12:17, 71 hours and 43 minutes until impact.
The world is ending. Somewhere above Jimin’s head, an asteroid of draconic proportions is hurtling towards the Earth at breakneck pace. This asteroid is projected to make landfall somewhere in Western China, but its impact will be massive enough to completely wipeout all human life in a couple thousand miles radius. Anyone who manages to survive the initial impact will have to face a world with no Sun. The ash will block out the sky, the plants will die within a few weeks, and each trophic stage above them will collapse. Unless scientists can come up with a way to artificially divert the course of that death-bringing monolith in less than 72 hours, the human race will go extinct. He’s 22, he’s hardly begun to live his life, and it’s going to end before he can make anything of himself.
Naturally, Jimin is handling it all very well.
He sits in front of the television in his apartment, staring blankly as a young woman tries valiantly to report the news of their impending doom while retaining the pleasant smile on her face. Jimin finds it dumb. What point is there in keeping up appearances? In 48 hours, he’ll be dead, she’ll be dead, everyone watching this dumb, biased 24/7 news network will be dead. If it wasn’t so tragic, he would’ve been able to find it in himself to laugh.
“It’s hopeless,” he sighs, but there’s no one else in the room. He speaks only for himself. The dishes stack up in the sink, unwashed. Take-out boxes litter the floors; sticky leftovers of Chinese-style orange chicken sauce congeal on the tops of counters and on the tines of plastic forks. The last time he did laundry was before the news came out. As expected, the government had tried to handle it secretly, brainstorming ways to get rid of the human race’s reckoning without alerting the common people until it became clear that there was no evading it. Impact is inevitable. Families had one week to coordinate travel plans. Three days ago, Taehyung left for Daegu to visit his family, say his goodbyes, and probably, to die in their arms. Jimin doesn't know why he keeps thinking of his best friend’s death. It’s funny. Every other person tries to erase those thoughts. They try to push them to the side because they’re afraid — because the reality that they might never see their loved ones ever again is too painful to imagine. Jimin faces it head-on. It is what it is.
Interestingly enough, Jimin has no family to go back to. If he did, he would’ve evacuated the city like most of his friends had. His father is a dead-beat. He’d bailed when Jimin was so young that he barely has any memory of him. Even if he wanted to find him, he has no idea where he would start, and he won’t be able to make much headway with the time constraints. He’d rather not spend his last moments searching for someone who didn’t want to see him in the first place. He has his thoughts, anyway, which are at least half as good as a father figure. Sometimes, usually when he’s dozing off in the afternoon or bored at the office, he’ll relive false memories: a faceless man teaching him to ride a bike, a disembodied voice calling him down for dinner, figments of his own imagination. For as long as he can remember, he’s only had his mom. After cancer took her, Jimin has only had himself.
So, he makes his own goodbye tour. He calls his manager, thanks her for all of her hard work, apologizes for having too many no-call-no-shows, and wishes her the best for whatever comes next. He doesn’t know if she’s religious or not, but he got a bit of a spiritual vibe in the few months he worked under her. She’d said something that hit him.
“You’re good, Park Jimin. Your heart is fundamentally good. I hope the world lasts for you.” And he hadn’t known what to say. Thank you wasn’t appropriate, and he knew that, and it pained him to open his mouth and utter those words, but he did it because there was nothing much else for him to say. The call ended promptly after that. He makes the same call for his friends, but his voice doesn’t carry that same strong tone. He falters, he flounders. He says what he can with the words that come to mind and hopes that it’s enough. That’s all he can hope for, at this point. That he’s done enough.
After the segment about the asteroid ends, the program cuts to a blank signal. The static fizzles, grating at Jimin’s ears and somehow, putting him in an even worse mood than he’d started out. He reaches to turn off the power, but just as he does, it roars back to life. Color. Standing in front of the camera is a young man holding a cardboard sign up to his chest that reads a string of numbers, his phone number, Jimin supposes. The man smiles into the camera demurely. Only a hint of two front teeth peek out from behind his lips. His wavy, black hair flops limply across his forehead, soft and un-styled. He looks as if he’s just rolled out of bed. He whispers a quiet “okay” to himself. Then, he speaks.
