Stories

End of the World Party – Iris Bednarski

I was at Josh’s playing Nintendo when we heard it was gonna be over hard and fast. The lady on the news was going on all saccharine about coming together but I couldn’t stop staring at her mouth. It was slight and sickly purple and there was this dissonance between the open-close of her lips and the television noise, like a sad robot or something. I was thinking that I’d still probably kiss that mouth, eyes shut chest pounding in the dark, when Josh turned to me. An end of the world party. Sure, I guess.

They were calling it planet halo. And it was hurtling towards us at like a million miles an hour, burning hot white. None of the faces on the television really knew where it came from. But that didn’t matter because in 24 hours it would be right here, colliding with Earth in a violently ecstatic union. The whole thing was kinda romantic really. From dust you came from or whatever, right?

We invited everyone who ever meant anything. The guys who kicked my ass after school and the girls who held my hand during. People with hearts pumping and heads rushing. They were all here beautiful-looking, young hearts perfect in a final forever now. I poured drinks that stung sweet and played music that felt like love. Soft-skinned shoulders shone silver in the dark. If you looked closely, you could see the invisible hands of ex-boyfriends, hollow markings on gentle pink. There was this ghostly vibrato on the speaker droning on about the agony of adolescence, and for a moment I thought our dancing bodies could save the world.

I ran into Rachel by the cellar door, her collarbone adorned with gooseflesh and glowsticks and other holy whatnots. There were these pearls of sweat beading on the small of her back beneath a gaudy lace getup. I ignored the languid movements of her fine boned features, soon to be fossilized, focusing instead on the cold kinetic heat between us. She was asking me if I wanted another beer, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that memory of my mother with the white horse and carnations. Closer now, breathing slow, Rachel ignited the image inscribed on my eyelids with her airy incantations. Yes, I am young again and there is laughter and confetti and I do not care about Rachel or her sweet breath. That was like my come to Jesus moment or whatever.

Under the snow-capped cover of an early winter’s dawn, I escaped the tragic inertia of all those young dancing hearts. Walking towards the overpass she appeared to me on a singing cloud with smoking wings and a moonbeam sword. Her skin was the colour of twilight and she smelled like soap. At that moment I fell to the shadow of her girlish feet and begged for salvation. The angel of the highway looked down at me and smiled. She handed me a candle with a fluttering flame, and I let the gospel wax pour down my arms. I kissed her hands, bruised tender, as she opened her mouth to speak in silence.

On December 31st, 1999, I watched that precious little space rock destroy my world. It’s hard to say what happened, but I do remember one scene, neither here nor there, but all at once: Rachel on the cellar floor, all ash and bone. Those beads of sweat have crystallized into diamond freckles and there’s an amber tiara above her head, some honey-molten glass. She’s still breathing lightly, I think, and I can see her watching that memory of my mother. Or maybe some other memory. But she’s peaceful and still and for an eternal moment she’s almost beautiful again.