This story is by Natascha McGilvray and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sally liked to spend her mornings disconnected from the internet. As a social media adviser for a large corporation she spent much of her day either on social media, thinking about social media or talking about social media. Sally liked to give herself that time in the morning to disconnect from all the constant notifications and updates. She would usually spend half an hour drinking tea while reading a book or listening to music. Her son, Alex would then wake up and her day would begin.
Just as was about to turn on the Do Not Disturb function on her phone, she received a text message from her brother, David. Sally didn’t usually receive texts from David this early in the morning as he worked the night shift and should have already been in bed asleep. It was Alex’s 13th birthday tomorrow. Maybe he wanted to confirm some details about the party that they were planning for the weekend.
“OMG! Have you seen this yet?” David had also included a link to a live news stream. Sally hesitated for a moment before she clicked the link and began watching the newscast.
“I’m Keith Hacking and there is more breaking news coming out of Canberra this morning.
“At 6am the Australian Space Agency in conjunction with NASA announced that the recently discovered Parkes Comet is expected to crash into Mercury on Friday afternoon.
“This crash will force Mercury out of it’s orbit and collide into the Sun. Mercury which is one third the size of Earth, is the closest planet to the Sun. NASA experts have warned that the collision will have devastating effects on Earth and the Solar System.
“ASA scientist, Melissa Scott, has warned that these effects will have extensive consequences here on Earth. Extreme radiation from the sun will hit Earth causing immediate and irreversible damage. The radiation will cause unusual weather across the globe as global temperatures are expected to increase significantly. The orbit of Earth is also expected to be impacted due to the loss of the planet Mercury.
“ASA and NASA have announced a joint press conference to take place at 9am local time in Canberra. They are expected to provide further information about the impact of the Parkes Comet into Mercury. Stay tuned as we will be crossing live to the conference in a little over an hour.
“We go now to Mark Fraser outside the State Library in Melbourne. Mark, What’s happening down there?”
“Thanks Keith. As you can see behind me the usual Wednesday morning peak hour crowd are gathering in the streets of the city instead of going into their work places.
In response the Police have blocked off Lonsdale Street to all traffic between Queen and Russell Street. Trams are not running between RMIT University and the Arts Centre.
“The mood of the crowd is mostly calm. There also seems to be some confusion as well as what is happening. There are so many questions unanswered about what effect the collision will have on Earth itself.
“In an effort to provide some comfort and support to each other, people of all religions and beliefs are gathering in prayer circles and a few of the coffee shops are handing out coffee and breakfast. There have been some reports of a scuffle and police have been quick to respond.
“Premier Peter Thompson has just now urged all Victorians to not panic…”
Sally turned the news stream off. She had seen enough, her cup of tea forgotten on the coffee table.
Through the window, the backyard looked fresh and green. The rain last night had bought life back into the garden. The yard was teeming with fresh new life. Spring was in full force. The Jacaranda tree by the back fence was green, and little purple buds were starting to show. The magpies were singing brightly to each other, saying their good mornings to each other and to a brand new day. They had clearly not heard the news this morning. The world may be ending in a few days, but life was going on.
Friday was only two days away. The news report didn’t say how long it would Take for Mercury to hit the Sun. She didn’t know much about what happened in space, but she did remember from a meme online that it took light and radiation a little over 8 minutes from the time it left the Sun before it hit Earth. That’s not very long.
Sally couldn’t believe that the beginning of everything would happen so quickly. She started to panic. How long did they really have? What are they all going to do? Was there anything that could be done? The only thing that she could think of was getting a paper bag, putting it on her head, lying on the floor and just wait for it all to be over. Which in all honesty, seemed a little bit useless and like she was giving up.
She suddenly understood the need for the crowds in Melbourne to gather together. Connecting to people in a meaningful way and to give life some kind of tangible meaning seemed suddenly so important.
When Harry passed away and left her alone with Alex, who was only a few months old at the time, all she wanted to do was hold and look at their son. Alex was her reason for everything she did. He gave her life meaning in a way that her life never had before. Alex was her reason to wake up in the morning and her reason for getting through each day. When Alex was a baby he needed her, and she needed him just as much. When he was little he used to follow her around wherever she was in the house, content to just be in the same room has his mum.
Alex was not so little any more. They weren’t as close as they used to be, but they still both needed each other. Many evenings they still spent together hanging out in the same room, content to just be in each other’s company. More often or not they were spent playing scrabble or monopoly together. Content in each other’s company. Sally treasured these moments. Soon they would all be gone.
Alex was in his first year of high school, before they know it he will be all grown up. He has his whole future ahead of him. Had. No longer. They only had weeks, maybe even days together. Alex’s future wiped out in a matter of moments.
Sally didn’t know how she was going to tell Alex about the comet. Just the thought of thought of taking his childhood away from him hurt so badly. His 13th birthday was tomorrow. It didn’t seem fair to him to have the end of the world hanging over the day like that. All of sudden she had this intense desire to protect him from the outside world. For at least as long as she could.
Maybe Sally didn’t have to tell Alex straight away about the comet. What if she turned the modem off, and they stayed inside today just the two of them hanging out. School and work didn’t seem so important now that the were only a few days left. They could play monopoly and listen to music together. They could bake Alex’s birthday cake and just enjoy the day. There would be no internet, no social media and no depressing new broadcasts about the end of the world.
Would Alex understand or would he think that she didn’t trust him to understand what was going on? Alex was starting to get so independent recently. She didn’t want their last few days to be filled with arguments and disagreements. There was so little time left together.
Alex’s bedroom door started to open. Sally took a deep breath. Regardless of when she told Alex, his childhood was now over.