(Thanks to 30 Minutes to Live and of course, to Alphaville.)
I'm running. One thing I always prided myself on is my ability to make the hard decisions without hesitation. Ask me what I want for dinner, or what job I want, and I can think it over for years. But now the world is ending and I'm halfway out the door before the people on the teevee have a chance to get to the crying and the praying.
Somehow they found the guts to tell us, to go on teevee and tell the entire world that there's been some massive explosion on the sun and the shockwave is going to sterilize the day side of the Earth. For a start. In thirty minutes.
And I only need to see the look on the prime minister's face and hear the words sun and explosion to figure out I don't have a second to waste and I get out of my chair and out the door but I still waste five seconds fumbling with my door key before my brain catches up with what my muscles are doing and I laugh and throw the key on the ground and start running and putting my jacket on.
The bad habits you develop while trying to reserve your brain space for bigger and better things. Like locking the door without thinking, or pushing the switch for the hallway light every time I go in or out even though the light has been out for the last two months. Or neglecting to make decisions.
As I run through the dark streets of the city, I think about how all my decisions have brought me here.
My brother lives thirty minutes away. By car. My economy can't support a car, because I didn't decide on a career. I don't have a driver's licence, because I didn't decide to take one. Even the place I live was just the first place I found in my price range. I moved in before I even saw it. Ten years ago. And in the end my lack of decisions have left me with no decision to make because there's only one person I want to see who's close enough.
I hope she's home.
There are firelights flaring from the windows of the buildings where I run by, and screams, but not many.
'She's asleep and I can't leave her and I can't wake her', says my last friend in the world when she opens the door, tears on her face. 'I was trying, I was going to call you but can't get a signal.'
I hug her, like she taught me. She lets me inside, awkwardly, and locks the door.
'Twenty minutes left', I say, wiping sweat from my face with my jacket sleeve. 'This is the fastest I've ever made it here.'
'I'm glad you're here. I can always count on you.'
'There's no one else I'd rather be with, you know. Especially not know.' I leave out the part where there's no one else I could be with. 'But I'm, you know, it's fine if you want to wake up your girl.'
'No. No need for her to be scared. We'll be together soon anyway.'
We're standing in a kitchen with ancient cigarette spots on the floor, badly patched over, and a hot plate that won't warm a cup of coffee in twenty minutes. A perfectly miserable spot to miss the end of the world from, I think, and I nudge her toward the balcony, where I figure we'll have cold, damp concretre to make our feet miserable instead but a good view. A group of people pass by on the street below, maybe too drunk to know the world is ending. A dead fluorescent glare from a distant soccer field keeps the night at bay. A patch of moss has grown on the floor of the balcony, I note. Everything seems alive and vibrant with meaning. I wonder if it's an adrenaline overdoze or a flashback from my experiment with pot.
'So, the great hereafter?' I say. 'You really believe in that? Now, when the chips are down? I always kind of thought you'd be too rational for that.'
'I don't know, you know. I believe. I chose to believe in Heaven because otherwise I'd not have been able to bear the cruelty of this world.'
'Funny, on the way here I was just thinking about choice. I didn't, you see. I didn't choose. I don't think I can. I believe that in ten minutes everything that we are, everything we can recognize as ourselves or each other, is going to go away forever, data dissipating in the background noise of the universe, the condition known in layman's terms as death.'
'You believe in death?'
'Well, if you want to put it that way it sounds nice. She's supposed to be nice.'
'Sorry, but I really don't want to spend my last moments on Earth arguing about religion.'
'I'm not arguing. I was trying to say, you can believe no one really dies, you don't have to be afraid. I'm jealous. I wish I could feel that way.'
'Do you feel lonely?'
'I'm just, I did that thing where I missed your point, I know that happens almost every time you try to say anything, I thought you'd feel lonely, and I thought if I tried to understand how you're feeling you could feel better.'
'Thanks. That makes me feel less lonely. But yeah. I think it may be impossible to understand how it feels to be about to die if you really, truly believe death is not the end. Imagine if your immortal soul was destroyed forever, and every mark you left on the world turned to sand, washed away by the sea, and your femory faded as your grandchildren died, and no one who ever lived, in the history of the world, would know you had lived.'
'That's the most horrible thing I've ever heard.
'That's what happened to most of the ninety thousand million people who lived on this planet before us. Well, the immortal soul part is a matter of belief. But that's how I feel about dying.'
'I guess that means every moment you get to live is a miracle and such.'
'Miracle is a good word for it. You know, I bet the religious ecstasy feeling that comes from stimulating the left temporal lobe of the brain is exactly the same for me when I think about what's happening here the present moment as for you when you think about what's going to happen later in Heaven.'
'Believe it or not, I am glad to be here with you at this moment. We should have played some music, but. I don't think we have time now even if Youtube still works.'
'With the shitty speakers on your laptop? I regret nothing. But I guess it's like Alphaville says.'
'What? "Forever young, I want to be, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.'
'"Are they gonna drop the bomb on us?'"
'"I want to be forever young, do you really want to live forever?"'
'"So many songs we forgot to play."'
And we lock arms, and we shout half-remembered lines of pretto-philosophical nineteen eighties electro-pop falsetto, and we watch the sky when the light comes, too fast.