There were four of us that day in the beach – me, George, Sammie, and of course, Henry. The beach was hidden behind a veil of jungle, which we went through while carrying surfboards over our heads. It was a mile long of white sand that burned even whiter when splashed with the rays of the sun. George led us there. Their family owned the island and he said that we would be able to spend the day there undisturbed. It was how each one of us wanted it.
Even before we saw it we knew it was there. The roaring of the waves gave it away. We pushed through the last of the foliage and there it was in all its beauty. The stretch of burning, white sand, the endless number of waves that came and went, backdropped by the infinite blueness of the cloudless sky. For a brief moment, we believed the day would give birth to another one, that what we heard the other day was not really true. For a brief moment we believed that this was just another out of town trip for us. For a brief moment…
“Isn’t that something?” George said.
Henry howled and rushed towards the water. I planted my board in the sand and watched him get on his board and paddle.
“Come on!” George shouted as he went off running after Henry. “This here’s how it’ll all end, ladies and gents!”
Sammie and I stayed. I looked at her looking at the other two. She had her hair tied into a ponytail. Drops of sweat had formed on her forehead and one was sliding down her chestnut colored cheek.
“This is how we’ll go huh?” She said. Her eyes remained trained on the waters.
“You have other plans?” I asked. “Maybe just you and Henry?”
“No,” she smiled, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “No. This is nice. Us four together is nice. Wouldn’t have it any other way.” She then looked at me. “Come on. We’re missing some good waves there.”
I remember I was at work that day when it was announced. I was finishing up on this project that was due a week after and I was way behind schedule. I heard the news from the radio and it contained only nine words.
“The world is going to end in three days.”
Nothing more was said. No explanations were given, no time as to when it will exactly happen, nothing. After those nine words were uttered, some song by The Cure started playing. It was as if it didn’t really happen. But it did. Everyone in our floor heard it, everyone started asking questions. Some said it was just a practical joke. But you could tell from the laughter and the smiles that they believed it to be true. I know I did.
What would your reaction be when you were told that you’ve only three days to live? Would you cry in fear? Would you panic? Would you accept it openly?
I turned off my computer and left work without saying anything to anybody. I passed by rooms filled with people in prayer. I passed by groups of people huddled in tears. I passed by someone on the phone talking to his wife.
The world reacted much calmer than I expected. What I had in mind was streets of violent people and buildings on fire. When I stepped out of our building, you wouldn’t have guessed that the end of the world was just broadcasted live. What I saw was a few people walking past me with their heads bowed low. Some lifted their faces to greet me a good day. They had their smiles on display. Some looked withdrawn. Some just looked empty. I wonder how I looked.
I picked one street in random and decided to go there. Four blocks had gone by and that was when I noticed that I hadn’t yet received a single call from my parents or my sister. The thought of calling them hadn’t passed my mind until then. I continued on walking.
I walked down street after street after street. Was I in shock? Maybe I was. When I felt the fingers of exhaustion taking hold of me, I kept on walking. When all of daylight had bled out and nothing remained but a sky the color of a fresh bruise, I kept on walking. When the streets had emptied of people, I kept on walking. And I still kept on walking even after my eyes had grown red and swollen from crying.
That was how I spent the first day of my last days.
I woke up the following morning in a place I did not know. The room was small containing only one single bed, a table, and a chair. Not long after, my phone started ringing. I didn’t pick it up. The world was ending. Everything about yesterday came to me in one giant wave. I wondered then if I just dreamt it all.
The phone kept on ringing.
I stood up and grabbed it. My feet felt like they were being inserted with needles. I looked at my phone’s display screen and I saw Sammie’s name. I answered it.
“John?” Her voice was mingled with static.
“Hello? John, are you there?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here,” I replied.
“Henry and I, we just got back from Hong Kong and we’re wondering…Have you heard the news?”
“Yes, I did. Yesterday.”
“Where are you now?” I could hear the sound of traffic from her side.
“I actually don’t know,” I answered, laughing.
Another round of silence. I looked outside my dirt-stained window and saw an empty intersection with a traffic light that perpetually showed a red light.
“I think I’m still somewhere in Manila. Know what? I don’t know.”
“Have you called your parents yet?” She asked.
“Are you planning to call them?”
“I don’t know.” I replied. “Are you with Henry now?”
“Yeah, I’m in his car. He’s driving me to my place before he goes off to his parents’.”
From the background I could hear Henry calling out my name.
“Listen, John. Henry and I, we’ve decided to go somewhere tomorrow. There’s this island owned by George’s parents. We want you to come with. Will you?”
“Yes,” I said. Then she started telling me about the details: where to meet-up, what time. All the while I tried picturing her face in my head. Her long, black hair, the lines that form in her cheeks whenever she smiles. Spending the last day of the last days with the girl I love along with the guy who was able to win her from me. I didn’t know whether to laugh at that or cry. I ended the call and went out of the room.
Dusk had turned the sky to rust. The waters have calmed down, the waves were put to rest. I lay on my board as it bobbed up and down on the water. The heavens had no clouds in them. All was quiet. It was hard to believe that the world would end that day. But it did.
I sat up and looked at the beach. I could see Henry and George busy building a bonfire for the night. Sammie was lying asleep on a white blanket.
I started wondering why I placed myself in that place, in that situation. To spend the day watching the girl I love spend her last days with someone else. Henry’s not a bad guy, a bit dense at times, but not bad. And it was my fault why Sammie and I didn’t work out. I just wished I could have another chance. I laughed at myself. All the chances of getting back with Sammie was thrown down the toilet the moment it was announced that the world was coming to its end.
George looked at me. “Hey, lazy ass! Come help us here!” He shouted.
I waved my hand at him and I started paddling to shore.
We sat around the fire while passing around a bottle of tequila.
“You know? I’m kinda disappointed at how things will end,” George said, tossing a piece of dry wood into the fire. “Kinda anticlimactic, yeah?”
“How would you like things to have ended?” Henry asked.
“Who? Me? I don’t know. I guess I just think, after the stories we’ve been fed for years about the rapture and the apocalypse and how the dinosaurs died, it’ll be something more…noisy.”
“I think something like this is fine,” Sammie said. I looked at her and saw her eyes were on me. She smiled then continued, “I like it that it ends so peacefully, you know? I mean, I’d prefer it if things didn’t have to end. But, yeah, I wouldn’t mind the world ending quietly.”
“Looks like someone’s starting to pack up,” I said, pointing up at the sky.
We all looked up and saw the stars being put out one by one; they were like candles being snuffed out by god’s fingers. One by one they disappeared until the silver moon was all that was left. We watched as the moon was folded up in half and then folded again repeatedly until it was no more than a sliver of silver in the sky. And then that too was gone. The only light left was from the bonfire we had made.
“I guess this is it,” George said. I looked at him as his body became transparent. I saw the jungle behind him getting swallowed by the darkness. Then George was gone.
I knew this was my last opportunity to say something. The fire started to grow smaller. The sea had been packed away into the chest along with the others. I grabbed hold of Sammie’s hands. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. Beside her, Henry had already started to vanish.
“I love you,” I said to her. “I love you and I love you and I love you.”
She smiled and laughed and cried. I wiped away her tears as the fire died.
In the darkness, I held her hand and her tears.
“I love you too,” the ghost of her whispered.
It was ephemeral but it was love. And even just a second of it was more than enough.
The world ended that day, in silence and in darkness. In tears and in laughter, we went away.
I walked out of the universe holding her tears and her words with a smile on my lips.