The world is fated to end on the evening of the longest day of the year.
After countless false alarms over the past few years, it’s finally happening. The end is here. Not at the hands of a meteor straying off course and heading straight to earth, but the moon, who began inching closer to the planet it once orbited since the previous night.
Devon had woken up to the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs leading up to her final shift at her uncle’s gas station. Unsurprisingly, the constant close calls have desensitised a certain amount of the population who accepted their fate, including her uncle. She didn’t try to protest against his odd wish for her to work, settling on the thought that she might as well go out with some sense of normalcy rather than trying to make the most of her time left on this planet. It helps, somewhat, knowing that she’s more or less all alone in their ghost town, with her friends spread across the globe in attempt to search for something bigger.
She wonders if they’re filled with something more than resignation, perhaps resentment towards the universe. She couldn’t blame them.
Instead of normalcy, she finds herself in a trance for most of the day as the reality of her situation truly settles in, weighing her down with dread and exhaustion. From where she’s stood behind the counter, she has a perfect view of the sky through the windows on either side of the door. A perfect view of the spectral white moon slowly occupying more space in the horizon as the hours fall away like leaves.
Devon can’t really bring herself to look away, mindlessly playing with the ends of her hair in between serving the regulars dropping by to say their goodbye’s. There’s the occasional outlier, greeting her as if it’s just another day and it leaves an odd feeling on her tongue when she has to give out dates weeks ahead that they’ll never see. Sweat beads at the base of her neck, the summer solstice heat still unforgiving in spite of everything.
It’s only when an all-too-familiar silver Ford Fiesta enters the view does Devon finally avert her gaze, scowling when the door opens to reveal Margot whose shocked expression is quickly traded for a bright smile as she walks towards the counter. Save for the hair colour change to a bright cherry red, she doesn’t look any different from when Devon last saw her.
“Dee, hey! I didn’t think I’d see you here.”
Up close, Devon can spot the nervous edge to Margot’s smile from experience and schools her own facial muscles not to give away the whirlwind of emotions she’s going through, straightening her back when something begins to flutter in her chest—or her tummy. She shrugs, offering Margot a tightlipped smile.
“Well, you know how it is.”
For some reason, Margot finds that funny, the corners of her eyes crinkling when she laughs. “Are you seriously working when the world is ending?”
It’s fitting how Margot’s eyes resemble the crescent moon whenever she does that. When Devon catches herself staring, she looks towards the shelves lined with candy behind Margot and hopes she’s just imagining how warm her face feels.
“Yeah, I guess. Did you, uh, need something?”
The moon doesn’t look any bigger than it did five minutes ago. From her peripheral vision, she notices the way Margot’s smile falters before it’s masked with another laugh, shorter this time.
“Right, right. Totally forgot about that.”
Margot turns to grab a bag of Skittles from the shelves, placing it down on the counter beside Devon’s hands. Devon looks at the candy, then back at Margot and raises a brow at her.
“Just that?” she asks, unsure if she should even charge Margot for a single bag of Skittles at this point. It feels almost criminal to do so. It’s not like her uncle would risk losing money, which essentially has no more value today than it did yesterday.
“Yup,” Margot props her arm up and leans against the counter, no longer facing Devon as she looks out the windows. “Need a snack for when I head to the pier.”
“You should come.”
Margot’s looking at her now.
The weight behind her suggestion isn’t lost on Devon. She hasn’t gone to the pier in a while, six months to be precise, though since they broke up would be a better way to put it. Anxiety would creep up on her at the thought of going, even if she was the one who took Margot there after their first date. Devon had no plans on going back for a while, not until she could get over this, but the moon’s due collision has ruined most of her plans.
“I mean, you don’t have to.”
Margot’s sudden interjection snaps her out of her thoughts. She must’ve taken too long to reply.
“But I figured a gas station store isn’t exactly the best place to spend your last moments in,” Margot continues. “So…”
Devon doesn’t mean to say that out loud, not when she’s still mulling over her thoughts but her hands move on their own accord, locking the cash register, drawing a triumphant whistle out of Margot. What more is there to lose at this point? She heads out first with the Skittles in hand, Margot soon overtaking her pace to get into the driver’s seat while Devon slides in beside her.
The first thing she does is check her phone for the time but Margot beats her to it.
“We’ve got around half an hour left,” she says, one hand on the steering wheel as she spares Devon a quick glance.
It’s only a five minute drive to the pier and it should be even less with how empty the roads are. Yet, it’s the longest five minutes she has ever had to sit through. With Margot humming along to some New Order song, it’s almost as if nothing’s changed. As if the girl beside her isn’t the reason why Devon avoided her favourite spot in town for half a year solely based around the fear of bumping into her again, specifically the fear of bumping into her with someone else.
If someone told her that she would be spending her last day on Earth with her ex-girlfriend, Devon would’ve gone into a fit of hysterical laughter. However, when she’s currently sitting in the passenger seat of Margot’s car with their hands inches away from each other, it doesn’t feel like much of a laughing matter anymore.
While Margot keeps her eyes trained on the road, Devon watches her lips mouth along to the lyrics.
With a defeated sigh, she looks away before Margot can catch on, staring out the window instead only to see the moon taking up most of the sky. The seaside rolls past them and she spots some people scattered around the beach, picnic blankets spread out and all. Some have telescopes out pointed at the moon, while others let the turbulent ocean waves chase after their feet. Along with the tide, sentimentality seems to be especially high today.
The song ends right when Margot brings the car to a stop in the carpark by the pier. They aren’t alone, but the bench towards the end with a perfect view of what’s to come is unoccupied. Devon wonders if their initials are still carved into the wood and only wonders, though she does briefly trace her thumb around where she remembers the slight groves being before Margot sits down beside her.
