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It was the last day of the world, and Samantha and Tobey woke up to the sound of a sparrow, the last of its kind. It cooed a dreamy, creamy, sorbet of a melody, notes rising and falling, wings beating up and down, up and down. Tobey’s arm hung over Sam’s chest, secure and satisfied in its impending destruction. As Sam opened her eyes and slowly registered his settling warmth and sweet boy smell, she was firmly aware of the world that was to exist, or not to, by the time the sun set.
She knew that by morning thousands of years of loves, art, science, and wars, would be as if they never happened. There would be no scholar to remember Leonardo or Einstein, Napoleon or Lincoln, Jesus Christ or Paul McCartney. No father would be around to tell bed-time stories of Moses, Aladdin, or Harry Potter. No record would exist of the invention of the printing press, the computer, the cure for cancer, the World Turner. Ironically, it was this last miracle advent of science that caused what no one would be alive to call the Apocalypse. The World Turner was the brilliant feat of science that left Sam waking up to one last day, not 25,550.
She yawned and stretched and Tobey stirred. A soft dew of sunlight drenched the bohemian loft and its inhabitants. Tobey, his brown tresses falling in waves over the linen, rotated to face Samantha. Locking eyes, they shared a moment of ease, compassion, and wisdom so absolute that it would go down in the history of such moments, if there would have been history after that day. It was infinite and fleeting, (if infinity was a concept anymore, and if everything wasn’t in fact fleeting) and at its end they stood up, crossed the carpeted floor, and walked out of the door with hands clasped. They could not waste this day.
Sam and Tobey breathed in the light, refreshing oxygen that had regenerated itself that morning as it had on any other. They swung their arms back and forth and back and forth and kicked forward the plastic pebbles beneath their feet. Mechanical squirrels skidded over aluminum roots of trees with a melodic ding that resonated through the ears of the little girl beside her robotic dog, everything in motion and connected in circles around the couple.
The sparrow followed them as they walked through the artificial outside; the metal city. An old woman, on her porch wistful and rocking, noted its flight with a faint smile. She knew it was the last of the Reals.
When the woman, Margaret Anne Fischer, was seven years old, a new man came to power in the country. Evan Forrest was a scientific genius, with revolutionary ideas about the world and the way it operated. Marge remembered the evening news on the materializer the day he patented the World Turner. When the anchorwoman explained that it was a machine to end all machines, Margaret’s mother stopped pressing buttons on the laundry folder and turned, rapt, to face the pixels. The woman explained that it had the power to run the world artificially.
Margaret understood later, many years later, that there was a movement in the country at the time to eliminate human’s reliance on nature. Smog clouded everywhere from L.A. to Niagara by the twenty-third century- dense and sour. The forests were dying out completely from human’s use of the wood. The movement sought to show that humans had done too much harm to the planet to rectify the situation. A new nature should be created.
Forest’s brainchild was the Messiah to these people, and with enough penetration into the already corrupt American government, his plans became national policy. The country would be fueled with fake oxygen, inhabited by robotic animals, fed with tubes of chemicals, driven by science and progress. Everything part of nature- the “Reals” they were later called- was destroyed.
It was now one-hundred-seven years later, 2405, and Marge knew that there were few who remembered a different reality. She didn’t understand how people could be happy in this new existence, she didn’t understand how the sparrow could exist after the destroying…she kept rocking.
When Tobey and Sam reached the center of their city, their eyes swarmed with the sight of a crowd of thousands: on blankets to stunt the pain of the harsh Astroturf, standing, holding loved ones and sobbing, children playing tag, teenagers weary and disoriented, a mess, a huge mess of a crowd in that square, hoping for answers. Gathered because they were told to. Their eyes widened and their pupils dilated as they took in the mass. The machine- The World Turner- stood in the center of the throng, protected by an invisible plexi-glass wall, humming with electricity. A calm, emotionless voice boomed in the surround sound of the square. It was coming from the government headquarters, and the voice behind it couldn’t be seen.
