When I die the World Ends - Jennifer Rainsford
WHEN I DIE THE WORLD ENDS
A man - Dean - and a woman - Kaet - are driving along the ocean road. It is a very early morning, the sky is light turquoise, no other cars are out. They pass an old airport where people live in colourful tents, their clothes drying on lines. A piece by Mendelssohn plays on the radio. Dean shifts the channel.
Researcher (woman's voice on radio)
...if space doesn't bend - it if is flat - it contains only enough mass for it to stop expanding. But only after an undefined time. So as the universe has no limits and will expand forever with a speed that is slowly approaching zero. This is what is called a cubic universe…
Kaet asks what they are saying, he answers that they are talking about the Universe. They both listen to the radio while Kaet drives in silence. Dean looks in the mirror at a mark on his neck Kaet doesn’t notice.
(radio) … how we know any of this is true? What we do know is that if the universe collapses we will too. And we will notice because the atmosphere dissolves. The layer of oxygen that makes the atmosphere , that is the bubble of gas which gets thinner the farther from the earth we get, will be dissolved and anything that is held in place by gravity will disappear into space…
They drive through an industrial landscape. White oil cisterns pass on their left. The sun is already strong and cuts sharp shadows into the asphalt. The car turns into a parking spot where Filipino men with tall fishing rods sit along an ancient pier.
Dean steps out and starts unloading their things. Next to their pick-up stands a car with a gorilla mask over the headrest, it stares out with a blank grin through the window. Kaet looks back at it, listening to the radio show, she draws a cube on the windscreen.
(radio)…well, it is only the consequences of the relation between the earth and the universe, if they are out of balance, the balance between liquid and solid is also brought out of phase…
Dean knocks on the window with a snorkel and tells Kaet to help him. Kaet leans back over the seat to collect towels, a tool bag and a life vest from the back seat. She opens the door and drops the things in the dirt on the ground outside.
(radio)…so basically we will see particles in the sky and we will know the world is ending.
Kaet turns off the radio and takes the keys from the ignition. In the dockyard they find their boat surrounded by other rough, battered yachts. Homeless people are living in some of them; tarps cover the cockpits, a dog sunbathes, flowerpots attached to the rail and bikes standing on deck.
They are both under deck, Dean lifts a sail, ropes, their life-vests and a jacket from one of the bunks. Kaet sees a mark on his neck:
Kaet -What did you do here?
Kaet -It looks like a bruise.
Dean -I don't know, maybe I hit something underwater.
Kaet - Did you swim?
Dean - No.
He makes a small face as of a silent joke and she looks at him with a perplexed smile. He climbs up through the hatch.
Kaet pushes a bag through the fore-hatch and begins to prepare the sails. Everything is old - bleached and fragile - they leave traces of dust on her skin.
Dean checks the old motor - it’s still broken.
Dean -Can you leave without an engine?
Kaet - It's not that windy.
Leaving the harbour, Dean goes to the front, and pushes them out from the dock. Kaet holds the helm while throwing the back rope.
Kaet -‘Carry off’
As the wind gets hold of the hull, the boat is nudged to one side of the dock, drifting towards the pillars.
The wind continues to push them. For a few minutes of stressed silence they are pushed towards the other boats. As they finally align with the breeze, Dean raises the fore sail and they pick up a little speed, straighten up, taking them towards the open sea.
Kaet - No engine. It will be fun to see you swim us in to the dock.
Dean -Well, you're the best swimmer
Dean raises the main sail just as they pass the oil docks. Kaet opens a beer and clicks on the radio. The sun is still strong and wind is beginning to find its way to them.
A loud rumbling sound.
Dean -Did you hear that?
Dean -An earthquake?
Kaet -Should we go back?
They keep sailing, Kaet takes the helm, takes a sip of her beer. She looks at her phone - no network. The wind is dropping.
Dean sits by the mast and says back to Kaet -Did you ever think about that wind is just air that is moving. Masses of air like water, but air.
Kaet doesn’t answer and looks far in the horizon. Dean looks up at the sky, squinting.
Dean -Come here.
Kaet -But I'm sailing.
Dean -There's no wind.
Kaet comes to him as he lies down on deck, she lays by his side..
Dean -Look at that. Do you see it?
Kaet -No. What?
Kaet looks up at the sky bluntly. Dean is amazed.
Dean -But, how can you not see it? You have to have the sun in the exact right angle.
Kaet -It's just your white blood cells. Thats what you’re seeing. We can see them all the time, it is just that we don't notice them.Or it's salt crystals.
A large bubble rises from below and breaks the surface with a pop.
Dean A whale.
Dean What's wrong?
Kaet It's nothing.
Dean Of what?
Kaet Nothing of nothing.
The horizon stretches around them. The sky is divided with a sharp line from the ocean. Dean looks at the sky again.
Dean Why did you wish I was dead?
Dean touches the place on his neck where the bruise is growing. Kaet doesn’t answer and climbs below deck.
Kaet sits with the radio in her lap. The radio doesn't work. She cries in silence. The radio suddenly starts working again but plays with a strange sound. The same violin concert from before in the car but distorted somehow.
Dean sits by the helm drowsily. The ocean is still, his bruise has grown on his neck and he has trouble staying awake.
Kaet is asleep below deck her head on a bundle of hard rope.
The sky is slowly shifting colour.
Kaet opens her eyes. Her cheek is red from the pressure of head-on-rope. Dean is not where she left him. She stands up but staggers and sits back, dazed. She gasps for air. Climbs up the stairs panting. The sky is filled with slowly moving particles. She moves her hand trying to touch them.
Dean is on the floor, slouched over and motionless. The bruise has grown over his face and chin. She shakes his head, eyes closed, while trying to grasp her own breath. The ocean is completely still now and the sky is a shimmering darkness. She leans over, looks up at the sky, grabs a breath. Her head falls back.
Kaet’s eyes reflect the glistening grains of light shifting above them as the world slowly disappears.