by Norsebard











Written: for the 2015 Royal Academy of Bards Halloween Invitational.


Please note: This is a work of fiction, not a documentary. The details regarding the end of the star cycle may not hold up to close scrutiny by scientists working in that field. In other words, the processes have been enhanced for dramatic effect, and this is a Halloween-y story by way of the Syfy Channel ;D


- Thank you for your help, Wendy Arthur :D


As usual, I'd like to say a great, big THANK YOU to my mates at AUSXIP Talking Xena, especially to the gals and guys in Subtext Central. I really appreciate your support - Thanks, everybody! :D



Description: A day before Halloween, 2033, the world descends into panic when experts and scientists confirm that the sun is dying. The resulting explosion will send a massive shockwave into space that will obliterate all of the inner worlds, planet Earth among them. Amid widespread chaos and violence, Lindy Antony searches for an old flame of hers, Michelle Davenport, in the hope they can reconnect before it's too late…








With a dark frown etched onto her forehead, Lindy Antony scooted out to the edge of her easy chair and put her hands on her knees. The iced tea she had brought from the kitchen during the latest commercial break had been all but forgotten in the face of the chilling news that came from the grave reporters on the HoloPanel.


The breaking news had been running for four days straight now. Men and women wearing dark suits and even darker, gloomier faces had reported the potentially devastating developments to the public at large. The same experts in science and astronomy had been interviewed a hundred times or more on all the channels, and the analyses they brought from their research all pointed to the same, disturbing fact: the sun was dying, and it was going at a far greater speed than anyone had predicted.


Unable to bear the tension, Lindy let out a sigh and fell back against the cushion at the backrest of her easy chair. She was powerless to stop herself from falling into a thousand-mile stare at the farthest corner of her apartment.


The cast on her injured left wrist bothered her, so she stuck a short fingernail under the edge and gave the skin a little scratch though the doctors had warned her against it. It was the reason why she was at home in the first place; working as an aisle supervisor at a postal distribution warehouse, she had believed she was a latter-day Amazon and had instinctively attempted to grab a seven-hundred pound crate when it fell off a shelf. Her left wrist and forearm had paid the price.


She was thirty-three. It wasn't the first global crisis she had experienced in her life by far, but the risk of not reaching her next birthday had never been greater. She had been born on December twenty-eighth, 1999, three days before the Y2K debacle that fizzled out into nothing. She hadn't even been two years old when Nine-Eleven happened, and she lost several family members who had worked as postal clerks in the Twin Towers.


Then, on the fourth of January 2016, only a few days after her sixteenth birthday bash, two nuclear missiles had been launched from a hostile submarine in the Pacific aimed at the west coast of the United States. The defense systems had saved the day by intercepting them in space. The world teetered on the edge of an all-out nuclear war for several days until it was discovered that a group of insane religious fanatics was behind it rather than a foreign power.


And now this on October thirtieth, 2033. "This could be the big one," she mumbled, reaching for her glass of iced tea. She groaned out loud when she realized the glass had made an ugly ring on her coffee table, but she came to the conclusion that, in the grand scheme of things, it was irrelevant.


Taking a sip, she turned her attention back to the HoloPanel where a cute female scientist in a messy lab coat and disheveled hair tried to explain the sun's nuclear processes to the ignorant masses watching her.


The more the experts talked, the clearer their message became: the world was screwed if the sun came to a premature end. "Well, duh," Lindy said and took another sip.


"Doctor Bradshaw," the studio anchor said, assuming an even gloomier expression as he turned once more to his expert guest, "in your professional assessment, what's the scope here… do we have weeks, months, years before the-"


"Days. Maybe hours," the scientist replied in a grim, dead-tired monotone.


"Oh, fuck," Lindy mumbled, reaching for her remote to block out the terrifying news. She considered shutting the HoloPanel off for good, but she settled for pressing the button that muted the horrific exchange between the two people.


Her body hummed with bolts of nervous energy that demanded to be let out. Putting down the iced tea that had lost its appeal, she got up from her easy chair and began to pace around in little circles on the carpet of her seventh-floor apartment.


She lived downtown though that didn't bear the same negative connotations it had done when she was younger. City block after city block had been torn down and a brand new, world class neighborhood had risen like a phoenix from the rubble. Held in chrome, glass and high-quality concrete, it was a safe haven for children and adults alike - and a thirty-something lesbian who had a track record that was second to none in the disciplines 'Love' and 'Devotion'. Of course, it was second to none at the crap end of the list.


Coming to a halt at the muted HoloPanel, she watched the computer-generated animations of what would happen when the processes in the sun would come to an end. First, the outer layers would darken as they cooled off giving the daylight an orange hue; then they would collapse onto the core which would in turn set off an apocalyptic nuclear explosion with the strength of an estimated seven hundred million regular atomic bombs. Mercury would be obliterated within the first minute. Venus would follow two minutes later. Eight minutes after the cataclysmic event, the Earth and the Moon would be engulfed and incinerated by a superheated shockwave that would continue further onto the outer planets. Eventually, it would lose its momentum around Jupiter or so - not that it would matter to the people of Planet Earth since nothing would be able to survive the fiery shockwave, not even the cockroaches.


Lindy shivered from the gruesome images playing on the HoloPanel. This was it. She could feel it in her bones. It would all come to an end now, but how soon was anyone's guess. Spinning around on her socked heel, she went over to her telephone to call her parents. "Damn," she mumbled, looking at the display that said eComms Net Overload in loud, clear letters. "Everybody's gotta be calling at the same time… damn."


Throwing the phone back down onto the couch, she tried to stand with her arms akimbo but the gesture hurt her injured wrist. Grunting, she moved back to the HoloPanel, but the news hadn't improved.


She had to zone out again to save her sanity. Pleasant memories of a happier time began playing across her mind's eye. A short decade earlier, while she had been at the Business Academy, she and two fellow students had rented a bungalow in a quiet suburb awash with uniform houses, lawns and people.


One of their neighbors had broken the mold: Michelle Davenport. She was a honey-blond beauty with sparkling eyes and a smile that never failed to send a thrill through Lindy's fibers whenever they met. The crush she had developed on Michelle was the size of a school bus, but it had all been shattered when the object of her desire got married to some hotshot attorney with a fancy name and an even fancier business title. At least it had been a woman, so it all stayed in the family.


"She's the one who got away," Lindy mumbled, thinking back to the endless line of sorry gals she had dated since moving away from the suburbs. Nobody had lasted more than three months at the most - the majority far less than that.


