“Are you having temperature fluctuations?” said a booming voice.
“Yes,” came a melodic, singsong reply.
“Do you see flashing lights? Hear a constant buzzing?”
“Yes. Yes, exactly! And I have trouble breathing.”
“You have humans.”
A short pause, like a quiet desert at sunrise. “I was afraid of that.”
“Why did you wait so long to come to me?”
“I thought I could deal with it on my own,” said the cosmic singsong voice. “I tried famine, flood, drought, plague….”
“That won’t work,” the booming voice said. “They’ve spread everywhere. Filled your lungs with toxins, contaminated your blood. Without drastic measures, you won’t last 24 hours.”
A racing beat that pounded like an earthquake. “What kind of measures?”
A sharp intake of breath that roared like a hurricane. “Not again. It took me years to get over the last one.”
“I’m afraid so. But we’ve had advancements since eradicating dinosaurs. The procedure will only take seven minutes. Recovery time will be a few months.”
“Seven minutes?” said the melodic voice, with a tremble that echoed like thunder. “Will it be painful?
“Yes…very. But you will be rid of humans forever.”
Another pause, like the dead of night. “I’ll do it…”
There was a violent jerk in my stomach and I shot backward through space, past streaks of stars, galaxies and planets, zoomed for a crash-landing on earth and sat bolt upright in bed.
What the hell was that?
Outside my window, a black shadow eclipsed the rising sun, turning the world a cold grey.
And a booming voice echoed in my head.
The countdown had begun.
Seven Deadly Suns
Puddled on my dream’s glass lens
Pools of mystic condensate
Seven suns of witness when
Time will cease in mankind’s fate:
Sunlight waned to dusk in day
White, waxing moon, shadows’ eclipse
Darkness covered Earth with gray
For every man grew envious
Crowned atop a thrown of azure
Sun’s kingdom spread endlessly
Cloudless, skies shared not his treasure
For every man was ruled by greed
Lapis lakes of crimson red
Molten lava cracked Earth’s crust
Tidal waves, impassioned, bled
For every man burned in his lust
Eve’ eclipsed in Sun’s embrace
Burning, boiled the white-hot bath
Fire covered moonlight’s face
For every man seethed in his wrath
Sun grew great; its zenith reached
As moonlight humbled ocean tides
Eye’s wide shut; Sun’s hubris peaked
For every man was blind to pride
Falling on Horizon’s shore
Moved by nothing, Dawn lay lost
Sun was gone forevermore
For every man did not as sloths
Onyx seas lacked ocean’s blue
Caught in nets of cumulus
East to west, no sun in view
For every man drowned, glutinous
photo credit: Mike Woodwart
The Earth Sighed Seven Times
The earth sighed seven times.
The first morning she heaved – oceans of garbage flooded beaches like tourists, never resting until the seas were emptied of every human relic ever tossed off a ship, every wine cork long forgotten after empty smiles and shallow promises, every distorted piece of plastic that brought momentary ease, fleeting joy, or a bit of convenience- then she sighed.
My dog barked seven times that day. No more, no less.
I hoped it was over, but then came the second morning. A guttural cough rumbled under my feet, and the world erupted. Every dormant volcano came alive with fire, and steam, and spirals of smoke. The seas began to boil and rage and roar, and then I feared it was the end. But it wasn’t. The earth sighed a second time.
My dog barked six times that day. No more, no less.
The third morning, the earth burbled and burped until every human corpse was lifted from its resting place. On land, they rolled out of the ground onto perfectly landscaped yards and gardens and ruined the mood for many a party. This one felt personal. My old dog was buried in the back. His resting place lay undisturbed while bloated bodies bobbed alongside buoys in oceans, and lakes, and rivers, and oh, what a stink! That night she sighed again, and I thought I heard mirth in the sound of it.
Five barks from my dog that day. No more, no less.
The fourth morning the earth groaned and the ground ruptured and fractured – consuming governments, and swallowing civilizations, and splitting countries, and families, and even hairs. Well, I only guessed that last part. Then the earth sighed a fourth time.
My dog barked four times after I fetched her out of the rubble. No more, no less.
