All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
In my dream, I run. As fast as I can, like I’ve been taught in track. But I don’t feel that I am going very fast. My heart is beating much more quickly than my feet hit the pavement, and the two sounds beating in my head compete in a panicky, disjointed harmony. I pause, rasping for breath, and my breathing joins the sounds in my head. I try to clear my mind. I have to hear, to know if I’m being followed, but the sounds of my exhausted body are overwhelming.
In my dream, I am being chased by a comet that glows so brightly that the world is engulfed in its flames. I can feel it, searing hot, against my back. I run harder, but I can feel that I am making no progress. The giant piece of rock sputters, throwing burning pieces of stone against my back. I struggle for breath. I can run no more. I fall, succumbing to the light and the dizzying heat. And then I wake up.
When I was six months old, I contracted meningitis. My parents took me to the hospital for seizures and an extremely high fever. The meningitis was severe, and the doctor told my parents that I wouldn’t live through the night. I am now fifteen years old, and I remember none of this. Nevertheless, the knowledge of my near brush with death has always hung in the back of my mind with the weight of a swinging pendulum. Sometimes I am glad that I am alive. Other times I wonder what life would be like if my life had ended before my memory even began. My upbringing is strictly Christian, so I would like to believe that I would have gone somewhere, preferably to Heaven. But sometimes I wonder if my soul would simply have slipped away into nothingness. Or perhaps I would have become a tiny, airy ghost, sentenced to wander the world for sins I had not yet committed. Death is so fascinating, yet it is a dangerous fascination when it becomes an obsession. But I was never one to flirt with death. I have never been tempted to throw myself off a cliff or take one too many pills. I suppose that is because I experienced its nearness so soon in my life. Death always seemed something I could control, something I had mastered. But the feeling left me some time ago. Now, I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t sure I was going to die.
I wake up slowly, groggily. I lie, staring up at the crusty concrete walls of the bunker. I did not fall asleep here. My last memories are in my home, snuggled up with my dog on the couch, watching the TV, and changing the channels as each one flickered out, leaving behind a trail of static. My parents had been making trips back and forth from the house to the bunker, carrying cans and blankets. I had asked if they had wanted my help, but they hadn’t. My parents seemed truly flustered for the first time in my entire life. They hadn’t believed that anything would become serious until it was too late. The bunker was only a relic, an old dusty place where I used to play house as a child. It was hardly equipped to be our new home. When the sirens came on, the TV went completely dead, and after a few moments, the electricity went out. My mother brought me a drink, and numbly I took it. It was only after I had gulped it down that I realized how chalky the coke tasted.
“It’s for the best.” My mother had said. And then I fell into a deep, drugged sleep.
I sit up, and the rusty army cot swaggers under my shifting weight. The bunker has two rooms, and I hear my parents in the next one. I tiptoe over cans and water bottles, and wince as I step over the chemical toilet. My bare feet scuff against the cement.
In the next room, the walls are lined with jagged rows of cans. A card table is in the middle of the room, and my parents sit at if nervously. They don’t see me in the doorway, at first, and when they do, they contort their faces into nervous smiles.
“Has it begun yet?” I ask.
“We’re not sure.” My mother answers. The truth is no one is sure what to expect—what it will feel like to die. Because of course that is what is going to happen. We are in the bunker, surrounded by cans of food, only because we are hopeful. I suddenly realize that my mother is surprised that the sedative wore off so quickly. Maybe she hoped that the end would come to me, and I would never know. Perhaps she wished I would never wake up. Perhaps in dying, I would continue to dream, but my dreams would never end. This makes me shudder. I prefer to face my fate awake. Somehow, this makes me feel less powerless.
“Where’s Rufus?” I ask.
My parents sigh.
“There wasn’t time…”
I begin to cry. We’re all going to die, but my dog is going to die alone.
My mother is crying too, but not for the dog.
They kept us in school until they were sure that somehow, things wouldn’t get better. I think we were all expecting a sudden change in the tensions. In the movies, that’s the way it always happens. But when it was finally confirmed that the meteor would actually hit earth, we still had to come to school. Classes weren’t mandatory, though, and we were encouraged to visit counselors. Most of us just sat in empty classrooms and cherished boredom.
On the last day of school, I visited my chemistry teacher, Mr. Alper. He and I were old friends, despite the fact that I hated chemistry. He was the closest person I knew to a scientist.
