Ninety Seconds

Prompt: “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper.” -T.S. Elliot

Word Limit: 300

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They’d come so far. Her tired head rested on his lap. She had started fat, strong, covered in white hair that shimmered in the ceaseless sunlight. Whether the sun had faded with her, or her with the sun, no one knew.

What they did know was that she was going to die.

He watched as the heartbeat that had pulsed beneath her translucent skin for a millennia slowed, as its light evaporated like the water and the food and the sun, as breath left her lungs.

He hadn’t meant to cry, not for her. He had one job. In thirty generations of masters and apprentices he, and only he, had one single, coveted job.

Dear god in heaven, he didn’t want it.

He wept, shocked at his ill preparedness considering all his preparation, and eased her beautiful, lifeless head into the snow. The sun was almost dark. He began to count.

He had ninety seconds.

He stuck the knife in below her rib cage and yanked upward, tearing apart this majestic beast who had fed humanity with her heartbeat for a thousand years. He drew it out, faintly glowing, barely beating, and flung it far out to the hungry sea. The waves rose to swallow her sacrifice and the light was lost to the water.

Twelve.

Eleven.

Ten.

The ocean brightened as her heart began to beat for the earth, and the sun rose and shone warm, and the ice began to melt, and he knew that hundreds of miles away, wheat and corn and apples were shooting up to feed the few starving millions who remained.

He was glad. She would have been glad.

But he couldn’t go to see it. Not yet. He just sat down beside her, put her ancient, cold head in his lap, and cried.


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