Yes, my head is a busy place.
The excerpt is unedited and probably far from at its best. Still, please do not share it in any way. Thank you 🙂
Summary: Melissa is a normal sixteen-year-old with a normal sixteen-year-old’s problems. Well, those and the fact that she knows when the world will end but not how to keep that from happening. Things only get worse when… she dies.
How I Failed to Save the World — Take One
The way I saw it, half the planet would wake up one day to the sun speeding towards the earth or a toxic Tsunami, while the other half would blissfully go in their sleep. Yes, I expected it to be a natural disaster that finished our existence, some cosmic event written in the stars since man first evolved from the apes and decided to become owner and user of everything.
I certainly never paid heed to so-called spiritualists foretelling the apocalypse on a specific date. Assuming there was a greater power out there, something all those pseudo-prophets seemed to agree on, that power would have to be one big meanie to impart such knowledge on mere humans. I mean, what would be the reason for anyone to know when The End would be, unless it could be averted? But if it could be averted, it wouldn’t be The End—capital “T,” capital “E”—would it?
I was so set on my beliefs on the subject, that I kept clinging to them even after I found out when The End, The Apocalypse, The Endless Night was going to be.
Though, to be honest, I’m not sure what more I could have done to stop it all from happening.
“—Happy Birthday to you!” I hated it when my dad tried to prove what a great singer he was by howling the lyrics to any song, but this time I had to grace him with a dazzling smile and say, “Thank you, Dad.” When I say I had to smile, I’m being literal. My brother’s best friend, Paul, was watching me, and I couldn’t let him see me whine at my dad for bursting my eardrums.
I raised my glass of cola and toasted the rest of the table. “Thank you, all. This is a great birthday.” Which, except for the auditory-assault, it was. My parents would be turning in soon; my best friend forever, Britta, had burned a CD with the hottest in pop tunes; I’d gotten my first ever M.A.C. make-up kit as a present from my mom; I had it on good authority that my celebratory meal would be topped off by my favorite cake; and school was out for summer. What was more, Paul had told me earlier in the evening that my dress brought out my eyes, and my dad had finally okayed my taking driving lessons. Yup, my sixteenth birthday was sweet indeed.
Looking back now, I don’t mind all that much that it was my last.
“Okay, time to blow the candles, and then your dad and I are saying goodnight.” My mom placed a chocolate glazed cake in the middle of the table and sank two candles with the numbers “1” and “6” in it.
I filled my lungs with air and was about to blow—anything to get some unsupervised time as soon as possible—when Britta put a hand on my arm. “Wait. Wish first.”
How could I have forgotten? I scrunched my nose, pretending to be deep in thought. I knew what I wanted to wish for; the same thing I’d been wishing on every one of my birthdays since I was twelve. Please make my first kiss be with Paul. Tonight.
I blew both candles out, got my share of hugs and kisses—none of the latter from Paul, though—and then Mom poked Dad on the shoulder. “Time for us adults to go to bed.”
“Some adults are staying.” My brother Ian had turned eighteen three weeks earlier, and loved reminding people that.
“Of course they are.” Mom ruffled Ian’s hair and turned to my dad. “Come on, Barry. Let the kids have some fun.”
“I’m not stopping them. I just want my dessert.”
I glowered and mom winked at me before pulling on his arm.
Dad heaved a sigh, planted a kiss on my cheek, and stood. “Happy rest of your birthday, Princess. Good night, all!”
“Thank you.” I smiled up at him and kissed my mom too. “Good night.”
My friends echoed me, and my parents left us to our own devices.
I followed them with my eyes until they closed their bedroom door behind them. “So, what next?”
Britta gave me one of those dimple-cheeked grins that made guys chase after her. “We party.”
It sounded daring and wild, but what we did was eat cake and play charades. I didn’t mind. I was never a rebel and the one time my brother had sneaked me a bottle of beer had led to a killer headache. My idea of partying was exactly what we were doing.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer!” Britta yelled. Paul held both thumbs up, and she squealed with delight and fist-bumped me. “I rock in charades.”
She did, but it was getting late, and much as I loved her, I rather she went home. Paul was staying because he and my brother had football practice in the morning, and I wouldn’t mind some one-on-one time with him before we turned in for the night.
I cleared my throat and when Britta turned to me, tilted my head toward the front door.
She nodded and looked at her watch. “Oh, it’s so late.” Yawn. “I better get going. You have to clean up and all.”
I love my bestie!
“Um, are you sure you don’t wanna stay a while longer?” I shouldn’t seem too eager to get rid of her.
“Nah. I’ll go. But first” —she rummaged around what seemed like myriads of Chinese takeout cartons scattered on the dining room table— “I’ll have my fortune cookie.” She tossed Ian, Paul, and me one each, and unwrapped one for herself. “Let’s see what this new year of Melissa’s life has in store for us. Ha! I’ll be a star. I knew it!”
