Until the End of the World by Wilbert Stanton

I sat on the park bench holding my messenger bag close to my chest. The weight of the world seemed to be in that bag. There were no books or parcels, just one solitary knife. It had a wooden handle and a dull tip; its edges were serrated, and the commercials promised it would cut through anything including a steel pipe in a matter of minutes. That was a refreshing thought; I had an irrational fear of stabbing someone to death, having a hard time breaking the surface, or if a bone got in the way of vital organs. It would make for an uncomfortable situation; frankly I would rather have the certainty of knowing that the first strike meant death. Surely a slit across the throat would suffice, but that seemed so messy and downright over the top. I wasn't a killer and I didn't plan on using such barbaric tactics. No, the kitchen knife came with a guarantee to cut through anything or your money back. I for damn sure kept the receipt.

Central Park was a very different place at night. It was empty and cold, not a cold that came with whatever Loni Anderson of the Channel 2 Weather Report predicted. No this was a cold that no matter the season always haunted the park at nighttime. As if the park itself, a sentient being, exhaled a great sigh of relief once all the noisy people finally left it alone. In the distance I could hear the light music of headphones barely audible. The young man stretched at the side of the road not ten feet away from me, unaware of my presence, as I was situated behind a mighty oak tree. I stole occasional glances, making sure he didn't leave without my knowing. Clearly unaware of the danger such a foolish act of jogging at such a time put him in, but then again, if he were a demon he had to have a demonic false sense of security.

There were many stories of James, his good looks were beyond example, his charm, wit, and ability to bed unreasonably beautiful women were well known. To describe him in simple words would be to do him a great injustice, because there were no words to describe such perfection. He'd probably laugh at my depiction, a mocking tone that bordered on pity and good will. He'd pat me on the head and say good job, but append certain aspects or qualities I no doubt accidentally left out. Like a father to his child he'd insult my intelligence and offer better suited words to describe his magnitude. If I didn't care to appear biased I'd offer you this: James was a huge prick; my best friend knew him as her boyfriend, but I knew him for the demon he was.

"Are you going to sit there all day?" Anna asked from her curious position in the grass. She looked about eight but she had certain qualities that made me question that. One of which was her being an angel. She lay prone, resting chin on hands folded in front of her. Her legs swayed back and forth behind her as she smiled at me with an elfish grin; hHer skin was unnaturally white, in contrast to her black pigtails. She looked like a porcelain doll, and just as fragile. She was barefoot and wore a white dress as she normally did. It was certainly ruined; I wondered if she knew grass stains were impossible to remove. I recalled a commercial where children were recklessly playing soccer in the park and later a frowning mother placed a grass stained shirt in two different bowls of soapy water. Only one showed results. If I had remembered the detergent I would have offered her my advice. But then again she didn't seem to care.

"I will in just a minute, I'm wondering how I should go about it. I’m worried he might put up a fight."

"It’s probably safe to assume he'll offer a fight. Not too many people welcome getting stabbed to death. Why not just sneak up behind him and slit his throat? I mean his music’s loud enough."

"No, I thought of that, but it'd be way too messy. Blood would probably be harder to clean out than a grass stain."

She turned over on her back, inspecting her dress. I cringed at the sight of greens and browns smeared across the front. "Yeah, that's no good."

"He doesn't really look demony does he?"

"Not really, but God said he's a demon and you have to slay him. Who are we to question God’s divine word?"

"Yea I know, I'm just... will I even be able to kill a demon?"

"You have the sword of Michael. No demon can stand up to it."

I retrieved the QVC kitchen knife from my bag and turned it over in my hand. Looking at my fading reflection I questioned how the QVC had obtained Michael’s sword, wondering why it wasn't more... well, more sword-like. As if reading my mind Anna added: "I think they like to disguise their weapons so they don't fall into the wrong hands."

She stood up slowly, wiping loose dirt from her dress, the moon illumining her face, highlighting small brown freckles that rested at the base of her nose. She pointed a small hand with dirtied nails in the direction of the jogging path and with little excitement, said "He’s leaving!" I looked back to see that my prey had indeed gone, turning a corner. I cursed myself, jumping to my feet grabbing my knife, and gave chase. Anna lightly skipped behind me.

Why wasn't the gap closing?, I thought. He was only jogging yet there I was, running at full speed, unable to catch up. The wooden hilt of the knife was clammy in my hand, covered in sweat, my whole body was. I could feel the warm drops running down my back. The road we were on led up a winding hill and I had lost him over the top. All that lay ahead was a huge imposing juggernaut. Already my lungs burned and my legs ached in pain. I wished for a cigarette badly. I slowed as I started making my assent. My back muscles pulled at me and the knife actually felt as if it weighed a thousand pounds; maybe it was a sword in disguise after all. I tripped and staggered to the ground, hitting my knee hard. I sat there rubbing it, and it was there that my body refused to obey me. I gasped for air and laid back. I stared up at the moon for some time before Anna’s freckled face obscured my view. "So he got away?"

