The News

“What? Why would she want a child? Why would anyone want a child?”, Matt exclaimed.

“I don’t think Katie thinks about things like that,” Josh spat, his jaws working on a rice cake.

Matt tapped his pen on the desk, then begun, “I saw a documentary where this little girl was born with skin that grew way too fast, and for some reason she would die if her mom didn’t scrub her body raw three or four times a day. And when the mom’s scrubbing this toddler for twenty minutes straight, the toddler is screaming is agony. I was watching what looked like torture and the mom’s just doing it like a daily chore. So anyway, the crazy part is she decided to have another 

child knowing that it had a big chance of being born with the same disease. And yep, the new baby had it too and would have to live its whole life like that.”

Josh looked stunned, then muttered, “Jesus Christ.”

“And basically Katie is that mom”, Matt finished. Distant footsteps were coming closer. Matt and Josh whipped around their office chairs to face the incomer, who was stepping around boxes and pallets that littered the floor of the narrow but long room. 

“Oh hey Sam. Good to see you,” Josh said flatly. His sarcasm was paper dry. “Don’t worry! I’m going back to work!” 

Josh scuffled off. 

“Can I talk to you?” Sam demanded. 

If this were anyone else, Matt would have thought a reprimand was in his near future. But it’s Sam, and she always sounds angry. “Sure! What’s up?” Matt answered. 

“In the back”, Sam nodded her head toward somewhere. 

“Oh. Okay.” Matt rose to his feet and followed her march to the back. “Oh, maybe she is angry,” he thought. 

Once in the back, Sam turned to Matt and began immediately, “Do you want to apply for the full-time position?”

Matt was silent for a moment, hesitating. Then muttered, “No I still would rather just be part-time.” 

“Do you have another job? I forget” asked Sam. 

“No, but I have a lot of personal projects I’m trying to get done right now. Maybe the beginning of next year?”

In actuality, Matt had no plans at all of ever going full-time. With knowledge of Earth’s inevitable destruction being near, he had developed a certain recklessness and abandonment. Most people did, Sam being one of the few who continued to keep taking anything seriously. 

“I’m asking because both Josh and Laura put in their two weeks. I have no idea what to do with the schedule unless I work eighty plus hours a week.” Sam’s desperation left a pit in Matt’s stomach.

Yet, he replied, “I’m so sorry. I just really can’t right now. Maybe I can just work a little more for a couple weeks.”

Sam sighed, said, “Okay, I understand,” then dragged herself off.

“Should I feel bad?” Matt thought. No. Sam was just trying to guilt him. She’s the one who’s doing a whole bunch of work for nothing. She’s focusing on all the unimportant stuff. Matt took a deep breath then returned to the desk. 

And not long after, Josh returned. “Did she make you take her dick?”. 

“She asked if I wanted to go full-time,” Matt said gravely. 

“Oh we can work mornings together!” 

“What? She said you were quitting.”

Josh froze. “Quitting?” Then, a moment later, confessed, “Yeah I’m leaving.”

“Why don’t you wanna tell me?” Matt asked. 

“I just thought you’d be upset cause you don’t really like anyone else here.”

“I like them fine. I just wouldn’t hang out with any of them.”

“Okay, well, I was just nervous to tell you cause I thought you’d be upset.”

“I am upset! Especially because you were gonna hide it from me!” Matt yelped. 

“I’m just doing what you do. I’m going part-part-time. But so much part-time that it’s no-time. Cause I think you’re right, what’s the point?” Josh ranted.

“I’m not as much of a nihilist as you say. I just say things that are true but no one wants to hear. And I never said I was just gonna quit doing anything and everything.” 

“Well I am!” Josh exclaimed. “The world’s ending so why the fuck am I spending half my time with Sam and Katie? I mean Katie is pretty hot but still.”

“It’s just that you’re going from a hundred to zero,” Matt pleaded. 

“I think all that happened is just that it really hit me. A lightbulb went off and it’s saying, ‘Hey, you’re gonna die soon.’”

