“All set, sir. Everything’s in position.”
“On my command… three… two… one… NOW!”
A set of explosions rocked the earth. When the dust settled, there was nothing but rubble.
“You can’t still have that garage!” Simon wrenched the offending object away from his little brother and started smashing it.
“Maaaaa!” Manny wailed. “Simon’s smashing my garage!”
“I have to!” Simon insisted. “It’s the end of the world! There’s nothing left but rubble.” He pulled large chunks off of the garage and started strewing them about what was left of the town. “You can smash the bakery,” he told his brother. “Make sure all the food is destroyed.”
Manny, somewhat mollified by this, began taking LEGOs™ off of the top of the bakery. “BOOM!” he shouted, getting into the moment. For an extra explosion, he lifted his foot and brought it down hard on top of the bank. LEGOs™ went flying everywhere. Manny howled in pain.
Simon, liking the noise, started mimicking it. “That can be the sirens!” he told Manny. He was not sure what the sirens were for, exactly, but he felt that the end of the world ought to have sirens.
Kayla, at a desk in one corner of the playroom, clapped her hands over her ears. “Can you boys please stop making so much noise?” As if in response, a handful of LEGOs™ came flying her way, ricocheting off her back. It seemed to Kayla that her brothers did not know how to play without shrieking, shouting, and throwing things. It made it very difficult to get any homework done. The actual end of the world had been much quieter.
Kayla had just woken up one morning to find the rest of the world not there. She had been expecting snow overnight, so the first thing she had done after getting out of bed was rush to the window and fling her sunshine-yellow curtains aside, expecting, hoping, that everything would be covered in a muffling blanket of white.
Instead, everything was covered in a claustrophobic blanket of black.
Kayla had not quite believed her eyes. She had needed to go outside to be sure. Perhaps it was a prank?
It was not a prank.
The black stuff was everywhere. Kayla opened the front door and was shocked by how much stuff it covered. The front walk was completely buried; the lawn was covered. The trash cans in the yard were also hidden from sight, nothing but slight lumps in the ever-shifting black curtain of nothing to mark where they had been. Kayla could not even see as far as the street through the shifting mess. She closed the door and did not venture outside.
“MUM! DAD!” She had hollered, running back up the stairs. “THE WORLD IS GONE! COME SEE!”
Mum came out into the hallway in her pyjamas, her hair up in curlers. “What? Have you had a bad dream, lovey?”
Dad followed her out into the hall, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “No ending the world before I’ve had my coffee. That wouldn’t be fair.”
Fair or not, the world as they knew it had ended that day. Kayla led her parents downstairs and showed them, opening the front door and gesturing.
“It does rather look like the end of the world,” Dad admitted. “I’d better go buy bread, milk, and eggs.”
“You can’t!” Kayla protested. “We don’t know if it’s safe!”
“Not before you’ve had your coffee, dear,” Mum reminded him, and she went to put the kettle up.
It went without saying that there was no school or work that day. Instead, the family sat together in the living room, as Dad scrolled through various news articles on his phone, pausing to read some of them out loud, and Mum texted various friends and acquaintances to make sure they were all okay.
Even Simon and Manny were quiet for once.
“Listen to this.” Dad looked up from his phone. “This article says all that black stuff is from an exploded power plant, but there’s no evidence of any power plant having exploded, and so far as I know, there’s no power plant near enough to produce this much ash. If it is ash.” Then, a while later, “This one says it’s ash from a volcano. It might be ash, but as far as I know, we’re not in the range of any volcanoes. And there’s no evidence to say which volcano it would have been, either.” The other suggestions were much the same. It was from the California wildfires, and had been blown around the world by stronger winds than anything anyone had ever experienced before. It was visible radiation from the destroyed ozone layer. It was ash that had been stored inside glaciers for hundreds of years and had been released because of climate change. Each theory was crazier and more unbelievable than the last, but it seemed that everyone agreed that pollution or global warming had caused something to burn or explode.
“‘We haven’t taken proper care of the earth,’” Dad read aloud from yet another site full of wild speculations, “‘and this is retribution for it.’”
By the end of that day, there were definite reports that the blackness outside was toxic.
“How will we get groceries?” Kayla wondered aloud.
Dad looked grim. “We’ll have to make do with what we have.”
“For how long?”
“We just don’t know, honey,” Mum answered. “Until somebody figures out what to do about the situation out there.”
“Does this mean we can’t eat anymore?” Simon wanted to know. “I’m hungry.”
“We’ll have plenty to eat, love,” Mum hastened to assure him. “We just might have to get a bit creative. And we’ve got plenty of pasta, at any rate.”
Dad looked slightly ashamed. “There was a sale. I got a great price for it,” he tried to excuse himself.
Mum laughed. “It’s a good thing there was, too. You bought enough pasta to last us until Doomsday.”
Dad laughed, too. “I guess it is. Nothing to worry about then, hey?”
But Kayla couldn’t help thinking that Doomsday had already come.
Once everyone had a bit of time to get used to things, the end of the world was surprisingly normal. It turned out that the ash (it was not exactly ash, but that’s what everyone started calling it for lack of a better word) was harmless as long as it did not come in contact with human skin. People began to venture outdoors again, making sure they were properly wrapped up. Groceries (bread, milk, and eggs, among other things) were bought and the mail was delivered. There was a complicated scrubbing procedure to be gone through every time anyone came indoors, but it was a small price to pay for being able to go out again.
A lot of school had been missed in the interim, and there was a lot of work to be made up. Simon and Manny barely noticed the difference, but they were young, and didn’t get the same kind of homework Kayla did. Kayla bowed under the weight of the extra work. Her teachers were piling it all on in an attempt to finish their curriculums. She scarcely had time to sleep anymore. Dark circles grew under her eyes.
It figured, Kayla thought as she tried to shut out the destructive noises of her brothers’ game. She had lived through the end of the world, but she was going to drown under the weight of all her extra homework. And buying bread, milk, and eggs would not help this time.