"Yeah, well I had him... like... almost." I felt a vibration in my pants; dropping the knife I quickly reached for it and my heart jumped when I saw it was Seneca calling.

"Hey you," she said, music playing in the background blanketed by the sound of many mixed voices. "Are you coming?"

"Yeah... I'll um... I'll catch a cab."

"You okay? You don't sound so good." Her concern overjoyed me.

"Well it's just…" I heard the bartender yell two dollar shots in the background. "I feel like I'm having a"

"Okay, well, I got to go now. Call when you get here." She loudly cheered with a bunch of other background screamers as she hung up the phone.

"So I guess that's it for demon hunting tonight?" asked Anna, as she watched a raccoon in the distance.

"I'm sure we can get him some other time. I mean it's New Years Eve!"

Seneca had a new hairdo; this was something she often did when her life was spiraling out of control. She’d cut it short. I never fancied short hair, but it suited her. It gently nestled her childlike face between a stunning mix of red and black; her eyes were soft, and showed her often lost in thought managing to never see the world around her. It didn't really matter because there was nothing worth her full attention. Her lips were pale, seemingly without life. They never formed a smile and I often thought no one worthy enough to bare witness to such a site—no one but I, of course. Looking back I can't help but think that my love for her was quite unpleasant. That being said, I often neglected my duties as mankind’s savior. But in the face of Seneca Simmons, God’s duties just didn't seem all that important.

There I was, in an impossible situation—“best friend zone”—not to mention the complications of being the “Sword of God.” I didn’t care for this responsibility—not that it required much work of me... or, rather, it did, I just found myself uninterested in it generally. A constant and utter inconvenience, especially considering I clearly had more pressing matters such as winning the heart of Seneca Simmons. I once wondered if being the Sword of God would spark any interest in Seneca’s heart and for a moment entertained the idea of leading mankind against evil. But these thoughts were quickly extinguished upon realizing that her usual men of preference were without debt and responsibility.

“James,” she said, shooting a shot of tequila. “You know, he’s cheating on me. I found out the hard way.”

The hard way, a.k.a., finally accepting the fact he was sleeping with a friend of hers.

She and I sat at the bar awaiting twelve and the birth of a new year. Like a charmed sneak she swayed back and forth in her stool; too many shots, I thought. Her eyes were filling with water; she fidgeted about as if she couldn’t quite figure out how a stool worked, making it easy to avoid direct eye contact with me, keeping me from seeing her pain. She hid it well, shot after shot.

“Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?” I asked, ordering another round. “Name it and it’s done.”

“Yes, actually…” She downed her shot and mine, ordering another round. “You write something for me. Write about how wildly interesting I am.”

“I suppose there isn’t really anyone else in the world like you is there?”

“The letters you write me always make me feel, important.”

“Where would I start?”

“I think you should take one fact you like about me. No, something you love about me the most and start with that. Let the rest follow. I’m sure you can think of something.”

“How about Seneca steals whole roles of toilet paper from bar bathrooms.”

“Good start. Let the world know I Seneca Simmons will not pay three dollars to wipe my ass. It really says something about my character, I think; rebel, inspiration, a Joan of Arc of our time. Clearly it’s the in-between the line facts hidden under such simple acts which mean much more.” She smiled for the first time of the night.

“I think if I had to choose I’d start with your eyes.”

“Well that’s just as good as the toilet paper, dare I say even better? I don’t think you could bullshit a deeper meaning out of my eyes though, never given them much thought.”

“I have, I often think about them.”

She sighed, and drained another shot that always seemed to magically refill itself. “Do you love me?” She asked.

“Of course I do, you’re my best friend.”

“No, don’t play dumb I mean real love. Are you in love with me? I’ve never felt true love, someone who honestly cared for me. I want to know what it feels like. I think a life without the warmth of true love no matter how short, isn’t worth living.” I wanted to change the subject but she added, “I wish I was in love with you. I love being with you, I miss you when your not around. You mean the world to me. Because I can spend hours with you and the way you look at me, it makes me feel like, like I exist.”

“Fuck James! You deserve so much better, if it were up to me I’d kill him for hurting you.”

“That’s sweet, but he’s a lot bigger you know. Your heart's in the right place, but it’s trapped in that wiry body of yours.”

“So we could just leave, I’d take care of everything. Just you and I ‘til the end of the world! You’d be happier without him, you’d be happier with…”

“Of course I would silly, but I can’t change the fact that I still love him. But sometimes I do think …I think…” She squeezed my arm. “We should go."

"Go? But it's almost twelve, we were talking, and I have to pee, what's wrong?"

“I have to puke!"

We ran outside, I barely made it ten feet before my bladder threatened to explode. I ran over to some parked cars and began to relieve myself. Seneca violently pitched over next to me puking up an assortment of colors. That's when the fireworks started as well as the horns and the cheers of a happy new year. I wasn't really aware of it; I was drawn to the strangely intriguing mix of our bodily fluids that slowly purled down the street into a gutter.

