Round 2 finalist: “Five Stages” by Matt Young
Asteroid 12533, colloquially known as Edmond, is on a collision course with the lunar surface. It will knock our satellite from orbit and send an Alaska-sized chunk of the moon into Earth’s atmosphere.
We are going to die.
We go to work, though some of us quit our jobs to pursue lifelong dreams like mastering the art of impressionist painting. Some of us quit and pursue nothing.
We travel home to the Midwest to be with our families and when we realize they were the reason we moved away in the first place we leave again.
We ignore safety warnings. We take cough medicine and operate heavy machinery and let our kids smoke.
We live the dreams of our teenage selves.
We are honest. We tell our children their art is mediocre and they’d never be world famous athletes or actors even if the world weren’t ending.
Some of us change our names to Edmond and name our children Edmond and worship the rocky mass of death hurtling towards us. Praise be to Edmond, destroyer of worlds, we say.
Some open their veins with straight razors, or swallow pills, or hang themselves by extension cords in cluttered garages, and we leave them where they lay because if we have to be here, then so do they.
We search for God in the pages of books and under our beds at night. We pull our teeth and leave them under our pillowcases. We leave hair and fingernail clippings and vials of tears, and think maybe God might come and take us bit by bit leaving quarters in our places.
We beg forgiveness and make amends and hold hands across the world and confess our sins and wish for the best.
Then one day, after our retinas burn from watching the sky and the news reports a miscalculation in distances, a near miss, a miracle, we drop our hands at our sides and wonder what next.
We’ve snapped the tabs off the puzzle pieces and made a picture full of holes.
We start up drills and pumps and grids and we flip switches and turn keys and the holes fill a bit.
We hold our children at night and tell them how special they are and buy them nicotine patches to wean their addictions and the picture starts to clear.
We bury our dead. On their graves we leave offerings of their former lives—a lucky penny, some cigarettes, the porcelain guardian angel Nana gave them when they graduated high school—and the picture comes back into focus.
Still, late at night in our beds, we wonder about Edmond careening towards the black hole’s gravity in which he is caught. Are you lonely up there, Edmond? Where are you, Edmond? Why did you forget about us, Edmond? Why did you stop loving us? We imagine his gentle rotation and tumble in the blackness, and as we drift off to sleep we can’t help but envy any planet in his path.
Matt Young is a veteran, writer, and teacher. He holds an MA in creative writing from Miami University. His work can be found or is forthcoming in [PANK], BULL: Men’s Fiction, Midwestern Gothic, and O-Dark-Thirty.