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´╗┐Title: End as a World
Author: Wallace, F. L. (Floyd L.)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "End as a World" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                            End as a World

                           By F. L. WALLACE

                         Illustrated by DIEHL

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Galaxy Science Fiction September 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



            Prophets aplenty foretold the end--but not one
              ever guessed just how it would come about!


Every paper said so in all the languages there were, I guess. I kept
reading them, but didn't know what to believe. I know what I wanted to
think, but that's different from actually knowing.

There was the usual news just after Labor Day. The Dodgers were winning
or losing, I forget which, and UCLA was strong and was going to beat
everybody they met that fall. An H-bomb had been tested in the
Pacific, blowing another island off the map, just as if we had islands
to spare. Ordinarily this was important, but now it wasn't. They put
stuff like this in the back pages and hardly anybody reads it. There
was only one thing on the front pages and it was all people talked
about. All I talked about, anyway.

It began long before. I don't know how long because they didn't print
that. But it began and there it was, right upon us that day. It
was Saturday. Big things always seem to happen on Saturdays. I ate
breakfast and got out early. I had the usual things to do, mowing the
lawn, for instance. I didn't do it nor anything else and nobody said
anything. There wasn't any use in mowing the lawn on a day like that.

I went out, remembering not to slam the door. It wasn't much, but it
showed thoughtfulness. I went past the church and looked at the sign
that was set diagonally at the corner so that it could be read from
both streets. There it was in big letters, quoting from the papers:
THIS IS THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS! Some smart reporter had thought it up
and it seemed so true that that was the only way it was ever said. Me?
I didn't know.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a bright day. People were out walking or just standing and
looking at the sky. It was too early to look up. I went on. Paul
Eberhard was sitting on the lawn when I came along. He tossed me the
football and I caught it and tried to spin it on my finger. It didn't
spin. It fell and flopped out with crazy bounces into the street.
The milk truck stopped, while I got it out of the way. I tossed the
football back to Paul. He put his hand on it and sat there.

"What'll we do?" he said.

I made a motion with my hands. "We can throw the ball around," I said.

"Naw," he said. "Maybe you've got some comic books."

"You've seen them all," I said. "You got some?"

"I gave them to Howie," he said, thoughtfully screwing the point of the
ball into the center of a dandelion. "He said he was going to get some
new ones though. Let's go see." He got up and tossed the ball toward
the porch. It hit the railing and bounced back into the bushes. That's
where he usually kept it.

"Paul," called his mother as we started out.

"Yeah?"

"Don't go far. I've got some things I want you to do."

"What?" he said patiently.

"Hauling trash out of the basement. Helping me move some of the potted
plants around in front."

"Sure," he said. "I'll be back."

We went past another church on the way to Howie's. The sign was the
same there. THIS IS THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS! They never said more than
that. They wanted it to hang in our minds, something we couldn't quite
touch, but we knew was there.

Paul jerked his head at the sign. "What do you think of it?"

"I don't know." I broke off a twig as we passed a tree. "What about
you?"

"We got it coming." He looked at the sky.

"Yeah, but will we get it?"

He didn't answer that. "I wonder if it will be bright?"

"It is now."

"It might cloud over."

"It won't matter. It'll split the sky." That was one thing sure. Clouds
or anything weren't going to stand in the way.

We went on and found Howie. Howie is a Negro, smaller than we are and
twice as fast. He can throw a football farther and straighter than
anyone else on the team. We pal around quite a bit, especially in the
football season.

He came out of the house like he was walking on whipped cream. I didn't
let that fool me. More than once I've tried to tackle him during a
practice game. Howie was carrying a model of a rocket ship, CO_{2}
powered. It didn't work. We said hi all around and then he suggested a
game of keep-away. We'd left the football at Paul's and we couldn't so
we walked over to the park.

       *       *       *       *       *

We sat down and began talking about it. "I'm wondering if it will
really come," said Paul. We all squinted up.

"Where'll the President watch it from?" I said. "He should have a good
view from the White House."

"No better than us right here," said Howie.

"What about Australia? Will they see it there?" I said.

"They'll see it all over."

"Africa, too? And what about the Eskimos?"

"It doesn't matter whether they actually see it or not. It will come to
everyone at the same time."

I didn't see how it could, but I didn't feel like an argument. That's
what they were saying on TV and you can't talk back to that.

"Everybody," said Howie. "Not just in this town, but all over. Wherever
there are people. Even where they're not."

"You read that," said Paul.

"Sure," said Howie. "You lent me the comic books. It's even in them."

We didn't say much after that. I kept thinking of the man who made
the H-bomb. I bet he felt silly and spiteful, blowing up an island.
Somebody might have wanted to live on it, if he'd just left it there.
He must have felt mean and low when something really big like this came
along.

We talked on for a while, but we'd talked it out long ago. There was
really nothing new we could say. Every so often we'd look up at the
sky, but it wasn't going to come until it got here.

Finally we drifted apart. There wasn't anything left to do. We walked
home with Howie and then I went with Paul, leaving him to come back to
my house. I looked at the lawn and without thinking about it got busy
and mowed it. I surprised myself.

It was hot, or it seemed to me it was. I went in to eat. Ma came by and
shut off the sound of TV. I could still see the picture in the other
room. The announcer was making faces, but, of course, I didn't hear
what he said. He looked pretty funny, I thought. I thought we were all
probably pretty funny, moving our mouths and blinking our eyes and
waving our hands. Only nothing real was coming out. Not yet, anyway.