I laughed. “You are a star.” Out the corner of my eye, I saw Ian nodding in agreement. I’d caught him stare at Britta on several occasions the past couple months, but if he really was into her, he could just dream on. Or get in line.
“What does yours say?” Paul asked Ian. “Apparently my lucky number is 3. Isn’t today the third?”
Ian seemed perplexed. “Mine says my grief will be short lived. What grief?”
“The grief coach will give you tomorrow when you drag your feet again.”
“Meli, what about you?” Britta asked.
I had been busy watching the three of them, and hadn’t opened my cookie. I did now. “The world will end in exactly two weeks,” I read aloud.
“Hey guys? Did you hear that?” Britta tossed a chopstick in the guys’ direction to get their attention. “Melissa’s fortune says the world will end in exactly two weeks, so put your affairs in order before Friday, the 17th of June, ten twenty three P.M.”
I looked at the paper again and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It now read, “The world will end in exactly two weeks, minus sixteen seconds.” I blinked and the sixteen turned to seventeen. “Oh my God.”
“What?” Britta was putting her jacket on.
“It changed. My fortune. Doesn’t say what it did before.”
Britta circled the table and grabbed the thin piece of paper from my hand. “Well this is certainly an improvement,” she said with a wink.
I held my hand out but she handed the paper to Paul. “Here. You have it. Ian, will you drive me home?”
It wasn’t my idea that Ian’s smile looked bashful, but I couldn’t linger on that. I had the world’s weirdest fortune cookie to deal with.
Paul looked at it and came closer.
“Call me in the morning,” Britta called over her shoulder, practically dragging my brother out the door. “G’night.”
“Night,” I whispered. I couldn’t say it any louder, because Paul’s face was really close to mine now, and there was a knot forming in my throat.
“See ya,” he said in the same tone, not even looking their way.
Ian yelled, “Be good,” and I was about to reply we would be, because really, what naughtiness could we come up with in the fifteen minutes it’d take him to drive Britta home and get back, but I didn’t get to, because Paul pressed his lips on mine.
It was real. It was happening. Paul was kissing me.
His lips were soft, massaging mine gently. I opened my mouth just a little bit, the way Britta had said she did when she kissed her ex boyfriend last summer. I’d expected it to be dreamy, perfect, heart-melting. It wasn’t. It was wet and awkward. Paul traced my lower lip with his tongue. It tickled, and I let out a little laugh. Our teeth clashed and he laughed too. He tasted of won ton and root beer.
It wasn’t perfect but it was right, and I wanted to keep kissing Paul until I excelled in it.
Just as I was getting a bit bolder, about to try using my tongue too, he stopped. “Happy birthday, Beautiful.” He touched his lips to mine once more and pressed something in my hand.
I looked in my palm and unfolded the piece of paper I found there. It said, “You’re going to get your first kiss from the boy you like. Tonight.”
“Britta gave it to me. Thought I should help fate out, since your fortune cookie said I should.” He cupped my face with both hands, his eyes suddenly serious. “I don’t know if Ian will be okay with this, so can we keep it between you and me until we’re sure?”
My fortune cookie? This wasn’t my fortune, or at least it hadn’t been.
And Paul and I had a “this” that we were keeping secret?
What was wrong with the world?
The answer to that came from my dog, two days later.
I was sitting on the porch swing, sucking on a jaw-breaker and flicking through the pages of Seventeen magazine, when my rescue German shepherd, Tiny, sat in front of me on his hind legs and put his right paw on my knee.
“What is it, boy?” I asked around the candy. I didn’t even look away from the page I was on.
“The world is ending next week.”
I looked around, trying to spot where that had come from. The obvious answer made no sense, and I was nothing if not sensible. There was nobody around, which meant nobody would notice if I talked to my dog. My gaze stopped on Tiny. “Did you say something?”
His tongue lolled out of his mouth, and he gave me one of those doggie grins that I just couldn’t resist. I reached out to pet him. This time I was looking right at him when he formed the words. “You can save us all, but it’s not going to be from this plane.”
Oh my God, had my dog just spoken?
I gasped, and the jaw-breaker slid from between my teeth. I didn’t have time to stop it before it slid to the back of my throat and lodged itself there. I tried to cough, but I couldn’t dislodge it. I clawed at my neck. My lungs were on fire, and stars were bursting inside my eyes.
My dog had just spoken and I was choking on a jaw-breaker. Great day.
Tiny laid his head in my lap and looked up at me with sad eyes. “Don’t be afraid, it’s not the end.”
I tried to tell him to go bring mom, dad, Ian, someone, but no sound came out. My body convulsed, and the stars I’d been seeing turned to a white so bright, I could no longer see Tiny.
My body slid off the swing, but I never felt the impact with the porch. Instead, I turned weightless.
Then I was bodiless.
Then I just… wasn’t.
Did anybody actually read this? Thoughts, if you did?