Tuesday, October 12, 2010


A short story from one of our favorites, Joseph Lane.

Have you ever seen anything like it?” Jim asked, adjusting his hat.

No, never.” Said Tom, handing Jim $1.76 in change, then placing his milk and bread in a plastic bag.

What do you think it is? Where did it come from?” Jim grabbed the bag, and impulsively inspected its contents.

I dunno, but it wasn't here at 11, when I was closing up last night.” Tom fiddled with the 'Give a penny, keep a penny jar', then gazed out the store window like Tom.

So nobody saw or heard anything last night?” Said Jim, now standing at the window.

Nope, which is odd considering how busy this street is, and with all the apartment buildings there are around here.” Tom walked out from behind the store counter, and joined Jim at the store window.

I know it sounds crazy, and I don't believe and that sorta shit, but it doesn't look earthly.”

Jim and Tom stood and watched the burgeoning collection of firemen, police officers, press, and the generally curious that had been gathering since earlier that morning.

“I bet it's a bunch of students from the art college in the city, all an elaborate hoax. Kids these days, you know.” Said Tom, holding the store door open for Jim.

“Maybe. I will be sure to keep an eye on the news. Thanks Tom.”

“See ya Jim.”

Elizabeth Kelly was putting on her face, staring into a small compact makeup kit.

“We are on in 5 Liz.” Said Kevin, her producer and cameraman.

“I wish we had more to say. Am I talking to the geologist, or the police chief first?” Elizabeth fiddled with her hair.

“We are going with a geologist first. 3 minutes.” Kevin picked up his camera, pressed a few buttons. “2 minutes.”

“Michael Fredericks, right? The geologist.”

“Yes. 45 seconds.”

Michael Fredericks approached Elizabeth. They shuck hands.

“25 seconds.”

Michael adjusted his tie. “Do I look at you, or into the camera?”

“The camera”

“In 5,4,3,2,1...” Kevin points to Elizabeth.

“Good afternoon. We are here on St. George Street, in picturesque town of Mapleton Ontario. Where sometime last night a mysterious Orb appeared. With me today is Michael Fredericks, associate professor of geology at Eastern University. Mr Fredericks, what are we looking at?”

“It's an Orb, and from my measurements it seems to be geometrically perfect.”

“Have you seen anything like it in the natural world?” Asked Elizabeth, cursing Micheal Fredericks, thinking to herself 'oh great a professorial type, that has the personality of a log.'

“No. I am also very confused as to what it is made of. From the little time I have had to study it. I am not sure what materials make it up.”

“An elaborate hoax?”

“I can't imagine that it is anything else.”

“Thank you Mr Fredericks.” Didn't that go well, she thought.

“You are welcome.”

Michael Fredericks shuck Elizabeth than Kevin's hands and joined a crowd of people standing near the Orb.

“Is the police chief ready Kev? Are still going live?”

Kevin, now talking on a cell phone, held a finger up to Elizabeth, as if to tell her to wait a minute. The look in his eyes was one of amazement and fear. He mumbled a few 'ahas' and 'okays', maybe a 'yep'. Whatever was being said on the other end of the line, was obviously far more important than anything Kevin might add in rebuttal.

Elizabeth was both impatient and curious. She would shoot looks Kevin's way, only to be met with a nod or a finger. What the hell was going on? This was her first chance at any real face time on the nightly news. What was the delay?

Kevin stuffed his cell into his pocket. Walked towards Elizabeth.

“What's up? Are we interviewing the police chief or what?” Elizabeth's hands were in the air. She hated not being in control.

“This story is changing, it's bigger than we thought.” Kevin said, a far off look in his eyes.

“What do you mean? Fill me in Kev. What the hell is going on?”

“I just got off the phone with Toronto. The have told me that there have been similar reports of Orbs popping up all over the globe. There have been at least 35 discoveries in Canada alone. Discoveries in Europe, Asia, and Australia as well. There might be thousands of these things. We have been told to sit tight, and wait further instruction.” Kevin's phone rang again, he walked a few metres away from the gathering crowd, and answered it.

“Get our ass to a TV.” The voice on the other end of the phone said.

“Why, what is going on?” Kevin responded, the colour draining from his cheeks.

