I moved morosely down Melrose and met the sun peeking over the horizon. The sky was gray and the streets were empty. It was Sunday. I tugged the strings of my hoodie down to shield the shrewd east wind from my face. Despite the chill, I trudged down the road still. My head was on a swivel scanning the streets left and right for a good place to die. I would not let my garden level studio apartment become my coffin. Tears were streaming down my face, but I couldn’t tell if it was due to swirls of wind cutting past my eyes or the fact that I was helpless and stifled in preventing my inevitable death.
The street smelled of the dead. I inhaled that fragrance so deep that I began to cough. The air was rightfully cold. I put my hands in my front pocket to keep warm, but the steel of my Ruger made that impossible. The sounds of quiet chaos trace the skyline as I walk through downtown. Sirens. Screams. Signals. Fear and nihilism continue to wash over me. Where is God in a situation like this? The emergency horns rang through the city about 36 hours ago. I never thought that was enough time for me to decide whether or not to evacuate. The aftermath of car wrecks barricade the busiest streets left behind by frenzied drivers. My feet continued to wade through the city debris, yet my attention riveted on the lifeless bodies hanging out of the wreckage kept my head from facing forward. Having passed the the Chicago River, and now on the bike path of Lake Shore Drive, I realized that I had been walking for more than two hours, but it felt much shorter.
The bottom of my shoes began to scrape against the concrete as I walked. I was exhausted and in dire need of a good bench. A good bench, I thought. That would be a great place to regret my life choices. A great place to think about all of the things I’ll miss out on. I was only twenty-seven. The ebbing and crashing of the lake snapped me back to reality. I had almost missed the old woman sitting on a bench feeding the murder of crows flocked around her. I approached her and just stared. Our eyes met, but we sat in silence for a few seconds while we only acknowledged the fact that birds did not flee as I approached.
I sit next to her without her invitation and slide my hood back behind my shoulders facing the lake I had only swam in once since moving here. I check my phone. 6:56am. Roughly thirty-one minutes until our voluntary demise. She crosses her hand over to mine.
“I’m Magdalena. But my folks call me Maggie.” Maggie’s face is timeworn and wrinkled. Her skin was dark, a color that reminded me of an early-autumn night. I couldn’t see her eyes behind her thick, heavy sunglasses. She was nice and seemed like the type of grandmother who always offers food to her grandchildren, and they never decline even if they weren’t hungry.
Maggie put her head back down to attend to the birds. “You came to watch the show?” she said cheerfully, “It’s hard to believe they didn’t see this one coming.”
“I’m not getting out of the city,” I say watching the birds surround my feet indicating they want to be fed.
“No shit,” she laughs, “We’d die anyway.”
Her eyes squint, almost peacefully, as the sun rises. “I’ve lived a long life. One day, everybody’s gotta die.
Might as well enjoy the show.” We just sit there, facing east, in an endless moment of pensive silence before a hum fills the air and drowns out the sounds of panic in the city.
“There it is!” she says pointing her bright-red painted finger at the sky. I could feel my heart sink and my breath beginning to shake, and then grow rapid. The bright light from the object still shined through my eyelids as I clamped them closed. Her hand moves over to mine with our fingers laced together. The ground trembled. The whirring swelled. My body was curling in on itself. It was too much. The words passed through my mind like an electronic display. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. Oh God, is this it? I don’t want to die. Everything was closing in on me. Maggie’s hand clutches mine a little tighter. My other hand is tucking into my front pocket with a finger on the trigger wondering if I should end my panic quicker. She takes her sunglasses off and slides them onto my face. When the fireball embraces the earth behind us, there was no pause. No moment of peace. Just a….smack. We swing around to view of a hollow yellow sphere rising over the skyline. I bow my head and begin to pray. Where will we go next? I could think of nothing else.
Now, onto death, we elope.