At the End of the World, a Song and Dance
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Act I, Scene I.
In the church there is a singing long after the bodies have crowded the exit, shaken hands, and eased away into the last Sunday on Earth. Every day is the last day on earth until the clock ticks leisurely onward after midnight. The acolytes kiss in the robe closet. Bringers of light. Lucifer’s candle kids. We kissed until our lips were chapped.
Act I, Scene II.
And unbeknownst to us, God took sabbatical on the last sabbath day. This is why the world is
ending; this, and because we could not become stewards over our own chaotic wishing. The sky darkened like a fallen date. The world began to melt like it does every evening, save that this time it would be permanent. Everything was humming, even us: a young boy barely sixteen and a young girl a year older. The adults had left the churches and were lifting torches and trumpets in the streets. What did we do? We explored each other, made castles between our legs, lifted our mouths to taste what the Lord had left for us, all of this on the red velvet carpet behind the pulpit.
Act I, Scene III.
And the devil, as busy a prince as he could be, felt guilt that it would not be him ending the
world. All this blame and no weight. All this blood and not his hands: for it would be the hands
of mankind against itself and glass towers, the roaring subways, the flying machines, against the natural world it ruined. Therefore, the devil picks a single narcissus from the fields behind an abandoned church. He turns it over against his fingernails. It blazes and crumbles into ash, and this is when he realizes he did not have to lift a hand to ruin anything; for even in a world of temptation, without the world itself, there is no purpose.
Act I, Scene IV.
And we rolled over to look at the crackling sky through the stained-glass windows, the red cross burning light across our stomachs. There is no more hope but in what we have discovered. Sexual panic. Vexation at why we had never asked one another to do this before. Soon, we let our lips wander across each other’s chest and backs. The church organ groans to life. Trembling, we stand, naked and yet unafraid, to look at it. The keys indent on a central chord of C major. We ask if someone is there. A voice says, keep loving.
Act II, Scene I.
The devil has no more tricks. He has tried everything. Raining frogs. Pestilent cicadas. Crop
circles. Heat lightning over a partially clear sky. No one notices. God is gone and the world He
made is ending and it isn’t even Satan’s doing. It’s all humanly. War blooms on every curvature of the world. Men struggle for power over one another. Dominance. Like dogs, they throw each other to the ground and loom. The wind bares its teeth as the ocean brandishes her knives. There must be a solution to all this, the devil thinks. He paces in a circle, leaving a stamping ground in the middle of the cornfield. It is then he hears the high croon of a middle C note. He looks across the field. The church is backlit by a crepuscular ray of light. Someone is playing music, but abandoned as it is, the organ is drowned out by the applause of tyrants.
Act II, Scene II.
We do as the voice requests. She places her nails in my scalp. I place my lips on her throat. She puts her hand on my butt. I place my hand on the nape of her neck. The humming of the chord gets louder. There are no more saviors but us and, in this moment, we are busy. Behind us, the glittering outline of an angel. Wings clipped. Halo missing. No Christ but the word we whisper beneath our breath. The ghost at the organ begins to hum too. We do not know where this will lead but toward the end of everything. But, why not? It asked us to love, and so we make it.
Act II, Scene III.
There is soon very little blood left to spill in the world. It has already flooded streets and markets and dried on every manner of wall. Satan walks through the world bereft of any men that aren’t wounded or guilty. He begins to weep into his hands. How to explain to God that it was not his design nor his Lords that ended the world; rather, at the hands of the men he created out of a single clod of clay? Soon, Satan nears the church. He cannot enter any hallowed place, but this church is different. He can hear the low humming of an organ. At the end of the world, who indeed would be playing gospel music? Satan peeks into the church. He sees, beneath acolyte robes blanketed across them, two lovers falling asleep near the altar. Suddenly, there is hope.
Act III, Scene I
The morning after the world ended, we woke. The light looked like it did the morning before. It is Monday. We wake and put on only our shoes. We peer out into the street littered with dead. For whatever reason, we are spared. We exit the church and search and find a nearby river to bathe in, knowing will not be trespassed upon. The river is cold and wakes us. The birds fly overhead, spared. The catfish slumber beneath the brook, spared. The tadpoles and frogs frisk ignorantly about, spared. And we, naked and afraid but glowing, spared. She turns to me, wraps her arms around my back and asks into my ear, “What are we to do?” I kiss the side of her mouth and say, “What we’ve been told to: keep loving.” And suddenly, a cloud parts from in front of the sun and a beam of light shines down on the bank of the river. There, standing with a trumpet, is an angel. He blows weakly into the horn. It is pathetic. He then clears his throat and says, “The world as it was known has finished.”
Act III, Scene II
Then, without warning, Satan steps out of the shadows of a cypress tree and swats the horn away from the angel. The angel scatters as a cloud of doves into a nearby branch. Satan clears his throat and looks at the young couple. “You two don’t listen to him. The world is not over: it cannot be because you exist.”
“What are we to do,” we both asked quietly.
Satan, bleary eyed and slightly taken aback, says, “What you’ve been commanded to do. Keep loving. Keep living. Please. The world needs you, the angels and devils, even I, need you. The world has ended but to a point. Because you loved while the world fell to violence, you were spared somehow. Love each other still. Continue. For the love of everything that was, you must.
“You aren’t going to kill us?”
“That’s not my job. My job is to tempt you and challenge you. Your kin did that and now you
have no kind.”
“But what of the world?”
“You must relearn the world but do it different. Better, even,” Satan says.
Act III, Scene III
And so, before the Lord returned on Sabbatical, because a week to the Lord is several hundred thousand years, the two lovers lived in the Church and bore children. They renamed the world. They made progress and healed the planet. They taught culture and songs and poems and science as all equal and prosperous. They did not destroy to gain money. They did not take anything they did not need. They punished their children for doing otherwise. So, when the Lord returned he looked down on Earth and saw it different. The Lord knew something had happened, but said nothing, for it was left better than when he had left it.
Act III, Scene IV
When the Last Couple came to be judged before the Lord, the Lord asked them what happened on Earth. They then explained the world had ended when the Lord left. They had been the sole survivors and then began to repopulate the world. The angels had been of little help, and though the devil did not do it nor did he aid only but in wisdom, they said it was mankind that ruined everything. The Holy Spirit had come to them and played them music while they slept, watched over them, and told them to Keep Loving. Which would become the law of the world under their watch. The Lord, abashed and horrified, looked down upon the world he created which had ended but then made better by his own sinful creation. The Lord then looked to the Last Couple.
What would you have me do to rectify what has happened and how I have failed you?
They replied, “Keep loving.”
Samuel J Fox is a queer poet and essayist living in the Southern US. He is poetry editor for Bending Genres LLC and appears in many online and print publications. You can find him in coffee shops, dilapidated places, and graveyards, depending.