“The Last Night of the World” – Ray Bradbury
“What would you do if you knew that this was the last night of the world?”
“What would I do? You mean seriously?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought.”
He poured some coffee. In the background the two girls were playing blocks on the parlour rug in the light of the green hurricane lamps. There was an easy, clean aroma of the brewed coffee in the evening air.
“Well, better start thinking about it”, he said.
“You don’t mean it!”
He shook his head.
“Not the hydrogen or atom bomb?”
“Or germ warfare?”
“None of those at all”, he said, stirring his coffee slowly. “But just, let’s say, the closing of a book.”
“I don’t think I understand.”
“No, nor do I, really; it’s just a feeling. Sometimes it frightens me, sometimes I’m not frightened at all but at peace.” He glanced in at the girls and their yellow hair shining in the lamplight. “I didn’t say anything to you. It first happened about four nights ago.”
“A dream I had. I dreamed that it was all going to be over, and a voice said it was; not any kind of voice I can remember, but a voice anyway, and it said things would stop here on Earth. I didn’t think too much about it the next day, but then I went to the office and caught Stan Willis looking out the window in the middle of the afternoon, and I said, A penny for your thoughts, Stan, and he said, I had a dream last night, and before he even told me the dream I knew what it was. I could have told him, but he told me and I listened to him.”
“It was the same dream?”
“The same. I told Stan I had dreamed it too. He didn’t seem surprised. He relaxed, in fact. Then we started walking through the office, for the hell of it. It wasn’t planned. We didn’t say, Let’s walk around. We just walked on our own, and everywhere we saw people looking at their desks or their hands or out windows. I talked to a few. So did Stan.”
“And they all had dreamed?”
“All of them. The same dream, with no difference.”
“Do you believe in it?”
“Yes. I’ve never been more certain.”
“And when will it stop? The world, I mean.”
“Sometime during the night for us, and then as the night goes on around the world, that’ll go too. It’ll take twenty-four hours for it all to go.”
They sat awhile not touching their coffee. Then they lifted it slowly and drank, looking at each other.
“Do we deserve this?” she said.
“It’s not a matter of deserving; it’s just that things didn’t work out. I notice you didn’t even argue about this. Why not?”
“I guess I’ve a reason”, she said.
“The same one everyone at the office had?”
She nodded slowly. “I didn’t want to say anything. It happened last night. And the women on the block talked about it, among themselves, today. They dreamed. I thought it was only a coincidence.” She picked up the evening paper.
“There’s nothing in the paper about it.”
They moved through the house and turned out the lights and went into the bedroom and stood in the night cool darkness undressing and pushing back the covers. “The sheets are so clean and nice.”
“We’re all tired.”
They got into bed and lay back.
“Just a moment”, she said.
He heard her get out of bed and go into the kitchen. A moment later, she returned. “I left the water running in the kitchen sink”, she said.
Something about this was so very funny that he had to laugh.
She laughed with him, knowing that it was what she had done that was funny. They stopped laughing at last and lay in their cool night bed, their hands clasped, their heads together.
“Good night”, he said, after a moment.
“Good night”, she said.