“And don’t forget, everyone,” the news reporter said as she shuffled her papers, a bright smile pasted on her face and forced cheerfulness in her voice, just as she had been trained, “today’s the day. At midnight tonight, the fireworks will begin and there’ll be no waking up tomorrow. From all of us at the studio, we wish you a beautiful last day on Earth and we hope you enjoy it with your loved ones. And, if not, remember the last party tonight at Perkins Stadium. You just might meet a special someone there.”
Her partner leaned forward slightly, a forced smile on his own face. But it didn’t matter; there would be no life left on Earth tomorrow. If everyone hated their last broadcast, Callie and Luke wouldn’t care, nor would the rest of the studio.
“From all of us here, good night for the last time,” Luke said as Callie smiled from next to him and nodded her head, unable to speak her usual closing line.
“And we’re out,” the cameraman said from behind his camera and the little red recording light went out.
Callie leaned back in her seat behind the expansive mahogany desk, her papers neatly stacked in front of her. She toyed with a lock of her shoulder length auburn hair as her black-lined blue eyes, which matched the shade of her sky blue skirt suit, strayed to where her handsome, blond co-anchor still sat leaning forward over the table. He was slowly shuffling his papers together, his fingers shaking ever so slightly.
Tonight was a difficult night for them, for all of them, for everyone on Earth. Decades before, astronomers located all across the world had spotted a gigantic asteroid hurling towards Earth. Concerned, they had gathered to compare their data and had come to a conclusion: the asteroid was headed for Earth. At the time, they had chosen to assure the world they weren’t in any danger, and had continued to do so over the years. If there was any danger, there was still time to do something about it so the giant piece of rock wouldn’t strike Earth, they had assured the public. They had been so confident and assured and, as the experts, the world had taken their word for it. Life had continued on as it had been from that day on until about a year and a half ago. No one had known that astronomers, physicists, and military personnel across the world had been scrambling to try to figure out what they could do to save the planet and had repeatedly come up with nothing that would actually work.
Six months before, the world learned all those scientists, the very best and brightest minds of the day, had failed. The giant asteroid was still on a head-on collision course with Earth. It would strike in six months and would end up obliterating all life as they knew it on Earth. There was nothing anyone could do; the asteroid was simply too big and could now be seen through just about any standard telescope by any member of the public. Callie knew some of her neighbors had a telescope set up, trained on the asteroid to monitor its progress each and every day. Callie’s own seventeen-year-old daughter, her baby, did. Jenna claimed it helped her deal with what was going on and to help her understand just how much time she had. It helped Jen, but completely freaked out Callie, especially since she had the task of reporting on its progress every night.
Worldwide panic had set in after that for a straight month as everyone was suddenly faced with their mortality. Riots were rampant across the globe, financial institutions collapsed as people withdrew all their money for sprees around the world and people were resigned to enjoy the last few months of life with their loved ones. Mothers aborted their unborn children so they weren’t born just to be killed a few months later. School-aged children dropped out of school because, well, there was no real point to it anymore. Others stoically attempted to carry on with life, like Callie and Luke. But she knew they were just as scared as everyone else. Everyone faced the situation differently and now she wondered if she and everyone else had made the right decision. In the back of her mind, she kept thinking that she and her husband could be off in Tahiti somewhere, enjoying some drinks and a beautiful sunset. But, no, they had chosen to keep life as normal as possible for their youngest child, their gentle, fragile Jenna who would die before graduating high school.
Callie took a quick swipe at her eyes as she gazed around the studio, watching the techs pull up cords here and turn off lights there, slowly darkening the once bright stage. Luke still sat beside her, just staring off into the darkening studio, the papers lying in a mess beneath his hands. His jaw was slack and she recognized his shocked face, the same face he’d made when they had received an on air report two months before about the world poll. He couldn’t believe it any more than she could that their work was really over, that they had just started their last day of life.
Two months before, once things had settled down somewhat, world leaders had gathered together and a poll was put to the public. The people of Earth had a choice: death by asteroid or the world leaders would arrange for the Earth to the blown up by its own people. Death by asteroid? Or what was essentially mass suicide? It was for the people to decide. It had been close, but the majority of the world had voted for the latter choice. They had preferred to die “by their own hands” rather than at the hand of the universe. It was like they wanted to show the universe just who had the upper hand. It just made Callie shake her head. And she still wasn’t sure which was worse, or better, for that matter. She just knew she was going to die.
A second poll had been put to the public a week later: the date of Earth’s execution. A date and time had been selected within a few days. With a set, firm, carved in stone deadline, the people of Earth were able to set their affairs in order and enjoy the last days of life in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. People liked deadlines; uncertainty drove the masses mad with terror. Now, at least, they could know exactly how much time they had left.
The world had been standardized to one clock to make it easier for everyone. It meant some people were dealing with weird times during times of the day that didn’t really match up. Imagine having dinner at six in the evening when it looked like dawn was just approaching. Yeah, it was pretty weird. But someone, rumor had it that it had been the Prime Minister of France, had closed their eyes with a world map in front of them, had been spun around a few times by some of the other world leaders, and had stuck their finger at some part of the world. No kidding, it had landed on Mississippi and the U.S.A.’s Central Standard Time had been adopted worldwide.