October 31, 2020, Anno Domini
My name was Paco. I have a new name now, but that is beside the point. I am going to tell you about the last day on Earth.
I woke up that morning and I couldn’t breathe. The fires had been burning since August. Smoke filled the air so that it looked like twilight. I had to convince my body that it was time to get up. “Come on body, get up.” “It’s twilight,” my body said, “I should be getting ready to settle in for the night.” Then I heard a bowl crash to th’ floor and someone saying they couldn’t eat their breakfast now and I knew I had to get up and face th’ day.
The sky was orange, th’ sun nowhere to be seen. “Evacuation!” Felipe yelled, running into th’ hallway and stopping just shy of my face. I looked at him. Twelve years old and brilliantly excited about our house burning down. “Why do you want to evacuate so much?” “Because,” he said it as if it were th’ most natural thing in th’ world, “then we can just keep th’ things we care about most and leave th’ rest behind.” Spoken like a sage, my son, spoken like a sage.
I looked out th’ back window and tried to imagine where the sun was behind all that smoke. I smelled the coffee brewing. Then the phone rang. It was Mom. I hung up. Mom’s been dead for three years, what would you have done?
The phone rang again, and it was my Grandma this time. “It’s really her” she said, “Paco, she’s alive, she’s standing right here.” “Grandma,” I said, “Mom’s been dead for three years. Her ashes are in a box above your fireplace.” She put Mom back on th’ phone. “Paco, it’s time to come home now. Come home Paco.” She hung up th’ phone. There would be plenty of time to talk later. An Eternity of time.
“Who was that?” I looked at Marie, sitting there in th’ sunlight, holding her cup of coffee in her hand. “That was Mom” I said. You can imagine th’ look on her face.
I wanted to believe it. I wanted to disbelieve it. It was her voice though, that’s what convinced me. Not so much th’ sound of it, but, I heard her. No one else could be my Mom. I found out later that many who were dead had come back to life that day. They were not dead though, they were not ghosts, they were not rotten and gross, zombies or anything of th’ sort. What scared people th’ most, was that they were, for th’ first time in their lives, truly alive. Where they came from no one knows, but they knocked on th’ doors of those they loved and said trick or treat. They weren’t wearing masks. People were freaking out. You can imagine, I’m sure.
But that’s Halloween, isn’t it? Samhain. Dia de los muertos. All Hallows eve. Th’ day we remember th’ dead. Th’ day when th’ veil between life and death is ripped apart, so that either can pass freely through it.
Me and th’ kids got dressed up to go trick or treating. Felipe dressed up as a wildfire, Raul as a 1952 Chevrolet Panel Truck. Me as th’ Grim Reaper, same as I have for th’ last four or five years or so. I love death. I can’t help it. It both terrifies and fascinates me, as I’m sure it does you, too.
There were not many houses lit up. Not many looked inviting. Some friends had a fire going in their driveway. They offered me whiskey and th’ kids candy. We were thankful. We admired each others costumes. We looked at our little fire in th’ fire pit. We looked at th’ wildfire burning up th’ mountains not a mile away from us. We made a toast to fire. “To fire, may she burn forever.”
We continued on our journey, for a journey it was. Th’ moon was orange, and full. I let out a howl. After all, I thought, when was th’ last time we had a full moon on halloween?
Close to th’ moon was Jupiter, shining bright. I couldn’t help but notice. We walked from house to house, looking for one with lights. I kept looking at Jupiter, it looked like it was getting bigger. But that’s ridiculous. Planets don’t get bigger. They don’t leave their orbits. Do they?
A thought popped into my head. An idea. It wasn’t a good idea, but what th’ heck? It’s Halloween, th’ moon’s full, Mom called this morning, Jupiter’s apparently getting closer and closer, or I’m losing my mind. Either way, under such circumstances bad ideas are likely to disguise themselves as good ones.