Returning to the present and once more facing the grim realities, a thought developed at the back of her mind that it could - or would, most likely - be her last chance of seeing Michelle again. Calling her wouldn't be possible with the net down, but perhaps she could just drive out and visit her?  Michelle still lived at the same address with her wife, that much she knew.


A flashing yellow screen on the HoloPanel caught her attention, and as she turned back to look at the monitor, the Presidential seal was displayed. It was enough to make her hurry back to her easy chair and find the remote.


The panel flickered a couple of times before it showed the President of the United States sitting at her desk in the Oval Office. An aide hurried out of the picture after having put a piece of paper onto the desk like they had been working on it until the last moment. Scarlett Gillespie's face showed little of her trademark charm; in fact, it was drawn and haggard, and she had aged a great deal since her last televised speech only a short week earlier.


Lindy had gone to Washington, D.C. to be among the vast crowd who celebrated the event at the inauguration of the first lesbian Head of State in 2028, but celebrating was the furthest from her mind now. When President Gillespie began speaking in a somber, downcast voice, Lindy felt it like a kick in the gut.


'My fellow Americans, good afternoon. As you will undoubtedly have heard, our great nation is in grave danger. In fact, our entire world is in jeopardy. Not from war, or disease, or economical unrest, but from a source beyond our control. Our sun. From speaking to the most brilliant minds in the fields of science and astronomy, the First Lady and I have learned that the process is irreversible once it begins. Although we are not yet at such a stage, the data collected by the scientists suggests we are living on borrowed time. However the drama will unfold, I implore everyone to show dignity and to maintain the values that have helped form this great nation into the world leader that we are. Strength, pride and selflessness. Thank you.'


As the HoloPanel flickered back to the yellow sign and then onto the news desk at the station Lindy had watched before the interruption, she fell back in her easy chair and let out a long sigh. Unable to take in more of the depressing news, she reached for the remote and turned off the Panel. "Damn… we're screwed. We're all gonna die…" she croaked, moving her legs up to crawl into a protective fetal position.


She sat like that for nearly five minutes with no inclination to come out of her cocoon before sounds of conflict reached her ears. Several shots were fired somewhere down on the street. Moments later, the echoing reports were followed by cries and angry shouts. "Oh, those fuckers… now they're out to settle old scores before it's too late," she mumbled as she rose from the easy chair.


Cracking open her French window, she could hear gunfire and frantic screaming from all over the hitherto quiet neighborhood. As she watched, several columns of smoke rose over the city blocks to indicate fires had been set. In the apartment complex across from her own, someone used a chair to smash a window in one of the twelfth-floor condominiums. A few seconds later, a man threw himself out of the broken window.


Lindy shrieked out loud and turned away in a hurry. Burying her face in her hands, she didn't have time to close the French window so she heard the gruesome impact when the man was crushed onto the pavement far below.


"No… no, I can't stay here," she croaked as she stumbled into the hallway to get her shoes and her favorite down vest. "Michelle… I need to be with Michelle… before it's too late-" she continued, cutting herself off midstream when her wallet fell out of her vest that she accidentally held upside down. A few mementos came flying out, including an image from the retro photo booth a shrewd businessman had installed down at the train station.


Almost like a sign from the Great Beyond, the photo was of a younger Lindy and Michelle mugging for the camera. They were just goofing around, but Michelle was still the very definition of gorgeousness, and Lindy was still a fool with an awfully large crush.


Taking great care in not harming the little image, she inserted it back into her wallet and then stuffed the whole thing down the rear pocket of her cargo pants. Due to the effects of global warming, late October was as warm as August had been a decade earlier, so she only needed to whip on her beloved down vest over her short-sleeved polo shirt to be properly dressed.


Moving with increasingly frantic gestures, she stormed out of her apartment and headed for the staircase - though she lived on the seventh floor, it was far quicker to run down the stairs than to wait for the dog-slow elevators.




Downstairs in the parking garage, scuff marks and a pool of blood on the concrete floor proved that someone had already committed a violent crime despite the President's plea for dignity and selflessness. Lindy kept standing in the doorway while she debated with herself whether or not she dared to move ahead. The need to see Michelle won out over her worries, so she took off in a fast jog to get to her truck before someone could catch her.


The driver recognition software installed in all modern vehicles sensed her presence and unlocked the doors as she got closer. Jumping in, she inserted her driver's license into the appropriate slot and pressed her thumb on the starter button. After the central computer had checked her license and her thumbprint to see if she had any outstanding citations as a result of traffic violations, it engaged the motor.


Following the ban on internal combustion engines in 2024, the ElectroTruck had become the hottest thing on the planet among all proper lesbians. She had bought one in candy-apple red with shiny chrome wheels to keep her alpha-butch image going for another few years.


Reversing out of her parking bay, she noticed an unsavory character running towards the truck wielding a knife of some kind. She quickly selected the forward gear and stepped on the accelerator to get away while she could. Moving in complete silence - she hadn't wanted to waste money on buying the sound simulation upgrade package - the truck lurched forward and zipped towards the ramp that would take it up onto the street.




The world outside had already degenerated into a witches' cauldron of violence and despair. All the frustrations and aggressions that had accumulated in people over time came out in a single explosion of anger, hatred and vitriol now that it was all over. The streets of downtown resembled a war zone with dead bodies and huge piles of glass from smashed storefront windows littering the sidewalks.


The traffic lights were still working, but nobody paid any attention to them. Neither did Lindy. When she came up to a red light, she spotted a group of thugs just waiting to rob and kill any law-abiding citizens who still adhered to the outdated moral code, so she kept her foot on the accelerator and raced through the intersection.


Twice she saw women being raped. Twice she drove past. It tore at her heart that she couldn't stop to help, but it would be suicidal to do so. With a stomach that churned hard, and knuckles that turned white on the rim of the steering wheel, she kept going deeper into the grotesque level of hell that her city had devolved into in a matter of minutes.




To take her mind off the grim issues facing her, she reached over to turn on the radio while she sped through the war zone. She hoped to find a music station, but talk radio seemed to have taken control over all frequencies available to her.


Steering wasn't easy with her wrist in a cast, and she nearly lost control over her ElectroTruck when a religious station blasted out into the cab at maximum wattage. A minister held a fire-and-brimstone sermon that seemed inappropriate given the circumstances. Another few clicks on the radio yielded nothing, so she turned it off and concentrated on her driving.


