I got in the car and drove. I didn’t tell Lusu, or The Hero. Didn’t go back to see the elves. Figured it was easier that way.
The road seemed strange. It looked the same as always — black asphalt road with a yellow line running right down the middle.
But it’s the road to the apocalypse, I thought.
Every time a car drove by, I imagined jerking the wheel. I imagined plunging myself into the oncoming traffic: being like my brother, seeing the Angel of Death, getting reincarnated, escaping destiny.
But that wouldn’t be right. I had to start the apocalypse. To do otherwise would be to let all those people in the future die. It would be genocide of a different sort. The number of living things on this planet were huge, but the number of living creatures on multiple planets, stretching out across thousands of years?
I had to save them. I had to save them, dammit. It was all down to me.
I pulled into the gas station parking lot. Got the bathroom key from the gas station attendant, then made my way to the bathroom.
Splashed some water on my face. Looked at my reflection in the mirror, but didn’t see anything there. I wasn’t a person anymore — I was a tool, a machine, a piece of a gun that would pull the trigger that would end the world.
That’s who I was. That’s who I’d always been. That was my identity.
Nausea twisted my stomach into a knot. I made it to the toilet just in time to throw up.
I felt the heat of light on my back. I wiped my mouth and turned around, just in time to see a silhouette walk out of the pillar of light. She was the Angel of Death, and she was beautiful.
“George,” she said, “it’s time.”
On my knees, I looked up at her. Puke dribbled from my mouth. I’m not sure I looked as unworthy as I felt.
She looked strange, like the last time I’d seen her. One of her eyes was red, glowing. And her beautiful black wings were now metallic. She looked different, but she still looked so damn beautiful.
“Angel,” I said, “where have you been?”
“A place of great knowledge. Soon, George, there’s–”
“–going to be an apocalypse. I know, Angel. The Celestial Wall is going to burst open.”
She didn’t speak for a moment, taken aback. “You know?”
“I know,” I said, tilting my head down, not able to look at her. “I’m going to be the one who does it.”
“I came to take you away from here,” she said.
“I can’t go.”
“You have to go,” she said. “This whole place is going to go up in flames — in light. Don’t tell me you want to stay for that.”
“Want?” I said. “I don’t know that I want to stay for that. I don’t know that I’ve ever known what I wanted to do my whole damn life. But I know that I have to. I know that what I’m doing is good.”
“What does that even mean? ‘I don’t know what I want.’ ‘What I’m doing is right.’ You sound troubled, George. Confused.”
“I’m going to destroy the world,” I said. “I have a lot to be troubled and confused about.”
“Is this about Hostem?” she asked.
“Hostem’s just a pawn,” I said.
“You shed a lot of tears over that pawn,” she said. “What does that make you?”
I let out a desperate sort of chuckle. “Damned, I guess.”
She had a sad look in her eyes. “I’m concerned.”
“I hope that whatever I do here doesn’t impact whatever happens to you,” I said. “You were good to me, Angel. Better than you should’ve been, and I appreciate that. I love–”
“Come with me,” she said.
“I can’t. I think I want to, but I have to break open the Celestial Wall. It’s my destiny.”
She sighed, kissing me on the forehead. Her lips felt warm — her hands cold. Still, I welcomed her touched.
“I’d hoped to be the one to take your soul. I always thought I’d be there for you, in the end.” She looked off into the distance for a moment, eyes tearing up. “I’m sorry I can’t be. I wish you great success.”
I smiled, but didn’t say anything else.
A pillar of light shot out from the ground, and she left. That was the last I’d ever see of the Angel of Death. She was probably the last friend I’d ever see.
Hands and knees on the bathroom floor, I wept.
— — —
My eyes felt puffy, as I drove. My whole body felt puffed, really.
Everything that had happened, I couldn’t blame it. I’d bought a cup of coffee at the gas station, but it’d done more harm than good. I was tired, and I felt it. But I was also buzzed, my whole body wanting to move.
My left eye twitched a bit.
This isn’t even your body.
“Shut up,” I said out loud. “Shut up, shut up, shut up.”
It was my body, of course. Now that the elf who’d grown up in this body was dead — now that my own body had been massacred by this future robot that I was chasing — this was my body. I was the only thing that could claim ownership.
Still, it all felt wrong: clammy but hot, not moving how I wanted it to, twitching too damn much.
My right hand twitched a bit. I took it off the steering wheel, wiping some sweat off my brow.
That was one of my problems, at the moment. I felt so wet. The tears and the sweat were mingling, so that I didn’t know which was which anymore.
I was getting ready to kill a world I didn’t want to live in. What was there to be upset about? Was this really so different from committing suicide? Either way, I wouldn’t have to wake up in this world ever again.
It’s more complicated than that, and you know it.
“Shut up!” I yelled. I closed my eyes for some long, lingering moments. I didn’t want to kill myself — I knew destroying the world was what I had to do. But if I ended up dying by accident, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
I opened my eyes.
— — —
No idea how long I’d been on the road. I knew I’d passed by here before, all those years ago, but it was so many years ago that I didn’t remember where there was.
Maybe it wouldn’t’ve mattered. A lot changes in forty years. I only had to look in the mirror to confirm that one.
I drove on the long, lonely road, remembering my mother.
If she hadn’t had me and my brother — or even just if she hadn’t had me — I might’ve been happy. I might not’ve existed, and then some other damn bum could’ve been the engine of the apocalypse.
But that’s not how it happened.
Of course, it would’ve been nice to have a brother to carry half of the burden with. Maybe that’s why things had been created the way they were — so that my brother and I could share the burden?
