Short Stories →
DeadlineAugust 16, 2023
“You want the long answer or the short answer?” Said the bearded figure on the beach chair, between sips of his margarita.
“All we want is a straight answer. What can we do about this?”
“Good, I like that no-nonsense attitude. Tell you what, I’ll give you both. Short answer: nothing. Long answer: not a fucking thing.”
The man in the grey suit now looked not only out of place at the quiet beach resort but also visibly annoyed, still he managed to keep a business like tone to his voice.
“You’re not taking this seriously enough, professor. You of all people should know we don’t have time for jokes.”
“You thought I was joking? Oh, no. I’m being serious, deadly serious. There’s really nothing we can do about it.”
“The president himself sent me. He’s willing to help you coordinate an unprecedented international effort. We have contacted most of the world’s leaders and they have agreed to cooperate in any way necessary to avert this crisis.”
“Well, good for him. At least his finally doing his job for a change. But the answer is still no. This is not a ‘crisis’ you can avert.”
“We are talking about the fate of the human race. Are you willing to just sit here and do nothing about it?”
It was the bearded man’s turn to look annoyed.
“Nothing about it? After checking and re-checking the data, consulting with every colleague I could get hold of, running literally thousands of simulations and confirming our findings I did the only thing that I could do about it.”
“And what was that?”
“I went home to get drunk for a week. Then I sold everything I had and moved here.”
“So that’s it? You’re just going to sit on a beach and let it happen, you’re turning your back on humanity?”
“And what exactly do you expect me to do? We have neither the time nor the technology to stop it from happening or even try to protect ourselves.”
“Perhaps, but surely there’s something we can at least do to help the survivors. Build refuges. Leave them the enough resources. Give them a head start so they don’t have to restart civilization all over from scratch.”
The bearded man burst out laughing loud enough to attract the looks from several vacationers.
“What’s so funny?”
“I just realized none of you has really understood what’s actually going to happen. You’re still treating this as some kind of natural disaster like an earthquake or a tornado, it’s nothing like that at all. Let me try to explain to you in the simplest terms Possible what’s really going on.”
For the first time since the conversation started, the man in the grey suit appeared to be shaken by the bearded man’s tone.
“See that big, bright ball up there, the one we call the Sun? It’s become hyperactive and is ready to let all that energy out. Unfortunately for us, that will occur on a zone that Just happens to be exactly in the way of our little planet’s orbit. At any moment between the next eight minutes and six to eight months at most, the Earth is going to be thoroughly bathed with enough gamma radiation to totally sterilize the planet. There’s not going to be any survivors to start anything over, even microbes will be wiped out.”
The man in the grey suit suddenly became very pale and had to grab the table to stop himself from collapsing.
“I see you do understand.”
“My god… that means…”
“It’s the end of the world as we know it? Yeah, pretty much.”
“What should I tell the president. What are we going to say to the people?”
“Nothing. Just let them go on with their lives and enjoy their blissful ignorance. It’s not like there will be a big explosion or anything. We’ll just suddenly plunge into a wall of invisible radiation and drop dead. What’s the use of making them live the last months, days or hours of their lives in total panic and despair?”
“I… I just… I can’t… I need a drink.”
“Here, let me buy you one. The bartender is a friend and his margaritas are quite good. Besides, you’re really going to need several of them, trust me.”
The sky was clear over the beautiful golden beach. It was a perfect day to enjoy the tropical sun.