Several streets were blocked by wrecks or thugs, so she had to take frequent detours to get out to the suburbs. At one point, a man who appeared to be a motorcycle traffic cop forced her into the mouth of a narrow alley, but she noticed at the last moment that it was a dead end and that several street thugs were waiting for her with chains and baseball bats.


She slammed her ElectroTruck into reverse and came out even faster than she had gone in. The rear bumper of her truck rammed the police motorcycle and sent it flying, but she couldn't care less. Selecting the forward gear once more saw her hustling further up the street before the thug - or police officer, who knew - could open fire at her.




When the mean streets of downtown grew friendlier and quieter, she let out a long sigh of relief. The neatly groomed suburbs she entered weren't as affected by the tragic situation as the streets closer to her home, but she was under no illusion that everything was peachy behind the closed Venetian blinds she could see in the windows of the single and two-storey bungalows she raced past.


Lawnmowers, sunbeds and children's bikes scattered at random on the front lawns proved the news had made the rounds there, too. There wasn't a soul in sight so everyone was presumably glued to their HoloPanels to keep up with the glum predictions.


Deep into the 'burbs, Lindy brought the ElectroTruck to a halt in the middle of a deserted intersection. She stared at the signs of the two streets connecting there with a three-foot, fluorescent-green question mark hanging over her head. All the streets, roads and lanes were so uniform she had managed to get lost even when she had lived there. On top of that, it had been so long since she had been in that part of the city that she couldn't remember a damn thing about it, except that Michelle lived on Hawthorn Road.


She tried to get through to her telephone but found it was still unable to gain access to any of the online services like the maps or the phone registry. Sighing, she put it back in the docking bay so it could leech power off the truck's batteries.


The street she had arrived on was called White Clover Road, and the connecting street was Blackberry Lane. Neither name provided the clue she was looking for. "Jeez… the main arteries are roads, the connections are lanes… or is it the other way 'round?" she mumbled as she stepped on the accelerator to trickle further down White Clover Road. "Raspberry Lane… Redcurrant Lane… Gooseberry Lane… Strawberry Lane… Strawberry Lane!  I remember that!  There used to be a great bar and grill on Strawberry Lane… Hawthorn Road is down the other end!  What the hell they were thinking giving the streets such asinine names…?"


Spinning the steering wheel, Lindy mashed the accelerator and hustled silently down Strawberry Lane. The bar and grill was still there in all its neon-lit glory. It was as deserted as everything else in the area, though a row of parasols, wooden tables and plastic chairs had been put up outside the small restaurant. Several of the chairs had been knocked onto the ground, and a pitcher of beer had toppled over and had distributed its golden liquid all over the table and the ground below when the people sitting there had left in a hurry.


"Holy fuck!" she suddenly cried, standing on the brake pedal when a dazed and confused man in a business suit suddenly veered onto the lane right in front of the truck.


The man, whose balding head was shiny with sweat, put his arms in the air to signal that Lindy should stop. He wore the regular uniform of an office worker - gray pants and a gray blazer over a white shirt and a black tie - but the shirt was bloody and torn, and the tie sat crooked around his neck.


"Jeez, buddy… are you all right?" Lindy said in a shaky voice after she had rolled down the driver's side window. "You can't walk in the middle of the Goddamn street like that… somebody will knock you flat on your-"


From one moment to the next, the businessman whipped a chrome-plated revolver out of his belt and aimed it at Lindy's face. "Get out of the truck, bitch!  Get out!  Get out now!  I won't say it again!  If you switch it off, I'll kill you!"


Lindy groaned out loud and smacked a hand down onto the steering wheel. She had fallen for the oldest trick in the book. A thug in a suit was just as dangerous as one wearing leather, denim and chains - they just looked nicer. "Quit wavin' that cannon in my face, you fuckhead!" she croaked as she opened the door and clambered down.


Her wide eyes never left the muzzle of the chrome revolver as the man barged past her and up into the truck's cab. When it dawned on her that it was merely a carjacking and not something far worse, she let out a sigh of relief, but the sensation was short-lived. "Where the hell ya think ya gonna go, asshole?  The whole world's gonna be fucked over in a little while… there's nowhere for you to run!"


"Shut up, bitch," the businessman said and aimed his gun at Lindy for the last time before he reversed away from her. The power of the ElectroTruck was too much for him, especially going backwards, and he nearly crashed it into a row of hedges lining Strawberry Lane. He eventually came to a halt and turned around so he could go straight up the Lane. At the intersection, he turned right on screeching tires to move back to downtown.


Lindy clutched her head as she watched her beloved candy-apple red truck drive out of her life along with her driver's license. Groaning out loud, she leaned forward and put her hands on her knees. She stood like that for a little while before the original purpose of her visit to the supposedly calm, quiet, crime-free suburbs came back to her.


Strawberry Lane was deserted so she couldn't ask anyone for help or even directions. Her telephone was still in its docking bay in the truck, so that was lost forever too - not that it would have helped her any with the Net suffering from terminal constipation.


Letting out another sigh of relief that it had only been a mugging, she turned around and began to walk further down the lane to get to the next road she could see some four hundred yards ahead of her. She hoped it was Hawthorn Road, but with her recent run of fabulous luck, the world would probably go under before she found the right house.




"Okay, that's Hawthorn Road… at least I got that part right. But what was the damn number?" Lindy said when she finally arrived at the next of the larger roads. Like she remembered, all the bungalows were so similar it was close to impossible to make out the right one if specific directions weren't at hand.


Strawberry Lane ended in a T-intersection so she could only go left or right. The bungalows lining the left branch were identical to the ones on the right, like she had remembered. Here and there, the owners who had wanted to stand out in the crowd had planted bushes or trees on the front lawns. She thought she recognized a chestnut tree, but she knew full well the vegetation would have changed in the short decade she had been away, so it probably didn't mean anything.


"Oh, man… does she live at eleven-fifty-six or eleven-sixty-five…?" she mumbled, looking down the right-hand branch. "When we drove down to the bar and grill, we always turned… we turned… left. Which is now right 'cos I'm looking the other way. Jeez!"


She wished she had a coin so she could flip it to determine which way to go, but she didn't. She did in fact keep an errant button for one of the rear pockets of her cargo pants, but that probably wouldn't help her much. Clutching her head all over again, she looked left, then right, then left before she made up her mind and decided to take - or at least try - the right-hand branch.




