Brenda sat on her newly acquired, penthouse balcony along the Brazilian coast. The spacious overview added to her sense of calm with its chairs, tables, and couch. She looked at her phone's stopwatch. An hour, fifty-seven minutes. The pre-programmed functions were all that now worked without any cell connection. Its battery clung to twelve percent with a red battery bar. Brenda rode out the battery anxiety that used to matter. The phone won't be a phone soon enough. There probably won't be much of anything to distinguish anymore. Brenda wondered what might survive for future generations to uncover, whatever species that would be. How much fossil evidence did they find at the other asteroid impact areas. She smiled. Not much if any. She didn't even bother with the actual time anymore. Everyone in America had been inundated with the time of 12:57 pm CST for the last two years. Her end time counted would be 3:57 pm. Two long years of fear, conspiracies, and counter-conspiracies since the sighting of the world-ending event by an amateur astronomer using a large Hawaiian telescope.
The end of big box stores, political infighting, and Major League Baseball, she often told herself. Brenda couldn’t wait. As much as she feared the end, her heart of hearts savored the idea of the mass extinction. She felt less enthusiastic about the richest one-percenters possibly outliving everyone in their not-so-secret bunker. All the same, her hot cocoa with extra whip cream provided a bit of comfort before the end of the world. She stuffed her mouth with a third chocolate creme pie. That’s how a meal should taste. A plate of cooked bacon courtesy of the previous owners wafted into the air. No point in counting calories at this point. Brenda looked over the ocean’s calm. She wondered what death would be like. A fearful tinge crawled into her mind. I don’t remember before my birth and likely won’t remember any of this bullcrap. She swallowed the remnants of the sweets. Her hand reached for the last whiskey swallows. Being at ground zero will be the most epic of epics.
The upscale, Brazilian neighborhood wasn’t as empty as she hoped. She had fought her way into the building, to her new apartment after sneaking into the city from outside the barricades. Three dead and four wounded were left behind in her path. In the end, she ran and shot behind herself through the lobby doors. No one followed as she took cover from the stairwell. She had suffered a bleeding graze to her bicep and significant bruises along her back and butt. At least there isn’t any concern about death by infection, she thought.
She took her pick of empty apartments in Olinda, Brazil. Brenda realized that no one moves furniture when one finds out that you live at ground zero. She long threw out the family pictures and personal effects for their connections to a life that wasn't hers. The previous occupants couldn't be bothered to take them and there wouldn't be any future occupants to care. She often wondered what happened to the Juarez family. How far they did they travel before the world shut down? People that ran the world ended up running from their responsibilities to the hugs of their loved ones or off high balconies or to the bottom of dark bottles.
Everything in this beautiful apartment will soon be reduced to ash and dust. Gives new meaning to ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ She scrounged through the nearby apartments for her last meals. While the power had been out for a bit, some food staples held their taste with an improvised fire and a dash of flavoring. Brenda hadn’t been accustomed to South American food, but she made due for the time being. Impending dead beggars can’t be picky choosers, she mused to herself. She used a neighboring apartment down the hall for her balcony cookouts, fearing a fire in her chosen residence. I could really enjoy some SpaghettiO’s and Meatballs at the end, or the tomato soup that you add the water to that my stepmother made on my sick days.
A semi-automatic pistol rested on the outside table among the gluttonous buffet. I’m going to die by that asteroid one way or the other. Cries of those left behind were her evidence that others were in the area. Those too old, too young, too poor, too prone to violence, or too frightened to move remained below her. Those trapped below became gangland pawns or worse by all accounts. As the months grew thinner, the panic grew wider. Martial law in most cities and towns did little to ease the local populace. The curfew restrictions worked when cops stayed around to enforce the edicts. Most didn’t stay. Those who did found themselves easily outnumbered and dead to the mob mentalities who didn’t know how to process their helplessness. Flash mobs looted stores. The religious fundamentalists looted the sanity of anyone around their gatherings.