The fifth morning the earth sang – through warbling birds and whistling trees, through the bellows of whales and the humming of bees – and it was beautiful! The song was full of hope and new beginnings. But many could not hear her song, though the sound was deafening. Men cleaved to their old ways, licking honey from thorns that split their tongues and numbed their senses, and the poison – oh the poison! Millions died because of it, and it seeped back into the earth. That night the earth was silent. Perhaps she was thinking. The quiet unnerved me as I bolted my doors, listening for earth’s song but only hearing the sounds of booted men patrolling streets, and cocking guns, and shuttered blinds, and whirring blades from aircraft overhead. Finally, the earth sighed a weary sigh.
Three barks that night. Three damning barks. No more, no less.
I awoke the sixth morning with a start as the earth shrieked. I covered my ears, and my cheeks flushed with heat at the pain in her voice. Her cries were desperate. They were horrifying. They were accusing. And they were powerful. Earth’s protective ozone shattered, and my skin blistered and cracked under the heat of the sun. I barricaded myself in the cellar as the top of my roof melted away into nothing. As night fell, the earth sighed a sixth time.
My dog barked twice. No more, no less.
I knew the seventh morning was our last, for the earth laughed. It was bitter and full of sorrow. It summoned the heavens forward, and they came. Meteors, and floating ice, and blazing stars struck the earth so violently they sent chunks of her spinning, spinning everywhere. They ripped her clothes and tore her flesh, but her response was laughter. Crazed, terrifying laughter. And then she sighed. Our beautiful, broken earth sighed. One final, mournful, dreadful sigh.
My dog barked once that morning. Now she lay mute in my lap as I pet her. I know she has no more barks for me. I close my eyes and take one last breath.
No more, no less.
I’d rather it have been the Virgin Mary. Or Beyoncé. I squinted very hard, trying to make sure it wasn’t actually Beyoncé.
But no, the burn pattern on my toast was unmistakable: the world would end in seven days.
I leaned back in my chair, staring through my coffee steam and figuring my next move. I didn’t really have anyone else to tell. I really wanted to tell Rita because I felt like she should know, but she had told me she needed distance until I had “figured things out.” I wasn’t entirely sure what things she meant, but I didn’t think it was about the apocalyptic symbolism of my toast.
I picked up my phone to call off and take Boomer to a park for the day, but stopped when I saw him sleeping on the couch next to his favorite chew toy. There’s a saying about sleeping dogs; it’s a good saying. I had also remembered that it was Janet’s birthday. Janet had made everybody cupcakes for my birthday last month. It seemed inconsiderate to call off work on her birthday.
So I did the only thing that made sense with the world ending and picked up the knife. I felt its slim weight in my hand, saw the light gleam on it. I gripped it.
And then I cut a pat of butter, slightly thicker than normal. It didn’t quite melt on the toast—I had been thinking too long—so I put the other slice on top of it for a few moments. Then it spread beautifully. Evenly.
The crust crunched slightly more than the interior, just as I liked it, and a sesame seed offered its savory burst as prelude to the fullness of the multigrain. The butter enveloped everything, its cream lazily reclining and stretching out to invite the coffee to join. The warm union of the flavors gave way to the coffee’s nuanced bitterness which then curled luxuriously around my tongue, bathing each receptor in light roast, preparing them all to receive the next bite of bread.
It was a good day.
On the Seventh Day We Rested
On the first day, we scanned and cataloged all of our epic and lyrical poetry, fiction and non-fiction, for those who might follow.
On the second day, we summarized and cataloged all of our scientific knowledge for those who might follow.
On the third day, we recorded and cataloged all of our music, songs, and hymns for those who might follow.
On the fourth day, we notated all of our dance for those who might follow.
On the fifth day, we transcribed all of our comedy for those who might follow.
On the sixth day, we erased the scrolls of our entire history so that no one who followed would ever suspect that we did this to ourselves.
On the seventh day, knowing that it was as if Melpomene had never existed, we rested.
Bucket List (revised)
I have a bucket list that fills the loose leaf page front to back. I have added and subtracted many entries since I began the list 26 years ago.
1. See the Grand Canyon.
2. See the Taj Mahal (Scratched off the list because it’s gotten too dirty).
3. Go to the Super Bowl in Dallas.
4. See Paul McCartney in concert (big check mark; did it last year!)
5. Go on a Rhine River cruise.
And many more stupendous things...
Now that I am armed with some new knowledge, I have penned a new list altogether. It is to be completed in no particular order and many times over if possible.