Seventy yards up that part of Hawthorn Road, Lindy realized she had made the right choice. The curvature of the road, the placing of a certain stone sculpture down by the sidewalk, the characteristic shape of a fire hydrant and finally an old-fashioned bulletin board littered with news from the local Association of Housewives and the Horticultural Society all made little bells go off in her mind.


A dog began to bark nearby, but Lindy didn't have time for that. Her eyes had zoomed in on a station wagon parked in the driveway outside a bungalow another sixty yards up the road. She suddenly remembered the house as being the right one - that was where Michelle lived with her wife, at eleven-fifty-six Hawthorn Road.


She drew a deep breath and set off in a slow jog to get to the bungalow faster. It dawned on her that Michelle's spouse probably wouldn't be too pleased about having an old flame show up vying for her girl's attentions, but they would have to take that argument later. Now, her entire world revolved around seeing Michelle Davenport for the first time in far too many years.




She hurried up the driveway past the station wagon, but came to a halt when she caught a glimpse of a flexible Walt Disney sun-guard attached to the rear window. Inside the car, plenty of kids' stuff filled the back seat, like colorful toys, a few books and two furry, electronic soft toys known as Driving Companions that could tell fairy tales and funny stories to their kid owners on long, dull drives.


"They've got kids…?" Lindy mumbled, looking at the homey mess on the back seat. Up front, it was far neater. A pair of expensive sunglasses dangled from a metal chain below the rear-view mirror, and a newspaper from the day before was spread over the passenger side seat like it was supposed to mop up spilled coffee or soda. Predictably, the headlines were all of the impending doom.


A bump and a scrape from inside the bungalow made Lindy snap back to the real world and move over to the front door beyond the driveway. A security camera mounted above the door followed her every move, and she made sure it was able to get good video of her face.


Gulping down a nervous lump that had built up in her throat now that she was so close to finally seeing Michelle again - not to mention her hotshot attorney wife who had plenty of brains and the proper holier-than-thou attitude needed for her line of work - she reached for the doorbell, but her finger never made it there.


"Step away from the door!" a panicky female voice suddenly cried from beyond the reinforced front door. "I have a weapon trained on you and I won't hesitate to use it!  This is your only warning!"


"Jeez!" Lindy cried and flew back from the doorbell. "Michelle?  Michelle, it's me!  It's Lindy Antony!  I'm not a criminal…"






"Is that really you?"


"Yeah…" Lindy croaked with a hand on her wildly beating heart.


"Uh… okay. Uh… hold on, let me get the door…"


While several sliders and chains were unlocked and moved back, Lindy let out a sigh of relief. She looked around the quiet neighborhood to see if anyone had noticed the little scene. Although she could hear a young child crying somewhere, it appeared the breaking news playing on the HoloPanels was more important since no curtains fluttered aside anywhere she could see.


"Lindy?" Michelle said somewhere behind Lindy in the rich, husky voice that she remembered so well. She couldn't stop a nervous smile from spreading over her features as she turned back to the door to greet her old neighbor, but the smile faded at once and was replaced by a deep frown when she took in the haggard, tear-stained appearance of Michelle Davenport. She was in her early thirties, but the passing of time had only enhanced and matured her natural prettiness, save for the gray hue and the drawn features carried by all normal people in the face of the awful news.


"Oh God, Lindy!  It's so good to see you again… can you believe what's happening?" Michelle said and flew forward. She wrapped her strong arms around the taller woman's torso and buried her face in her soft chest. "They say it could happen at any moment now… Oh, God, I don't wanna die…"


The two old friends just stood there, giving each other a strong, comforting hug that went on for so long that Lindy began to worry that Michelle's wife would come out with a rolling pin or a shotgun. "I know. I wanted to see you again before it was too late," she whispered into the honey-blond hair that tickled her chin and mouth. The moment was too good to miss, so she leaned in and placed the tiniest of kisses on the blond locks for old times' sake.


When they separated, fresh tears ran down Michelle's cheeks. Her eyes were more red than hazel, and the gray hue and tired lines on her face proved she had been following the depressing news closer than she should have. "It's so wonderful that you're here… it's been too long," she croaked as she rummaged through her pockets to find a handkerchief.


"Yeah. Far too long. Wow, you look great…" Lindy said, giving her old crush a quick once-over from her indoor shoes past her blue jeans, her white blouse and up to the long, dark-gray cardigan that reached halfway down the shorter woman's thighs. Her drawn face still held plenty of the old gorgeousness despite the severe strain they were all under.




"Never. May I come in?  How's your wife holding up?" Lindy said, peeking over Michelle's shoulder to look into the neat bungalow that she remembered from the old days.


Michelle let out a little sigh, but she screwed a weak smile on her face as she welcomed her old friend inside. "Oh, we're… we're divorced," she said and closed the reinforced door behind them.


"Oh… I'm sorry. Foot-in-mouth syndrome," Lindy said with a smirk.


"It's okay, Lindy. It's been a couple of years now."


Lindy's eyes fell on an old-fashioned broom that was placed up against a dresser in the hallway just beyond the front door. "Is that the weapon you had trained on me?"


"Yeah," Michelle said and let out a tired chuckle.


Lindy matched the chuckle with one of her own before she slipped off her shoes and strolled

down the hallway to get to the living room.


Everything was as classy as she remembered it. Unlike the bungalow she and two fellow students had shared that often resembled an overturned garbage truck, Michelle's home was neat, clean and elegant. Colorful, abstract paintings adorned several of the white walls, and the pale-brown beechwood furniture had clearly been pricey.


A HoloPanel in the far corner of the room had been muted. It was a different station to the one Lindy always watched, but the images that rolled across the screen weren't any better: grave anchors speaking via VidLinks to experts in lab coats and disheveled hair. A yellow Breaking News band at the bottom of the screen scrolled endlessly, bringing updates from around the nation on the widespread destruction of property and loss of life.


The living room was a half-step down from the hallway like it had been in the old days, but the wall-to-wall carpet had been changed. Earlier, it had been plush and fancy, but now it was flat and practical. A pair of sliding glass doors led to the back lawn where a deep-blue swimming pool took up most of the space.


"Please have a seat, Lindy. Can I get you anything to drink?  I have beer, wine, soda, juice, tea, coffee…" Michelle said, wringing her hands as she stood in the doorway to the living room.