Brenda thought about all the was wrong with the world, most often about the growing moral descent of empathy. Political influence easily bought and a system that blunts any accountability. Organized crime and cartels. Pedophile-friendly institutions and rape culture. She wondered if the good ever outweighed the evil or if people focused on the positive because that was more digestible. NIMBY, she thought, not in my backyard had been the prevailing, unspoken motto, unless a camera feed shoved it in your face. Brenda felt proud at her marches for Black Lives Matter after witnessing George Floyd being killed. She realized after the anger had been dispersed that a couple of marches and donations to local, Black causes couldn't get close to solving systemic racism. Maybe the asteroid could reshape people’s perspective about how special humanity is, she considered. Even if so, the rock would even out humanity to bones and dust. Death, the great leveler. If anything this brought out humanity’s purest emotions. Long gone went the first world social correctness of recycling, safe spaces, and gender matching, she thought. Now what everyone cared about was the welfare of their own families, stockpiling supplies, and getting as far from the impact as possible. Brenda thought about how most of the hardcore science deniers during the time of Covid began raiding the shelves at the local grocery warehouses. Seems like when the predicted human death toll is ninety-five plus percent, viral conspiracy theorists become science apologists really quick.
The asteroid strike had been dubbed The Big Event in the news. The first one to name it was Diandra Brown, a scientist attached to the NBC News desk as an expert in science and technology. Brenda scoffed at every reference to the title, The Big Event. People on the streets had been calling it The Motherfucker, or TMF for those sensitive types who still worried about using profanity. Her favorite meme on social media had been a giant space rock with the face of Samuel L. Jackson and the title Supreme Motherfucker in block script under the fiery ball. Television stations around the countries stopped bleeping the profanity after the reality of the world's impending death sunk in deeper. Some toed the old school line. Brenda had rolled her eyes at this before boarding the last plane to Brasilia. Why would any news station care one fuck about getting an FCC fine? she wondered. Ain’t like anyone’s going to be around to collect.
For the most part of her final days, she enjoyed the spacious view from the penthouse. A strong breeze teased her with the smell of ocean saltwater. She longed for one last walk along the beach. To feel the sand on her feet, to see some local wildlife. These people knew how to live. Maybe they’re on a private jet to Russia like all the other snobs. She thought back to a comedy that she used to watch with her brother before the looters took him from her. Caddyshack. The movie motto had been ‘The slobs against the snobs.’ Now the only motto that mattered was ‘Everyone rush to Russia.’ She had convinced herself down to the beach for a sandy experience several times. Each plan had been eviscerated with a series of street battles for useless turf. The automatic gun orchestra forced her to rethink her plans. Dying in an alley by a stray bullet wasn’t part of the plan. I could have stayed closer to home for that. Brenda wished the gangs below her overlook would stop shooting at one other and make some sort of peace. She knew that wishing in certain times was useless, let alone within the context of the moment. Maybe this is how they process their mortality, by seeing who is the last man standing when the sonic explosion rips apart their gang colors as if anyone elsewhere would care which group took the trophy.
Each gunshot and scream became audio mosquitoes to her. She had made the mistake of leaning over to see the violent entertainment. A couple of incoming bullets sent her diving behind the chest-high, stone wall. Brenda worried that someone would come up to her pad. Every bit of unnecessary furniture became shoved into the outside hallway to bolster her sense of peace. By the time they identify this place and get through the obstacles, The Motherfucker will be kissing the atmosphere and it won’t matter.
Brenda found that her existential crises became shelved as the sun basked her with embracing rays. Nothing can be too wrong sitting on a mesh lounge chair drinking whiskey and eating bacon naked, she considered. No one to see my imperfections on the top floor. A part of her mind took long, deliberate walks into the first stage of grief. Denial. Maybe it will miss us and I can cozy up in this pad for a while before the owners turn around and come home. Brenda fantasized about claiming “squatter’s rights” before being hauled into a jail cell with some tattooed banditas. Brenda found exclusive comfort in her imagination. Without television or radio or books she could read, her mind became the best streaming service with a constant connection.