1. Grill some hot dogs and burgers in my back yard while my girls bounce on the trampoline.
2. Fold the laundry with my wife while listening to Led Zeppelin.
3. Blow dry and brush my daughter’s hair as she reads an I Spy book.
4. Go on a road trip to Rochester with my best friend so we can eat a garbage plate at Nick Tahou’s.
5. Play a board game of Ticket to Ride on my dining room table with my family, my college buddy and his family.
6. Watch my daughter pile every topping on her frozen yogurt, including gummy bears (yuck) as we move through the line at the dessert shop.
7. Dangle my feet off the side of the hay ride wagon at the apple farm while munching ginger golds with my darlings.
8. Reading ‘Twas The Night before Christmas’ to my girls sitting on the couch next to me under the twinkling lights from the tree.
9. Watch a heady sci-fi film with my girls and explain the finer plot points when they ask.
10. Place my hand on my wife’s hip as she sleeps.
11. Watch a Yankee game with my dad over Skype.
12. Carrying the extra twenty-pound bag of Halloween candy while my daughter skips up the next driveway in her Disney princess costume (in the rain).
13. Watch my girls perform the ridiculous dance they choreographed the past 2 hours.
And then when I die, I will die a happy man.
The Loudest Season
Boots trail along the frosty pavement, loud in the early morning. The boy smiles sadly from under his bandanna. Out with the bag, the cans of spray paint. There’s a message to be shared and only he knows it.
Sweat trickles down his back, freezing to his shirt as the temperature continues to plummet. Colors on colors, desperate streaks against frozen brick and mortar.
Hours pass, the sun inching above the dark city. Paranoia is a fickle thing, the boy thinks, pressing himself behind a dumpster as a suit walks by, smart hair and glossy shoes. No project had taken this long, none of this gravity. He couldn’t afford to get caught.
Winter is the loudest season. Everything is dead, leaving the living even more vulnerable. Painstakingly, painstakingly he works, trampling brown leaves and cigarette butts.
He hums, oh so quietly, a song he had heard on the radio. What was it the Other had said? How the world would end? He found he could no longer remember the encounter, only the need to spread his gloomy message the way he knew best. That is, destroying public property.
The sun smiles at him, knowing his message is futile. She casts her light on it anyway. He steps back, air trailing into the sky. Frozen, painted fingers rummages through his bag and slaps a piece of paper on the wet paint.
He ducks out of the alley, pulling his hood firmly over his brightly colored hair. One street artist and seven days to save the world. He laughs, “Well, isn’t that something?” The druggies huddled on the cement ignore him. He tosses a couple bills at their feet. Not that it would really matter. But he supposed it would be better to die high as the sun, than sober.
Behind him, the mural leers over downtown. Seven days, it proclaims. How paint on walls would stop apocalypse, he didn’t know. But he knows that the Other does, so he strolls toward his next target. A blank canvas, ready to scream doomsday.
Far above him, the sun laughs, watching the humans scurry around, living their precariously fragile lives. She leans down, observing the boy’s murals. What will happen? The sun thinks, When the Other needs him to take the next step? It’ll be a spectacle, for sure.
I felt a sharp pain coming from my cheek. Why could she not just say something instead of always using her fists, or hands.
She shook her head & pointed at the table. My eyes widened.
I pushed the chair back and moved away from the table. She smiled.
‘‘Are you going to let me know what you’ve discovered?’’
Why was she like this? Uh. All I wanted was to get back to my home sweet home.
She snapped her fingers. Two of her men pushed me back down to take a seat.
I sighed. They say seven is a lucky number. But in my case~ it wasn’t! The moment that the dice landed on the table, I was certain that whatever number it was going to be would determine how many days we had left to live.
At least that’s what I had been told by the person who handed me the dice. I wondered if he had pulled my leg, or if the dice really had the power to tell just that.
There was a knock at the door. Great. I guess more folks were coming in to join in the end of year party.
She told one of her guys to check the door. It was only the delivery guy. Her lunch order had arrived. I thought she had ordered food.
The box was placed near the dice. She opened it and pulled out a strange device. It looked like a radio.
She turned the knobs. All I heard was loud crackling sounds coming from the radio~like device.
‘‘Hey,’’ I tried to get her attention and let her know that I was now ready to talk.
She stopped to glare at me with a serious look as if she was ready to cut off my head. I gulped and cleared my throat.
’’Look. I don’t really know the guy that handed me the dice. All right. I only listened to what he told me at the last minute.
’’He said that the dice would be a way to prove that the world was coming to an end and exactly how many days would be left.
’’The other thing he mentioned before he vanished in a smoke-bomb. Yeah, I wondered whether he was some kind of ninja.