“Hello, Seoul Metropolitan Area. My name is Jeon Jungkook. I’m 20 years old, and I’m broadcasting this in the hopes that someone out there might see this and care. As you probably already know, the world’s ending pretty soon, and I’m looking for somebody to spend the rest of it with me.” Jungkook holds the sign up closer to the camera, shy smile growing infinitesimally brighter.
“I believe that people are good. I believe that humans want to care about one another. So if you’re interested,” Jungkook beams, waving the sign about wildly, “call me!” The clip rolls on for a few moments more. Jimin sits stock-still. His first thought is for the kid’s safety. Broadcasting your phone number and general location to the entire country isn’t the smartest idea. The threat of impending doom has loosened people’s inhibitions somewhat. Violent crime is on the rise, especially when night falls and their deeds are hidden by a blanket of darkness. Stores are looted, people are mugged at gunpoint. Since the news broke, Jimin hasn’t dared to venture outside of his apartment unless absolutely necessary, and certainly not before the sun came up. He glances down at his glowing blue phone screen, then glances up at the phone number on the television. Without putting much thought into what he’s doing, he jots the number into his contacts. Just as he finishes, the signal breaks, the clip is cut off, and the television is back to projecting nothing but ear-splitting static. Jimin shuts the thing off for good, pulling the plug out directly from the wall outlet. He’s fairly certain he’ll never need to watch it again. There can be no new news, not this far along into the disaster. What is will be. Whether or not he watches TV won’t change the fact that he’ll be gone soon. Neither will calling Jungkook. He stares at his phone for a half-second, deliberating for only a moment before he clicks the green “call” button.
He waits. The phone rings four times, taunting him with its droning, repetitive chime, before the line picks up. There’s a fair bit of shuffling on the other side, something that sounds like blankets being thrown off mattresses. Jimin can just barely make out the giddy “Oh, my God” on the other side.
“Hello?” Jimin asks. His own voice shocks him. It’s thin and dry, cracking at the tail end of all his words. He sounds weak and defeated, even though he’s spent the last few days convincing himself that none of this bothered him in the slightest.
“Hello! I’m J—”
“Yeah, you’re Jeon Jungkook. I know. I saw your… I saw your commercial thing.”
“Oh. Oh! ” Jungkook exclaims. There’s more shuffling, this time of papers. He thumps across carpeted floor, cursing under his breath as a cascade of somethings tumble to the ground. Jimin holds his breath.
“You’re the first caller. I wasn’t expecting — I mean, I didn’t think anyone would actually respond. Everyone’s busy with … other stuff,” Jungkook says. He’s purposely careful with his word choice, purposely euphemistic. No one speaks frankly anymore. Everything is beating around the bush, talking in circles.
“You sound young,” Jungkook remarks.
“Your voice is kinda high-pitched for a guy. You’re a guy, right? Oh, I didn’t even ask your name! That’s rude. Hey, I’m sorry, what’s your name?” Jungkook rambles. His words make sense, but he spits them out all at once. They blend together into a mass of unintelligibleness, and Jimin needs a good five seconds to process what he’s just said. He blinks.
“Park Jimin, 22,” he says. A moment later, as a second thought, he adds. “Yes, I’m a guy.” Jungkook hums, and the conversation dies. Jimin looks down at his socks. There’s a bit of dust gathering on the soles, and for some reason, he wonders if the world will have dust if everything is destroyed. Logically, the dust should burn up, shouldn’t it? Everything should burn. That, or be crushed.
“Listen, Jimin, not that I don’t trust you or anything, but I need to see your face.”
