There were parties that night, but I elected to spend it alone, drinking and snorting the last of my priceless heroin on a wooded bluff overlooking the sea, capturing what quiet I could on my own terms and determined to meet the last day sober.
I woke, caked in vomit and pain as the sun arose, and trickled down to the beach, relishing the cool salt breeze on my chapped face. As I plunged my face into the water, I heard a tinny wail of joy, and turned in mute disbelief.
A child raced down the beach, trailed by her mother. As public opinion had slid into open hatred of those who knowingly reproduced, births had become unheard of.
I swam in a wash of emotions: raw fury at manifest selfishness, an aching nameless joy, a thousand other twinges of head and heart.
In the last decade, when it was clear that nothing could divert the comet’s path, the final gasps of the propaganda engine had repeated this final message: Don’t make it worse.
I rose, fists balled, but my shout of indignant protest died on my lips. The earth trembled, a passing shock wave under foot. The impact was hours ago, in the steppes of Asia; the wall of fire and pressure had made its solemn journey around the world to us.
The girl was swept into her mother’s arms. They looked serenely at me, twin eyes of sea green. For a moment, I bordered epiphany. Guilt washed in behind the tide of anger. Then it was gone, and I was empty at last.
“I love you,” whispered the mother, holding the child close.
I sighed, and the air grew dim and thick with the onrush of steam. My vision clouded, and I turned to the sea, one final time.