“Felipe, Raul, you go to that house over there, th’ one with th’ ghosts hanging from th’ trees and th’ jack o lantern by th’ door. I’m going to go knock on this one.” “But that one’s all dark.” “I know,” I said, “I know.” I straightened my back, turned my scythe so th’ blade caught th’ gleam of th’ porch light, walked up to th’ front door and knocked. No one came. I heard moving inside. I knocked again, this time three knocks, slow and precise. The moving inside stopped. Then I heard footsteps, approaching the door.
The door opened little more than a crack. A mans face appeared. He had on a cute little calico patterned mask that looked like it came from a handmade shop in downtown. “Trick or Treat” I said. He jumped back a step or two, leaving th’ door to swing open. “You go away” he said, “don’t ever come back here.” I realized then that I didn’t have a trick or treat bag, so I held out my hand, and said again, “Trick or Treat.” Th’ guy turned white as a ghost, so I thought I’d better make my retreat.
But I couldn’t move. I felt a cool breeze on th’ back of my neck. Well, it started out cool. But then it got colder, and colder. And it spread down my spine, and into my arms and legs, and my chest was slowing down. I heard a Woo Woo sound…
“Papa Papa! There’s a Big and Mean behind you!”
Somehow that broke th’ spell. I turned around and swung my scythe, forgetting that scythes were made to be swung at grass, but th’ blade went right through th’ Big and Mean, and it exploded, leaving nothing behind but a wisp of smoke.
“Papa, we gotta get outta here. There’s Big and Means! They’re real!”
In case you don’t know what Big and Means are, let me tell you. They are shadows. They are seven feet tall, six feet wide at th’ top, one inch wide at th’ bottom. Like a giant upside down triangle, with big red eyes that burn with fire. They feed on fear, and one touch can kill you, though a few have survived. Th’ ones who did said they felt like they were frozen to death. And even weeks, months later, they never were able to warm up. They spent the rest of their lives cold. Most people, if they know of them at all, believe them to be myths, legends, stories made up to scare children. That’s what I thought too. I’m no different than anyone else. Or at least I wasn’t, until I felt such a chill, and turned around, and swung my scythe right between those big red eyes. At that moment, without choice, and without a doubt, I joined the ranks of believers.
“I thought you just made those up!” I said, as we ran back towards our house.
“I thought so too!” Felipe yelled.
Raul slowed down, and stopped running altogether. Me and Felipe stopped and ran back to him. “Come on Raul, let’s get outta here.” But he just pointed to th’ sky. “Look” he said. And indeed, Jupiter was nearly half th’ size of th’ moon.
“Whoa” said Felipe, “Is that Jupiter?”
“It is.” What more was there to say? Only this, “I need another shot of whiskey, let’s go back to th’ Barton’s house and warm up around their fire.”
We went home first, to get Marie and Romona. Felipe and Raul burst through th’ front door. “Mama! Mama!” they shouted, “th’ Big and Means are real! They’re real!”
Marie was no stranger to such intrusions. She’d heard them countless times before. But when I saw her standing there, holding Romona, staring not at th’ door, but above it, and when I turned, and saw th’ shadow that was actually a Big and Mean above th’ door, well then I knew that she did in fact, believe us.
I jabbed the scythe up into th’ corner, destroying the Big and Mean and sending down a shower of popcorn crunchies from th’ ceiling. “Have you been outside” I asked.
“No” she said, “I’ve been trying to keep Romona away from th’ Big and Mean. She’s been chasing it around th’ house.” Romona laughed, pointed to th’ corner where th’ Big and Mean just was, and said “Color black. Color red.” One thing you should know about Romona, she’s one and half years old.
“Well,” I said, “aside from th’ fact that people are coming back from th’ dead, and half th’ world’s on fire, and th’ monsters from our childhood imaginations are real, Jupiter’s getting closer.”
Apparently this surprised her th’ most. “What?” she said.
