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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

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Lukas knew that he’d never forget where he was when the news came on.

 

Two years ago, he’d been sitting at his desk, listening to the radio and puzzling over how to continue a chapter in his novel (The Autobiography of An American Nobody) when the music abruptly stopped. 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt your scheduled programs with an emergency broadcast. NASA satellites in the area of Jupiter have picked up a massive celestial body approximately the size of Mercury hurtling directly towards Earth. Due to the size of the body and its current trajectory, it would impact the Earth in roughly two years, destroying all life. Please remain calm. Top scientists and physicists from around the globe are gathering to find a solution and save our planet and the human race.”

 

Then music, like nothing had happened. 

 

Lukas’s hands had dropped, randomly mashing the keys on his laptop. 

 

He remembered not believing it at first, convinced it was a prank. It had sounded like something out of a science fiction movie. A dramatic one with a huge explosion at the end. 

 

But as the two years passed, the failed missions stacked up. 

 

Operation Minerva. A busted fuel tank. 

 

Operation Lightning. Sabotage. 

 

Operation Samantha. A freak explosion. 

 

And now, as he sat in front of the TV in his apartment, heart pounding as the broadcast started, he found himself biting his lips so hard they were bleeding. 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the news anchor, a young woman with bleach-blonde hair said, clutching her notes. “As you all know, Operation Iron Man, a mission to detonate a massive nuclear warhead inside Matilda, the celestial body roughly the size of Mercury that is currently approaching our planet at massive speeds, launched this afternoon in hopes of destroying it. However, due to a malfunction in the missile itself and a premature detonation of the warhead just past our moon, we regretfully must inform you that the last mission to save humanity has officially failed. The meteor is due to impact the Earth’s surface at 11:56 a. m. Eastern Standard Time exactly three weeks from now. Please, remain calm and console your loved ones. We bid you goodnight.”

 

Lukas just stared numbly at the screen. 

 

That was it. 

 

He was going to die. 

 

———

 

At first, Petra hadn’t heard about the news until the day after.

 

She’d gone out the night before, and had been so drunk that she hadn’t picked up on the whole killer asteroid thing. 

 

Now, two years later, she was holding her girlfriend’s hand in the back of her truck, listening to the old transistor radio sitting on the blanket between them. 

 

She gulped, giving Holly’s hand a squeeze and meeting her eyes. 

 

Holly nodded. 

 

Petra switched the radio on. 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you all know, Operation Iron Man, a mission to detonate a massive nuclear warhead inside Matilda, the celestial body roughly the size of Mercury that is currently approaching our planet at massive speeds, launched this afternoon in hopes of destroying it. However, due to a malfunction in the missile itself and a premature detonation of the warhead just past our moon, we regretfully must inform you that the last mission to save humanity has officially failed. The meteor is due to impact the Earth’s surface at 11:56 a. m. Eastern Standard Time exactly three weeks from now. Please, remain calm and console your loved ones. We bid you goodnight.”

 

It was deathly silent in the hot Florida night, except for the cicadas which were blissfully unaware. 

 

Then Holly broke down sobbing. 

 

Petra slowly wrapped her arms around her girlfriend, feeling the lump sticking in her throat. 

 

Holly had always been the strong one in their relationship. A stickler for the rules, a kickass law student, an emotionally intelligent and beautiful woman, and certainly a fighter to the last. 

 

Petra had been the high-strung and unstable one before, but it seemed that at least for now their roles had been reversed.

 

“Oh my god,” Holly sobbed. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.”

 

Petra opened her mouth to speak. 

 

But nothing came out. 

 

———

 

Jesse had always felt stifled by his life. 

 

A lot of people would’ve dreamed of being the son of a billionaire. 

 

He didn’t like it. Even with all the money in the world, even with anything he could’ve ever wanted at his fingertips, he felt lonely. 

 

Sad. 

 

Lost. 

 

The news had made him feel slightly better, at least. He’d gotten an excuse to get out of the house. 

 

But now he was sitting on his bed in his spacious bedroom, absent-mindedly stroking a silk blanket and half-watching Steven Universe

 

He’d been irritated by the interruption when the broadcast had come on. 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you all know, Operation Iron Man, a mission to detonate a massive nuclear warhead inside Matilda, the celestial body roughly the size of Mercury that is currently approaching our planet at massive speeds, launched this afternoon in hopes of destroying it. However, due to a malfunction in the missile itself and a premature detonation of the warhead just past our moon, we regretfully must inform you that the last mission to save humanity has officially failed. The meteor is due to impact the Earth’s surface at 11:56 a. m. Eastern Standard Time exactly three weeks from now. Please, remain calm and console your loved ones. We bid you goodnight.”

 

He just stared at the TV, clutching the blanket. 

 

He remembered every movie his father had been in, every appearance he’d been forced to make on TV and at parties as his father’s only child and protégé.

 

None of that mattered anymore, he realized, realizing at the same time that he was twenty-three years old and perfectly capable of living on his own. 

 

He shoved the silk blanket into a backpack, along with some toiletries, a change of clothes, a water bottle, some money, and his phone charger. Then he grabbed his favorite necklace with two charms on it that had belonged to his childhood friends and put it on. 

 

He pulled on his jacket, hoisted the backpack onto his shoulders and slipped out the window and away into the night.