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Countdown

by Zephyr Zywick 12 months ago in Sci Fi
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A Zephyr Zywick Story

Countdown
Photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash

We don’t know who holds the key, but every time it starts over, we get videos to review. “Get” is an interesting choice of words, because we don’t have a choice at all. It airs on every channel, on billboards everywhere. We see what society did after each global holocaust.

They want us to know. Whoever they are.

Then, the countdown begins.

SEVEN DAYS

We have time to prepare. This time, we have a week.

The videos begin airing. They show the world’s destruction and how society did or didn’t come together after each reset. They show the generations pass by. Sometimes, there have been odd mutations.

That’s because the type of “the end of the world” keeps changing.

The “powers that be” have hit us with global warming, ice ages, the resurrection of dinosaurs, asteroids, pandemics… What else? I’m thinking, okay? There have been so many restarts.

SIX DAYS

Oh yeah. The Weather War. That’s what they called that one. Volcanos, earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes. All of them, together, waged a war against humankind. They won.

People would start over, picking through the rubble.

We can always remember everything, so we use it to learn, to do better. The thought is: maybe if we rebuild everything the way they want, they won’t reset the world anymore. Maybe we’ve been doing something wrong, angering them?

Our current world leaders are talking about more grass, less parking lots. More nature, less structure. Nice, but they’ve said stuff like that every time.

Time dilutes the panic. People… we get comfortable. One more building won’t hurt. One less forest. And every hundred or two hundred years, we reset. It’s like–we just don’t get it.

FIVE DAYS

We just won’t listen.

We must be the dumbest animal on the planet. Somehow, each time the world ends, a bunch of the artificial world disappears, and it’s replaced with an abundance of nature again. You would think that would be a clue.

The grocery stores line up down the block. So do the gas stations. Nobody goes to work, which means it’s all a melee. People start fighting and killing each other for gas and supplies.

Roads out of cities get stopped up. Everyone thinks if they can run to the countryside, the end of the world won’t find them.

FOUR DAYS

They can’t outrun the end of the world. No one ever has. I know this. I don’t even try. I read doomsday stuff on the internet but then the grid goes down.

I shrug.

I play some solitaire and cook up a bunch of frozen food before it spoils. I take cooked food outside and set it in dishes on the sidewalk.

I step back from it and watch as people scramble to scoop it up. By the time they fight over meals, I am safely back inside.

I lock the door and bolt it with the two-by-fours in the brackets.

THREE DAYS

People called me weird. People made fun of my paranoia.

Who’s laughing now?

Well, to be clear, I’m not laughing. I am simply safe. I sit alone in a desk chair staring at the windows, shotgun in my lap.

I look at the shelves and shelves of food and water I've prepared for a time like this. I can last years without leaving my apartment.

TWO DAYS

Maybe this isn’t really a great plan? But, I’ll let them all kill each other with their greed, their panic, their lack of preparation. I’ve studied all the videos and learned everything about survival.

I know exactly what to do when the button is pressed. I stay here.

In the meantime, I enjoy the quiet while it lasts and I putt around the house, only peeking out the curtain on occasion. Bodies lie in the street and the world hasn’t even ended.

I sigh. People, come on people. You can do better than this.

ONE DAY

I consider going outside and dragging some of those bodies farther away. They will start to smell, and I’d prefer it to not waft in through my windows.

I look outside. It appears quiet. I study all directions and then I realize there are others, quietly observing and waiting–like vultures.

I decide to let them move the bodies or enjoy the smell, themselves.

I’m now eating snack bars and canned goods. I don’t cook anything that will draw attention with an aroma of its own.

RESET DAY

It will occur at noon.

I don’t sleep the night before at all. Who could?

Around eight in the morning, I nap for two hours. It’s weird how adrenalin and sleep mess a body up. I set an alarm, which is a little ironic.

Technically, I could have taken some sleeping pills to sleep through it all. I’d either wake up or I wouldn’t but I’d never see it coming.

That might have been a smarter idea. I am too curious. I’m wide awake.

The clock was counting down.

11:00 AM

One hour to go.

The street starts to get busy. I peer out the window.

The bodies are gone.

People aren’t fighting.

Everyone gathers and watches the skies.

They hold hands, sing songs. Everyone loves one another today. For one hour, all of humanity is brother and sister again.

A woman, wearing a heart-shaped locket, notices a crying child. She removes her locket and places it around the little girl with a smile.

The girl smiles back.

The woman wears a soft, white blouse with blue thread stitched into a diamond-shaped vertical pattern. Her dark hair cascades over her shoulders. My breath catches. For a moment, I forget the world is ending. Again.

She spots me—spying on the crowd. She smiles warmly at me, as she did to the child, and beckons me to join them.

I close the curtain.

11:59 AM

People, including me, don’t know if the ground will explode or fall in. They don’t know if a wave will wash over us all or if a meteor shower will plummet from the sky… They don’t know which way to look, up or down, left or right.

NOON

The sky becomes orange at first.

Suddenly, a bright WHITENESS fills all. It encompasses everything, inside and out.

12:01 PM

Our entire city, all structures, as far as the eye can see... it's all gone.

I stand in a lush forest with a deck of cards still in one hand and a snack bar in the other.

I am alone.

You'd think I'd be angry or discouraged that my decade's supply of food and water is just gone.

But, I'm not.

I already miss the woman who gave away her— and I don't even like people. I can’t explain it.

Life is odd.

Sci Fi

About the author

Zephyr Zywick

Zephyr Zywick has three books, each #1 New Releases, still Top 20 Best Sellers on after six months, and remain in "Amazon's Top 100 Best Sellers." She is neurodivergent (on the spectrum) and has specialized in short fiction for two decades.

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