By Krysta Tawlks
I reached for my kitten Cleo instead of my phone. Social media wasn’t a happy place right now, not with everything going on.
Balancing Cleo on my shoulder, I shuffled to the kitchen. There by the door lay a carefully folded piece of paper. Probably my Star-Trek-enthusiast neighbors. They sometimes slipped me invitations to their “space” parties, which likely involved quibbling over Pluto’s identity as a planet or who the best captain was—Picard or Shatner. They also hosted Bible trivia nights, but I didn’t know much about that.
I crouched over the note for a quick read. He created them male and female.
Bible verse or a line from Wrath of Khan? I wasn’t sure. Crunching the paper into a ball, I tossed it near the wastebasket and prepared for work. My job as a server sucked the soul out of me, but I needed the tips if I wanted to live alone.
Roma’s was down the street, so I rode my bike. Our pizza had once been the best in the region. But not anymore. Not since volcanoes started erupting around the world.
In order to make the perfect pizza, we required tomatoes from the grounds of Mt. Vesuvius and mozzarella produced from the milk of water buffalo roaming the volcanic grasslands. Now our ingredients were buried under oozing, blistering lava.
As I clocked into work, we only had one customer. She asked for a refill, fixing her eyes on her phone as she played the latest viral video on social media of the Hawaiian evacuations. The human screams and panicked voices stirred the pit of my stomach, so I headed for the kitchen.
Emery, our cook, grabbed my arm as I poured the customer’s refill. “Kate, you hearing this?”
I nearly dropped the pitcher of tea. “Emery!”
“Listen.” He twisted the radio dial, each station garbled static. “Look!” He pointed at the TV. “That’s a live football game, isn’t it?” Players paced up and down the field, their heads turning left and right. The camera panned to a boy alone in the stands. The last shot, an empty sky, cut to static.
“I’d… better check on my table.” My eyes fastened to the TV as Emery flipped through channels—all static. Lowering the drink to the table, I said, “Here you go, ma’am.” When I turned toward her, she was gone.
Probably went to the toilet, I reassured myself, ignoring the phone resting on the table and the purse tucked into the booth.
Emery came to my place after work to stay the night, neither of us ready to be alone in a world cut off by radio and television. Now our phones had stopped working. I stayed up late thinking about the boy surrounded by empty stadium seats and the missing woman at the restaurant. Grabbing the Bible note by the trash, I looked at it again.
“What was the last thing God created?” I asked Emery.
The next morning, I woke up and reached for Cleo, only to find her gone.
Flinging off my blankets, I bounded for the kitchen.
Another note wedged under my door. Let the earth bring forth the living creature.
Heat rushed to my face as I realized, “Cleo’s gone.”
The following day, I clutched the third note and huddled on the couch as Emery handed me leftover ramen. We gazed out the living room window as the receding sun darkened the sky to charcoal, but no moon emerged, and no stars glowed.
I placed the third note on top of the other two. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
“Emery,” I said quietly, “don’t let me fall asleep. I’m going to catch the person giving us the notes.”
Emery didn’t make any promises. He’d already fallen asleep.
I lay with my ear to the ground, waiting all night and well into morning—not a sound. Finally, I flipped on the light and groaned as I saw the fourth note wedged under my door.
“The roof!” I shook Emery awake. He was the only person who could sleep through the end of the world. “C’mon! The note says to go to the roof!”
He grumbled. “Only… pajamas…”
“I’m not waiting for you to put on your makeup!” I yanked him to his feet.
We climbed the stairs in utter darkness, Emery’s raspy breaths serving as my only comfort. An ominous buzzing swelled as we approached the door to the roof.
Emery stumbled. “What’s that sound?”
I yanked the door open, the buzzing now thunderous. Bright lights assaulted our vision, and gusty winds seared our cheeks. When my eyes adjusted, they registered a jet-like object descending onto the roof. Standing to my right was one of the Trekkies—a girl I’d met before.
She extended her hand. “You read my notes.”
I eyed her. “They were a little… cryptic.”
“Well, you weren’t accepting our invitations. Had to get your attention somehow.”
But how’d she known the world would end? And whose jet was that?
Though I wanted answers, now wasn’t the time. I clasped her hand, and a gale of wind pulled me backward.
We sprinted across the roof, salty sprays rising from the earth. Once we reached the ship, several hands from its belly pulled us inside. The doors closed, and I reached for Emery.
“Where’s—” My breath caught in my throat.
“Didn’t you see?” the girl asked gently. “He got swept away before…”
Someone strapped me to a seat as the jet rumbled into the blank sky. Tears dashed against my knuckles as my mind fumbled to comprehend the past few days.
First, the humans, then the creatures, the sky, the earth—the world’s creation in reverse. We were still alive, but for how much longer? My family was gone. Emery’s dead. Yet one thought stood above the rest: I missed my kitten.