"Sit still," said Ma. "It will happen without your help. It's going to
be all right."

"Think so?" I said. She would have told me anything to keep me quiet.
She gets nervous when I fidget.

"I think so," she said, giving me my allowance. It was early for that.
Usually I didn't get it until after supper. "Why don't you run uptown
and watch it from there?"

"Maybe I will," I said, dabbling my hands in the water at the sink.
"Are you going to go?"

"Of course I'm not. Why should I get into that mob? I can watch it just
as well from here."

Sure she could. But it was not the same. Everybody I knew was going
to be there. I changed shirts before I left. I took a rag and wiped
the dust from my shoes. I wasn't trying to be fussy or dressed up or
anything. I just thought I should do it.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was shade and sun on the streets and a few big clouds in the sky.

A car slowed up and stopped beside me. The window rolled down and Jack
Goodwin leaned toward me. "Going uptown?"

"Yeah."

"Want a lift?"

"Sure." Actually I didn't. I'd rather have walked, looking around as I
went.

Jack Goodwin grinned as I got in. He's got gray hair, where he has
hair. The rest is bald. He looked me over. "I don't see any comets on
your shoulders," he said gravely.

"I never had any," I said. Some people seem to think everyone under
seventeen is a kid.

"You'll be needing them," he said.

"Maybe," I said. I ought to have walked.

I never knew how slow a day could pass. I suppose I should have slept
late and kept busy doing something. This was worse than putting on a
uniform and waiting until gametime. At least there was a coach on the
field to tell you what to do as you ran through the drill.

Jack Goodwin stopped at a light. I had a notion to get out. But I
didn't. Goodwin grinned again as the light changed and we started up.
"I don't blame you for being edgy," he said. "It's the suspense. If we
only had some way of knowing for sure, radio maybe."

"There's no radio," I said. "The calculations have been checked."

"Sure, but maybe there's something we forgot. Or don't know. All sorts
of things can go wrong."

He must have talked on and on, but I didn't listen. Howie and me and
Paul had gone over everything he was saying.

"Thanks," I said as he stopped and I got out.

"Don't mention it," he said. He nearly scraped the rear fender of the
car as he drove off. It was a new car, too. He wasn't so bad. Maybe he
was just worried.

I wandered to the newsstand and looked at magazines and pocketbooks.
Old lady Simpson didn't ask me if I was going to buy and didn't chase
me away. She was busy arguing with some customers. Even so it was the
first time she didn't pay attention to me when I came in. I had a
good chance to look at things I never buy. There was nothing in them
I wanted to see. I was thirsty. I had a coke and was still thirsty. I
asked for a glass of water, drank half of it and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Down the street there was a TV set in a store window. I watched it.
They were showing a street in India, people looking up. They flashed
all around, to Italy, China, Brazil. Except for their clothes, it
wasn't much different from here. They were all looking up.

I did the same. For the first time I noticed there was a slight
overcast. Big billowing clouds had passed, but this was worse. I hoped
it would clear away in time. Not that it really mattered.

It was more crowded than usual for Saturday, but at the same time it
was quiet. People were shopping, but they weren't really buying much or
else they bought it faster. Nobody wanted to miss it. They all seemed
to have one eye on their lists and another on the clock.

Howie and Paul came up the street and we nodded and said something. A
few other boys from the school passed by and we stopped. We gathered
together. It was getting closer--and the space between the minutes was
growing longer and longer.

I looked at Paul's watch. He said it was on the minute. I decided there
was time to go in and get a candy bar. All of a sudden I was hungry. I
didn't know where it came from. I'd had to stuff down lunch not long
ago. And now I was hungry.

I went to a store and had to fight my way in. People were coming out.
Not just customers, but the clerks and owner, too. There was a big
television screen inside, but nobody wanted to see it on that. They
wanted to be outside where it would happen to them. Not just see it,
have it happen. The store was empty. Not closed--empty.

I turned and rushed out to join the others. I couldn't miss it.
There were still minutes to go, but suppose there _had_ been a
miscalculation. I knew what that would mean, but even so I had to be
there. I would almost die, too.

Now we were all looking up--all over the world people were, I suppose.
It was quiet. You could hear them breathing.

And then it came, a flash across the sky, a silver streak, the biggest
vapor trail there ever was. It went from this side to that side in no
time. It split the sky and was gone before the shock blast hit us.
Nobody said anything. We stood there and shivered and straightened up
after the rumbling sound passed.

But there was the vapor trail that stretched farther than anyone could
see. It would go around the world at least once before it came to an
end somewhere in the desert. I saw my science teacher--he was trying to
smile, but couldn't. And then there was the pharmacist who had wanted
to be a research chemist, but wasn't good enough.

In front of me, old Fred Butler who drives the bus to Orange Point and
King City cracked his knuckles. "He did it," he whispered. "All the way
to Mars and back. Safe and right on schedule." He jumped up in the air
and kept jumping up. He hadn't been that high off the ground in several
years. He never would be again unless he took an elevator. And I knew
he hated elevators.

Factory whistles started blowing. They sounded louder than Gabriel.
I wonder if he heard them. I grabbed hold of the nearest person and
started hugging. I didn't know it was the snooty girl from the next
block until she hugged back and began kissing me. We yelled louder than
the factory whistles. We had a right.

It was just like the papers said: This was the day the world ended--

And the Universe began.





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