Lindy moved over to one of the couches and carefully removed a home-made needlework cushion that she didn't want to crush with the seat of her cargo pants. "No, thank you," she said with a smile. "I just wanted to… well, I just wanted to come over for a chat."


Michelle nodded. "I guess I can let the little whirlwinds out now-"


"Oh!  So you do have kids?"


"Two. One of each," Michelle said with a face that briefly lit up in a smile. Then she remembered that no one would be spared if the worst case scenario actually became a reality. She pressed her lips together like she didn't want to cry in front of her guest. "Lindy, they're too young to understand what's going on. I so dearly want to talk to you, but we need to stay away from-"


"I hear ya. Go get 'em. I'll bet they're adorable," Lindy said with a wink.


Michelle nodded again and went down another hallway. Soon, a pair of fair kids' voices could be heard asking their mom all kinds of questions about their strange visitor. Michelle explained in a few short sentences, and then all three Davenports came back into the living room.


Lindy broke out in a broad grin when she realized she had been right - Michelle's kids were adorable. They both had her coloring and stature, and the girl in particular was the spitting image of her mother with hazel eyes, a pert nose and Elfin cute looks on the whole.


The little girl - who was dressed in a pink Minnie Mouse sweatsuit - strolled into the living room like she was the queen of the Amazons, but her younger brother seemed far more reluctant to meet their guest. The little fellow wore a dark-blue Goofy sweatsuit where the pantlegs had been folded up to allow his little, socked feet to actually touch the carpet.


While the two kids moved over to Lindy to say hello, Michelle made a beeline for the HoloPanel. Not content with shutting it off, she pulled the plug from the wall socket to make sure that whatever awful news occurred while they spoke, it could mind its own damn business.


"Hello, Miss Antony. Pleased to meet you. I'm Sue," the young girl said in an important voice, putting out her hand in an invitation for an old-fashioned handshake.


Lindy grinned at the girl's proper lady manners. "Hello, Sue. Pleased to meet you too," she said and gave the petite hand a little shake.


Sue nodded and was about to introduce her brother when she spotted the cast on their guest's wrist. All her meticulously planned adult act disappeared like the morning dew, and she pointed at the cast with wide eyes. "Oh!  Do you have an owie?"


"I do, yeah. I tried to catch a big crate that fell off a shelf," Lindy said and picked at the edge of the cast.


"When my brother and me drop something, Mommy says we should always let it fall so we won't hit our head on anything," Sue recited in a chanting voice as she climbed onto the couch and scooted over to be close to their guest.


"That's very good advice, Sue. Your mommy is a wise woman," Lindy said and grinned at the wise woman in question. Michelle smiled back, but it didn't last long.


The little boy was still reluctant to meet their house guest, but he made it to the couch eventually. Instead of shaking hands, he put out his palm for a low-five that Lindy duly delivered on. "Hello, Miss Antony. You have really big feet," he said, looking down at Lindy's socks.


"Oh, Shawn!" Michelle said and let out a groan. She knelt behind her son and gave him a gentle squeeze before he could bring further, equally embarrassing comments to market. "Shawn, this is Lindy. She's an old, old, old friend of your mommy's. We were good friends even before you were born!"


"You must be really old…" Shawn said in wide-eyed astonishment, remembering to offer their house guest a polite smile after he had spoken.


Not insulted in the least, Lindy leaned her head back and laughed out loud. The warm sensation that washed over her proved that she had made the right decision in visiting Michelle. This was what she had needed for the past several days, and she had been a fool not to react on her urge sooner. "Certainly older than you, Shawn!  How old are you?  Two?"


"Three!" Shawn said, shaking his head.


"Oh, three. I beg your pardon."


Michelle smiled and mussed her son's hair before she pulled him in for a little hug. "And my Sue is five going on fifty."


Lindy smiled back and winked at the little girl in question who was still sitting next to her. "I noticed. It doesn't take a genius to see they're both natural."


"They are. Artificial in, natural out. I have the Caesarian to prove it."


"Ew… ouch…"


"Yes. And we better leave it at that. Lindy, tell me… how did you get here?  I didn't see any vehicle out in the driveway…"


"Oh, well, that's a not-so-funny story," Lindy said and shuffled around on the couch. "On my way over here, I met a businessman who insisted he needed my ElectroTruck more than I did. So he took it."


"Oh no… you suffered a carjacking?  Out here?!"


Lindy shrugged. "Yeah. It's a mess out there."


Hearing that, Sue promptly put her hand in the air to add her two cents' worth to the conversation. "We vacuum at least once every week!  Mom uses the big machine, and Shawn and me help in our room with our socks and our clothes."


Lindy grinned and leaned in so she could give the young girl a little nudge with her elbow. "I'll bet you love to help your mom clean up your house, huh?"




Michelle opened her mouth to reply, but her son beat her to it. "Mom… may I go back to my room and play?" he said, looking up at the older women around him.


"Of course, Shawn. Have fun," Michelle said and mussed his hair again.


His vocal displeasure at having his hair tousled said it all, but he remembered to wave goodbye to their guest before he zipped back into the bedroom where he had been hiding while his mommy had wielded the broom at the door.


Michelle smiled at her son's antics, but it soon faded. Instead, she shuffled around the low coffee table and sat down on the couch on the other side of her daughter. "It's great to see you again, Lindy," she said and reached over Sue's head to put a warm hand on their guest's shoulder. "To be honest, I didn't realize how much I missed you until now."


It was clear to Lindy that Michelle tried valiantly to keep up appearances while her daughter was present. To help her old friend, she reached up and caressed the hand on her shoulder. "I've been thinking a lot about you the past couple-a days. It's great to be here. Your kids are terrific," she continued, suddenly reaching down to tickle Sue's tummy.


The happy squeal that burst out of the little girl sent a dark-gray frown racing across Michelle's face. Once more she pressed her lips together so she wouldn't lose her composure in front of her child and her guest. "Thank you," she said in a strangled voice. "I'm sorry for Shawn's comments before…"


"Oh, come on. I got big feet, that's just the way it is," Lindy said with a chuckle.


"Still… anyway, whirlwind Sue here is the extrovert one, and whirlwind Shawn is the quiet, sensitive one. He doesn't like it when I yell. I yelled at you through the door when I didn't know it was you… that's why he was so reluctant to come in just now."


"Oh… right."


