The world was ending.
Marcus found that thought to be surreal, to be a joke, but it wasn’t. It was, no matter what he believed, reality.
Now that he was waiting for his impending death, what was he supposed to do?
He guessed he could just wait for death to knock on his door and take him away, but that was a waste of time. Although he was going to die soon, he wasn’t going to waste his time before it came. As his mother always said, time was gold, and at this very moment, it was very evident that statement was true.
Where were his parents, you might ask?
No, they hadn’t died because of the apocalypse, but from a simple car accident a year prior, leaving him, at the age of nineteen, with their apartment, the rest of their wealth placed on his hands as was written in their will.
Ah, he thought, feeling his eyes water, let’s not think about them.
Lightning boomed around him, and he raised a brow, peering over the balcony doors before approaching it.
Walking out, he looked up to the sky. No longer was it a bright baby blue colour, instead now a mix of crimson and violet, with a bit of pale yellow. The clouds, meanwhile, were made from the darkest shade of grey, borderline black, with lightning striking the world below, hitting buildings and trees and sometimes, even people.
Horrifying, yet oddly beautiful.
He was about to die, so why wasn’t he panicking? Why didn’t his guts churn at the thought of death? Why couldn’t he feel anything?
He wanted to be like those people running, the ones screaming for their lives, yet there was no will for him to do it, for him to even try because it was inevitable. It was the end of the world.
Gripping the railing until his knuckles whitened, until his palms burned against the cold touch of the railing, Marcus found himself leaning over it, death slowly seducing him to fall down, to just let go.
That was, until a knock caught his attention.
Who the hell is that? Marcus thought, confused.
But then again, who was Marcus to care? They were all going to die anyway.
He answered the door, ignoring an especially loud rumble sounding behind him, and saw…a girl—a child.
* * *
She’d been sleeping when it started.
After the usual, she was left on the bed tired and exhausted, her whole body singing with the need to sleep and forget. And that she did, sleeping from noon till evening, only to be awaken by the sound of rumbling earth, lightning, and the screams of the dying.
Of course, she’d been confused, her mind a haze of grogginess and exhaustion, but once the thought, the realization, settled in the pits of her mind, she’d…just blinked and walked out of her room.
What was she supposed to do? Scream? Cry?
She didn’t know.
Her parents, however, knew exactly what to do, her mother having plunged a knife deep into her father’s throat.
“What are you doing?” she asked at the time.
“I…I didn’t want him to suffer, so I…I gave him a swift death,” her mother replied.
She inspected her father’s features and found her mother’s words to be quite the lie. His face was stuck in eternal agony, his mouth slacked open with blood coating his lips like lipstick, his dark eyes now dull and lifeless, his skin, which used to be blue, reverting back to it’s original mundane colour of beige, now mixed with grey.
She blinked again.
“Come here, dear,” her mother crooned, pulling out the knife from her father’s throat, her light green hair swaying behind her. She stepped off his body, disregarding it like a child throwing away an old toy for a new one, the knife in her hand gleaming under the light.
“You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”
Her mother flinched at her tone. She wasn’t sure why, and she sure didn’t care.
She might die, but not by the hands of her mother.
“I don’t want you to kill me,” she said at first, constructing a plan.
“I’m sorry, dear. I’m so, so sorry,” her mother sobbed, shaking her head, hair in an utter mess, strands tangling with one another like a bird’s nest. “I have to. I need to. Or else you’ll be suffering till the very end. I can’t let that happen. I can’t.”
Well wasn’t that an interesting reason.
She was already suffering even without the apocalypse.
She might’ve been ten, might’ve been a child, but seriously, did her mother think she was stupid?
“Don’t kill me,” she began, with a cracked voice. “I want to be—to be with you.”
“Oh baby.” Her mother ran to her, having dropped the knife and embracing her in a sticky hug.
She returned the hug, though, rubbing her face against the crook of her neck. And she made sure her mother felt the tears streaming down her face, made sure they struck a chord in her mother.
