The Final Countdown (Short Story)

The emergency broadcast ran on this sort of constant loop, filling all corners of the room with the radio quality voice of Mr. Shuja Willow. I had tried to shut it off, but none of the buttons, remote or console, had worked. I basically had the whole dialog memorized by this point and had started adding appropriate chuckles and snorts when Shuja said something particularly cliché or blatantly false.

 

Attention all citizens of this great republic, I come to you today in what appears to be our final hour. After extensive analysis of reports from both the Apple Luna and Bezos Martian colonies, we here at MSNBC/Fox can confirm the presence of a large celestial body approaching on a collision course with both the Moon and Earth. The estimated time of arrival for this object is within [Two Hours, Thirty-four minutes, fifteen seconds] and current trajectory shows it colliding with the Western third of this great nation and vast parts of the Pacific ocean, potentially also hitting Eastern sections of the United Chinese Nations. The outcome of this event is… incomprehensible… yet hope cannot be lost. Congress and Commander Kennedy have begun scouring the dusty tomes of the obsolete NASA program for all records of deep space objects of this size and their last known position as well as opening up communications with all other major powers on the planet. Google and Musk Robotiks have dedicated all their AI bases towards calculating the impact and potential survival rate of such an impact. All areas not highlighted on our MacDonald’s Meteorology Maptm should be aware that while they won’t face this challenge to humanity directly, smaller meteors WILL break off from the main leviathan and ecological extremities will scour the land. Citizens are advised to do everything in their power to get emergency supplies, and, if you would, brace for impact. The only remaining option we have as a species is a swift response from the world, our leaders, and most importantly, our technology that has so long saved us from the attempts of Mother Nature to eradicate us. All YOU, the beloved citizen, can do is hope with all your might for your loved ones. Technicians save us all…

 

The whole thing stank of shit. I could practically hear my grandfather’s constant bitching about how the technocrats would inevitably cripple the power of the people and government, making a society built around perfect rates of consumption and expansion with no real motivation for forward movement and how vulnerable that would leave us. Course he had been talking about a sort of fascist/autocratic takeover, not a giant space rock, but still. He had hated watching us go the direction we had been going as a society, and now it seemed that his worst fear was going to be the last example of people on Earth.

 

The advice from the broadcast was essentially useless. It contradicted their entire previous coverage of the evacuation of the world capitals, which made a lot more sense with this new information. I had been surfing on the web, mostly for a porno hologram since I had the house to myself for the next week (or two hours, fifteen minutes, and thirty seconds) and had even seen an article from the DC launchpads about the very Congress and commander Kennedy the broadcast spoke of leaving before they began reporting on the other leaders heading off. Claiming that the AI services were working on anything was another blatant lie, and it served as a good excuse for cutting all phone and internet access from the people. All these abandoned people.

 

I had been sitting in my work chair, VR set tilted back, limp cock in my hand since the broadcast began at the three hours to impact mark. Mostly just coming to terms with the information I had been handed. Now my thoughts turned to Sarah, out looking at colleges with the boys in California. They were directly in the totally fucked zone, deader than dead, and I had to listen to Shuja Willow of all fucking people remind me of that. Couldn’t even put on a good reporter for the final broadcast. Pulling my sweats up, I throw the VR set as hard as I can into the television screen, causing both to splinter and send sparks flying.

 

Shuja just keeps talking through my rage. Dick.

 

Two Hours till impact

 

Normally, disasters come with some sort of adrenaline rush, some chemical pays off for all the awful around you. Unlike a hurricane mom, I don’t think I could lift a car off my baby at the moment. I don’t really feel like I could do much of anything at the moment. Outside of getting a forty thousand dollar ticket to head to the Martian colony, I don’t think anyone could do anything. Course the price was probably way higher by now, and they’ll be framing it as some humanitarian effort to ensure the survival of the best of our species. “Meritocracy based off your ability to blow through your trust fund,” Grandpa would have called it. Not that the colony provided much of a chance, they were far from being self-reliant when it came to food and water.

 

I guess a quick death with the masses sounds better than dying slowly on a foreign planet with a bunch of rich assholes. Can at least have peace knowing I’ll head into the unknown at the same time as my family.

 

“What do you think everyone stuck on this rock is doing with their last two hours, huh Buddy?” I absentmindedly ask the dog. “Better question, what should we do with our last two hours? Did you say drink? Well, Buddy, you might not be as dumb as you look all the time.”