“As anyone but a complete hermit would know, today is the end. The machine- which you will see is located at the center of the square, on the platform- is deeply rooted into the earth. Its wires and, thus, its influence spread downward to the core, and upward to the outermost atmospheric layer. Twelve days ago, despite the precision of its government technicians, and the country’s faith in its abilities, the machine suffered from an unforeseen malfunction. And twelve hours from now, it will set off and chain reaction that, as you know will cause the implosion of our planet, and the end of our lives. Please remain calm. Thank you for letting your government verify these facts through this message. Bathrooms are on your left and front.”
Perhaps the reality that was before them truly sunk in at that moment, for a cacophony of sound surged through the crowd. The soft moans became desperate screams, the conversations of quiet anticipation became shouting matches of terror, and the gentle playing became gruesome, violent brawls. Unconscious of their path, but still following the flight of the sparrow, Sam and Tobey swept forward into the nucleus of the mob.
They came upon a father and son. The father was clinging to his toddler son’s golden locks with a fierce fervor that surpassed his old age and meek stature. The boy turned around to hug his father and smiled a carefree, dimpled, toothy grin. The adjustment in position sent the man backwards, into a burly stranger behind him. Samantha looked on in fear of how the larger man would react; she noticed the escalation of his silent fuming. The man was of course scared for his impending day when he entered the square, and his fear grew into an deep anger with every sound of a crying woman, with every word that the invisible speaker uttered- a tremendous and scorching spark was pumping just below the surface of his skin. As the father stepped on his colossal foot, the spark was ignited.
The man that was a fiery spark of fury spun his intruder around to face him. He pulled at his shoulders with such strength as to rip them from their placement above the father’s chest. The father, seeing the fury in the man’s eyes, urged his son to flee.
“Run Joshua, run and don’t stop.” With that the large man punched him, and his son Josh retreated into the crowd, screaming and crying, missing the trampling of the mob by mere inches. His father was grasped from around the neck, kneed in the stomach, and boxed in the ears before the onlookers became involved in the conflict.
As either fighter raged forward, they inevitably stepped on other toes, and other men became riled. The brawl continued for the impossible length of hours, a swirling tornado of collisions and shouts- redefining the word chaos- each man standing near a lower block of snow in an avalanche of perpetual motion. Someone had their toes stepped on, they punched the man beside them, he punched the man on his other side, and on and on; each one fueled by the tensions they had been collecting like firewood for the past dozen days. Soon there were twenty, fifty, one-hundred men involved, wives and children being crushed in the middle, all rationality lost to horror.
And at the peak of the action, after the violence had built to a point that could not be surpassed without the laser guns that a few began to click into ready mode, there came a sound of a sparrow, tragic and soft. And although a booming baritone would have been inaudible to the man beside him, all heard the tender song, and all fell silent. The sound of a natural, live bird singing was so alien that it could not have been missed. A confused lull in the action followed its singing. Sam rushed forward to hug the man with the gun, Tobey held up the proof of the mob’s violent mistake- the golden haired, bruised, whimpering child Joshua- and the sparrow song only swelled. The music filled every heart that had only existed in a mechanical world with a soothing, motherly warmth. It was like hot chocolate, though no chemically worn tongue in the group would have known that sensation. Like hot chocolate after a walk through a brutal winter storm.
Nobody had heard “Let It Be”* for over two-hundred years, but it grounded them, and they transcended their fear. Complete strangers held each other close, kissed each other’s foreheads, ruffled each other’s hair. Couples never kissed so passionately. Brothers never laughed so hard. And no one ever, ever, in the soon to be erased history of the world, sung as strong and as fully as Joshua, with a sparrow as his beautiful accompanist.
He knew the lyrics that nobody knew, this fact magical in ways nobody realized. There was all around, (as it spread for miles, like a powerful disease that doesn’t destroy but creates) a festival of love, and passion, and comfort, and everyone felt eternal peace. And as the child sang “shine on till tomorrow, let it be,” Tobey and Sam locked eyes and lips and soul in a kiss so passionate that the world could have stopped turning on its axis, if it hadn’t exploded in that moment.
*Let It Be: John Lennon and Paul McCartney