“Let’s…let’s do it, dear. Let’s die together.”
Pulling away from the hug, she nodded. “Okay.”
And it was then, when her mother was looking out at the balcony door, did she know what she was going to do to her.
* * *
“So, uh, want anything to drink?”
“No thank you.”
Awkward silence filled the room. Marcus was seriously starting to regret letting in the small girl.
Looking over his shoulder, he took in her appearance. She looked to be around ten or eleven, with skin as pale as his was dark, her black hair reaching her narrow shoulders. Her eyes, round and wide, was the colour of Earth’s soil, her eyelids reflecting her East Asian heritage, a bit of freckles dusting her nose and cheeks. The grey sweater she wore was a bit too big, with a speck of blood on her sleeves here and there, her black shorts just brushing her knees.
Marcus compared her look to his. His skin was a dark brown, his hair, black with neon blue and purple highlights, curly and short. He was broad-shouldered, and running from his back to his right arm was a tattoo sleeve made up of the numbers one and zero, not randomly arranged but certainly appearing like so. Not that it mattered. And his eyes were a funny colour: a deep ocean blue, with brown rims near the outer edges.
His highlights, his tattoo, and his eye colour were all made with the help of the nanobots squirming in his blood system. While most of them were used for health reasons, like flu resistant bots, some were used for fashion, able to alter the colour of eyes and skin from the dull colours of life to bright, cheerful colours, to changing the shape of ones nose, ears, or mouth.
But now that he thought about it…
“Hey kid, how old are you?” Marcus asked, sitting down beside her on the couch.
“Ten,” she answered.
Ten? Marcus thought. Everyone got their health bots when they were five, and everyone got their fashion bots when they were eight. So why didn’t this girl use her fashion bots? Every kid in the world used them, even if their fashion sense was stupid.
“Name?” he opted to ask instead.
She was silent for a moment. “Olivia.”
He internally sighed. This girl was lying. “Well then, Olivia, I’m Marcus. Nice to meet you. Or not, since we are going to die.”
“You’re very calm about it.”
“Humans die. That’s just life. I mean, with our technology most of us live up to our hundreds, but it still doesn’t change the fact we’re all mortals.”
He’d suspected her to cry, or to even get angry, but no, she instead just nodded and leaned back. She was so at ease it was almost terrifying, but then again, look at him. “I think,” she said, “we just don’t think about death that much. Look at us; we’ve already colonized Mars and travelling billions of years away from this planet. I think nobody has thought the end of the world would come after all of our successes.” Olivia smiled sadly, looking out at the balcony glass doors.
Marcus rolled his eyes. “Okay,” he snorted.
Olivia scoffed. “Why aren’t you running out there? Are you fine with dying, Marcus?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say fine,” he began, before pausing for a moment. What was his opinion on this matter? Well, he was certainly nonchalant about it, that was certain, but he wasn’t necessarily glad it was coming.
“I think,” he said, after a long moment of silence, “I just don’t care at this point.”
* * *
She blinked and stared at the man named Marcus.
What was she supposed to say? Was she supposed to agree? Did she agree? She didn’t think so; she hadn’t wanted her mother to kill her, which meant she must have cared, right?
But then again, she knew, deep down, caring did nothing.
After all, look where that led her mother to.
Marcus stood up, stretching his back whilst yawning.
She wondered why he didn’t care.
After she’d done the deed, she stood at the balcony all alone, staring down at the ground. It wasn’t nice, but it had to be done. While she’d suspected herself to cry, or to feel guilt, none of the emotions came to. Only relief came washing down on her, as if the things her parents had placed on her were finally severed.
She was free.
Then, a few apartments away, she saw him.
Boredom masked his face as he stared at the people running for their lives, his ocean blue eyes empty and reflective like water, his hair, highlighted with bright colours, moving with the wind.
She liked that he wasn’t afraid, liked that he looked like he had better places to be.
Which was why she went to him.
“So tell me, Olivia,”—Marcus’s voice brought her back to reality—“what happened to your parents?”
