There were parties that night, but I elected to spend it alone, drinking and snorting the last of my priceless heroin on a wooded bluff overlooking the sea, capturing what quiet I could on my own terms and determined to meet the last day sober.
I woke, caked in vomit and pain as the sun arose, and trickled down to the beach, relishing the cool salt breeze on my chapped face. As I plunged my face into the water, I heard a tinny wail of joy, and turned in mute disbelief. A child raced down the beach, trailed by her mother. As public opinion had slid into open hatred of those who knowingly reproduced, births had become unheard of.
I swam in a wash of emotions: raw fury at manifest selfishness, an aching nameless joy, a thousand other twinges of head and heart. In the last decade, when it was clear that nothing could divert the comet’s path, the final gasps of propaganda’s engine had repeated this final message: Don’t Make It Worse.
I rose, fists balled, but my shout of indignant protest died on my lips. The earth trembled, a passing shock wave under foot. The impact was hours ago, in the steppes of Asia; the wall of fire and pressure had made it’s solemn journey around the world to us.
The girl was swept into her mother’s arms. They looked serenely at me, twin eyes of sea green. For a moment, I bordered epiphany. Guilt washed in behind the tide of anger. Then it was gone, and I was empty at last.
“I love you,” whispered the mother, holding the child close.
I sighed, and the air grew dim and thick with the onrush of steam. My vision clouded, and I turned to the sea, one final time.
This is not the weekly story, but instead something I wrote a year ago for a “No Longer Than 300 Words Science Fiction” competition, and it’s interesting to me for several reasons. As you may have noticed, I have a tendency to use 9 words when one will do; my first draft of this piece was well over 600 words, and I spent many cycles of revisions and iterations to reduce the size so drastically. As a result, there is an economy to the language in this piece that I like very much, it’s something that I have not been effectively able to repeat. Hell, look at the size of this introduction… at any rate, enjoy!
10 thoughts on “How This Ends”
I loved it. Yes, there is a carefully constructed brevity to this, but it is not the dry, staccato style of, say, Hemingway. I’m tempted to say it leans towards Vonnegut-esque, but you’re still slightly more descriptive than dear ol’ Kurt.Obviously well-revised and meticulously de- and re-constructed. Personally, I loved the careful introduction of details. You introduce the reader to your reality one fact at a time, and this makes a second re-read that much more meaningful.I mean, within the first three sentences, 90% of people who read this will dislike the main character, writing him off as a one-dimensional drug addict, or born loser who’s decided to end his life. I hate to admit, but I was of that percentile.But as we find out more and more–the impending doom, the utter hopelessness, the shining beam of light–a child–in this man’s (I say man, because the character has a distinct masculine tone to him) last few moments, we unwittingly find ourselves pitying him. We mourn the loss of this fabled world that you have scrupulously created in such a brief period of time.From an authorial standpoint, I think this is a good exercise for any writer. Brevity and concision are two finely-honed tools in our arsenal of literary weaponry. Ones that, unfortunately, most people (like myself) neglect, thus dulling their cutting edge. I think I’ll give this same exercise a go, and see how it works for me.To summarize:Excellent work, yet again.–Edward
Being a mother, the poignant sense of both love and loss you portrayed in this touched me deeply. I found myself considering what I would do if I was a part of that world on the brink – knowing the joy of motherhood as I do, could I refrain from continuing along that path, keep from condemning another to that end, or would I choose to bring a new life into a world condemned and show that child as much and as full a life of love and joy as I could in what little time I had to do so?To me, this is a testament to your skill with words. There are few writers that can evoke the emotional response I had to your piece and because of that, I tip my hat to you.A beautiful and touching story all in all. Kudos.
Wow. That was amazing. I don’t try my hand at writing often, but I know I’ll never be able to create something of this craftsmanship even if I did. The conciseness of this story combined with your level of story-telling makes it wonderful. Here’s hoping to see more from you (hopefully published) in the future.
Stunning. Never have I read something so beautiful and moving that was oh so brief. My eyes teared a little and I felt a pang of pain in my chest at the end. Amazing.
A quick, intelligently humanistic look at the end of the world told with such precise emotion. I'm serious when I say you have a true gift at writing. Get your stuff out there and known to a wider audience.
Better love lost than no love at all… This story is Amazing.
Oh. Almost teared up. I wish it were longer, but it might be ruined if it were. How sad… It's still amazing, though, as sad things can be.
I still read this story every once in a while. It never gets old.
Thank you Clarissa, that’s really wonderful to hear.