“One of the Orbs, just outside Brisbane Australia has been vibrating and changing colours for the last half hour or so. Go! Something significant is happening. Oh and we want you guys to get a safe distance from the Orb in Mapleton.”

Elizabeth got as close as she could to Kevin. Trying her hardest to listen to the voice on the other coming from Kevin's phone...

“How far is a safe distance? What if this one starts to vibrate and change colours? I want to catch it all on film. I am not going to miss it.” Kevin shrugged. Elizabeth's eyes grew.

“Find a place with a good view of the Orb, but I want you guys inside. And for God's sake be careful. Keep your cell phone on, we will be in constant communication.”

“OK, will do. Good bye.” Kevin stuffed his phone back in his pocket. “We have to tell all these people that they should get a safe distance from the Orb. Where is that police chief?”

“What's up Kev? Is the Orb dangerous? Let's tell the story. Let's get the camera running.” Elizabeth was excited, she had the feeling she was now sitting on the story of the century.

“There are thousands of these things Liz. There is one in Brisbane that is vibrating and changing colour. We need to get folks safely away from this thing, until we have a better idea what the hell is happening.” Kevin, ever the fatalist, had a feeling that something horrible was about to happen. He had that feeling when he first saw the Orb, early this morning. It wasn't because he and his new girlfriend were supposed to head off to Cuba tomorrow. He just didn't want this gig in the first place, he was a day away from vacation, and he didn't feel like spending the day in some hick town in western Ontario. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach as soon as he first caught sight of the orb. Something was not right, and he knew it.

Police chief Fred Campbell and his team of 10 officers had spent most of the day trying to keep teenagers from crawling all over the orb. He had no idea what it was, frankly he didn't care. He would much rather be home in front of his brand new 50 inch HD TV watching NASCAR. This was an unexpected, and unwanted event, that he couldn't wait to for it to be all over with. He was 64 years old. About 6 months away from a much deserved retirement. This was nothing be a pain in his ass.

Constable Gnew, the new kid, ran up to the chief red faced and excited. “Phone call chief. It is Ottawa, they say it is important.”

Michael Gnew, 24, fresh faced, straight out of cop college, passed a cellphone to the chief. “Thanks

Mikey. Keep an eye on that group of boppers over there will you?”

“Sure thing chief.” Mike walked over towards a fence where 5 or 6 teenagers were hanging out. Seeing him approach, they tossed their cigarettes and quickly dispersed.

“Chief Campbell. Aha, yes, who is this? OK, yes. Really, yes I am listening.” The knit in Chief Campbell's brow grew more and more pronounced, the longer he listened to voice on the other end of the phone.

After a few minutes, his jaw dropped. He pressed the red button on the phone, then stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled. “Everyone clear the area! Everyone go home!” He whistled louder, almost drowning out the squawks of his walkie-talkie, and the voices of his perplexed officers.

“What's going on chief?”

“Just clear the area.”

“What we tell the crowd?”

“Tell them this area is unsafe.”

“Is it the Orb chief? Should they be afraid of the Orb?”

“For shit's sake, YES! Clear the area!”

Slowly the area around Tom's Convenience Store, and eventually a 5 block radius around the Orb site was cleared of civilians. The only folks visible, anywhere near the orb, were first responders, and folks in Hazmat suits. About once every half hour a press, military, or government helicopter would circle well above the orb.

“Fucking copters, you and I should be up in one of them, telling this story.” Said Elizabeth plunked on a hotel bed watching NewsWorld.

“You should be watching our network.” Said Kevin, leaning against a dresser, drinking a Heineken he had grabbed from the bar fridge.

“Screw that, this is a National, hell Global emergency, I only trust the National broadcaster when things go all to hell. And besides, my network just pulled me from the story of the century, so fuck em.” With that Elizabeth fell back on the bed, kicking her shows off as see landed.

“It's for our own safety Liz. No one knows what those things are...”

Just then there was a bright flash, then only static from the feed in Brisbane. Within a second or two Peter Landsbridge was seen fiddling with his ear piece. “Ahem, we're sorry, it seems that we are having technical difficulties with our feed from Brisbane. We will return there live once things are ironed out. For those just tuning in, we have been covering, the still developing story, of thousands and thousands of orbs that have appeared as if out of nowhere worldwide over the last 12 to 24 hours...” Landsbridge held his finger to his ear once again. His eyebrows rose, confusion, then what looked like despair

crossed his face.

