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Final Date

by Kyven Bruner about a year ago
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What if the next date you went on was the last date you'd ever have?

Photo by Lon Christensen on Unsplash

When going on first dates I always mentally prepare myself for catastrophe. I had to skip my shower to arrive here precisely at six. The sun was dropping low in the western sky, and the evening breeze had begun to settle in for a long visit.

The Refinery. I stood on the sidewalk outside for a while trying to hype myself up. I considered a cigarette but decided not to add to the stench of stress sweat and pastries I had accumulated throughout the day. I brace myself and head in.

In the entryway, I am met by a young hostess who kindly tells me that Tyler hasn't arrived but reserved a cozy candlelit table for two in the centre of the dining room. I pondered leaving then, escaping the night into a reclusive state of junk food and old sitcoms, but Tyler had been begging me and Olive would force me to reschedule anyways. When seated, I realize how much I loathe the spot we've been given as it makes me feel like I'm on display.

After roughly seven minutes of avoiding eye contact with the other clientele, Tyler finally arrives looking more dashing than I'm used to seeing him. His hair short brown hair is groomed and slicked. His bear of a body was nicely tucked into a cream blue dress shirt, complimented by a matching grey vest and slacks.

"Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry. I assumed you'd be late" He rushes to get his apologies out and flashes an apologetic smile.

My instinct is to say something harsh and snappy but I decide to bite my tongue.

"I'm just glad you finally showed. I was about to start eating the candle" My attempt at humor.

He chuckles and makes himself at ease. All that's left now is to survive the rest of the night.

After carefully reading through the menu, I land on a seven-ounce steak with steamed vegetables. Tyler only pretends to go over the menu between long gazes at me.

"You're a Scorpio," he says.

"I actually don't believe in astrology" I blurt.

I wish I had held my tongue that time.

"I'm sorry. I know a lot of people don't subscribe to that stuff. It's just that you have all the tell-tale signs" Tyler says, covering his tracks.

I know that he's well-meaning, if not entirely well intending. I know where this night leads, but too many months of locking myself away have left me jaded. If I'm to enjoy the night I need to loosen up.

Our server finally makes her way over to our little table.

"Could I get a Shirley Temple and a California Salad to start?" I order.

Tyler frowns at my order before making his own. Once the waiter leaves, he doesn't bother speaking up so I ask him what's on his mind.

"I was hoping we could share some wine tonight. They brew their own" He manages to say.

"I'm not much of a wine guy, it never sits with me well," I say, then add "Sorry"

"The merlot here is the best. I'm making you have some. If you don't like it, it can be your last glass" He says with a smile.

Attempting to put my most charming self forward, I agree that I'll try some later in the night.

The following twenty minutes of the date goes along well enough. Our drinks make it to our table without being poisoned. Tyler makes awkward but likeable jokes. I blabber on about my job, which he already knows all there is to know about.

As we wait on our food, I'm the first again to play the asshole by checking my phone. However, I realize that I don't have any connection at all. I try not to work myself up but fail immediately.

"Hey, do you have any signal on your phone?" I ask him.

He smirks, then checks for me.

"None. Weird. Only one missed text from my mom but that's nothing unusual" he says.

A moment later, a huffing, sweaty man dressed much nicer than most of the other wait staff rushes into the dining room.

"Everyone! Due to unfortunate circumstances our kitchen and bar are closed. We ask that you head home as soon as possible. Thank you!" He says, in a tone I find curious.

Then he ushers the staff to the kitchen without saying anything to them. Tyler and I gaze around the room to our fellow restaurant attendees who look just as dumfound and shocked as we are. A few couples began to grab their things and leave. A party of three mobs the kitchen, seemingly on the hunt for information.

I looked to Tyler for guidance, but he had none to offer.

"What do we do?" He asks me.

"I don't know… I live too far to walk home. I ordered a cab" I say.

"I did too, and I don't have any cash for a train"

The stir of everyone around me, aided by the discomfort of my stomach containing only sugar and alcohol leaves me feeling dizzy. I search around the room, studying people's faces for any signs of clarity or relief, but am only met with confusion and disappointment. More parties leave, permitting me to consider leaving too.

"Should we call it a night?" I ask while gesturing at the door.

"I want to figure out what's going on here. Maybe we can join the angry mob who stormed the back" He says.

I hesitated. I lingered. I wanted to go. Then Tyler took me by the hand.

"C'mon. It'll be a little adventure" He says, sweetly.

