The Wind

I was an actor once; you should know that.

You should also know that I saw the world end—a good few months before it happened.

Now, the first time: it was a rainy afternoon. Pilot season had come and gone, deserting me in the process. Everyone in that particular stuffy waiting room was vying for the sought-after role of Traveler Number Four in a cheap action film named Gatornado (a shameless rip-off of previous pseudo-horror flicks centered around aquatic foes). I’d stayed up late the previous night, rehearsing all my five lines: How are you today? Headed to Michigan, huh… You heard about the alligators? No, it’s nothing like Florida… It’s worse. Traveler Number Four was as much of an expository character as they came, but I’d learned to swallow my pride. A year of unemployment had worked wonders on my ego.

Thanks to all that hard work, my mind fell quickly from the audition room and into a deep slumber, wherein I witnessed the end of the world.

I came to by the shake of a maintenance worker’s hand. The rain had dried out. The room had emptied. I walked straight into the afternoon bustle. I drove home and took a nap because nothing really mattered anymore. It made for a wonderful evening.

The next day, I cleaned my apartment for the first time in months. I managed to do it so efficiently that I wondered why I hadn’t done it more frequently. It helped that, in certain (many) parts, I could reach both sides of the wall at once.

I called my brother. I even left a voicemail when he didn’t pick up.

I considered buying a hefty lottery ticket, but I still couldn’t bring myself to take the gamble. (It seemed that some parts of me were just too fixed for even the end of days to nudge loose. Parts like my doubt and cowardice. How I loved learning that.)

Within a week’s time, I was settled. My mind felt still and quiet.

Then, the end didn’t come.

I sat around in my (very clean) apartment. There was a lot of knitting. I learned basic verb tenses in German, Spanish, and Thai. I lived vicariously through many an internet livestream, watching strangers cut fruit and scare children at parks. I laughed when I was supposed to, as though I didn’t know that the world was entering its final act. I withered. Which is all to preface how I acted on Doomsday itself. Please, excuse me, should I come across as cold or callous in this next part. For me, the end had been a long time coming.

Some months later, I awoke in Bulgaria.

I had never been to Bulgaria before, never intended to go in my lifetime. Yet, I knew where I was with absolute certainty. It wasn’t hard to surmise. It seemed that I had spawned in the middle of a gift shop. All around, mere inches from my face, little keychains and car plates and T-shirts spelled it out for me: BULGARIA - A Discovery to Share. I was at a tourist trap in the center of an airport. Because where else would I be, having lay down to rest on my ratty futon in L.A.

My first accomplishment of the day was sending a mighty terror through the harried crowd at the international transit wing. I had, apparently, materialized atop a snack shelf.

I’d popped bags of overpriced Bulgarian chips and crushed the outstretched arm of a man in a floppy khaki-toned hat. The man had screamed. His endless stream of children had all screamed, and then—chaos. There was no word more apt to describe it.

This was a bucket list moment for me, no doubt.

It lasted for a fleeting second before I was dragged away. Black-booted security guards locked my elbows into a vilifying squarish “U.” It was the adult, perhaps even criminal, version of that disintegrating high school “L.” The guards spouted harsh-sounding things. Many things and yet, somehow, still more spittle. In my sleep-induced stupor, I mostly hung limp.

I was deposited outside the airport. I stayed sprawled on the cement for quite some time, letting the automatic sliding doors clamp and rebound off my legs as travelers made their way into and out of the building. Once I regained my willpower, I stood.

There was an interesting scene spread before me.

The clouds had stopped moving. Not in the metaphorical sense, where time slowed and so too did the cosmic wheeling of the sun, the wind, the clouds—no, I noticed this very literally.

I was skeptical, at first. As you likely (and rightly) are.

I hovered at the edge of the curb for an hour, staring belligerently at the sky with one hand raised over my brow. Crowds and carts jostled me and ran over my toes, but I was unmovable—like the unfaltering figurehead at the prow of a ship. Except I wasn’t a beautiful god or a haphazardly clothed cherub; I was a sad, sad individual who’d just woken up on a pile of chips. I had cheese dust on my shoulders.

