A piece written for the apparent End Of The World.
Two men sit on what appears to be a large slab of concrete, poised above… well. Nothing and everything. Countless billions of stars lie below, above, around them, and their feet dangle in endless space.
One of them, who has hair so pale it takes you a moment to realise that it is blond, not entirely white, takes a long, noisy slurp from a cup of tea.
Doug stares at him in surprise; he swears it wasn’t there a moment ago.
“The end of the world?” The blond man looks at him with the hint of a smile. “Yes, I’ve seen it. Quite a spectacle. Busy day, if I recall.” He adjusts his monocle, gazing out into the stars. “I thought that it was a shame. Such potential still left in a race like yours, and it didn’t seem the time for it, really.” Another swallow and gulp of tea, and Doug realises that somehow he’s cradling a cup, too – china, with little purple flowers on it.
In silence, the two of them drink tea and watch the stars. In the time they sit there, a star or two shifting slightly to the left, aeons pass.
“This is… awfully civilised,” Doug says uncertainly, if just to fill the silence.
“Why shouldn’t it be?” his companion asks, cocking his head to watch him with eyes Doug is afraid to look into – he doesn’t know what he’ll find behind them.
“Because you’re… aren’t you busy? Don’t you have work to do? How long can I stay here?” The desperate barrage of questions slips out before he can stop it.
The other man doesn’t look at him, gazing once more into the fields of stars. It’s easy, here, far too easy, to feel insignificant. “There are certain… temporal rules that don’t apply here, or to me. Believe me, I’d like to explain it, but it would probably do rather terrible things to your brain. Turn all you thought you knew on its head, that sort of thing. That seems to be… rather unhealthy for humans, in my experience.” Another nervous adjustment of the monocle. “The crossroads are waiting. They are always waiting. I don’t find myself impatient, so I, too, will wait, if you feel it necessary.”
Doug considers this for a moment, and then asks hopefully, “Can I go… back, then? Just for a while?”
The blond shakes his head. “I’m afraid that there is nothing for you to go back to. Your time on Earth is over; your soul is here. ”
A melancholic silence descends upon them, and then…
“What was it like?” Doug asks. When his fellow tea-drinker gives him a questioning look, he elaborates, “The end of the world?”
With a surprised look at Doug, the other man answers him. His gaze drifts to the stars, and he seems to have to think before he speaks, considering and weighing each word carefully. “Some say that it was fire and blood and anguish. Some say that it was… peace, a needed cleansing. Some say that it was disappointingly mundane.”
An interesting non-answer. Doug frowns. “And who do you believe?”
A small, unreadable smile. “All of them.”
Eventually, sensing his dejection, Death asks, “Douglas, my good fellow?”
“Before you cross over… would you like to see how it ended?”
A hesitant pause, and then Doug nods.
“Watch,” Death orders, voice quiet but commanding, leaning over the edge of the slab. Doug obeys, doing the same.
They watch as, below them, a planet flares, brightens; a last, desperate spark of life before its end, beautiful and final.