 

One Hour, Twelve Minutes, Forty-Seven Seconds to Impact

 

I’ve managed to slog back the remnants of my bottle of Jack and Sarah’s flavored vodka, but they haven’t pushed me into the realm of drunkenness I really want to be at. Perhaps the boys have been getting into it and adding water so we wouldn’t know. It’s a classic move, and I can’t really knock them for it. Especially now. I keep looking out the kitchen window, waiting to see something in the sky, some indication that today is the end of the world, but it just looks like a gloomy North Dakota early winter day. Might even snow.

 

There is a fairly full bottle of Kalhúa, but that doesn’t really strike me as a chugging type of drink and I don’t want to spend my last few minutes in my own vomit, so I flail my hand around in the back of the cabinet to see if we have any of them airplane bottled shot type deals. Seems like the boys cleared us out of those as well. We had left them home alone a few weeks ago, they probably even threw a party without us here.

 

I wish I had been able to party with my sons. Wish they had had the chance to make all the same mistakes I had made in my life. Or better, bigger mistakes, I wish they had had the chance to become whoever it was they wanted to become.

 

Saying, “Fuck it” out loud, I pop the top of the Kahlúa and begin lining up shots.

 

Fifty-Nine Minutes, Fifty-One Seconds till Impact

 

In the garage, I found a couple of white wine coolers and four Bud Lights that I’ve hauled back to the kitchen. A second trip out to the garage uncovers the other two things I was looking for, Grandpa’s old speaker system and iPhone XX (the last physical model before everything went to cerebral chips) and the nine-millimeter pistol that had belonged to grandpa’s uncle or something. Guy had been a real gun nut according to the old timer, but that made sense when thinking about anyone from the 2020’s.

 

The gun, as far as I know, is fully functional and loaded. I really don’t know how to use the thing, but that’s a problem for later. The speakers and iPhone however, these are archaic tech I can work with. The whole contraption boasts a lifetime battery, and it comes to life after one push (a literal push!) of the power button. The interface seems easy enough to work with, and I select the small musical note icon. A wall of artist names springs up, but instead of surfing I just hit the shuffle button and turn my attention to the beer and wine. Some sort of retro hip-hop act begins competing with the broadcast from the other room, and I nod my head and bounce around like I had seen grandpa do. At least, had seen him do in the Instagram feed that had been embedded in his tomb. It’s kind of fun, actually.

 

Fifty Minutes, Four seconds till Impact

 

I see Buddy watching me groove after I’ve polished the second wine cooler. I can safely say I’m fucked up at this point. I go and pet him, letting my hands linger in his thick, matted golden hair. It’s greasy and he smells but in a familiar way. Shit, I was supposed to give him a bath this week. Too late for that. I get down on all fours and wrestle him a bit, and for a brief second everything slips away. Course, during a song pause I hear fucking Shuja Willow say, All YOU, beloved citizen, can do hope with all your might for your loved ones. Technicians save us all… and my mood goes back to shit.

 

Crawling over to the drawer we keep the dog food in, I pull the bag out and dump the kibble on the floor. “Eat up you dumbass, every prisoner deserves a last meal,” I chuckle. Buddy instantly begins scarfing the little bits.

 

“Well, it’s getting close to being over Bud. Hope someone is having more fun than we are. Streets looked pretty empty around here, but that’s just us Midwest prudes. I bet in San Francisco they are dancing in the streets. Or fucking. Probably fucking. Would have been great to get one last off before the end of it all. Don’t worry Buddy, I won’t do you like that. Couldn’t get it up anyways. Hope the boys have at least lost their virginity. Pretty sure Charlie has, kids always got some dime on his arm. Maybe he’s just gay though. Don’t matter any which way. Any which way. Suppose I should repent? Not that you want to hear me bitch about anything, not when you’re enjoying such high-quality dog food. Just that it seems like the sort of thing one should do during the apocalypse.”

 

Buddy keeps eating while I yap at him. I grab a piece of kibble and place it in my mouth. Tastes an awful lot like what it smells like.