Michelle reached down to take her daughter's hands in her own. They played a quick round of Little Piggy before she looked back up at Lindy. "He was only an itty bitty thing when my wife and I yelled at each other on a regular basis. I guess it must have been etched into his nervous system. Oh, it was just a bad time for us all."


"It was," Sue chimed in, nodding somberly. "My other mommy left us, but we see her once a month. Next week!"


Lindy and Michelle locked eyes and sent each other a silent message of support. They both knew it was quite literally up in the air if there would even be a next week. "Shit, I'm sorry to hear that, Michelle," Lindy said, but another happy squeal from Sue cut her off.


"Mommy!  Lindy said a bad word!" the younger Davenport said, bouncing on the couch between the two adults.


"Yes, she did!" Michelle said with a tired grin, reaching over to give Lindy's shoulder a little thump. "That'll be one dollar for our Piglet cussbox, young lady!"


Lindy played along and clapped her hands over her mouth in shock and horror. "I don't have a dollar on me!  Do you take plastic?"


"Nuh-uh," Michelle and Sue said as one. The hazel eyes of the older of the two Davenports sparkled like they had done in the old days. "If you don't have any money, you'll need to pay your fine in kisses."


"In kisses?" Lindy echoed, zooming in on the precious orbs belonging to the woman she'd had a school bus-sized crush on when they were younger. A bomb went off in her chest at the prospect of tasting Michelle's lips, and she had to mentally slap her cheeks to make sure she didn't do anything embarrassing, like drool all over the couch.


"In kisses, yes," Michelle said and cocked her head like she was daring Lindy to go for it.


Sue insisted on being the first to get a little smooch, so she literally turned her cheek and pointed at the spot where she would like to feel the lips of their house guest - Lindy duly complied which earned her another little squeal.


The next member of the Davenport clan waited patiently, but she didn't look like she wanted her kiss on the cheek. A pale-blond eyebrow crept up the forehead it was attached to when it took Lindy too long to pay up.


Grinning, Lindy leaned over Sue to claim her old friend's enticing lips in a kiss that wasn't too little or too much - in short, it was just right. Better still, it felt just right. It wasn't the first time they had kissed, but the other times had just been inconsequential pecks at parties or the like. This particular kiss wasn't inconsequential at all, Lindy could feel that in her bones.


A jagged sword of doom was looming over all of them, but if they were allowed a little more time, she knew exactly where she would be spending it.


The smile playing on Michelle's well-kissed lips proved that she too had something on her mind. Leaning forward, she suddenly tickled her daughter's tummy which earned her a happy squeal. "Sue, why don't you go into your bedroom and see what your brother is doing?  In five minutes, I'll come in and help you with your shoes. We're all going over to the park so you can have some fun in the playground. Okay?"


"Okay, Mom," Sue said and scooted out to the edge of the couch. Once there, she hopped off the comfortable cushion and zipped back into the bedroom as fast as her short legs would go.


The space that developed between the two adults was filled by Michelle who slid closer to her taller guest. They sat in silence for a short minute before she let out a long, heartfelt sigh and leaned her head on Lindy's shoulder. "Jesus, if we have to die… I hope we'll all die together. I don't even want to think about Sue and Shawn being alone in a hostile world full of pain and suffering. It… it would-"


"Shhh, Michelle," Lindy whispered. Acting on instinct alone, she reached up and held her old flame tight. "If it happens, it'll happen to all of us. The animations all show we'll be incinerated. Nothing… nobody will survive that."


Another minute went by in silence before Michelle sighed again and wiped away the new tears that had escaped her eyes. "Still. I've never been so frightened in my life. Aren't you?"


"Yeah. I don't want it to end, either. Not now… not after meeting you again. It's been far, far too long…"


Michelle nodded and began to search her pockets for a handkerchief. When she found one that had been crumpled up into a little ball, she wiped her eyes and her nose. "Oh, I have a thousand questions about you and your life, Lindy… but I fear we won't even have time to ask them. How have you been?"


"Just fine. I work at the postal distribution center down in the warehouse district. I'm an aisle supervisor."


"Oh… I don't know what that is…"


"It's a fancy title for someone who tells the forklift-guy where to go," Lindy said with a chuckle. "What do you do for a living?"


"Oh, I still work as a secretary at the law firm where I met my wife. She obviously doesn't work there anymore. Ugh… if we survive, I'll need to sweet-talk my employer. I've called in sick every day since this whole nightmare started… I just couldn't stomach leaving my children at the daycare center knowing I may never see them again…"


Lindy nodded and took the opportunity to muss Michelle's neck underneath her curtain of honey-blond hair. She was astounded over her boldness that had come unprompted, but the move was rewarded when her old friend let out a sigh and leaned into the touch. "Tell me, is there anyone special in your life?" she said quietly, caressing the fine hairs at the base of Michelle's neck.


"Yeah, you've just met them…"


"I meant beyond your kids."


Michelle took in a deep breath but let it out without speaking. "No," she said after a little while. "You?"


"Nah. Nothing serious."


"Can you believe it?  A couple of knock-out gals like us?"


"It's a flippin' disgrace is what it is," Lindy deadpanned.


Another minute went by where Lindy and Michelle just studied each other to take in as many of the other's features as they could in case the world would come crashing down around them before they could really reconnect. "You do want to come over to the park with the rest of us, don't you?" Michelle said before she leaned in to steal a quick kiss from Lindy's lips.


Before Lindy could reciprocate the sweet contact - or even recover from the glorious feeling - Michelle got up from the couch and shuffled over to stand in the doorway to the second corridor; the one that led down to the bedrooms.


"Hell yeah, I do. Oh… that's another dollar for the cussbox."


"Or another kiss," Michelle said with a wink before she went into the bedroom to help her children put on their outdoor clothes.




The Lilac Gardens recreational area was located so close to Hawthorn Road that Sue and Shawn didn't need to use their bicycles. All four strolled down a grassy, public path leading between two of the many identical bungalows; they all held hands and swung their arms back and forth as they walked, like a proper, happy family.


The children ran ahead when the metal gate leading to the park came into view, but they waited patiently for the two older women to catch up with them so their mom could swing open the heavy gate and let them onto the playground.


The Lilac Gardens consisted of a vast, green lawn and a great deal of neatly trimmed lilac bushes and short trees groomed in ingenious ways. The playground had swings, roundabouts, seesaws and several wooden structures meant for the older kids to climb on. Younger children could frolic in a large sandbox with the finest beach sand imported from the shores of the east coast, and a pair of picnic tables overlooking the playground provided the perfect spot for tired adults to sit and watch their children play. Beyond the vast lawn, several rows of old, tall trees all carrying a plethora of bird's nests marked the outer perimeter of the park.