“... we are getting unconfirmed reports of massive power outages in Western Australia. We have been unable to reach any of our correspondents in Brisbane. The ABC in Sydney seems to have gone dark. Stay tuned, we will bring you further information as it comes in.”

Elizabeth sat up, Kevin but his beer down on the dresser. From their window on the 5 floor of the Mapleton Best Western, they could see the very top of the Orb. It sat grey, it was not vibrating or glowing, yet. Suddenly Kevin's phone rang, then even before he could answer it Elizabeth's rang. On the other end of Kevin's phone was his girlfriend.

“Hey babe. I am safe... I am at a hotel, a Best Western about 5 blocks away... I don't know when I'll be home... I know, I know, our flight leaves tomorrow around 2. Head office promised me that I will be home in time for me to make our flight... I love you too... stop worrying, I will be there soon... I gotta go babe, Landsbridge is about to tell us what is going on...a ha, yep. Love you too. Good bye.”

Elizabeth had a very similar conversation with her mother, minus the talk of air travel of course. She too cut her mom off early to see what Peter Landsbridge had to report.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is with a heavy heart, and mind you this story is still developing, and much is still unconfirmed, that I have to report that communication, whether it be by landline, cell phone or via the Internet, has ceased with Australia. Sydney has gone quiet, there is no news from Brisbane, Melbourne or even cities as far away, as Adelaide or Perth. Our producers were able, just a few minutes ago, to talk briefly with New Zealand's Foreign Minister, who released this statement: “At 2:26 am local time, a flash of light was seen throughout the skies of Oceania. Moments later, we lost all communication with our dear friends and neighbours in Australia. We have scrambled jets, and have called on the navy to send ships carrying food, water, and medical supplies. We ask that the global community say a quick prayer for Australia. And we make a promise to go above and beyond to help our dear friends recover from whatever this event it is that is happening in Australia.”

Landsbridge began to look ever worried. “There are now reports of vibrating and glowing Orbs throughout Asia. China and Japan have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. The American President, we are told, is meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Canadian Prime Minister, has yet to call for a national state of emergency, but he has asked that citizens stay well away from any of the Orbs, and that each Canadian municipality be ready to enact emergency measures at a moment's notice.”

Kevin's phone rang. It was Toronto: “We want you and Elizabeth to get in the van and drive to the airport. We are pulling you out of Mapleton, we are bringing you in. The corporate jet is waiting on runaway 3. Flash your press badges, the folks at the airport are expecting you.”

Kevin looked up at Elizabeth, who was transfixed by the TV. “We gotta go. There is a plane waiting for us. They want us out of here.”

“What about the story? We are here already, we can tell as good as anyone else.” Said Elizabeth, stubborn to the end.

“We gotta go. Those are our orders.”

The first Google Satellite images of Australia were being broadcast. Australia was flattened. A huge plume of smoke could be seen from space.

“Holy shit” Said Elizabeth.

Kevin grabbed Elizabeth's arm, pulled her off the bed. “We have got to go. I am not letting you, or I die in Mapleton.”

The drive to the airport was bumper to bumper. Panicked civilians, with little idea what to do, had piled into their cars and headed to wherever they thought might be safest. The airport, it would seem, was as good a destination as any. Elizabeth and Kevin listened to the radio as they drove.

NATO and the American Military were trying various methods to destroy Orbs. Conventional methods and weaponry had yet to work. The President up to this point refused to consider the nuclear option. There was however, an on going operation, just outside Seattle Washington, where the US Military was attempting to dig up an Orb, load it onto a rocket, where it would be blasted into space where it could blow up, or flash, or do whatever it does above the Earth's atmosphere. “The worry,” said the radio newscaster “is time.”

Now at the airport, Elizabeth and Kevin weaved through the frenzied crowd of stranded passengers, and folks trying to fly as far away from the Mapleton area as possible. Kevin lead them towards a customer service kiosk. Once there, Kevin flashed his press badge and said that he had been told that everything was set up, that there was a plane waiting for himself and Elizabeth on runway 3. The customer service representative punched a few words into his computer, looked over Kevin and Elizabeth a couple of times, then said: “Of course, please follow me.”

The representative lead them through customs, without being metal detected, no passports were shown, then hurriedly down long airport corridors. Just as they were about to enter gate 64, which would lead them onto the waiting plane, the lights dimmed and they heard load gasps throughout the airport.