 

“Well, I tell ya what dog, I’ll keep it short. I don’t have a lot of regrets, not really. Eating your food is one. Not being home more with the family, that’s another. Still don’t really want to forgive my mother, but I suppose I should. Hear that you old bitch? I forgive you. Oh, my college girlfriend. I regret her. Like, Jesus, you’re a stickler Buddy, I regret how it ended. I feel selfish about that. And I feel bad about liking Charlie more than Hank. He’s more like his mother.”

 

I slam the last beer can down, crushing it. The action hurts my hand.

 

“Nope, I don’t feel any better about the apocalypse now. No wonder they banned religion, wasn’t it supposed to sell hope or something? Seems like they got the fire and brimstone ending right though, so kudos.”

 

Thirty-Seven Minutes, Twenty-Six Seconds till Impact

 

I had taken Buddy outside after he had finished his meal. There was still a large amount of dog food on the kitchen floor, but he was clearly finished. He had been running around the yard and I had been fidgeting with the moving parts of the handgun when the sonic boom happened. The force knocked me flat on my face.

 

Struggling up, I could barely hear Buddy’s frantic barking, which was directed skyward. Looking in the same direction as him, I was filled with terror. The entirety of the sky was overcome with fire. It had no central point, just filled up the vastness of the whole sky. Towards the horizons, it had more of a purple, bluish tint, but it still rippled with the same chaos as the rest of it.

 

Reflexively, I put up a hand to my ear. It came back into my vision smeared with blood. Buddy kept barking, and I felt like I was better able to hear him as the seconds moved by. A roar, like that of a jet plane but amplified, accompanied my dog’s barking.

 

Thirty-Five Minutes, Fifty Seconds till Impact

 

I’m sitting on the ground, next to Buddy, delirious, drunk, and totally damned. He is still barking, perhaps he has the right idea.

 

Thirty-Two Minutes till Impact

 

“Yea! Tell em, Buddy! Fuck you space! Fuck you fucking cowards who hightailed it out of here! Going to be hard fucking each other over without wage slaves to fight your battles! Hey, maybe now you can solve the fucking Middle East shit huh? You fucking backstabbing troglodytes are probably stoked you can finally go suck each other off without worrying about your public image! For all of us, fucking fuck you! Hope you have Shuja with you, he deserves to be the first one eaten. You fucking cum sluts! Yea Buddy, you fucking tear into them! Oh, fuck you too god! Or gods or whatever it was. And fuck you, Mrs. Holden, you know I didn’t cheat off Oscar, uh, oh fuck what the fuck was his name. Fuck all of you, Fuck all of this, fuck it all!”

 

Twenty-Nine Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds till Impact

 

The gun works.

 

Buddy doesn’t have to worry about it anymore.

 

He got a few good jabs in at the bastards too.

 

I’m sorry Buddy.

 

Twenty-Nine Minutes till Impact

 

The sound of this evil space rock is intolerable. I feel a massive amount of pressure pushing down on my face and body. I’m lying next to my dead dog. Lightning is cackling across the fireball in the sky.

 

Everyone always postulated on how this would happen. Grandpa had this library full of paper books, and an extensive virtual library too actually, and so many of them revolved around the doom and gloom that was the end of the world. They all had some message too. Too many people were being bad. Scientists had found something they shouldn’t have. People killing other people. Climate change killing people. Aliens killing people. It was usually some punishment for prior neglect or greed or something. They always had a purpose, a reason. This has no reason. No grand message. No resolution. No saviors or heroes. It wasn’t good or bad. It just was. It just had this, a sky full of fire and sound, so much that one could get lost in it. So much that it was hard to imagine a time when this hadn’t been the only thing that was.

I don’t really know what the best way to shoot myself is. I’ve put the gun next to my temple, but I can’t shake a story I heard or read somewhere about a guy who fucked up blowing his own face off and didn’t die. I think he tried to do the temple thing. I could try to shoot my heart, which seems to make some sense. All the holovids have always emphasized the head being the way to shoot yourself. I think I saw some NSFW news feed thing and the guy had put a shotgun in his mouth, but it was hard to be sure if that was reality or some Hollywood fiction. Even the movies didn’t have that much violence in them anymore, and the older ones had been edited.

 

Hoping it was real, I put the barrel of the gun in my mouth.

 

“I’m sorry boys. Sorry to have brought you into this. Sorry Sarah, sorry I couldn’t be with you during this. I’m sorry Buddy.”

 

Hoping it was all real, I pulled the trigger.

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