Last Day at the Beach

Five pm and the beach was empty, so was the resort. Four friends ran out onto the warm sand chasing the setting sun towards the beach.

“Who brought the music?” asked Mitch, holding a surfboard in one hand and a paddleboard in the other.

“We did,” said Vikki. Her and Lee held hands as they made their way from the parking lot just a few feet above the beach. Vikki held up an iPod in one hand, while Lee held up the stereo in his other hand.

Close behind them was Terra, Mitch’s sister, carrying a heavy backpack on her shoulders.

“And I’ve got everything else,” she said.

“Do you need any help?” asked Lee, looking back.

“No, you lovebirds keep doing what you’re doing.”

All of them chuckled. Terra especially wanted to make them feel happy, especially on this day.

Mitch had already peeled off his shirt and was heading for the water when Lee called out to him.

“Wait up for us, will you? We’re almost done setting up.”

He looked back, angrily; which was not like him at all.

“You’ve got the whole fucking ocean to yourself, bro. If you want to waste our last day here getting set up, be my guest. It’s a waste of time.”

He looked over at the resort, expecting some college girls to come strutting out towards them, enjoying an evening on the beach. Of course, no girls came out. No one would come out. The resort, as well as the entire western coast of California, was empty.

Mitch cursed one last time, and took his surfboard out into the water, ready for the next wave.

Terra leaned back on the towel she set on the sand, with a book in her hand.

“Don’t mind him, you guys,” she said to Vikki and Lee, “He’s just a little on edge right now. And, yes, probably a little scared too.”

“Can’t say I blame him,” said Vikki, looking up and down the beach, “Perfect evening, perfect waves, and we’ve got the entire beach all to ourselves.”

“And we’re going to party like there’s no tomorrow,” said Lee.

The girls turned to him. They knew he was trying to be funny, to ease the tension, but he regretted saying it almost instantly.

“Well pretty ladies,” he said, “I don’t know about you, but I am ready enjoy myself.”

“You know I am, babe!” Vikki jumped up, and slipped off her jean skirt. As Lee slipped off his shirt and shoes, he looked over at Terra, who was just starting to read her book.

“You’re reading? Seriously? That’s how you want to spend this day?”

Terra smiled defiantly, and looked up at the two of them saying, “As a matter of fact, yes, it is. I’m almost done with this book. I’ll come out when I’ve finished.”

Lee and Vikki ran out into the ocean, chasing after Mitch, who’d already been in and out on one of the waves.

Terra knew that Mitch really wanted to make the most of it here. He wanted to spend the day out in the ocean, surfing his cares away, soaking up the sun. But, despite being a teenage surfer who looked like he belonged on the cover of a surf magazine, he was shy, and preferred to keep his distance from people. Out in the surf was his best hideout. Someplace where the girls on the beach could watch him in awe, and he would be a safe distance away.

Lee had proposed to Vikki just a few weeks ago. A couple years ago, they were dedicated pre-med students who were sure they’d never settle down with a spouse. After they met, they made plans by saying “we” instead of “I”.

Of course, they didn’t make any more plans after they learned the news.

About a week ago, astronomers looked up to the skies, expecting to see a comet that passed by only once every thirty thousand years. After multiple calculations it was determined; the comet would not pass by Earth, it would strike it. And it would strike somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. And it would very likely be nothing less than an extinction level event.

The cities on the coastlines emptied out in just a few days, though most knew it would be useless. No one knew how they’d gone this long without realizing it would happen, but there was no time to ask questions, or place blame. There wasn’t much time for anything anymore. Anything except one last day to do—whatever you needed to do.

For Terra, her little brother Mitch, and her friends Lee and Vikki, it was one perfect day at the beach.

Terra turned back to her book. She was almost finished, and she couldn’t stop until she knew how it ended. She was going to spend this day doing exactly what she wanted to do.

At about seven thirty, the sun began to set, putting on an amazing display of warm colors above the ocean. Terra ran out into the ocean, to join up with Lee, Vikki, and Mitch. They surfed for a while, and then played water polo. They walked up to the beach, building castles in the sand, like they were seven years old again. The music blared full volume on the radio as Vikki snapped pictures of the three of them, pictures that would never be seen by anyone.