“What now?” Asked Elizabeth, clinging hard to Kevin's arm. “I don't know? But I think it is best that we get on the plane, and get out of here.”

Elizabeth took a few steps backwards, she wanted to know what was happening.

“Liz, please, there is nothing we can do, no matter what's happening. Let's get on this plane, and home to our loved one's, while we still can.” Kevin lurched forward and grabbed Elizabeth's left arm. She tore it from his grasp and ran back into the airport. Kevin ran after her.

They didn't have to run far because high above the seats in the waiting area of Gate 64, there was a TV. Peter Landsbridge, even more ashen, and shocked as before, reported that the world had lost China, most of South East Asia. Japan, Mongolia, India and the extreme East of Russia. Most of the Eastern world was no longer responding to communication attempts.

Elizabeth and Kevin stood silently staring at the TV for a few minutes. Shocked, almost unable to move, Kevin finally grabbed Elizabeth's hand and said “Let's get home to our families. Please, Elizabeth, let's get on that plane.” Elizabeth silently capitulated.

Elizabeth and Kevin were not alone on the plane. There were about 15 other people, fortunate enough to have connections within the corporation, that had secured seats. The Vice President's son was on board, so too were another team of producer and reporter. The rest of the passengers were mostly family of executives, or advertising salespeople.

“Lady's and gentlemen, my name is Charlie McNichol, I will be your captain. We are scheduled to depart from runway 6 at 4:15 pm, or in about a half an hour. In the meantime, the lovely and capable Michelle will be on hand to cater to your food or drink needs. The flight itself, will take approximately an hour and 20 minutes. We are anticipating higher than average traffic at Pearson International, I will better inform you once I have a better idea what's happening in Toronto. So sit tight, we will be in the air soon.”

“Sexist bastard.” Elizabeth muttered.

Kevin shrugged, wondered where this lovely and capable Michelle was hiding. He needed a drink to straighten himself out.

Elizabeth dug in her travel bag and pulled out her iPad. Thank God for 3G technology, she thought. She instinctively checked her emails, then a quick peek in on her social networks. Same old shit, bills and an email from her mom in her email box. Twitter and Facebook were littered with fears that the end was near. Surprisingly considering the reported devastation in Australia, and Asia. The Web seemed to be so far unaffected.
Elizabeth typed in the url for CNN. Things have gone all to hell, shit like this is right up CNN's alley, she thought. The headline, written in big bold black letters was: IS THIS THE END? Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle, Jim Morrison's lyrics : “This is the end. My only friend, the end” were bouncing in her head. Oh how she loved the Doors as a teenager.

Kevin looked over Elizabeth's shoulder. “Are we all dead yet?” He asked, a week attempt at humour, he knew, but at this point, that's all he could come up with.

“Ha, I don't think so, unless flying in a corporate jet is some new sort of heaven, purgatory, or limbo.”

“Are you religious Liz?” Asked Kevin, noticing that Michelle, the stewardess, was approaching with a drink cart.

“Nah, I am borderline atheist. Not full-blown, figured I might wanna recant on my death bed, you know, just in case I am wrong.” Elizabeth looked up and smiled at Michelle.

“Would you folks like something to drink quickly before we take off?” Michelle asked, and yes, she was beautiful.

“I'll have a glass of dry white wine.” Said Elizabeth, lowering the try in front of her.

“And you sir?”

“A gin and tonic, with a lemon, no ice.” It was obvious that Kevin had said that many, many times before.

Michelle poured Elizabeth and Kevin's drinks. “Any good news?”, she asked Elizabeth as she passed her, her wine.

“Thanks. Not really. Orbs are glowing and vibrating all over Europe now. The whole continent is in a state of emergency and panic. Whatever is going on, it seems to be headed steadily west. Scientists are trying to calculate exactly when each Orb flashes, and the extent and distance of destruction each Orb causes. I'd hate to come off as a fatalist, or a Debbie Downer, but I think we are all fucked. You'll get us good and drunk though, won't you?”

Michelle, a little taken aback by Elizabeth's rant, passed the g & t to Kevin, and said “Sure thing honey, we might as well go out happy.”

“Thanks Michelle, I hope to see you on multiple occasions throughout the flight.” said Kevin, as flirty as possible.