“Twenty-five minutes,” she says after checking her phone again and Margot hums in reply, shifting so that she’s sitting with her legs crossed on the bench, knee resting atop Devon’s thigh.
“I wonder if people on the other side of the planet are feeling left out. Since they don’t have the view and all.”
“I’m sure that’s the least of their concerns,” Devon snorts, pulling out the bag of Skittles from her pocket and handing it to Margot. “We get a nice view but we’re also dying first if you think about it.”
“I still think we got the better end of the deal,” Margot says resolutely.
She promptly opens up the bag, pouring Skittles out onto her hand. It doesn’t even occur to Devon that her palm had been open and waiting until Margot starts giving her the purple ones, just how they always did it. She remembers reading somewhere that it takes approximately twenty-one days to form a habit. Evidently, it takes much longer to break one, long enough that even the moon had beaten her to it.
Is that something worth bragging about?
It’s painfully easy to fall back into place with Margot, Devon realises then. She supposes that’s what happens when you invest all those years into loving someone and still feel like there’s more your foolish, traitor heart can give, when everything it had to offer wasn’t enough in the first place. She eats the rest of the purple Skittles to stop a scowl from forming.
A nudge on her arm interrupts her thoughts.
“I can hear you thinking,” Margot says without looking at her, though the telltale quirk of her lips means she hasn’t been looking at the moon this whole time.
“Didn’t realise you were psychic.”
Another purple Skittle, followed by another. Devon only closes her fist when Margot’s stopped rustling through the whole bag.
“Didn’t say I could hear what you’re thinking.”
Margot props an elbow on her knee, fitting her palm under her chin to shoot Devon a smug look. She stares back, unfazed, and pops a purple Skittle into her mouth, an amused huff slipping out when Margot grimaces at the sight.
“I don’t know how you do it,” Margot says.
“I’m not picky,” Devon shrugs before eating another. There’s a flicker of something in Margot’s eyes that’s gone before she can pinpoint what exactly it was. Maybe she’s just projecting the traces of fondness she can see in the lines of Margot’s slight smile. Familiarity is a bitch for teasing her with hope.
Half a year is plenty of time to get over someone. At least, it should be.
“There you go again!”
This time, Margot prods her on the cheek with her finger and Devon definitely notices how her hand stilled mid-air for a moment before she went through with it. She also notices how hard it is to look away when the moon’s glow is ten times stronger than it usually is and so, the resulting effect on Margot and everything around them causes her breath to catch in her throat for just a second.
Devon can only hope her expression doesn’t give away the sheer corniness her thoughts just took a turn towards when she feels heat rising up to her cheeks. She eats the last Skittle, rolling the candy around in her mouth as she glances down at the artificial grape stain on her palm’s life line.
“Was just thinking about how stupidly close the moon is now,” she mutters, wiping her palm against the bench. “That’s all.”
Technically, it’s not a lie. It’s hard to ignore their impending deaths when it’s constantly staring them down, getting closer as the seconds pass by. Her mind momentarily drifts away, wondering again if this twisted revival of the giant impact theory is really just coincidence or not.
Margot doesn’t look like she buys it, but she looks away to check the time again. Devon waits for an update, fingers curling around the edge of the bench, only to be met with silence. They don’t have much time left, that much is obvious not only from Margot’s silence but the increased thrashing of the glimmering waves against the pier, saltwater lightly misting their exposed legs.
One of the families on the beach inches closer to the water until they’re waist-deep in the sea, unmoving against the current. Even from here on the pier, Devon can spot the content smiles on their faces and wonders if that strange comfort is what she sees in Margot’s own grin.
“Did you ever get that tattoo you always wanted?” Devon asks, glancing at Margot whose expression lightens up.
“Yeah, I did.”
She moves her hair to her left shoulder to reveal an inked spider lily sprawled across her right shoulder blade, its petals curling around the grooves of her collarbone.
“Got it done a few months ago. I texted you a picture, remember?”
Devon doesn’t have the heart to tell her that she’s got her number blocked, even if it doesn’t matter anymore. Margot’s smile dampens ever so slightly and she figures she gave it away with the sudden tension in her shoulders. She looks back at the moon, hand dropping to rest beside Devon’s, pinkie finger brushing against pinkie finger.
It would be so easy to just lace their fingers together, so Devon moves to grip the edge of the bench.
There’s a hum in the air that makes up for the silence that settles between them as the moon grows larger and larger in her field of vision, so close that she can make out the details of the craters on its surface. It’s captivating to see it with such detail, so much so that it feels like a privilege even if their lives are traded for the sight. She turns to point it out to Margot, only to be beaten to the chase yet again.
“Do you think you would’ve given this another chance if this wasn’t happening right now?”
Devon lets out the breath she didn’t realise she was holding in.
A loaded answer for a loaded question. It’s only fair. When she takes in Margot’s raised eyebrows, she almost wants to reassure her that her answer caught herself off guard as well. That six months is definitely not enough to get over someone, let alone reconsider a relationship again. However, there’s something in her moonlit smile that tells Devon that despite everything, Margot gets it. She always has.
“I thought you said you weren’t picky,” Margot says after a moment, a teasing lilt coating her words.
It catches Devon off guard and maybe that’s why her first reaction is to just laugh when her words fail her. Soon enough, the two of them end up tuning out the moon’s song with their own laughter, sides aching and tears, carefree tears, gathering in the corners of their eyes.
For the first time that day, Devon forgets about the moon.
TASHA DATTA is a writer from Hong Kong studying literature and writing in Swansea, Wales. Apart from collecting frog hats, they are also fond of magic, menacing cats, and Birkenstocks. She can be found on Twitter @_tashacore.