The sun was just over the horizon, so the four of them went up and gathered around the fire that Terra had made for them. It started to cool off, so everyone slipped on sweatshirts and cuddled up in blankets. The marshmallows and the hotdogs came out soon afterwards.

Vikki took the iPod off the stereo, causing the FM radio to come on.

“…predicting that the impact will take place at exactly 10:12 pm Pacific Time. Again, emergency response teams are stationed to bring any remaining civilians inland. We will remain on air as long as…”

Lee quickly turned off the radio, leaving them alone with the sound of the wind, the waves, and the flames from the fire.

Mitch looked up at the ski, then back down to the fire.

“How long have we got?” He asked.

“About an hour,” said Terra. She was surprised at how casually she said it. But, once they heard about it, nothing seemed to phase them too much anymore.

“And we’ll be the first to see it,” said Lee, “We’ll have front row seats. And the best part is; we won’t feel a thing.”

Vikki looked up at him.

“You’re sure, honey? I mean you’re really sure?”

“Positive. It will happen in an instant. One second we’re here, the next, we’re not. It’s easier than falling asleep.”

He put his arms around her, and spoke softly. Terra sat next to Mitch and put her arm around him. He just kept looking at the fire, huddled up in a sweatshirt he got when he took a tour of Stanford. Terra remembered that he’d been working to get his grades up so he could go to Stanford.

In front of them, the sun was just going under the horizon.

“You scared, buddy?” asked Terra.

“Nah,” said Mitch, like she just asked if he was sad about missing a concert or a dance, “I’m just bummed out is all.”

“You had all these plans, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, and now they mean nothing.”

“Well, that’s how it goes sometimes. Life doesn’t always go as you plan.”

“That’s just it though. It’s not just me. It’s everybody. This isn’t just a bad day, or a turn of events. Tonight, everyone’s plans are going to mean nothing.”

“We don’t know that for a fact, Mitch.”

“Well, just the people that matter to me.”

He put his head down, and Terra gave him a hug.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said to her, his head still down, “I’m glad they’re here too.”

“Now if only a few cute girls from Stanford were here.”

The joke was small, but enough to get a small laugh from Mitch.

The sky was dark, as the red of the setting sun began to fade away. The four of them looked up at the sky. Behind them, in the city, no cars could be heard, and no lights could be seen. They relaxed in a darkness and a level of silence that didn’t seem possible anymore.

“How much longer?” asked Lee.

“Ten minutes,” said Vikki.

They took a moment, looked at each other, then out to the ocean. Terra thought of a rock she threw into a lake one time. It made big waves, but after a couple seconds, the water went back to being flat and motionless, like the surface of a mirror. She looked out at the ocean knowing that once this was all over, the ocean would go back to normal, like nothing even happened. There might be no one left to see it, but if there was, it would be the same ocean they’d seen before.

The sky was dark. The stars came out. The four of them huddled together, and let the motion of the waves calm them.

At 10:11, it happened.

The whole sky turned red, but the stars were still visible. The ground and the ocean were saturated in red, like a red filter placed up to their eyes. The four friends looked back, just a flash of light shot over them, at the speed of a falling star. It turned everything its true color for a moment. Everything, from the abandoned resort to the miles of coastline up north, all of it was, for a short time, lit up by pure white light.

When it passed, there was a roar that shook the earth. It seemed the comet was already tearing the planet in half. The four friends huddled together. Vikki started crying. Mitch cried as well.

“Terra!” he pleaded.

“It will happen in an instant,” she said, trying to sound strong.

The ocean stirred, the ground shook, the sky was ripped in two. The four of them watched as the comet, the second sun, went down, off past the horizon. For a moment, there was nothing.

At 10:12 pm, Pacific Time, there was a blinding flash off the horizon.

 


Stephen Graf

Justin M.D. Nelson is a twenty-three year old actor and writer. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he is currently working on a novel.

 

Banner Artwork by Jess Ange