Michelle smiled,then pushed her cart away.

The jet's engines began to idle faster, as the captain began to taxi towards the runway.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you would please direct your attention to your stewardess Michelle, she will give you a run through on the safety and emergency features of this aircraft. We will be a taking off soon, and should be arriving in Toronto in about an hour and 20 minutes. Sit tight, and enjoy the rest of the flight.”

Elizabeth instinctively put away her iPad, she had been chastised by more than a few stewards and stewardesses about the use of electronic devices during take off. Kevin however, always tried to buck that rule, he purposely plugged some headphones into his iPhone, and stared out the window. Surely the rules are much more lax on a corporate bird, he thought. He was right, Michelle paid no attention to him. She had the apocalypse on her mind.

Minutes later the jet was in full flight, headed slightly south east towards Canada's largest city. Both Elizabeth and Kevin had 3 drinks during the flight, but little was said. They seemed to have come up with a non-verbal argument not to follow the news while they were in the sky. Surely the world wouldn't come to the end while they puddle jumped the Great Lakes.

Kevin recognized the ever-growing expanse that is Toronto Ontario Canada, as the captain made his descent. Home sweet home, he mumbled to himself. Then he wondered if he was ever going to get to Cuba with his girlfriend.

“Have you got anyone picking you up at the airport?' Kevin asked Liz. Holding his empty glass up, hoping that Michelle would notice and pour him one last drink.

“Yes. I emailed my mom before we took off. She promised to take me back to her place and feed me a proper mail. I called it a Last Supper, but I don't think she thought it was funny. Have you got a ride. My mom lives way out in Markham, but I am sure she'd be willing to drop you off somewhere.” Elizabeth declined Michelle's offer to top up her wine.

“Thanks for the offer... thanks Michelle... but I have to get back to head office, who knows, they might

need me out in the field. I will use the company card and get a taxi to zoom me into town.” Kevin sipped his g & t, and watched Toronto get bigger, and bigger as they approached the airport.

The captain pointed the jet straight and true, smoothly landing at Pearson International Airport. He taxied slowly to an empty gate, turned the off the engines, and met the passengers as they left the plane. Both he and Michelle did the forced-friendly good byes. Both wondered if they'd ever have to perform the routine again. Captain McNichol, had already been told that all commercial flights were grounded, not just in North America, but Worldwide. He might have landed his last jet.

Elizabeth and Kevin departed at the arrivals lounge. They hugged, told each other to stay in touch, then went their separate ways. Elizabeth was met by a teary-eyed mother, who threw her arms around her arrms around her daughter. She had a look of deep dread, a look that Elizabeth had never seen on her mother's face before. Kevin made his way out a set of carousel doors, where a line up of taxis where there for his choosing.

“It's gonna be alright mom. We will figure this out. A few space rocks, or whatever the hell those things are, are not going to destroy humanity.” Huzzah to false hope. Elizabeth hated seeing her mom worry, she'd come up with anything in order to stop her mother from fretting.

“You stink of wine.” Those were the first words her mother said to her. Which made Elizabeth roll her eyes, something perfected since she was 9-years-old. “Oh I am glad you are home. Have you been following the news? Dear Lord, I am not sure what to make of any of it. I am scared Lizzy.”

“Let's just get home mom. Any news from dad?” Elizabeth's parents have been divorced since she was 8. He is a senior environmental engineer, working for a big oil company in Saskatchewan. He remarried, and was the father of two young men in their early 20's.

“Your father, and both brother's called the house earlier this afternoon. They each said that they had tried to call your cell, but there was no answer. I told them that you were flying home, and that you'd touch base after supper. Oh and Jimmy called. He said he was worried, that you haven't answered any of his calls or emails.”

Jimmy and Elizabeth have been on again and off again since they first met at university. She cares for him dearly, but she has been over him for a long time. They hook up for drinks and a shag every now and then, but she has become increasingly tired of the whole blessed thing. Elizabeth figures that if she ignores him, maybe they can be off again permanently. Hell maybe the Orbs will take care of it for her. Fatalism isn't so bad after all.

“Didn't you bring any bags?” Elizabeth's mom asked, as she approached her tiny red Yaris.

“Nah, we were told to get to the airport as quickly as possible, Kevin and I both left everything, except our carry-ons at the hotel. I guess we could get the hotel to ship it to us later.”

