends regardless.
That night, it was close. I could feel the heat from the sky burning my face as the alcohol burned my guts. I knew that it didn’t mean anything. That it was just another Tuesday. I knew that tomorrow I’d wake up and all the bodies would be gone. The water would have drained from the streets. The fires would have vanished from the sky. As if it never happened. I knew that no one would remember. Only me. But somehow that didn’t make it any better.
I died weeping as the Moon embraced the Earth.
Then I opened my eyes, and it was Wednesday morning once again.
It sounds incredible, I know. But for me the world has been ending ever since I can remember. Once a week. Every Tuesday, at approximately eight in the evening. Regular as clockwork. Then on Wednesday I wake and everything’s normal. Same life, same job, same hairstyle. The worst I ever get is a mild headache.
That day the sun was shining. I crawled out of bed and went to the window. Nothing, of course. No blood. No death. No end. So I took two painkillers and went to work. Then as I was crossing a road I saw the flower girl. She’d been there for several weeks, since the start of summer. She was young, pale-skinned and bright-eyed. Beautiful in that way only strangers can be.
The moment I saw her, something happened. Something yawned open inside of me. Reached up and forward. I felt like I had no choice. I walked over and bought the prettiest flower on the stall. It was pink and violet and red. I didn’t know why, I just had to. It was a feeling.
As I gave her the money, she smiled at me, and without thinking I told her my name and asked for hers. After a moment, she answered, and I walked away. When I got home, I put the flower in a glass and placed it on the windowsill. It shone like a nugget of fire in the sunlight.
On Friday, I saw her again. The rain was pelting down and her hair was wet against her cheek as she called me by my name and waved hello. I crossed the road and told her the flower was doing well. Ten minutes later I walked away with her number in my phone and a shocked smile on my face. I decided that I was wrong about strangers. Sometimes they are just as beautiful when you know their names.
The weekend passed without incident. I stayed in and read a book.
Then on Tuesday the world was consumed by enormous cockroaches. It happened quite slowly and with considerable agony. They hatched out of all the landfill sites and descended upon civilization with huge pale wings. Humanity was eradicated in a matter of hours and the sound of bones being broken by glistening mandibles was the last thing I heard before I woke up sweating on Wednesday morning.
You see, it’s almost always different; the way it ends. A virus, a war, a natural catastrophe. An invasion of zombies, or robots, or aliens, or alien robot zombies. There seems to be no pattern to it. Just endless death, week after week.
On Thursday afternoon, I met up with the flower girl in a cozy tea room. We both sensed it; there was a strong but strange connection between us. Two hours and several cups of sweet tea later, we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet again soon. As I walked home, I began to have a feeling in my stomach like the colour of the moon as it hits the earth.
On Saturday, we went to a bar. I don’t usually enjoy bars, but her company made all the difference. The weekend passed in a haze, and before I knew it, it was Tuesday once again.
She knocked on my door at six in the evening and asked if she could come in. She was wearing a loose-weaved top and a crimson scarf. Her smile was radiant and I couldn’t say no.
That night the world ended as usual, and we died weeping in each other’s arms. Earthquakes ripped the city apart while steaming magma swallowed all the skyscrapers in a single gulp. Our minds were assaulted by a psychedelic force that targeted the human subconscious. And a new kind of bomb was released that turned all oxygen molecules into solid glass.
For the longest time, everything was screams and blood and death and dying. And then finally, after what seemed like lifetimes, a blissful darkness took us.
I woke up on Wednesday morning with a note by my bed. It read simply:
Last night was incredible. Same time next Tuesday? X