This Is The End

“’The end is my beginning.’ Who said that?” Sam looked up from his crossword at Janine.

She was staring out the wide expanse of window, all the while twisting a lock of brown hair. “T.S. Eliot.”

“T.S. Eliot. Yeah. That fits.” He paused. “Funny thing to say, don’t you think?”

“Do you think when we die, we become part of the earth or start over?”

“I dunno. No one really knows. I suppose either way we start over. If there’s nothing after death, we become part of the earth again—fertilizer for growing things, and if there is something after death, we start over again.”

“What about the earth? There isn’t much earth left.”

“You know that’s not true, Janine. There’s plenty of land left in Kansas and Nebraska, and that place we bought in Philadelphia is beachfront property now. Beachfront. We made a killing.”

“I’ll miss New York.”

“I know, darling, but think. It’s a smaller world, but that’s good. Less people to feed. Since the plague, the population’s only a fraction of what it could have been.”

Janine plucked at her sleeve, and Sam noticed how pale and thin she’d gotten. Food rationing had been difficult. Janine was always picky eater. She wouldn’t touch the cans of mystery meat the army handed out in the early days. Now, of course, she had no choice. They were trapped in their apartment. Thank God he had connections. The helicopters could land on the roof and drop supplies, though the flights had grown less and less frequent. He didn’t relish the thought of foraging in the streets for himself and Janine. He doubted it was possible.

Still, things were getting better. He was sure of it. They had intermittent electricity now. And Internet. The army still controlled the city, but the daily death toll had leveled. Soon, he thought, they could leave.

He stood and walked to the window. The streets were empty now. The dark water was still high, well over eight feet. Too high to escape the building. They should have left with the first wave of people, but he hadn’t wanted to panic.

Janine sighed. “It’s a prison, isn’t it?”

“A prison? Of course not. Look at where you are.”

She turned to him and gave him a hollow smile. “Look at where we are: A cement mausoleum. You can’t eat your money, Sam. You can’t buy our way out. We’re going to die here. The end.”

“No.” Sam had never faced a problem he didn’t think he could solve. “We’ll figure it out. I promise.”

Janine turned away. “Our end. It’s beginning.”

Awakening

The deep rumbling sends pebbles skittering as the hard ground begins to shake and a small fissure opens in the rocky soil> It widens as the rumbling grows to a crescendo. The woman’s head and shoulders emerge from the newly formed crater, lush green against the grey stones and brown earth.

When she pulls her arms free, she tosses seeds into the air, and shoots of green begin to spring up through the earth. Saplings rise and turn to trees. She laughs and water begins to pour from a dried stone fountain.

“Live again,” she says. She runs her fingers through the water and lets it pour through her palm.

A single tear trickles down her face. It lands in the water with a tiny splash, and she watches the widening concentric circles with satisfaction.

A phoenix rises in a flash of light.

She nods. “Fly, my child. You are free. The age of man is over.”