“If there is a later.” Her mom said, slowly pulling out of her parking spot.

“That's the spirit mom. I am going to turn on the radio, let's find out how near the end is.”

“I'd rather listen to my Brahms's cd. I am not sure I can take any more talk of the end of the world.”

“Fair enough. I will check things out on my iPad.”

“Please do.”

The 407, usually bumper to bumper at 6:30pm, was eerily quiet. The chaos that was the roads only 2 or 3 hours ago, had ebbed. It was as if Ontarians had found their safe place. Like they were hunkering down for a storm.

Elizabeth had no Internet service. She couldn't log on. “Shit, the Internet is down. The shit is really hitting the fan. Let me borrow your cell, I think I left mine in Mapleton, I wanna see if there is any cell service.” Her mom passed the cell. She looked at the display screen, noticed that there were no bars, a message raid that the cell was searching for a signal. Elizabeth shut the phone off and passed it back to her mom. “Cell service is down as well. Mommy, I must know what is going on. Let me turn on the radio, please.”

“OK darling, but only for a few minutes, I am worried enough as it is.”

Elizabeth pressed a button on her mother's car stereo, switched it from Brahms to CBC Radio One.

“... confirmed reports that the Internet is down worldwide, cellular service is down from Newfoundland to nearly Saskatchewan. The Canadian government has declared a country-wide state of emergency, and has asked citizens to listen to local authorities, suggesting also, that if there are bunkers in your area, to get in them.

As of about an hour ago, the world lost contact with Europe. It is expected that Orbs in North and South America will start glow, vibrate, then pulse soon...

... we are getting unconfirmed reports, and with the state of Canada's communication infrastructure, limited now to just landline telephones and radio, most of the new information we might report will be unconfirmed, but we are getting phone calls from Newfoundland, and the rest of the Maritimes that Orbs are beginning to glow and vibrate. Scientists estimate that the Orbs are in this state for about an hour before they pulse. Martimers please, try and find a safe place. Our thoughts and prayers are with you...”

Saimus McGinnley, the radio announcer, a Newfoundlander made good, choked up. One heard him clear his throat, sniff.

“... I am sorry, this story has just hit home for me 'sniff'. Be safe Canada. May God help us all.”

“Shut it off Liz, I can't listen to any more.”

Elizabeth's mother pulled the car to the side of the road. Pulled a packet of Kleenex from the dash, wiped her eyes, then blew her nose. Even the ever-stoic Elizabeth was tearing up. She reached over and brushed a tear from her mother's cheek.

“Let's just get home mom.”

Elizabeth's mother, took a deep breath and pulled back onto the highway, headed home.

Downtown Toronto was deserted. Kevin could count on two hands how many other vehicles he and the cabby had seen since entering the downtown core. It was if he was in an action movie, Kevin expected to see Godzilla and King Kong doing battle around the CN tower.

He and the cabby hadn't said much. Both spent most of the trip listening, semi-stunned, to the news that was coming from the radio. Kevin had forgotten why he needed to go downtown. Why was he compelled, after landing at the airport to go back to the office? Would anybody even be there? The cabby's mind was on his wife and two little girls sitting at home in their tiny apartment in the west end. This fare had lost all purpose. He was tempted to pull over, kick Kevin out, and rush home to his family. Neither man had any interest spending, what might be their last moments, with each other.

“...Canadian and American researchers say that the pulse or beam given off by the Orbs is akin to heavy electromagnetic energy. This intense energy, vaporizes everything in its path. It is as if, researchers postulate, Earth is being clear cut, or slash and burned. There must be intelligence behind the process, but as of yet, there haven't seemed to be any attempts at communication...”

Saimus McGinnley was also questioning why he wasn't home with his wife and 13 month old son. Was it his destiny to be humanity's last scream for help? How soon would it be until his voice was no longer being broadcast to the cosmos? When would the radio-waves be scrambled?

The cabby pulled up to the curb, right in front of a large office building. Kevin, who had planned to pay the cabby with his corporate credit card, realized that not only was the cabby's debit machine mostly likely down, but what was the point of saving 40 bucks now anyway? He reached into his wallet and gave the cabby every last bill that was in it, close to $200.