She laughed to herself before taking the tumbler glass's final sip of whiskey and water. Her mind went back to the more extreme of survival ideas. Brenda and much of the world secretly or publicly snickered at a billionaire Jennifer Johnson’s failed journey into the atmosphere. The mogul, her crew, and several hundred passengers had made their mortal bet on being able to outlive the rest of humanity from orbit, at least until after the impact and fallout. Madame Cash Out, as she had legally changed her name to, went on the media circuits to claim that she had a dream about being humanity's last messiah. She and her team would design, build and launch the last hope in the waning time of the impending impact. She debated with engineers and scientists about her endeavor on whichever channel offered her time and attention to fill for the news addicted public. This brought out enemies from all sides of the political, academic, religious, and social woodwork.
The Ark 1 took to the sky on unproven technology and looped downward after forty-nine seconds of thrust. A passing drone caught footage of the wreck. There were no national moments of silence or tributes outside of the incident being one more last-ditch effort that didn't work. She considered back to the launch of several space-bound crafts designed to either move the projectile's trajectory or break the iron behemoth apart far enough away to be a danger versus a threat. She remembered some blockbuster movie whose exhaustive plot did better than reality. People began the full-scale panic after the final attempt failed.
A somber, exhausted American Vice-President took the podium. He wore a black ribbon on his navy lapel signifying the loss of his boss. "We have run out of time, we have run out of options. Our last chances have been exhausted. This is humanity's finality. Pray the end is swift, pray you go without pain. Goodnight to my fellow Americans and those watching around the world." She had watched him draw a pistol from his right coat pocket and shove the barrel in his open mouth. Yells called out off-screen. Someone in a black suit rushed the Oval Office desk from the right side. The camera never caught the sight of the gun going off. A loud bang confirmed everyone's assumption. The cable feed went to ambiguous colored stripe bars and buzzing.
Brenda checked her watch. Four minutes. The scientists had double and triple-checked themselves about the time and location of impact. Four minutes before nothing will matter. Four minutes until the most significant natural disaster in the history of humanity. She stood up from her chair and moved to the balcony’s wall. The sun and wind serenaded her skin. Her hair blew back. She long ago let go of the need for a body razor or scented skin cremes.
"Four minutes, mother fuckers," she screamed. Brenda reminded herself, you’re not in Kansas anymore. The natives speak Spanish. No, Portuguese. Brenda didn't know a word of Portuguese or much Spanish.
“Hey, bendejos, four-o minute-o’s,” Brenda announced with a booming voice. She caught faint whispers of the echo between nearby buildings. A series of gunshots rang out back and forth. Yeah, get your last bullets in, because the bullet from afar will be quieting you all. She eased back into her lounge seat, unwilling to acknowledge her expanding terror.
The experts had confirmed that humanity could survive, at least immediately, far from Ground Zero. People began to rumor that the world’s billionaires had begun a survival community in Northeastern Russia. A CIA informant claimed to have maps and communication intercepts regarding Sibirskiy Zimniy Domik aka The Siberian Winter Lodge. While the details weren't ever made public after the informant's suspicious death, the operative made the case that the elite were planning to ride out the storm and re-establish human development underground.
Brenda waited for the impending sonic boom, the last sound she planned to ever hear. She closed her eyes to the day and ate the last piece of bacon off the small plate. Perfection, she thought. This is the greatest gift humanity could ever receive. She keenly watched at an emerald-colored, small-winged fly seeking rest on the patio table.
The Motherfucker slammed into the upper atmosphere, one point nine seconds later than the world's smartest egg heads predicted. A series of satellites and floating debris were instantly pulverized. The acoustic waves tore through the lower atmosphere ahead of the projectile. The ripples wrecked into Olinda decimating every structure in its path within seconds. The asteroid tore through the blue sky at 40,000 mph. Several large rock chunks broke away in the air and crashed upon Europe and Asia. No one remained alive to see the fiery explosion just off the Brazilian coast. The blast could have been seen from the abandoned International Space Station with the naked eye if anyone remained inside. A three-and-a-half-mile impact zone vaporized the city’s history of development. Earth and water burst upwards into the atmosphere. The world officially ended for ninety-seven percent of humanity. Those who made their path into the Siberian underworld spent the remainder of their days fighting with one another until the air went bad from knockoff Chinese filters. The next day, the sun rose to greet a clouded world devoid of blue skies. Decades passed as the debris hung without pause. A new world devoid of humans began under the thick cloudy blanket.