Eleanor was floating on her back in the middle of the lake, taking a break between the butterfly and the breaststroke when the world ended. It was over just like (snap).
There was no flash of white or sense of being yanked upwards by her hair (she was after all wearing a swim cap). One minute she was in the lake planning tonight’s dinner menu and the next she was in the middle of a crowd, a thick dense crowd, streaming forward, destination unknown. Despite the density of the mute crowd, Eleanor realized that she had time to think and watch.
She felt her prescription goggles still squeezing the bridge of her nose and noticed the world appeared through the fuzzy distortion of her lens. She had meant to buy new ones, or at the very least use spit to control the murky glaze that invariably formed midway across the lake, but at least she could see.
Which come to think of it was confusing, since death, she was led to believe, meant leaving your body and all its woes behind.
Somehow she managed to maneuver to the side, whether by thought or by kicking her feet, she couldn’t be sure. The crowd grew thicker, like the knot of pedestrians on the corner of Forty-Second and Fifth seconds before the light turned green. Dentists still holding their delicate tools, stern CEOs, trendy Baristas caught mid-gesture moved relentlessly past her. As did a school of dolphins, a bewildered bear and wart hogs. Wasps, bees and a swarm of mosquitoes that took no interest in Eleanor, occupied the in-between spaces.
Her friend Judy, who had vehemently denied having an affair with her Boss, waved enthusiastically as she passed, as if saying goodbye from the prow of a cruise ship. Her blouse was unbuttoned and her Boss, still cupping her left breast, peered ahead as if trying to assess the traffic patterns.
Was that it? Game over. Or was it merely the end of this level, like a particularly involving round of “War Craft”? Eleanor was content to wait it out.
She fought an overriding compulsion to join in. Instead she stayed rooted to her spot. Her childhood dog stood on his hind legs and barked. But no sound was heard. Finally, even her dog, she couldn’t remember his name nor her own come to think of it, scampered away and she was left alone.
She took off her goggles, as she would at the end of a swim, but the world lost focus and so she kept them on. She listened and heard nothing, not her customary tinnitus or even an old Beatles song.
She had expected to hear something final like In the end the love you make…but there was nothing.
I wish I could say that Eleanor woke up. But then this wouldn’t be a story about the end of the world.