How do I tell this sweet child it’s okay to cry, especially tonight?
She’s done nothing to deserve this horrific truth, and I could find no good reason to spoil those innocent eyes.
Will she be glad I’d kept my terrible secrets from her when she realizes there’s no tomorrow?
Why can’t I find the heart to weep? Because it’s too late for tears. I must save my daughter from this doom. Make it quick and painless, then follow her into the next life.
I remember the department’s slimy memos:
Dr. Shriver is an alarmist, he cannot be believed.
Dr. Shriver has had an unfortunate psychotic episode. He is on leave pending an investigation.
Dr. Shriver has had difficulties coming to terms with the rejection of his research. In the absence of scientific evidence, one must approach Shriver’s theories with a large dose of skepticism.
“Daddy, why are we on this boat? Where’s Mummy?”
“Mummy didn’t believe me. She said I’ve been working too hard and my head’s all mixed up.”
I looked into my daughter’s eyes…trusting and as blue as a summer day.
“I want to go home. I don’t like it here. It’s getting dark. I’m scared, Daddy. I want my Snuggle Bear.”
Why shouldn’t she be happy in these final hours? Was it delusional of me to think the open sea would provide us with a chance to survive?
I knew the truth, and it ripped my soul to shreds. All the more reason to end the pain right now so neither of us will have to witness the end. It’s the right thing to do…it has to be.
I rummaged through a drawer until I felt cold steel touching my hand. Trembling, I opened a fresh box of bullets. I wished for an alternative.
Hard to fathom, we won’t live to see tomorrow.
I loaded the weapon and spun off the barrel.
Should I explain? Make her understand why this has to be? She’s too young for reasoning. All she knows are endless horizons in which life goes on forever. Am I a savior, or a monster, trying to keep the pain from her? I placed the pistol in plain view on the side-bench—a reminder of what needed to be done.
“Come over here, Crystal. Sit beside Daddy. Do you remember the prayers you learned at school?”
“I don’t want to pray, Daddy. I want to go home and get Snuggle Bear.”
“Soon, darling, don’t worry. Why don’t you call Mummy on my cell-phone and tell her you love her. She’d like that.”
I dialed, waited for a connection, and passed the phone to Crystal.
“Hello, Mummy, it’s me.”
“Where are you, Sweetheart? I’ve been worried sick.”
“We’re on a boat.”
“Whose boat? Where…?”
Crystal’s gaze lit upon the gun. She produced a quizzical frown.
“Dunno, but Daddy has a gun. He looks sad.”
“Put him on the phone, Crystal. Now.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s too late to talk. Tell her goodbye.”
“He won’t talk to you, Mummy. He says it’s too late.”
I heard my wife’s cries of anguish spewing from the phone.
Like I said; too late for tears, too late for words.
“Tell your father if he touches one hair on your head, I’ll kill him.”
“Daddy wouldn’t hurt me, Mummy. He said he brought me here to save me. What’s that mean?”
“Hold the phone up Crystal…so he can hear me.”
Plucking the phone from my daughter’s hand, I threw it into the dark sea.
I picked up the gun with resolute hands. Crystal wouldn’t understand the terror she would witness if I didn’t do this now. I glanced at my watch. If my calculations were correct, it would begin in a matter of minutes. I had to remain strong.
I clutched at my daughter and held her close. I could feel her warmth through my shirt as I pressed the gun to her back. I heard her whimper. Had I squeezed her too tight, or did she know what I was about to do?
The gun exploded. She went limp as a rag doll. I watched a crimson splotch of sugar-n-spice diffuse over the fabric of her dress.
I picked her up, placed her comfortably on the narrow sofa, and pulled a soft blanket over her chest. Reaching into my bag, I grabbed Snuggle Bear and placed him carefully by her side. She would sleep in peace now, without pain, forever. Tears welled behind my eyes; it took a mountain of strength to hold them back.
My God, I’d done the right thing, hadn’t I?
I took the gun, faltered to the upper deck, and stared into the night sky.
It looked like an ordinary night, but I knew better. The sky was fraught with secrets, enigmas no one wished to acknowledge.
I glanced again at my watch. The nagging fear that I might have been wrong prickled up my spine.
I’d done the math, I’d seen the simulations. I’d crunched the figures and reduced the timeframe to a matter of minutes. It should have begun by now.
I stood aloft and waited, the gun fused to my hand. My mind scrambled, every pore in my body trembling with adrenaline, my thoughts mingling with pure dread, all of it useless. I could find no form of consolation.
The first meteorite fragment startled me as it whizzed past, impacting the sea—stern side. A sliver of molten rock, traveling from the far reaches of the galaxy, ended its journey with a horrific explosion.
Scurrying inside, I kissed Crystal on the forehead. My sweet girl.
An orange-yellow incandescent glow radiated outside the portholes as a shower of meteorites pummeled the docks. In a few hours, the entire planet would become a sea of fire and gas.
I felt a torrid wave of hot saline rush down my cheeks as I placed the gun barrel against my temple.