‘‘Anyway, he told the day that you would find me and the dice— would be it. I guessed he meant ‘it’ as in the end of the world- dun dun dun.’’
She blinked and stared at me for a while, until I heard her burst out laughing. Eish, why was I wasting time explaining this to her. We only had seven days left to live.
At least I’m glad she hasn’t killed me, yet. Even if she decides to do that, she’ll be a goner, too. In seven days.
She wiped her tears from her eyes. Huh, what part of the world coming to an end in seven days is something to laugh about?
‘‘I can see that you’re clearly not okay.’’
‘‘On the contrary. I find your explanation and end of the world theory based on my father’s dice the best thing I’ve heard all week.’’
I gaped. The old ninja guy was her father. Whoa!
She tried to grab the dice off the table. I beat her to it.
One of her guys pointed a gun at me. She raised her and and he put the gun down.
What was she going to do? She got what she wanted. I told her to let me go.
‘‘You’re not going anywhere. You’ll have to let ya know what else my father told you. How do we stop the end from coming? Huh?’’
‘‘I don’t think we can stop it.’’ I told her the hard truth. She didn’t want to believe me.
Ah, was I going to be stuck here with her and her guys till the end of the world? I fell down on my knees and begged, again, for her to let me go.
She grabbed the radio device. The other guys placed their hands on their ears. A melody started to play. I couldn’t focus, my mind was losing control of reality.
My head throbbed and my ears were ringing. She stared at me and I saw her lips moving. However, the source of the sound was not from her mouth. It was coming from the radio.
My body collapsed on the ground. I had no idea a radio could be used in such a manner. This was it for me, gone before the final end. Thanks to her and the sound of the killer radio!
The only thing I forgot to tell her was the dice would be counting down as the end draws near. After the end of this day, the number that would always be rolled next, until the very following day, would be..six. Then five, four, three, two— when one rolls- you better prepare your own grave to roll in. That will mark the very final day & end!
The Last Day
Communications are down. No internet, no cell service.
A message in the sky.
There are seven days left.
There is no electricity. No light, no refrigerated food.
The world is going to end.
There are six days left.
There is no running water. All water sources are depleting.
There will soon be no water.
There are five days left.
All remaining water sources have been corrupted.
Boiling does not clease it.
There are four days left.
All food has gone bad. None remains.
Everyone is hungry.
There are three days left.
All buildings have crumbled. The rain is very acidic.
There are two days left.
Acid rain continues to pour. There are no buildings.
There is no food or water. The world smeels of death. Everyone is dying.
this is the last day
it’s always been fact
known to every ignorant man
that time was limited
now we know its true extent
is “all” we have left
but that’s more than enough.
do you know how simple it is
to let go of everything
when your hold was never
strong enough to begin with?
do you know
how painful it is
to wake up
seven days in a row
wishing you hadn’t
because all you feel
is an empty
and yet you feel nothing.
when you’ve fallen into a hole
with no visible light
and you’ve lost track of time
seven days becomes three months.
the minutes tick away
and your most difficult task
most are sad
that we’ve only got a week
and maybe i should be, too
because there’s so much left to do
but it doesn’t really matter, does it?
live for the moment
the present is a gift
we’ve only got now
tomorrow is light years away
and all that other bullshit.
only now humanity ignores it
finds a new philosophy
their world is turned upside down
and there’s nothing you can do...
a frenzied chaos
yet here i am
sitting in the sun
and focusing on the breeze
with a smile.
when you feel your existence
is already painful misery,
the ending isn’t as scary.
i’m not intimidated.
i’m not afraid.
i have lived fully
in my few years
i have felt too much.
experienced too much.
cried too much.
lost too much.
seen too much.
everything has always been
and always will be
so i will drink my coffee,
read my books,
write my poems,
count my seconds,
take my breaths,
fight my tears,
and lose my battles
all the same.
the same as i did yesterday
and will do
for the next 168 hours.
nothing will change
between now and then.
so don’t be hypocritical,
don’t say you’ve got regrets,
don’t say there’s so much you’ve yet to get done.
none of it is true.
if you wanted something,
you should’ve gotten it.
that’s the truth.
now you can’t, so you bask in pity
but let me remind you
you’re the fool
who let your time go to waste
and all the kids who are sad
are the ones who feel their time is much too used
we never get a moment of silence
never any peace
when we know it’ll all be over
the sadness will finally leave
and we can be
just seven more days.