When Jimmy was twelve his uncle told him when the world was going to end. He also told him he couldn't tell anyone because telling someone would cause the world to end right then instead. His uncle had planned, after some time would pass, to tell Jimmy that the whole thing was a joke, but unfortunately he died a week later. Standing over his Uncle's body at the funeral Jimmy whispered to him, "Why me?" His Uncle never answered.
High school was tough for Jimmy. Or Jim as he asked to be called when his thirteenth birthday arrived. He was on his way to becoming a man and he thought a name change could signify that. Secretly he hoped that changing his name, learning to sign test papers, and bank notes differently might help him move on from the weight of knowing the world would end. He’d hoped that perhaps he could hide from the responsibility while he tried to step into the world of girls and dating.
When he was fourteen he asked out Cindy Ross. Over the phone while Video Hits was on; Stevie Wonder’s ‘I just called to say I love you’. He didn't tell her he loved her, the call was fast. He asked for Cindy even though she was the one who answered the phone, asked he how she was, what she got on the Math test, then he said, ‘Would you like to go to the movies tomorrow?” She said Yes. And he wished her a Good night and hung up before she could change her mind. The Stevie Wonder video hadn't even finished.
When the song finally ended he called Cindy back and told her his Mother had told him he was supposed to babysit his sister, and he was super sorry he wasted her time. How could he go on a date, and laugh, and maybe kiss someone knowing that the world was going to end. How could he enjoy life knowing that at a fixed point in the future all of that enjoyment would have been in vain? Someone had to mourn the loss of the Earth, and life because when the world ended no one would be around to affect a moment of silence in the world's honour?
That night, when his parents went to bed, Jim stayed up and began writing out the history of the world; a Eulogy of sorts. Although he was not sure how he was going to save it for whomever may find it (he had to hope, right?) beyond the final days but he had to try. He wrote until he ran out of paper, then he went to his window and climbed on the overhang to watch the sun rise. He wondered if maybe Cindy was watching it at her house two streets over.
In Shop Class he asked Mr. Drew if there was a metal he could use that could withstand the heat of lava. Mr. Drew laughed at first, and when Jim persisted his teacher sat down and listed a few items that had a higher melting point than lava but, he said, that didn't mean it would be all nice and cool inside. Jim assured him that it would only house papers and things, and his teacher nodded and said any on the list would work, provided they weren't buried too too far under the lava… or crushed by the weight.
At the end of the day Jim found a note from Cindy in his locker asking to see him at TJ’s Market. She wanted to ask him something. He was unsure what to do; he knew he had a lot of writing to do when he got home (he’d only gotten to the Jurassic Era for crying out loud) but what he didn't realize was how intense the biological draw to girl’s would be. He pushed writing to another day.
At TJ’s he say Cindy sitting on one of the wooden benches with her friends and when he approached they all said Bye to her. As they rounded the corner he heard the girls laugh and say bye to him. He was nervous and immediately felt like he made the wrong decision; he should have gone straight home. 200 Million years of history was going to take him some time to transcribe.
Cindy, on the other hand, was beautiful. He had had a crush on her since Grade 8 when she sat in front of him in English on her first day in Prince Rupert. She was from Winnipeg and she was just as lovely to talk to as she was to look at. She asked him if they could walk. He nodded and followed.
“What time do you have to be home?” she asked.
“What for?” he said.
“For babysitting.” she said.
“Oh, that. Yeah. Later, I guess.” he said.
They walked in silence up the street and toward a small park with a swing set, a slide, a metal jungle gym, and sand box.
She said, “What move would we have gone to?”
“Uhm- maybe The Cocoon movie. Is that alright?” he said.
“I don’t know. I don’t really go to movies.” she said, and sat on the swing.
“You don’t go to movies? I don’t understand.” said Jim.
“I don’t know. My parents just never took me. So I never really went. I read alot.”
Jim sat on the swing next to her. “I like to read, too.”
They swung and talked and walked and sat until the sun was dipping along the horizon.
In the read of magic time, Cindy asked, “Oh my God. Don’t you have to go home?” Cindy reached for Jim’s hand. Fireworks went off in his heart.
For a brief moment Jim forgot about the end of the world. The end of days. He only felt the moment he was in just then. The softness of Cindy’s hand in his. His heart racing. His dream of being next to her alone was real. He could hear his Uncle’s voice, low and menacing, tell him the exact day the world would cease to exist. Then he remembered his laugh. How when his Uncle laughed the whole room laughed. The life in him that vibrated next to everyone else and how you would become infected in it. How Jim missed him, and resented him for telling him this secret, and longed to have him here to laugh with one last time.
“I lied.” said Jim.
Jim found it wasn’t hard to tell the truth to her since he knew how little amount of time was left of the earth and humans and all the stuff that humans do with each other. He said, “I was scared. I don’t know what I was scared, sometimes I get scared for no reason.”
Cindy took his other hand, and then clasped her own hands around his. She was an inch taller and as she looked down at him she said, “You don’t have to be scared, anymore.”
In the red of November, with the fall wind brushing past them Cindy and Jim kissed their first of many kisses in their relationship. Afterwards, they walked downtown and shared a plate of fries at The Green Apple. And after that they wandered to the shore to throw rocks in the water, and Jim finally walked her home.
Jim didn’t continue writing his history of the world, but he did stay up the whole night thinking about all the things he missed because he had been afraid. Of dying, maybe. Of enjoying something knowing that someday we would not be around to enjoy anything anymore. He rolled on his side and looked up at the moon. Grey and bright. Up there somewhere behind it might be some comet ready to take out Earth. Or an Earthquake could swallow his home town up like Atlantis.
He knew that when the day came that he died or the world did he would be able to look back at all the things he had done, all the laughter he enjoyed, and the hand holding, and the sunrises and say, “I lived.”