"Happy New Year!" She said falling back curling up in a fetal position.

"Happy New Year," I said using my shirt to wipe vomit from her mouth.

"I don't think I like champagne so much anymore, it made the world fuzzy. I only drank one bottle..."

"I think it was tequila."

"Maybe you’re right," she said, then promptly closed her eyes and went to sleep. I scooped her up, and absently she wrapped her arms around my neck, resting her head on my chest. I made it all the way to the corner before my legs and back gave up in pain. Not to mention that her arms were restricting the flow of air. My heart was racing with effort; I gently laid her back on the ground, as gently as I could. Still the thud of her head hitting pavement made me wince in pain. After checking her vitals I went to hail a cab.

***

I stared out of the window trying to focus my vision. I took slow deep breaths trying to set my stomach at ease with a refreshing breeze that carried over from the ocean as we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. Seneca lying on my lap with her eyes tightly shut seemed to be having the same problem, the sweat of her brow and labored breaths gave it away. Then everything I saw outside began to meld and mesh into something undecipherable. It was slow at first: who would notice the waxing signs of a crumbling reality in the middle of the night? But upon closer inspection the buildings and stars started to collide, crawling towards each other and becoming one. It was as if the world outside our cab no longer adhered to distance or the standard three dimensions. Instead, the world became a flat painting, and worse still, this painting was bleeding away. The colors were beginning to run as reality fell apart. I quickly closed the window not wishing the degradation to find its way into the cab.

"What are you doing?" Seneca moaned, "The air was keeping me from puking."

"I know,” I said, “I feel sick too, but well, the world is ending. There seems to be a great degradation about and reality is no longer stable, I'm hoping the closed window will keep all that at bay."

"Oh," she seemed to think in silence for a bit, she placed her shaky hand in mine interlocking fingers. "If the world ends will you abandon me in my current state?"

"Of course not, you know I'll always take care of you."

"Right, I do know that, so if the world ends you will undoubtedly protect me from any horrors that might arise?"

"Without question."

"Well then, please open the window. If this degradation should manage to make its way in, I'm certain you will find a way to protect us. But I'm uncertain if you'll be able to stop me from puking all over you, myself, and the back of this cab otherwise."

I opened the window cautiously remarking the world that crumbled outside.

"Thanks." she said, patting my leg and seemingly falling asleep. I ran my free hand through her hair trying to comfort her.

The cab driver lowering the radio asked, "you think the world’s really ending?" Looking up I realized he was watching us through the rear view; his skin was as dark as the unstable night, with white eyes covered in red veins.

"Yeah, yeah I do. It might not be today. But I know it's going to end soon." I deliberately stroked Seneca’s hair and longed for her prone body lying on my lap. "I mean, look outside the window... you know, I was wondering: Since the world’s ending, is there a chance at you shaving the fare?"

"A bit of advice: The world is ending everyday. From the moment you’re born. There's no stopping it, so there's no reason worrying about it."

"Well actually, you’re dying from the moment you’re born, that’s not necessarily the world ending," I said.

"Yeah, but if you die, your world ends, doesn't it? I mean it depends on how you look at things. I live in my own world, and you live in yours, and that pretty young lady on your lap lives in hers. What I perceive of this world is a very different thing then you. That girl, is she your girlfriend?"

"No nothing like that, just good friends."

"And there you have it; you just destroyed my perception of this situation and a possible world of millions that could have been. See what I saw through this mirror was a girl who trusts you so much not even the end of the world worried her. She believes with all her heart that you’d protect her from anything."

"I would."

"And I believe you would, I believe it from looking at you. Now that kind of trust she has in you, and the devotion you have towards her, that's the naive foolishness you'd find in people that are completely in love. I looked at you and I saw raw love. Had you not told me otherwise I would have gone on believing you two were a couple. 'Now that's a sweet couple; that boy’s getting some tonight,' that's what I'd think and that's what I'd perceive as reality. That'd be my world where you and..."

"Seneca."

"Where you and Seneca are a couple and you take her home and get some, as you probably do every night. But you went and destroyed that world telling me different."

"Should you be driving this high?" I asked him. He smiled a big smile; a full set of the whitest teeth greeted me. I've never seen a cat that smiles, I thought.

"The point is you worry too much man. Just take it easy. Worlds end everyday, so fuck it. Enjoy yourself, and that girl: tell her how you feel. And everything’s gonna be alright."

He smiled at me once again, this time blowing thick smoke out his nose. I smiled back, deciding I liked the fact that he thought Seneca and I were meant to be together. I heard the sound of a CD player sliding shut; I bobbed my head to the music and didn't care that the colors of the world were washing away, leaving an empty canvas outside, nor that the meter read twenty five dollars when I knew for certain it should only be up to ten.


By night Wilbert Stanton is a New York City writer. By day he sleeps in his office. His favorite color is blue...