I was surprised to find him grading papers when I knocked on the door, but I took it as a hopeful sign. If Mr. Alper was grading papers, than maybe he didn’t believe the world was going to end.
“Is the world going to end?” I had asked.
Mr. Alper had stared at me for a long time.
“What do you think?”
“They say on TV we’re going the way of the dinosaurs.”
Mr. Alper had laughed. “That’s one way to put it. Good luck, Seline.”
“Good luck to you too.” There was no more to say.
The next day, I did not return to school. I stayed home and tried to decide what the last book I would ever read would be. Finally, I chose Gone with the Wind. It seemed appropriate.
My parents and I sit together at the card table, bracing ourselves for the inevitable. I am weary of waiting, frustrated with the fabrication of safety that the bunker offers. We are going to die, the bunker will, at best, only prolong our waiting.
We watched it on TV for days before it came into the sky. There was something reassuring about seeing the glowing firebrand surrounded by space. Space was far away. But when the flaming ball of fire finally appeared, the television moderators had nothing more to say.
As the days went by, the sun became dwarfed by the comet and the nights withered away into nothingness. It was bright twenty-four hours a day. People put up black out curtains and slept in basements.
Some people tried naming the comet, the meteor, whatever it was. But unlike storms and hurricanes, it seemed inappropriate to give the harbinger of humanity’s death a human name.
We are taught that everyone is brought into the world for a reason. But we are also taught that we have the breadth of a life time to fulfill our potential. Suddenly, my dreams and ambitions were flattened by announcement that a meteor would destroy my chances of a future. I had dreamed of a career and a family, and had settled on the assurance that such aspirations would become a reality. Now, I was would become nothing but a statistic, a statistic that would mean nothing to anyone because everyone would be dead.
Hours pass, and we grow hungry. It seems sacrilegious to waste out time eating in these, our last moments. But we aren’t doing anything else, and our stomachs do not seem to know that soon we will be dead and have no need of sustenance.
I half-heartedly poke at the pile of cans, looking for something over than spam. In their rush to stock the bunker, my parents seem to have forgotten I was a vegetarian. Finally, I settle on a can of spinach.
My mother gasps. “I forgot the can-opener.”
It’s almost funny.
We go back to the table and sit, doing nothing, staring at each other. We are waiting for the earth to shake, the ceiling to collapse.
I volunteer to go back to the house for a can-opener, but my parents will hear nothing of it.
Suddenly, I am struck by an idea.
“Imagine,” I say “Imagine if the meteor never hits. Maybe it will somehow miss earth. And then we’ll sit here for years and years, waiting for something that will never happen.”
My father opens his mouth to respond, but then we feel it.
The first tremor is almost intangible. And then the room shakes. There is a sound like crumbling porcelain, and then I slip away…
I am floating, floating in a warped darkness that shivers with the light from a million comets. Pain surges in a rainbow of variations, like music that can be felt. Strangely I feel at peace.
My mind is working very slowly, as if my thoughts were thick cream that is being dripped through a fine sieve. Slowly, however, I am overpowered by the realization, that this Death.
I search for a face, of an angel or a devil, I don’t know which. I scream, but my words bubble out of my mouth as if I was underwater.
And then, I feel something pulling me from the darkness. I don’t want to leave. It is easier to embrace the blackness. The waves of pain are predictable and their pattern is almost comforting. But then I feel light from behind my eyelids. Not the light of a comet, but the light of the sun. I force the heavy doors of my eyes open, and my vision stutters and then comes into focus.
A woman in white is looking down on me.
“Are you an angel?” the words come from my mouth like rusty nails falling out of tin can.
“No. Relax. I’m a nurse.”
I sit up painfully.
“Where are my parents?”
“They’ll be alright, they’re recovering too.”
“You mean I’m not going to—We’re not going to die?”
The nurse smiles “Of course not. You’re stabilized. You’re going to be OK.”
It’s weeks later, and school has started again. I return, unbelievingly. Somehow, my mind cannot grasp that not only am I alive, but life is returning to normal.
Mr. Alper’s is the first class of the day.
He sees me and smiles.
“You know, Seline, I never thought I would see you again.”
“Me neither, I say.”
“I guess the meteor wasn’t as big as scientists thought.”
“Maybe,” I said “Or maybe we were just luckier than the dinosaurs.”