The End of the World – By Rachel Chew Blakley
New Year’s Eve, 2999. For months I’ve been worried about this Y3K stuff – going as far as writing a one-page feature about our looming ruin in my self-published zine Fido, which sells for a dollar fifty to a grand total of six of my relatives down in Los Angeles – yet on the eve of doomsday, terror has entirely slipped my mind. The cause for distraction? A Back to the Future marathon on TV. The rabbit ears hoisted under our snipped-out skylight are only good enough to absorb eight channels out of the airwaves, and all but two are Canadian. Even with the loonies and black-eyed hockey and Folgers, to my parents it’s still more appealing than paying for cable.
Our fourteen-inch set dictates that I sit no more than two feet away to actually enjoy anything. “Stop hunching over,” my dad says, offering a small bowl of frozen cherries. The bowl is blue and white, something probably picked up in Chinatown. We’d plucked the cherries during the summer from the slouching fruit trees in the backyard, sometimes lazy in the pitting process, and were now rediscovering the succulent dark spheres months after the outdoor thermometer dropped. Once I forgot to be weary of the concealed stones and cracked one of my fillings, quick and violent as popping air out of a knuckle. Tonight, though, I’m methodical in my consumption. Keeping my eyes on the DeLorean, and all its whiz-bang splendor, I lick the soft crystals of ice off the cherry’s skin, then nibble the peel away. My fingertips are numb, stained maroon.
The plan – this, a big deal, because I am not a planner – is to switch channels at five minutes till midnight. Maximize sci-fi adventure time, soak up all possible time-traveling drama, but also catch all the banter of giddy newscasters, the half-drunken cheers, the synchronized audio and fireworks extravaganza that typically features a Bruce Springsteen hit. I friggin’ love Springsteen.
The minute hand, the minute hand. In the kitchen, Mom is washing the dinner dishes by hand. The water keeps going on and off, in auditory blasts of static, so I keep nudging the grooved volume dial up to compensate. “Great Scott!” Doc cries out, and in our kitchen, glass drops and shatters, followed by a muffled curse. I turn the volume down two notches. “What?” I call out.
“It’s nothing. Nothing happened,” she calls back. She repeats words when she isn’t telling the truth.
I click the dial backup.
Somewhere between the DeLorean’s wreckage and the end credits, I get so worked up over all that’s transpired, oh, this great voyage!, that I neglect the clock. Suddenly it’s 12:11. 12:11!
I stand, weak-kneed. Check that I’m in one piece. Double-check. I stumble into the kitchen, where soap bubbles are popping in the drain. There are small kissing noises as the domes explode, as the opalescent skin bursts. In the trash, a crumpled paper towel nestles shards of wine glass. I slam the lid back down and race out to the dining room. There, my parents sit playing cards, quiet as statues.
“The new millennium!” I cry out.
Their necks crane up, startled. I catch my ghosted reflection in the window behind them. Hair is sticking up along the back as a result of sitting slumped against the couch during the triple feature. I’m more impressed than embarrassed: inheriting my Asian mother’s glossy straight hair usually does not fare so submissively in the styling department.
“Midnight already?” she asks, checking her watch. Flicking her wrist, she accidentally discloses her cards: a full straight, ace high. Never one to miss an opportunity, my dad peeks, too. “Hell,” he grunts, and spits a cherry pit into his blue and white bowl.