Last One Out, Get the Lights

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper.

But there was a bang. It lasted several weeks, in fact. There were exams. There were term papers. There were late-night study sessions with large groups of people. Everything had this sort of frenetic buzz about it, as if some small child had found the hive and decided to throw rocks at it to see what would happen. Near the end it was almost impossible to find serenity–harder still to find sleep. Everyone knew what was about to transpire, but there was no prophet to tell us how suddenly it would overtake us.

The first wave began to drop out like entrenched soldiers hit by tear gas. There was barely time to say goodbye before, by some method or another, they were shuttled off to wherever it is they came from. Most were so caught up in the work of self-preparation that they didn’t take any notice of the losses, and it wouldn’t be long before they, too, disappeared as if they’d never been here at all.

I decided i had better try getting something to eat before the food disappeared too. I stumbled out into the cold–it was snowing–and wandered into the nearest rationing station. Everything was wrong, all wrong. There should have been dozens–no, hundreds–of people there. But the buzz was gone, threatening never to return. A group of maybe fifteen dejected inmates were seated in clusters on one side of the building; the other side was completely empty. I surveyed the options–limp sandwiches, dry seasoned potatoes, something resembling a slice of pizza–and then decided on a sampling of the first two. I spotted some fortunate individual greedily spooning in some sort of chowder as i took my seat near some questionable characters with whom i could have had delightful conversation but chose not to.

The meal progressed uneventfully. I had a sense that my own time was far from arriving, and so opted to savor the food regardless of its ineptitude. I chewed more slowly, and swallowed more carefully. From time to time i would put on the twisted expression of one who has just sunk his teeth into an undercooked potato, partly for the faces such an expression would elicit from passersby and partly because i had in fact just sunk my teeth into an undercooked potato.

I washed these down with a decidedly better dessert of spice cake and coffee. The available mugs were roughly half the size of those i had been accustomed to years ago, into which i used to deposit upwards of four sugar packets before the rough edge of the drink had been smoothed down to something palatable. I filled the small mug to its brim, took a sip, and promptly deposited four sugar packets into it before continuing with my cake. Feeling contented, i brought my tray to the designated area where empty racks slowly slid past me on their way to a drowning pool infused with antibacterial soap; into one of these i placed my dirty dishes, and then i left. I did not wait to find out what would become of the dishes.

I commented on the desolate state of the area to someone i met in the hallway of my housing complex. He mumbled a sort of indecisive acknowledgment and stumbled out the door into the snowstorm.

He never came back in.

In short order i realized he was the last–i was now completely alone. The halls echoed eerily with every uneasy footstep as i made my way back and forth throughout my floor searching for life. I heard an isolated laugh now and then, coming from far away, but i’d lost the energy to investigate. I took a cold shower, put back on the clothes i’d been wearing, and shaved off the irritating patches of stubble that had been massing together over the last several days in some haphazard attempt to take over my face.

Returning to my room, i took note of its deplorable condition and began moving things around, organizing books here, folding sheets there, discarding empty plastic bottles in still another place, then returning to rearrange the books that had fallen over for want of bookends. I used a vacuum that i discovered in a large closet down the hall but even that chose to spite me: as i stood behind the device in the hope that it would eat away the debris that had accumulated on my rug, it maliciously spat small shards of dirt and plastic at my bare feet. It’s a wonder i didn’t begin to bleed.

Nevertheless, the room eventually succumbed to my will and reached an acceptable condition. I returned the furniture to its proper place, sat down at my computer, and browsed artwork while listening to a cleverly-titled Christmas album by a band named after a dilapidated car. My thoughts turned to what would happen the following morning: I would gather my belongings together, or at least those i planned on bringing with me. Things would need to be unplugged–after all, no sense in creating a fire hazard when no one was going to be around to be incinerated–and then i would don my coat and hat, step out of the room, and turn around to take one last look inside before extinguishing the lights and closing the door behind me. This i would lock with one of the two keys on my keychain (the other for a mailbox that seldom had anything in it) and then it would be time for my final appointed task.

Down the hall i would go, into the lavatory. One by one, i would flush the toilets. And then i, too, would walk out into the snowstorm. The sun would end its slumber, clamber up into the sky, and beat down on the icy ground beneath it so as to kill that, too, as quickly as possible.

Tomorrow the snow will be gone.
And so will i.

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