“Nine years isn’t that soon,” retorted Matt. 

“Yeah but everything’s getting more dangerous every day. Like who the fuck knows what’s gonna start happening? I mean what if the collapse of civilization is right around the corner? Or what if one of those crazy groups targets me later tonight? I’m just gonna stay home, smoke and chill.”

“Well with that logic you should try to be out in elements more often so you can die sooner,” half-joked Matt.

“Well I’m not suicidal like I’m pretty sure you are. Matt, this is a retail store. Who the fuck cares if I quit? Why do people even come in here still anyway? Okay I gotta go now.” Josh left without time to give Matt a response. 

“I’m not suicidal, right?” Matt asked himself in his head, then shook off the notion. Since hearing the News, he’s quickly learned that such big questions are senseless. Clearly the universe is senseless, or else the world wouldn’t be ending, so to derive anything that resembles an answer from it, well, makes no sense. There’s no real questions because everything is self-evident, things simply have happened or will. We are merely audience members to the play called “Earth”, and its curtains have started to close. We wish for an encore but alas, the writers never wrote one. And the director and producers take a stubborn and unyielding stand on not allowing any audience critique to have things go differently. I mean, the play has already started, we can’t stop it now!

“Matt?” a woman’s voice quietly uttered. Matt snapped from his daydream. 

“Hey, what’s up?” he asked and nodded up. 

Laura questioned, “Did Sam tell you I was quitting already?” 

“Yeah, where are you going?”

“Oh, no where. I’m just moving back in with my parents for now.” She shrugged. 

“Oh. Okay. Well yeah if you think that’s best.”

“Yeah, I think for now it is. Could I ask you a question too? Would you want to take the rest of my shifts? Or at least some of them? I’d rather leave sooner.”

Matt sat on this. Why is everyone being so needy? 

“Sorry, I really can’t. I’ve got all sorts of stuff I have planned.” 

Laura seemed taken aback a bit. She followed up, “Well could you just take my closing shift next Monday? I looked at the schedule already and it says that you’re off. Do you have plans yet?”

Save for managers, employees weren’t supposed to have access to another co-worker’s shift schedule. But this store had an astoundingly mediocre line-up of managers and many policies, especially these days, were rarely enforced or even remembered. One team kept a schedule on the TV of everyone’s shifts for that week, the idea being to make shift-swapping easier. Matt often followed policies, only because he was better than most at the sort of foresight that let him see the purpose and importance of most of them. But, in not wanting to be labelled a curmudgeon, he never pressured adherence in others. Unfortunately, he was now being fed the rotting fruit of this flippant culture. 

“I’m going to a dinner. And I just don’t want to work Monday night anyway. Sorry.” 

Laura sighed. “It’s cool. I’ll ask some other people. I bet Josh would take it.” 

“Sorry, I have to use the bathroom.” Matt got up and headed out of the room, then down some hallways and out a pair of doors. If the bathroom was the outside of a mall, this was the bathroom. He took out a large black device, which flashed a light on it in a multitude of colors as Matt fidgeted with it. He began to inhale from it, after a moment held his breath, then finally exhaled a mist. 

“There’s a way to stop it, you know.” What?! Matt jolted. He turned in all directions, looking for anyone. That was a real voice. He went back inside and hurried down a hallway, but no one was immediately nearby. He opened the doors back up and took another look around outside. 

Stop what? The end of the world? It had to be imaginary, no one was around. But Matt’s head spoke to itself frequently and it was never anything like this. He felt his ear tickle when he heard… her. Some woman, like she was actually in his ear. And it wasn’t the weed, that takes at least twenty-something seconds. He had been totally sober. Okay, but nowhe was getting high! Fuck! Not the right time for that!

To stop the end of the world? She said there’s a way? Matt rapidly shook his head. He had to distract himself, the weed would wind up his mind too much otherwise. He rushed back inside. The outside of the mall was covered in graffiti, much of it disturbing.