If this were any normal day, then a fare like that would have made the cabby's day, but there was nothing normal about today. The cabby refused, saying; “No thank you. God bless you, good bye.”

Money still in Kevin's hand, he watched the cabby speed off. He suddenly felt like he was the only person in Toronto. He shouted, impulsively “HELLO!” the echo of his voice off Toronto's skyscrapers were all he got in response. He looked up at the large office building that housed his head office. It stood grey, and lifeless. Should I go in? Why am I here? What next?

Kevin entered the building. Nobody was at the front desk. He went around the desk, looked for a radio. There was not one there. He picked up a phone. There was a dial tone. He dialled his home phone number. Maybe there was time for his girlfriend to come pick him up. He hated the thought of facing the apocalypse alone. 1 ring, 2 rings, 3 rings... come on, pick up, pick up... 4 rings, 5 rings... where the hell is she?... 6 rings, 7 rings, 8 rings... fuck!... Kevin slammed down the receiver. What now?

Kevin remembered hearing the radio announcer mention that perhaps the best place to be, is underground. He made his way to the elevators. He pressed the down button. All three elevators had to come up from sub basement level 4. The middle elevator opened first. He went in, pressed the button for sub basement level 4, had a near panic attack as the door closed.

Less than a minute later, although in his state of near panic, it felt like an hour, the elevator opened to sub level 4. He quickly hopped out. “HELLO!” More echos, no response. He walked aimlessly around the sub basement, which was really just an underground parking lot, filled with news vans, and other corporate vehicles. “HELLO!” Still no answer. Kevin did not want to be alone, he slid down a large

cement pillar, and sat defeated, clutching his knees on the cold, hard floor.

Saimus McGinnley didn't see the flash, he was broadcasting from the bowels of the CBC building. He knew that there was another event, because the lights flickered, and his microphone, and his earphones went dead. “Good bye.” He said, and through a miracle of technology, a million or so Canadians, who were still hanging on his every word, knew that the wave of destruction had begun on the Eastern end of North America.

The large fluorescent lights that lit sub level 4 flashed then went dark. Seconds later, the emergency generator kicked in and dimly lighting the figure of Kevin, who was still sat clutching his knees. Well that's pretty much it, it shouldn't be long now, he thought.

Elizabeth and her mother sat in the basement, finishing up a macaroni casserole, when they heard Saimus say 'good bye'. They had lit a bunch of candles and oil lamps before they had sat down to eat supper, so when they power went off they were not left completely in the dark.

“I love you Lizzy” Said Elizabeth's mom, wrapping her arms around her daughter.

“I love you too mom. Here have a drink.” Elizabeth poured her mother a glass of white wine.

“How can you think about drink right now?” Her mom retorted.

“Thinking about anything else isn't much worth it now is it?” She took a long swig from the glass of wine which was meant for her mother. “Can we not fight right now? My drinking problem, real or imagined, isn't really all that important right now mom.”

“You are right, I am sorry.” Elizabeth's mother took the wine glass from her hand and took a sip. “This really is a nice Chardonnay.” Clinking glasses with Elizabeth.

Kevin's mind slipped to thoughts of Elizabeth. They had only worked together for a few weeks, but he had grown to quite like her. Thoughts of an improper working relationship had crossed his mind on more than a couple occasions the last few days. The fact that he was more curious as to what she was doing, as the end of time approached, and not what his girlfriend was up to, were proof of his strong feelings for her.

Elizabeth thought of Kevin, wondered how he made out, wondered why had chosen to go to head office, rather than home to be with his girlfriend. Was the planned trip to Cuba a last ditch effort to save a failing relationship? Did she secretly want their relationship to fail? Elizabeth's mother's thoughts were on her ex-husband, she missed him now, more than ever. FLASH!

“I love you Elizabeth” Yelled Kevin. FLASH!

Saimus thought of his wife and little boy. FLASH!

Tom sat, shotgun in hand, staring from the window of his store, at the glowing and vibrating Orb which was only a 100 meters away. FLASH!

Jim was making love to his wife. He was determined to go out shagging. FLASH!

The last human voice electronically transmitted from Earth was Joseph Michael's, a forty year old amateur ham radio enthusiast from Port Hope Alaska. His last word before the flash was “Why?”

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Don't forget to stop by Joseph Lane's National Affairs Desk site for more of his writings and several other contributing authors!

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