"Oh," Shawn said in a downcast voice as he looked around the deserted playground, "nobody's here… nobody to play with…"


Michelle pulled her son into a little hug from behind. "I'm sure they're all at home getting ready for Halloween tomorrow evening, Shawn. Look," she said, pointing at the sandbox, "someone left behind a toy dump truck. You can play with that for a little while, can't you?"


"I s'pose…"


"I'm sure you can," Michelle said and kissed Shawn's hair. The little boy shrugged and ran over to the sandbox to get acquainted with the new toy.


Lindy sat down on the bench at the picnic table in the hope that Michelle would join her for a little cuddle, but she had only been there for a few seconds before the younger of the two female Davenports came over to her instead and tugged on her cargo pants.


"Shawn's gonna be Goofy for Halloween, and I'm gonna be a cowgirl!" Sue said with a beaming smile and a clear case of pride shining through her words. "Mom's already made the costumes for us… oh, my costume is real pretty… are you gonna visit us tomorrow to see it?  Oh!  Oh, maybe you could go trick or treat with us?  Mom, Mom, would that be all right?"


"It depends on Lindy's plans, sweetie…"


"I wouldn't miss it for the world, Sue," Lindy said and cast a sideways glance at Michelle who wore an unreadable expression on her face. There was no point in dwelling on matters that were out of their control, so she turned back to Sue to show the younger Davenport the proper respect. "Wow, you're gonna be a cowgirl, huh?  With a lasso and everything?"


"Yeah!  A lasso and a red vest and a real cowgirl hat that Mommy has made on her sowing machine!"


"That's so neat. I can't wait to see that. I'll bet you'll be an awesome cowgirl."


While Lindy spoke to Sue, Michelle came over to stand behind her old friend. Her lips were merely two thin lines in her gray face, and it was obvious she was holding back an explosion of tears. When her daughter ran away to find something to play with, she let out a trembling breath and leaned her forehead down onto Lindy's shoulder. "I hope this nightmare will end soon… one way or another. It's taken ten years out of my life already… I can't go on like this. I just… I just can't…"


"Michelle… come. C'mere," Lindy said and moved to the side so the other woman had plenty of space to sit down. She did eventually, and Lindy took the opportunity to wrap an arm around her old flame's waist. "I don't know what'll happen… but I do know one thing. I'm not leaving your side until it ends… like you said, one way or the other. Maybe if we're lucky, this isn't an ending, but a new beginning for both of us."


"I won't make any plans, Lindy… I won't even plan for bedtime. We may not be here then. I just can't go on like this-"


"Shhh. Let me comfort you… please."


A faint smile played across Michelle's lips, but it didn't last long. "Thank you," she whispered in a hoarse, thick voice as she snuggled up into the taller woman's firm grip.


"You're welcome. Hey, did you know I used to have a humongous crush on you?" Lindy said in the hope she would be able to coax another smile out of her old friend. One came, but it didn't last any longer than the other one had.


"I know. I knew back then, too. I also knew you were too chicken to do anything about it."


"Ohhhh," Lindy said in a mock groan. She pulled the warm body in her arms even closer to give it a consolatory squeeze.


Michelle sighed and reached down to caress the strong hands that held her tight. "Remember the silly date we were on at the retro milkshake parlor?  I waited and waited and waited for you to make the first move… but you never did. I had to drink three damn cocoa shakes before you had finally worked up enough courage to ask me out to a movie!"


"I was scared out of my socks!  I didn't think I was your type… and I was such an oaf compared to you. Hell, I still am."






Though the banter was light and easy-going, Michelle's good mood vanished like the morning dew. Large tears began to roll down her cheeks, but she could only shake her head in despair. "You should have come by sooner, Lindy… years sooner. I've felt so alone and miserable for so long… I can't tell you how much I've missed having someone in my life that I could hold and… and love."


"I know," Lindy said and buried her face in Michelle's blond locks. "I'm so sorry. I've been a fuckin' idiot. But I didn't want to intrude… you were married, and-"


"You could at least have called me, Lindy. It would have made the last few years bearable for me."


"Now I do believe that particular door swings both ways. I'm in the phonebook too, you know," Lindy said and cocked her head.


Michelle turned around on the wooden bench to look her old friend in the eye. She couldn't hold the warm gaze for long but had to look back at her two children. "I know. I'm sorry. I'm being a bitch to you for something I-"


"Oh, keep quiet," Lindy said in a playful voice. To take the sting out of her words, she offered Michelle another little squeeze around the waist.


For a short minute, the sounds of Sue and Shawn playing provided the only proof that life was still being lived in their little corner of the galaxy. "Did you see the President's speech?" Michelle suddenly said.


"Yeah. She didn't have any answers, either."


"No. Is downtown really as bad as I saw on the news stations?"


"It's worse. The people down there have lost their shit altogether."


Michelle sighed and looked up at the sky where the ancient sun still cast a bright, clear light down upon the rocky world and its tumultuous inhabitants. "Well. Maybe it's for the better."


"Which is?"


"The apocalypse… or whatever you want to call it. There's so much evil and despair in the world. Maybe this is God's way of saying 'hey, you've had your chance and you blew it.' "


"There's plenty of love, too. And I don't believe in God… not our God, not any God," Lindy said with a firm shake of the head.


Down in the sandbox, Shawn had built an impressive mountain with his dump truck. It was so impressive that his sister had come over to help him haul more sand from the outer edges of the box and into the center. Lindy and Michelle watched the scene unfold in silent bliss, each wishing they could once again experience the harsh, grim world through the innocent eyes of a child.




"I never wanted children," Michelle said after a little while. She had spoken in hushed tones so Sue and Shawn couldn't hear her, and yet she shuffled around on the picnic bench like the mere comment had made her uncomfortable.




"I was perfectly happy living in a two-person family. My wife insisted on it."


"And yet you carried them?"


"Yeah… it would have interfered too much with her work."


"Oh, gimme a break," Lindy said and pulled Michelle in for a little squeeze.


Michelle reached down to caress Lindy's hands once more. This time, she kept her fingers lingering on those of her old flame. As she spoke on, she toyed with the long digits, traced the knuckles and dipped her fingertips down into the gaps. "The first artificial insemination was so awkward, and Sue wasn't an easy pregnancy. I fell ill, and… oh, I had a lot of issues. I ended up going into premature labor, but not by much."


