Apocalypse in Suburbia

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It was a beautiful apocalypse day in suburbia. The afternoon sun was shining lazily on the green lawns of the houses, and birds fluttered around and quarreled in the trees.

“Emergency plans to divert international disaster are being discussed. The original set of diversionary rockets set off from the Russian space station had little effect on the giant meteor, dubbed Behemoth, and subsequent rockets from the American, Canadian, Japanese, and Chinese stations had similar low successes. Bob, it’s just too big.”

“Yes, Joe, the plans were to reduce the meteor to small chunks of rock, which would eventually have burned up during entry into the earth’s….”

Trenton reached over to turn the radio off and then went to join his fiancé in washing dishes.

“The apocalypse,” said Hannah as she dunked a plate under the faucet, wiping off crumbs.

Trenton accepted the plate and put it in the dish washer, “Yah,” Trenton agreed.

“I wonder if I should call my Mom.” Hannah said.

“No, I tried using the phone earlier and it wouldn’t work. Maybe the giant asteroid is messing up the signal.”

They finished washing the dishes, and walked into their living room, trying to ignore the imminent dark splotch in the darkening sky. They sat in silence for a while on their couch, listening to a dog barking, and the laughing of their next door neighbor as he played football on the lawn with his son.

“You know, I wonder what everyone else is doing right now.”

The dog had been called in by its owner, and the neighbor and his son had grown quiet.

“I bet the president is rushing around right now, trying to get hold of NASA to send more rockets.” Trenton added, grinning at the absurdity.

“And the cities are like a swarm of bees, with everyone running around crazy, and people are fighting and killing each other. And the ocean is going crazy too, with huge waves and whales being thrown onto the land and the cliffs falling into the sea,” said Hannah. “And wolves are howling at the moon, and paradise islands are surrounded by a red sea, and artists are painting it all,” she concluded, with a serious face.

“Maybe. Or maybe not,” said Trenton, grinning again.

They were silent for a long time. The comfortable, womb-like gloom of night enveloped them, and still they did not speak, but sat there silently together, Hannah lying against Trenton’s shoulder.

“Wait here.” Hannah said, standing up. She brought back a worn cardboard box. “It was my Grandma’s,” she said simply, pulling back the soft cardboard flaps and lifting something that glinted in the in the half-light, and placing it on the cabinet that stood by the couch: A phonograph, its ornate pavilion a morning glory of delicate beaten copper, drooping over the delicate arm of the reproducer and the ornate wooden turntable carved with intertwined flowers.

“I only have one record,” she said, grasping a faded paper sleeve with no label. She carefully pulled it out and placed the record on the turntable. She turned the crank on the side and a crackling song began to play. Slow, with no words, the song went, and Hannah laughed softly and stood.

“Let’s dance,” she said, and Trenton stood to join her in a soft, twirling frolic as the phonograph wound its way around and around the disc.

The next song came on, a lullaby that twirled and danced around them, haunting and pure and sad. They slowed their dance to listen to the words, swaying and shuffling their feet.

 

                   Sing me the songs that to me were so dear

                   Long long ago, long ago

                   Tell me the tales I delighted to hear

                   Long long ago, long ago

 

Outside the stars stood silent and still, unconcerned by the Behemoth that hung over a world so far away. Oh yes, everything was silent and still, but especially the stars as they peered through the window at the young couple as they danced.

 

                 Out of the past on the winds of the years

                   Sung by a voice that could still all my fears

                   Softened by laughter and gentled by tears

                   Long long ago, long ago

 

The stars, the stars stood solitary, thinking of their beginning, in the birth of the world. Fire and heat and raw, empty space were their songs and their silhouettes, and they knew nothing of dancing or tears or laughter.

 

                 Sing me the songs that were mine at the start

                   Long long ago, long ago

                   Tell me the tales that were dear to my heart

                   Long long ago, long ago

 

Yet, the two danced, heedless of the starry sky or impending doom, and everything in that world was still. The wolves would howl at a scarred moon, and the sandy cliffs would fall into a red sea and be consumed by the by the sprawling, mindless waves, and in the end there would be chaos and fear. But for once, in that moment, there were no wars, or killing, or chaos in the world. The president sat powerless in his seat of power, the great machines lay still. Outside the football lay forgotten in the street, the neighbor with his son sprawled on the grass together.

 

                All of those songs that once put me to rest

                   Long long ago, long ago

                   Long long ago, long ago

 

And above all the stars stood, laughing.