Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
It Felt Like the End of the WorldIt felt like the end of the world. Perhaps it was the end of the world. Except...to listen to the people around me it sure didn't sound like the end of anything - it sounded like a beginning.
Everyone was out of their homes, dancing in the streets, laughing, having parades, singing songs of pure joy - songs of true faith, hope and love that would last forever. I alone, among all the throngs in the street, felt as though the world had collapsed around me. I alone felt like it was the end of all things.
As I trudged down the street toward home, I cringed at every laugh, every trumpet sound, every joyous noise.
And yet, even for me, I couldn't help but feel a touch of gladness. Yes, I'd lost my job - the job I'd held my whole life - but the truth is, I never really liked my job. There were days when there was a sense of satisfaction and justice to my work, but most days it was simply depressing.
As I stumbled down the street I caught a glimpse of a man I was sure had died long ago; a short, stout little man with squinty eyes and pimples. Except now he was neither squinty eyed nor pimply. For a moment our eyes locked, and I knew he recognized me for who I was, just as I had recognized him. The smile on his face broadened, and then he turned away and was lost in the crowd of celebrants.
I shuddered, and continued my long walk home. I thought about my wife. She didn't know, yet, that I'd lost my job - unless she'd seen it on the news, which was a distinct possibility.
I dreaded telling her.
Funny thing is, my wife always knows when something is bothering me, so I knew that as soon as I walked through the door, she would look at me and say...
"Bad news at work today," I said, as I slung my coat over one chair, and dropped like a sack of cement into another.
"I got fired."
She was shocked. I could tell by the widening of her eyes. I could see the whites all around her pupils. "They hired someone else?" she asked.
"No. The position has been dropped."
The dawn of understanding came into her face. "That's why everyone is dancing in the streets," she said.
She sat across the table from me, and put her hand over mine. We sat in silence for a long while, just listening to the muffled sounds of laughter in the streets outside our home. Finally she said, "You can get a new job."
I let out a bitter laugh. "I only have the one skill. I don't know how to do anything else."
"Well," she said, "maybe you can find someone else to hire you for the same job."
"No. I don't think so." She really didn't understand; she never had. "When your employer is the entire human race, and they decide they don't want you any more, there really aren't many employers left."
"What about God?" she asked.
"God," I replied, "never wanted me around in the first place. If he had his choice, I'd be dead."
Struck by the irony of that statement, we both lapsed into silence.
I couldn't help but think about the pimply faced man. It had been so long ago that I'd known him, anyone else would have forgotten. But I never forgot a single person I had ever dealt with in my line of work. And he hadn't forgotten me, either.
I remember so clearly the prediction he made about me, centuries ago. I remember the taunting, jeering nature of his words. At the time I had scoffed, and had felt smug satisfaction when I outlived him by millenia. I had done a little jeering myself. Now he was back, and his words came back to haunt me as well...
O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?
Truth is, I wanted to kill that man all over again, but it was the end of my world, and he was forever beyond my grasp.
The laughter in the streets continued.
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