It wasn’t the same with Val. There were moments he’d wanted it to be the same, and there were moments I’d wanted it to be the same, but you just couldn’t have the true brotherly relationship with someone you hadn’t grown up with.
It was about the big things, but also the little — the way you saw a person grow and change over time — the way you figured out how to be adults together.
No, I couldn’t have that with some stranger whom the prophecies had decided needed to act like my brothers.
‘The prophecies.’ Ha. Funny to think they were nothing more than the thoughts of a computer.
Same thing, in the end. Didn’t matter where the prophecy came from or what its nature was: if it told the future, it told the future.
— — —
I parked the car far away from the river. Walked the rest of the way, gun in hand.
Monster was around here somewhere, I was sure of it.
Looked around, shoulders tense, trying to look in every direction at once. I didn’t see the car he’d driven in. He’d probably driven here, right?
I turned around, looking at where I came from. Maybe I’d gotten here before him.
No. Not possible. I’d had a couple detours that he hadn’t had to deal with. I was lucky the world wasn’t dead already.
Didn’t see any cars coming in this direction.
But if he was already here, why hadn’t he gone and destroyed the Celestiall Wall?
It still stood. The world still stood.
I shambled towards the river, waiting for it to lash out at me. Much to my surprise, it didn’t. I looked for the swimmer with the strange skin, who’d taunted me the last time I was here.
Couldn’t find him.
I didn’t want to get my clothes wet.
It was a stupid thought to have, so close to the end of the world. What could it possibly matter how wet my clothes were near the end? But then again, it was the truth.
I don’t want to die in wet clothes.
It wasn’t like I was going to get judged for that in the future. It wasn’t like my clothes were the most important thing, so close to the end.
I unbuttoned my shirt. Didn’t look down at it while I did so. I didn’t want to see what was going on down there.
Let the shirt fall to the ground.
Then I unbuttoned the pants, unzipped them. I struggled with the bra for a minute. Got it off. Slipped the panties off, cast them aside.
Here, at the end of the world, what did I care for social mores?
The gun felt heavy in my hand. I weighed it for a moment — keeping in mind how heavy it was. Then I chucked it over the river. It landed on the grass on the other side.
Even then, I knew that was a stupid thing to do. Someone could have grabbed it so easily at that moment.
But knowing that I was somehow responsible for the apocalypse? It made me more self-destructive than usual. And anyway, I couldn’t get the gun wet.
The river shimmered. I got in real close. Hadn’t noticed it before, but the water had a bit of a glow to it. Closing my eyes, I stuck my head in.
Opened my eyes again, and saw a shimmering mass. The water burned my eyes, but I had to see what was down there.
I slipped into the river, diving downwards, getting closer and closer to the shimmering object.
I realized it was a body. Then I realized it was colorful. Then I realized it was the swimmer, who had been here the last time.
No matter. He would’ve been dead soon anyway.
I swam to the other side of the river, very cognizant of the fact that Monster must be here. Got out of the river, shook one of my hands dry, and grabbed the gun.
The shack stood right next to the Celestial Wall.
That has to be where Monster is.
But why? Why wouldn’t he just destroy the Wall and get it over with?
I walked towards the shack. There was no door, but a lack of privacy seemed like it wouldn’t be a problem: it’s so dark that I can’t see a thing.
I step into the shack. My skin crawls. A shiver rolls down my spine. There was something ancient here, but that thing has died.
I can’t help but wonder at it.
Here’s where I killed a god.
Time and time again I denied that fact — tried to forget it — tried to place the blame on someone else. But it wasn’t anyone else’s fault, was it? I’d killed a god, because he’d needed to be put down.
Guess that was something to be proud of. I’d killed a god who’d needed to be killed. He was the mad dog, and I was the only one strong enough to kill him.
Put things in a different light.
All of a sudden, I heard a faint hum. “Hello, George.”
“Hello, Monster.” I took out my gun. “Goodbye, Monster.”
I shot him. But it was the strangest thing. I willed the bullet to hit Monster and I pointed the gun in his general direction. Everything I’d done indicated that the bullet should hit him.
But it didn’t.
It veered off, knocking through the wall of the shack, in the general direction of the Celesial Wall.
So this is how the world ends. With a stupid, goddamned bang.
Monster’s laughing, while I run outside.
I suppose he could kill me, since I have my back turned to him. But it doesn’t matter. I’m out of bullets, and there’s a crack in the Celestial Wall.
I watch the crack in the Wall. A hairline fracture stretches out from the hole the bullet made. But it’s spreading. If one bit breaks, the whole thing can’t stand. The hairline fracture is spreading, and it’s the end of the world.
Ha. I knew it was going to end, but I didn’t know how.
This is how it ends. This is how it ends.
In retrospect, I wished I’d said goodbye to Lusu. I wished I’d said goodbye to Lusu, and The Hero, and Beckett, and even Val.
In a way it was better that I hadn’t. Goodbyes could be so awkward.
But standing there, as the Celestial Wall was crumbling, I couldn’t help but wish I’d said goodbye to someone. I wished I’d had some sort of closure.
I never would have that closure.
The light was pouring out of the wall. The hairline fracture had spread across the wall, spreading out into a million other lines. The light was waiting to get out. Dear god, the light was fighting to be free.
And when it was, I’d be roasted by its divine creation.
Maybe I’d feel better if I could’ve said goodbye to someone.
No matter now.
The world was ending, and it was all my fault.
Standing there, naked, I dropped the gun.
“Come and get me, motherfuckers.”
The divine light killed me.