Creeping into the kitchen, we are met by all its strange sounds: the crackle of the deep fryer, the buzzing of the dish sanitizer. Though, absent is the bustle of working cooks and disgruntled customers. Two young men and a lady come out of a back door carrying boxes of food. Before we could question them, they disappeared into another door. Tyler's tight grip on my hand made me secure. We trudged further into the unfamiliar to find someone who could provide us with information.

Tripping over spilt sauces and utensils, we find ourselves outside a small office. Inside is the hostess curled into a ball, sobbing against the wall. Tyler approaches her, cautiously with care, and asks if she's okay.

"I don't know what to do. I don't want to die" She bursts with tears.

"What the hell is going on here?" I ask

"Someone - S-s-s-something - Some machine is destroying all the cities on the west coast and it's going to come for us next" She sobs.

"What? That can't be true. Someone would have told us" Tyler says, assumingly.

"That's what the TV said before everything was shut off" She argues.

My family is on the west coast. Gravity leaves me, and I find myself on all fours heaving. I want to wake up in my bed and be done with this ordeal. Once I'm able to be alert at the moment, Tyler is there beside me stroking my back.

"Some date, huh?" I manage while holding back tears.

"Thank you for being here" I add.

The hostess was looking on.

"Is there anywhere safe to hide in the building?" I ask her.

"This is the safe place" She almost begins weeping again.

"What do we do, Tyler?" I ask, desperately.

He couldn't answer but I could see on his puzzled face that he was trying to create a solution. His confidence and stoicism are so admirable that I could kiss him.

"We can run," He says.

"Run where? I feel like we were the last to know that disaster struck. The streets have to be chaos by now" I reply.

"Then we wait," He says with a faint smile.

We all pause for a moment, absorbing the situation.

"I need a cigarette," I say, reluctantly.

"The roof!" The girl shouts out.

"When we go for smoke breaks, we usually go to the roof. Plus, maybe we can get a signal up there and be able to figure what to do" She continues, urgently. Tyler, nor I, have any objections or plans, so we agree to follow along.

The dining room was empty now, except for an elderly couple sitting by the window. The hostess pleads for them to join us on the roof, and they agree to join. Tyler walks over to the bar and snatches a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. The hostess looks to him as if she's about to detest but decides not to.

We follow her to the rooftop where we're met with harsh gusts of dust-filled wind. The hostess immediately begins pointing her phone at the heavens in a desperate attempt. I try my phone as well, but confirm my doubts when I see there's still no signal.

The old couple had found a couple of milk crates to sit upon and were content looking out at the city skyline. I took a moment to look at the city I'd come to call home. In the streets, people were rushing around trying to find somewhere to hide or something to help them get through what was to come. I wish I could begin this day anew and end it in Tyler's bed as it was meant to be.

He handed me a glass of merlot from the bottle he had intended for us to enjoy over dinner. I inhaled it and asked for another. I suddenly felt myself bursting with concern for him. What about his family? Had I been too rude to him throughout our date? Why can't I be his hero? His eyes are fixed upon mine. He reads my every thought.

"I'm glad you dragged me out here tonight." I manage.

"You've no idea how long I wanted this… but without all the end of the world stuff," He says.

"I think I have a rough idea"

We share a final glass and a final peaceful moment.

After a moment of uncertainty passes, we all see it. A sudden flash of brilliant red light overcasts the northern sky. It almost appears to be daylight. Everyone stops still to marvel at it. Seconds go by and a monstrous blast of wind and ash invades the city and makes the streets below nearly invisible. Tears begin to fill my cheeks. My knees begin to fail me but Tyler holds me and pulls me close. The sobbing hostess throws herself into the old couple who accept her. I focus on my breathing and try to make myself feel larger.

The alien machine makes itself be seen on the horizon. It looks cubic except for the bottom spherical half. It's at least twice larger than any airplane or blimp that I've ever seen. It seems to be black or grey against the twilight sky. It hovers over to our little city unaffected by our earthly elements.

I am ant about to be crushed, hopeless for escape or survival. I avert my gaze knowing that it's still creeping toward us. My heart tries to burst out of my chest. Over my shoulder, I hear the desperate screams of the hostess, but it's muffled out by the approaching alien craft. Soon, the awful whirring of the machine is all I can hear.

I don't want to die in fear. The wine had given me the burst of energy needed to make my next move. I pulled Tyler even closer, softly grabbed him by the chin, and stared into his beautiful teary hazel eyes. Then I kiss him, knowing it will be the last kiss I would ever enjoy. I was thankful to have Tyler with me at the end.

About the author

Kyven Bruner

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