Updated: Apr 2, 2022
Copyright 2012, Paul Hawkins
There was a party at the end of the world.
I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a light coming from the center of town. Nobody ever went to the center of town anymore. There had been nothing there alive for a long time. It had been a thing abandoned, a relic of another age, an age of industry and offices, of smoke and banks and steam. But it had been long since dead.
The same blight eventually spread out here, to the suburbs. Cars stopped working - they had been abandoned in the streets. The world stopped working.
We were the last ones. Were we the last ones? No one bothered to check any more. It had been a long time since the only rule of life had been every man for himself.
We made schools - we made clinics. I worked in both. We organized the ways we could - there were enclaves of camaraderie, small bands of charity and protection against the other side. We survived and we loved one another, but the price was high. I saw the light from the center and I went to wake my father. But my father would not wake, and at first I wept but then I thanked the Lord that he had been allowed to go peacefully in his sleep.
I put on my jacket and went outside and wondered at the light. Here and there along the street others emerged from houses and stood looking. Slowly we came into the middle of the street and came together. Slowly, in our unity, we had no fear. It was unexpected. But in the atmosphere we felt collectively we had no fear, that fear was over.
"Let's walk toward the light," I said, and they agreed. A woman in a pink night gown, a man and woman with small children, an elderly couple propping each other up, a handful of nuns from a new order that had formed in the wake of the collapse of structure. A bearish man who fixed things as he could for us. The last old priest. He came last. He was in his undershirt. He insisted he go last.
As we moved toward downtown the size of our group increased. Folks emerged from huts and hovels, from shacks and abandoned factories. They fell in beside us. Teachers and nurses, masons and medics and mechanics. No lawyers. I thought that odd. At least none admitted to being lawyers.
The light grew as we approached and with it came a drowse and languor and our consciousness swam. My God it felt good to be happy. Well not happy. But some anxiety of years was lifting.
At some point I turned to the crowd. "Why are you letting me lead you?” I asked.
The old priest shouted from the back. "In case it's a fire!"
Everybody laughed. But I sensed that it was not a fire, or if it was, it was a welcome one. But I knew why the priest chose to hang at the back. He knew the possibilities of the princes of the air.
We walked past the bodies of our enemies but it was not a gruesome thing. They simple were gone, or taken already, in spirit. Their bodies lay here and there along the sidewalks and the gutters. They were no longer animated. Something no less subtle than a sweetening of the air had unknit them. Their faces were not angry. They were calm, in some cases childlike again, even the ugliest and most scarred and tattered of faces - childlike, calm, unburdened.
At last we rounded the tall corner of a last brownstone and we saw them - thousands and thousands like us, all in a cloud of light, and the light coming from them and moving among them like small wisps.
"Come inside," they said, and "Come inside."
And so we moved in and so, as we got closer to the middle - there was more and more room as you went to the middle, not less - and we came at once to be more and less aware of one another. A woman laughed and a man laughed from somewhere but I did not see them. I felt a burden I had not even been aware of lifted from me. I was moved to tears and fell to my knees and could sense the people all around me but for one moment I was all alone in the middle of the light and knew that if I stayed down I would stay down forever, and be alone if I wanted to.
"Get up," a voice said. "It has come. I have come."
And when I got up I was aware of the crowd again and it was then that things moved beyond the range of things that I could taste or touch or feel or see. A hand had helped me up. And when I rose I had new eyes, and the light that had been in the middle led out to a million places I cannot even imagine, and people I had known or never known but should have came up to greet me, and my father who I'd left in bed, deceased, came to me in his youth and strength and hugged me.
"Am I dead?" I asked.
But everyone around was laughing. "Good God no - you're alive."
From there I walked into a myriad of a worlds and stars, a million lives and faces, and every move I made was echoed synchronistically by others, though each was independent and free willed, and each move I made was synchronistic with their movements, and amongst the million million worlds and faces in which we moved was the same light as at the center, because the center was now everywhere, and it asked nothing that we didn't want already - to learn to love, to move and in moving dance, and in dancing, create and explore.
And so in twos and threes and groups the field full of folk slowly moved away from the green banks of the river. And the dead world hung distant for one last moment in the air, like the moon of ash on a cigar, before it crumbled into nothing, and we wondered how anyone could ever have lived there.
About the author:
About the author: Paul Hawkins is a dad who does technical writing for a living and gardening as a hobby. He also tries to fix old radios. He was born in the space age, lived through the rust age, and now wades his way through this so-called virtual age. He liked the space age better.