The Last Child

                Friends told her it was madness, to bring life into a world sentenced to die. They begged her to abort. “Spare him or her the pain,” They pleaded, “Spare them the brief light they would enjoy, so quickly extinguished.”

                But she did not listen. And eventually, absorbed by their own needs, they stopped calling. They forgot her and her insanity.

                Her husband’s was a silent warfare. Mentioning the swinger’s parties their friends and neighbors attended (what use was monogamy before the end?) offering her alcohol and other drugs that had previously been restricted or outright banned (what worth did Prohibition have at the eve of the Apocalypse?) he tried to tempt her from the Mother’s path. Eventually he left, no explanation, just a withering look that called her a fool. That pitied her for her sentiment. But he left all the same, in the arms of a younger woman and an older man. Free, in the eve of death, to pursue desires he no doubt had harbored all along.

                But still, she cradled her swollen stomach, and waited for her water to break.

                The moment came. With heretofore unknown strength she carried herself to the hospital. The few doctors that remained stared at her with disbelief, and outright resentment, wiped the exhaustion from their eyes and checked their watches. Their thoughts returning to their own families or loved ones, their own plans for eschatological bacchanalia. But regardless of how they felt about her folly, they performed their duties, and as the hours passed, one more life was brought into the world.

They cut the cord, checked to make sure the mother still lived, and fled.

                A shadow loomed over the world, though it was mid-day. They ran into darkness. The promise of Apocalypse, soon to be made fact.

                As she cradled her little girl, Shoshanna, she christened her before God and no one else, she was reminded of a funeral’s stillness. She looked into the eyes of the gurgling babe, and saw her mother’s. She tried in her mind’s eye to envision something other than their final closing, the silent procession of her corpse into the ground. She remembered her own eyes then, empty and dry, and wondered if she had known then what she knew now. That Earth’s remaining timespan was measured in years and not centuries, or even decades, if she would have mourned more openly.

                Well, it hardly matters now.

                She turned from the past, to the little future that remained. The daughter in her arms. She trembled, or maybe it was the shuddering Earth, anticipating the approaching moon-sized meteor. The baby did not cry. Perhaps even her daughter understood how little time they had together.

                “Why, you ask? Why did I insist you live, you wonder? Or would if you could. Perhaps, if there is an afterlife, and there you’re allowed to grow, you still might get the chance to ask. Why did I insist you live? Because… because…” She was interrupted by a scream in the distance.

                “Because, I think, even as we give way to the dark. Even as we are forgotten. I think it’s important that we remember-” Glass shatters, an entire species weeps, not going gentle into the night but with bright, yet pointless, fervor. “-we remember what we all struggled for. What we lived and died for.”

                The baby’s eyes locked on hers, and perhaps between them passed understanding.

                “You, the future, even though now you may be only a moment or two. What are we if we do not hand off the baton, regardless of how short the race? What is mankind, if not-”

                The meteor sinks into Earth like a stone into a quiet pond. The ground we thought solid and impenetrable collapses, and half the world disappears in an instant. The rest disintegrates a moment later, becoming dust adrift in space, hot masses slowly coalescing around a foreign core. That which destroyed the world becomes the foundation for something new.

Among the lost, the billions of human lives obliterated and then forgotten, a last child and her mother. Who both dreamed, despite its impossibility, of one more day in the sun.