“Wait, wait, I have some rationale. It’s just that this sort of thing isn’t the safest. I don’t want to be catfished. I want to make sure this is for real, you know? That you are for real.” Jimin leans back to gaze at his reflection in the mirror. A few months back, he’d made the brash decision of bleaching his hair platinum blonde at home, and now, he’s reaping the consequences. His hair is brittle, tough like straw, and his dark roots haven’t been touched-up in weeks. He’s been getting nothing but good sleep lately, and yet, there are deep, heavy dark circles beneath his eyes. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t let himself be seen. Then again, these are anything but normal circumstances. He runs his hands through the mop of hair on his head and clears his throat.
“Yeah, okay. That makes sense. You got FaceTime?”
“Just like that?”
“I don’t exactly have anything to lose,” Jimin says. And it’s decided. He glances down at his p hone to see that the normal call interface has changed into that of a video chat. They pick up on each other immediately, but the connection is shaky. Everything is pixelated for a moment before it clears up, and Jungkook is in front of him in startling HD. Jimin’s eyes flit to his face in the corner of the screen and he grimaces.
“Sorry. I look … bad.”
“Says who?” Jungkook is even more childish up close. His eyes are big, dark brown and glimmering with hope and excitement. He looks like he’s got a whole life ahead of him to live. He looks like how a twenty-year-old should: bright and shiny and new. Just staring at him makes Jimin’s heart clench. He looks like spring, and the only thing waiting for him is an endless winter.
“Don’t say mean things about yourself. I think you look great.”
“You don’t have to spare my feelings.”
“Okay, then I won’t. But you have to spare mine. And it’ll hurt mine to see you hurt yours,” Jungkook says. Jimin quirks an eyebrow. For the first time, Jungkook speaks clearly. He doesn’t ramble, he doesn’t barf words. He makes perfect, coherent sense, and yet, Jimin still needs a moment.
“I made things awkward.” Jungkook laughs, but his smile doesn’t reach his eyes. He fidgets, r
unning his hands through his hair and looking askance, refusing to make eye contact with Jimin again. He rushes to reassure him.
“No, I just… No. You didn’t.”
“If it makes any difference, I didn’t come up with it. It’s something my aunt always used to—” Jungkook cuts himself off from his jabbering, breaking out into another bout of half-restrained, nervous giggles. Jimin thinks Jungkook is just a nervous person in general.
“You know what? It doesn’t even matter.” Jimin smiles. Jungkook must be right, somehow. At their base, people are good. They want the best for others. It’s in this moment that Jimin makes his decision. He’s going to make Jungkook comfortable. He’s going to see more than just a hint of his two front teeth. He’s going to be his friend if it’s the last thing he does.
“I have so many things I want to do,” Jungkook begins, voice low and creeping. “I’ve been so
careful up until now. I wasted my life trying so hard to be cautious, trying to do everything right. I wanted to keep my future safe,” Jungkook says. He smirks, mirthless. “And now that future is…”
“Gone,” Jimin finishes for him. Jungkook nods. His hair flops onto his face. It’s long enough to hide his eyes behind a blunt wall of dark brown. And yes, Jungkook is twenty. He looks a good five years younger than he is, and he wears an eclectic mix of emo rocker and frat boy clothes that only someone young could pull off, but in this moment, with his hair hiding his eyes and a subtle frown gracing his lips, he looks incredibly old. Jimin drums his fingers on the tops of his thighs, forcing a smile.
“Well, then. Let’s get to it.”
“You heard me. If Jeon Jungkook wants to do stuff before the end, then we’re gonna do stuff before the end.” Jungkook’s eye bulge comically wide, and his jaw falls open.
“Didn’t you say you needed somebody? Somebody to spend the rest of your time with? That’s me. I’m real. Park Jimin is real, and he’s talking to you right now. You said you already wasted a lot of time, so don’t waste anymore. Send me your location.”
“I — Jimin, you...” Jungkook scrambles for the right words. He opens his mouth as if he’s about to say something, about to protest, but Jimin simply shakes his head, and any refusal dies before it can leave his lips.
“Okay,” he smiles. The connection nearly gives out, and his face pixelates again, but his voice cuts through it all crystal-clear. “Okay, Friend for the End.”