"I'm sorry to hear that."


"Thank you… it was all swept away after Sue was born. In the delivery room, when that tiny little girl was placed on my chest so she could continue to feel my heartbeat, my fears and worries all melted away. I swear, we looked into each other's eyes and I saw another part of my own soul."


"Awww, that's beautiful, Michelle."


"Yes, isn't it?  I know we modern, strong, independent women shouldn't go gaga like that over having babies, but… call me old-fashioned, but motherhood gave me something I had missed in my life until then," Michelle said with a shrug.


"If your wife insisted on having kids, how come it affected your marriage?" Lindy asked, but when she felt Michelle stiffen and let out a sigh, she grimaced and looked towards the heavens. "I'm sorry… that's none of my business. Foot-in-mouth syndrome."


"No, it's all right, Lindy. She wanted children, or a child, that's right, but mostly for show. She wasn't prepared to be up to her elbows in dirty diapers or wipe vomit off her silk shirt or any of the hundreds of other things babies do. It got real bad after Shawn arrived into our family though we had both agreed to have another kid. The new baby cramped her style, she said. Then she started working late."


"And she left you holding the bag?"


"Yeah. The bag of dirty diapers. Then the arguing began. The blame games and all that… ugh…" Michelle broke out in a shiver when the unpleasant memories rolled past her mind's eye, but her discomfort was eased by a pair of strong arms around her waist.


Leaning forward, Lindy sniffed her old flame's hair to take in a little of her natural scent. It was just the way she remembered it - enticing. "Mmmm. Been there, done that…"


"We never stopped arguing until she left for good."


"I know you haven't asked for my opinion, but here it is. I always knew she was a bitch, that one. She wasn't good enough for ya."


"Oh, that's another dollar for the cussbox."


Lindy chuckled and placed a tiny kiss on the side of Michelle's head. "I guess I'll be a destitute by the end of the week. I love to cuss like a sailor."


"If we even have a week," Michelle said somberly.


The words had barely left her mouth before the sunlight lost some of its strength and luster. As it continued to grow weaker, it seemed like an unseen hand manipulated a giant fader. Lindy and Michelle gasped and tried to look up into the sky. The light was still strong enough to force them to shield their eyes, but even as they were watching, it continued to fade.


"Oh God no… Oh, God, it's happening," Michelle croaked, scrambling to her feet. Her gestures and behavior grew frantic and it was clear she was teetering on the brink of a complete nervous breakdown. "Sue… Shawn… come here… come over here," she said in a voice that had lost all pretenses of remaining calm.


The children shot each other puzzled glances, but did as their mother told them to. They soon fell into Michelle's arms where they got the hug of a lifetime.


Lindy cursed under her breath and jumped up on top of the picnic table like it would help her see better. It didn't, of course, but she could hear a collective, unbridled scream of terror rising from the city all around them. She continued to look up, and soon, she didn't need to shield her eyes as the light continued to fade and change into an orange hue.


"Lindy, please… I need you… I need you down here," Michelle croaked, looking up at her old friend with tears streaming down her cheeks.


Pressing her lips together to keep her own emotions in check, Lindy jumped off the picnic table and joined the Davenports in a big hug that went on for so long that Shawn got just the tiniest bit impatient and wanted to break free from the family gathering.


"What's wrong, Mom…?" Sue said with a deep, worried frown etched onto her face. Her chin began to tremble at the sight of her mother crying, and she grabbed hold of the lower end of the long cardigan to get closer in case it was bad.


"Nothing, sweetie… just remember that Mommy loves you… always," Michelle replied in a shaky voice as she knelt down to be able to look her children in the eye. "I love you too, Shawn. Come here… give me a little kiss. Both of you."


After plenty of kisses had been exchanged between the Davenports, Michelle caressed her children's faces with tears streaming down her cheeks. It was clear Sue and Shawn didn't fully understand the strange situation, but when Michelle opened her mouth to explain, her voice had abandoned her and she could only shake her head.


"Sue," Lindy said, reaching down to muss the younger Davenport's blond locks, "we're probably gonna be in a little bit of trouble in a short while."


"Oh… because the sun is going down already?"


"Yeah, but it won't take long. Eight minutes or so… from when it started."


The answer seemed to confuse the children more than it helped, because Shawn looked up at the sky's uncharacteristic hue and put a sandy finger in his mouth like he was thinking really, really hard about the weird color.


"Eight minutes…" Michelle echoed in a croaking, thick voice as she looked up. The ancient sun had been reduced to something resembling a burnt orange lump of coal in the sky. She knew there was a seven or eight minute delay in what they saw, so the terminal nuclear processes would already have started up there.


She had watched enough of the breaking news in the past few days to know that the outer, darkening layers of the sun would cool off so much they would collapse onto the core; then the sun would explode and everything in the path of the superheated shockwave would be incinerated. It had probably already happened, they just didn't see it yet.


Sue and Shawn seemed to decide that since they didn't understand the finer details of the curious situation, they would rather go back to the sandbox and continue working on the mountain, but Michelle held onto them.


Ten billion conflicting emotions raced through Lindy's mind. She cleared her throat and licked her lips several times before she had finally worked up the courage needed to speak what was on her heart. The increasing twilight surrounding them added a creepy atmosphere to her words, and she understood she needed to say them now before it was too late. "Michelle… seeing you again has made me realize that I… that I… I've been such a damn fool in not coming by sooner. I love you. I always have. Please forgive m-"


"Just kiss me," Michelle said and reached behind the taller woman's neck to pull her down. When their lips met, the sweet kiss that followed was warm, loving and unhurried.


Sue let out a happy squeal at the sight of her mommy finally having someone new to kiss, but Shawn dug his fists into his eyes and let out an emphatic "Ew!"


Kissing the woman she loved, Lindy felt her heart explode angrily in her chest over the unfulfilled potential and the unfairness of it all. Everything had been right there at her fingertips if she had only bothered to call or visit Michelle sooner, but she had been so busy with all her flings and floozies that she hadn't had time for the important things in life. And now, no life was left for any of them.


When the kiss ended, Lindy and Michelle moved an inch apart to look deeply into each other's eyes. They both knew they would have been dynamite together. Alas, it wasn't to be. Another group-hug followed, and they all remained close in the dying minutes of Planet Earth.





THE END for us all…