“Come look.” We went outside and looked up at th’ sky. We could barely breathe now for th’ smoke. Th’ moon was red as blood. And Jupiter was now as big as th’ Moon. It was close enough that we could see it moving, getting closer and closer to us. It grew in th’ sky, through th’ haze of th’ smoke, til we could see it’s bands spinning around it, could see th’ storm clouds swirling on it’s red spot. I don’t think there was a soul alive who wasn’t standing outside looking at it.
Just then I heard someone scream. Th’ fire had crested th’ last ridge between us and it. It was inevitable now, we would have to evacuate. I looked at th’ fire on th’ mountain burning. I looked at Jupiter hurtling towards us. And then I had a realization. We aren’t going to have to evacuate, because Jupiter is going to crash into us. Or us into it. By now it had captured Earth with it’s gravity, and was pulling us into it. “Come on, let’s go” I said.
We walked over to our friends house. It’s amazing how knowing there is nothing you can do to prevent th’ world ending has such a calming effect on you, we all just kinda mosied on over to th’ Barton’s house. They still had their fire going. They were watching their smoke mingling with that of th’ wildfire. They were watching Jupiter hurtling towards us. They were eating candy and drinking whiskey. “Hey you guys!” They waved at us. We waved back. Marie and Romona sat down by th’ fire to warm up. I gave Romona a big ole piece of candy. Felipe and Raul and th’ Benton kids ran around th’ fire singing “We didn’t start th’ fire, it was always burning since th’ world’s been turning!”
“How do they know that song?” Someone said.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”
One moment we were all sitting and running around the fire, our two families, watching Jupiter crash into us. Th’ next, I was all alone.
Only I wasn’t alone. Th’ Maker of all that is was there with me, in bodily form, looking like a man, yet being God. I fell to my knees, my eyes to the ground, my hands outstretched. A strange sensation came over me then, and it is not one that can easily be conveyed. I felt a kind of fear, as I had never known fear- and yet I was not afraid. Indeed, I realized then that I had been afraid all my life, and that now I was with God, and nothing would ever scare me again. Th’ fear was falling off of me like a shed skin from a snake. God was my fear, and my peace. I feared Him, but I trusted Him completely. In this I had no choice. He was everything, He was even me. Not at all that I was Him, but that He was me. You will understand when it comes to pass.
All words are meaningless now. I was pure emotion. I wanted to tell Him I was sorry, for I saw at once how everything I’d ever done was for myself. And yet, as He bade me rise, I knew that I was forgiven, that I had always been forgiven, and that forgiveness had nothing to do with me asking for it.
I should say that all during this time, which sometime seemed like a mere moment, sometime like a thousand years, I never did get a glimpse of His face, or if I did, I cannot remember it.
The ground around us was barren, there were no plants or life of any kind, save for the Creator. He alone was life. Th’ sky was dark, or maybe there was no sky. Nevertheless I could see stars shining. They appeared to be moving closer, or getting bigger, much like Jupiter did earlier. “Lord,” I wanted to ask, “are you Jupiter?” The wanting was enough.
“I am Jupiter, and Saturn. I am Mars, and Venus. I am Mercury, and Earth. I am Uranus, and Neptune. I am lowly Pluto, and all his Kuiper Belt companions. I am all the moons of all the planets. I am everything that’s ever been discovered, and everything that has remained hidden. I am the Great Mystery, and I am all that is known…”
By this time th’ stars were so close that many of them had merged together, til there was more light in the sky than darkness. And yet th’ stars still moved closer, closer together, and closer to me. I felt as though I were being watched by them, as though I were on trial, and they were my jury, or I was on stage, and they were my audience. I felt no judgment from them, nor heat, nor cold. I was utterly at peace. And when at last, as they moved closer, and so close that there was nothing but light, like a bubble around us, God swept His arms around me, drawing with Him the stars, til there existed nothing but light.
And that is how th’ world ended. Trick or Treat.