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The old man stands in front of us, gaze unwavering. “So the choice is yours. Either…”

“…either we die or the whole rest of the world goes plooie. Yeah, I got it the first time.” Maybe it isn’t the best idea to annoy a man who purportedly holds the fate of the earth in his hands, but my mind was, is, on other things. Not that he seems annoyed at all. Aaron, smiling wryly, says across the room “looks like you get a chance to be the hero after all.” Yeah, he thinks he knows what I’m going to do. They all do. After all, what choice is there? Either she and I are put to death on the spot, or…

I can see her looking at me. She’s perfectly calm. She doesn’t know what I’ll choose, but she’ll accept it. Which is tougher, choosing the destiny of an entire planet or that of one person who trusts me so completely? Good thing I get to do both, huh?

“I’ll miss you, son,” my dad is saying. “I’ll miss you too,” I blurt out. “Because you and the rest of the world can go fuck yourselves.” A collective gasp. One of those “he didn’t just say that?” moments. It would be hilarious to me if my head wasn’t reeling like this. Why does it feel like all the blood in my body is rushing through my head? And there’s my mom, staring, unbelieving. Probably more shocked at how I just said fuck than at how I just doomed her and everyone else.

Well, almost everyone. I can feel her hand slip into mine and squeeze. She doesn’t have to say anything. Why us? Why couldn’t we be with the ones standing on the other side of the cosmic courtroom, staring at some other couple who have to decide the doom of humanity. Or the fate of two souls.

He’s still looking at me, the old man. I give him a scowl but nod slowly. He turns away–it probably doesn’t mean anything to him one way or the other–and waves his hand. They might at least have had the courtesy to make some sort of noise. If this were Hollywood there would at least be a flash and a bang. I suppose I was wrong in saying the fate of a world lay in my hands since the planet itself is still here, indifferent to the sudden departure of a few billion passengers. And here we are on it, now, the courtroom facade gone with the judge, jury, and executioner. She smiles at me, pulling gently to lead me into the forest. I grab an apple, and another for her–these trees bear fruit only for us now. I return her smile as I take a bite.

Man, this apple tastes good.


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