-keep on dancing till the world ends

By the eleventh day everybody who survived this long knows it's pretty much over. Even the airwaves, our last semi-reliable means of communication with the rest of the ravaged world, have gone eerily silent.

Nobody goes outside anymore. We hide in basements and underground shelters like rats in their gutters, praying another big storm doesn't hit and wipe out the rest of the city. In the beginning there were a handful of religious nutcases parading the streets, carrying signs and howling about the end of the world (as if we weren't aware already, what with half that world dead and the other half dying), but they're all quiet now. I don't think about it much.

Kat and I were in our apartment when shit really hit the fan. One morning we just woke up and realized half the building had collapsed around the bedroom, leaving us stuck there. We've been living off my secret stash of Twinkies and pretzels ever since. Not the most health-friendly diet, like any of that matters at this point. Even if radiation wasn't saturating the city and poisoning us all, there's no running water anywhere that we know of, and junk food can't keep us going forever.

The TV worked alright for the first couple of days and the old VCR ran after a few whacks. We managed to dig up some old tapes—Don Bluth movies, mostly; Kat's a sucker for 2D animation—and parked ourselves in front of that fuzzy screen until it blacked out. Kat cried for a good hour afterwards, though I doubt it was because we didn't see the end of Titan A.E.

The shittiest part about all this—and there is a lot to choose from, let me tell you—is that we still don't know why all this is happening. Maybe nobody does. There've been theories of course, some more credible than others, but nothing solid. But hell, for all I know the President explained everything in minute detail days ago. We're so thoroughly cut off from the rest of the world that the knowledge would never get to us.

Not that it matters, really. Dead is dead any way you slice it.

Toronto was decimated pretty early on, probably killing my parents unless they happened to be visiting Aunt Cher at the time. Sometimes I let myself pretend they're at her house, playing with that moronic dog of hers, passing the time with checkers and thinking about me. Kat's parents travel everywhere, ready to leave for Brazil at the drop of a hat, so god only knows where they're at. Safe, hopefully. Better off than her brother and his family, anyway; they only lived about a mile away from the plant when it blew.

My continually morbid train of thought is derailed by a distinctively soft pop. I turn around and see Kat sitting on the edge of the bed with a newly opened bottle of wine.

"Where'd that come from?" I ask.

"I'd been saving it," she answers vaguely. "For a special occasion. Figure it doesn't get much more special than this."

The last statement is painfully bitter, but I can't really disagree with it. Besides, I hate fighting with her. "A toast, then?" I suggest dryly.

She appears to think about it before raising the bottle in a mocking fashion and drawling, "To the end of the world as we know it."

Pretty sure that's not something to be toasting, but whatever. I snort. "You know, I always wondered what the hell was wrong with that guy who sang that 'it's the end of the world' song. How can anybody think about the impending apocalypse and feel fine?"

"Maybe he was drunk out of his mind," she suggests, taking a long sip from the bottle to make her point.

The bottle is offered to me. I've never been a huge fan of alcohol, but I gulp some of it anyway. It burns my throat before settling warmly in my gut.

We go like that for a while, passing the bottle back and forth without saying anything. Then the silence is broken by a sharp burst of static.

We both shoot upright like we've been electrocuted. The radio's back on.

I scramble over to it like it's a lifeline and turn the dial with quivering fingers. Static…static…still static…

After three minutes of me tuning the thing every which way with no results Kat loses it. She chucks the wine bottle at the nearest wall and it predictably explodes, sending shattered glass and red droplets flying everywhere. I stand up furiously.

"What the hell are you-"

"I'm done!" she shrieks, whirling on me. "I can't take it anymore, Leah, I'm going to lose my mind if this keeps up! We haven't seen another person—haven't seen the sun for almost two weeks. Why can't everything just end quickly instead of—of-" She brings her hands to her head, gripping handfuls of hair as if to tear them out and looking borderline deranged. I step over the broken glass and grab her wrists, pull them down as gently as I can. She looks up at me, baby blues filled with tears.

"I'm sorry," she chokes out. "I am, I just—I can't…" She takes in a shuddering breath and seems to calm down a bit.

I pull her close for a hug. We don't say anything for a long time.

"…haven't had that vintage here since 1969…"

Kat pulls back, her confused look undoubtedly mirroring my own.

"Did you hear that?" she asks, clearly hoping she's not cracking up.

"Um…yeah," I admit, listening hard. I can pick out a familiar guitar piece, along with snippets of lyrics.

"…thought I heard him say…"

I take a chance and pull aside the blackout curtains. What I see is enough to make me laugh out loud.

Against the murky brownish-gray of a deadened sky I can barely make out some figures on the roof of the building across the street. Four people of indeterminable gender, swaying old-fashioned silver lighters back and forth to the music. They've hauled two massive speakers up to the rooftop, which now broadcast the sound to anyone willing to listen.

Some lucky bastards with a generator, and they're using it to power speakers and a CD player. I should be seething at the idiocy of it all, but instead I smile so big my face hurts.

"Kat, c'mere."

She does, and a smile spreads across her face as well; it's like spring blooming after a long, miserable winter, and it makes me think that the boneheads on that roof are my new best friends in this world. This dying, beautiful world whose people still—somehow—have hope.

Struck by a sudden idea, I turn to her and bow in the most over-the-top way possible.

"Would you care to dance, milady?" I ask, affecting a terrible British accent. She giggles—honest-to-god giggles—and takes my hand.

It's silly and stupid. We can't dance worth shit. She keeps stepping on my toes and it's all I can do just to sway back and forth, but I sing along softly in her ear and it seems to make her smile, so that's alright.

"Welcome to the Hotel California…such a lovely place…"

We sway through the first three songs, her face buried in my shoulder. Then she kisses me and pulls me down for a different dance.

And when the metaphorical sun comes up on what could well be the last day of the world, I'm still humming Eagles tunes with a smile on my face.