I’d figured giant waves, continent-sized earthquakes, black storm clouds setting off tornadoes the size of Montana. I could almost visualize entire countries consumed by fire and lava, others covered with enormous sheets of twenty-story ice, lightning storms blasting entire towns apart.
Many others had figured on zombies. Lot of zombie believers out there. I never understood the zombie thing. How hard is it to blast some zombies? Stock up on guns, ammo, food. Don’t get bit, you’re fine. I don’t understand the zombie people.
There were the alien invasion folks, the nuclear holocaust folks. The asteroid folks.
There were of course the religious folks, too. The return of Jesus, the Rapture.
It was a random day when God finally spoke to the world. I happened to be paying bills online when the screen went black. I panicked, figuring I’d lost the transactions to the ether. Then the white words appeared.
Hi, Mike. I am going to be sending someone to see you in two days. He’s looking forward to talking with you.
In their own way, everyone on the planet got a message like that.
Two days later I was sitting on my small balcony wondering what to expect, when the breeze shifted and the evening rain clouds rolled in. I ordered a pizza and ran down to the market for a six-pack. The rain had just started plinking on the roof when I heard the knock.
I knew who it was.
He had a scruffy kind of beard, like he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. His hair was salt-and-pepper. He resembled a hung over stock broker.
“It is about to pour out there,” the angel said, stepping in to my small apartment. “Hi, Mike. I’m Amos.”
I did the only thing that seemed polite in the circumstances. I offered him a beer. “Modelo?”
“You know, that sounds really good. Thanks, Mike.”
“Sit down, please. Have some pizza, too.” I walked away to grab two more beers out of the fridge.
Amos sat on the couch, guzzled the better part of the beer and sighed. He burped into his fist.
“So,” I sipped my beer, “what’s the deal with Armageddon?”
He smiled. “What do you want the deal to be, Mike?”
“Well…,” I said.
“Thought we’d go with the whole natural disaster thing, huh?”
I stopped mid-swig. “Wait… what?”
“Done,” he guzzled down the rest of his beer, and finished it with a sigh. He held the empty glass up, tapping it with his index finger. I walked into the fridge and absently grabbed two more beers.
“What?” I asked again walking back into the room.
“Tidal waves and lightning? Ice age and the earthquakes, fire and shit? You got it, brother.”
“Hey, wait,” I felt my chest tighten. I wasn’t actually choosing how the world was going to end, was I?
“No, you’re not choosing how the world ends, Mike. You’re choosing how your world ends,” he took a pull and raised his eyebrows. “Pretty neat, right?”
I thought for a minute. “Yeah, I don’t get it.”
“See,” Amos said, rubbing his palms into his eyes, “this is why it’s so friggin’ hard to talk to eight billion people. Mike, it’s an all-powerful deity up there. There’s around eight billion of the living. For reasons that don’t really matter, and you wouldn’t really understand, we’ve got to hit the reset button on this whole Earth deal. Not your fault, trust me. But the consolation prize is, you get to end it the way you want to. For you. For everyone else, it’ll be something different.”
“And then what?” I asked, almost absently.
“And then eternity,” he was smiling, now, like a parent smiles at a child learning something new.
“Well, sort of.”
“Look, Amos, no disrespect here, but… are you fucking with me? With us?”
Amos sighed and looked down.
“Here’s the situation, Mike. We have no time. Like I said before, I could explain it all, but I just can’t. If I tried, we’d be here for six months. Believe me when I tell you that the one constant truth of the universe is time, and we don’t have any of it to spare. There are armies of us down here trying to make this transition as easy as possible for you and everyone else. We have time enough to give you a choice, and after that, all I can tell you is it’ll be fine. I know you don’t have any reason to, but you just have to trust me on that, Mike.”
I sat for a long, quiet minute and listened to the rain.
“Hey, Amos,” I said, finally breaking the quiet of the rain on the sill.
“You were a… person once, right? Alive, right? Here? On earth?”
“Yeah, that’s right. A long time ago, but yeah.”
“You around when they had those choose your own adventure books? Go to this page to do this, go to that page to do another thing…? Remember that?”
Amos smiled slightly. “I wasn’t here for those books, but I got the idea, sure.”
“This is like that, isn’t it? You can choose your own ending, but really there are only a finite number of endings to choose from. A few dozen readings, and you’ve done it every which way you can.”
“That’s about right, Mike.”
I thought for another minute.
“We choose the ending, and then after that, it’s somebody else’s department, right?”
“So,” I said, my choice already made, “what is everyone else going with?”
Of course, Amos already knew my choice. Could read it in my mind, I suppose. He’d finished his beer and was headed towards the door. As he opened it and stepped out onto my small porch he spoke to me over the rain getting heavier and heavier, pounding on the roof and turning the parking lot below into a pond, then a lake.
© 2013 by Benjamin J. Kirby
All rights reserved.
Originally published at terribleminds for a flash fiction challenge.