“They died,” she answered after realizing she was Olivia. Olivia wasn’t her name, but she didn’t want Marcus to know that; her real name led back to her parents, and she didn’t want to associate herself with them.
“Was it because of the apocalypse or something else?” asked Marcus.
“A person,” she confirmed.
Marcus whistled, as if impressed. He scratched the back of his neck with his left hand, the other hand resting on his hip, his tattoo suddenly catching her attention. It was unusual, to say the least, but intriguing, which led her to ask, “What does that tattoo mean?”
“Hmm?” Marcus looked down at his arm. “Oh, this? It’s a reminder.”
Marcus shrugged. “If you tell me your name, I’ll tell you what it means.”
“But I did tell you my name.”
“Your real name, Olivia. I want to hear your real name.”
She bit her inner cheek. “What if I said I am Olivia? What if I’m no longer who I used to be?” She gripped her left arm, ignoring the dull throb of pain within her muscles. Marcus observed her in silence, and she felt her body tense, his stare so sharp it made her believe he knew what she was hiding underneath her sweater. “What if I don’t want to be who I used to be?”
Marcus crossed his arms over his chest, contemplating long enough for the floor to begin to shake and vibrate. The insides of her body trembled, her bones poking her muscles like sharp needles, but she paid no heed to them. “Then, if that’s what you believe, you’re Olivia.”
She smiled. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” he shrugged. “I’m still not telling you what my tattoo means though.”
It was then did Marcus look out at the balcony door, gazing at the thundering sky that worsened each second, winds so intense blowing that Sa—Olivia could feel it chilling the very core of her soul.
She approached Marcus, taking his hand.
He blinked at her. “Are you scared?” he asked, free hand stroking her head.
“No,” she answered. Marcus was about to retort, but she stopped him. “I just don’t want to be alone. Being alone…it’s bad. I’d rather die than be alone. That’s why I came here, because I saw you and thought…”
“You weren’t alone?”
Marcus chuckled and…hugged her, crouching down her height and engulfing her with the warmest embrace she’d ever been given. Anything her parents had given her couldn’t compare to this hug, to this warmth.
And finally, the dam broke.
“Hey, hey, don’t cry.” Marcus pulled away. Ocean blue eyes met dark brown ones. “Look, Olivia, I don’t know you, and I’m sure you don’t know me too, but from what I’ve seen, you’ve gone through some…bad stuff, haven’t you?”
She nodded, wiping the tears away with her sleeve.
“It’s alright, Olivia,” he reassured. “Nothing bad will happen to you ever again. I’m here for you. I’ll protect you.”
“You’re going to die with me, Marcus. I’m a stranger.”
“I’ve got no one I want to die with. Parents died a year ago. My friends…well, they aren’t really my friends; I’m just using them to fill in time. And I haven’t had a partner since high school. So everything’s fine.”
He extended a hand toward her, brushing aside the strands of hair falling over her eyes. He didn’t pay attention to the world, to the destruction of his apartment as his belongings started to fall all around them, vases broken into shards, a bookshelf slamming against the floor. And that relieved her, to realize that he saw her presence and didn’t want to kill her, didn’t want to hurt her.
“You’re not alone.”
“I’m…not?” she asked.
Marcus smiled, brotherly and warm and genuine. “You’re not.”
“Thank you,” she sobbed. “Thank you.”
She kept on repeating those words, and Marcus kept on comforting her, the world around them slowly collapsing and turning into fine dust, into fine nothingness.
And that was alright, for she was not alone anymore.
* * *
On the planet Mars, the news played.
“It comes with deep regret that I announce the planet Earth has ceased to be. The reason for the destruction of Earth is unknown. Government officials and scientist are now searching for the answer, but for now, let us pray to those we have lost. Family members and friends shall be missed, enemies and lovers not forgotten. Even strangers, we shall not forget them, for even if we know not their identity, we know that they exist, that they shall have a place in our heart. That is all for now. Goodbye, and may they all rest in peace.”