The clouds did indeed remain frozen. They looked denser for it, thick as clumps of clay.

I settled onto the cement. I recognized the scene from my dream.

This was it: the end of days.

I felt for my pocket. For my phone, really. To check if the frozen clouds were trending yet, but there were no pockets to grasp. I startled to find that I was wearing my pajama pants. It was a post-post-post-modern revision of The Starry Night with little ducks stretched along the swirls of Van Gogh’s sky (which had been recolored to a striking neon green). A jarring first occurred then: I wished that I wasn’t wearing my favorite pajama pants (it was life-changing, truly; that epiphany, and the end of the world thing).

Though I hadn’t seen myself in my mind’s eye when I'd had this vision (that would be a vanity beyond even me), I’d anticipated wearing something to fit the occasion—a statement jacket, maybe. Nice sneakers, at least. Yet, here I was, at the end of it all, wearing the same pajamas I'd had since I was sixteen.

But, yes, the clouds. The clouds had frozen.

Just then, the cement beneath me fissured—which meant the earthquakes had begun.

I rolled up and onto my feet. I could mope in a few.

The crack spiderwebbed. I bolted, launching myself onto the bed of a slate pick-up. In the months after that first reckoning, my premonitory vision had replayed every day or so. I'd had plenty of time to absorb my Judgement Day choreography. Time, and several weeks of a rigorous tap dance intensive.

People exited the airport right on cue.

They walked onto the sidewalk wearing tight frowns, lifting their suitcases up and over those pesky hairline fractures that made the earth look like a cracked ceramic.

A man in a suit darted to the taxi stand. His walk was off-kilter, weighted down by a stern brown briefcase. He waved his free arm like a madman—why, I couldn’t say. No one else was approaching the line, and those taxis certainly weren’t going anywhere.

He was nearly there when he stepped onto a thin fissure, which promptly opened up to a large gaping hole. The weight of his briefcase dragged him down quickly.

There was a loud gulp of air—that sound typical of a man falling into the earth’s core. I sat and watched.

An elderly man exited the airport next. A woman emerged from an old cherry Beetle to help him carry his blocky vintage suitcase. She even propped the side door open, waiting diligently as he made his slow hobble into the passenger’s seat. The two were in the vehicle, ready to drive off when the crack spread some more and consumed them, too.

I screamed, even though I'd seen this all before. It was instinct—to respond to tragedy with reciprocity. I screamed myself hoarse as though this were all new. I felt better for it.

By the entrance to the airport, a young woman with a camera looped around her neck looked very irritated by my noise. She squeezed her hands over the ears of her little toddler who was seated atop a luggage trolley. The kid giggled and pointed.

“Everyone!” I shouted. My hands were cupped around my mouth, but it hardly amplified my voice, especially since a crackling had taken over the air (the wildfires, I knew, were right around the corner). “The world is ending! Clutch your loved ones tight or whatever, but I’m telling you right now—the end is nigh!” A banana peel smacked my cheek.

“Get off my truck!” A bearded man in a beanie held the rest of the fruit, suffocating it into mush in his clenched fist. I recognized him. I knew instantly what was about to happen.

“Move!” I commanded. The man did not, and the fire embraced him. Well, I tried.

That fissure from earlier had spread so that there was now more dark abyss than there was parking lot. The young woman and her ear-muffed child had already disappeared into the earth. I sighed and hauled myself standing. My pick-up truck rattled along with the earthquake’s tremors. I clutched onto the tailgate. I felt my jaw clatter against my face.

“Everyone!” I repeated. There was a new stream of travelers exiting the airport. “The world is ending…” I sounded like a PSA. Most of them turned away—half of them wore headphones or had phones lifted to their ears. The other half had no excuse.

Some fell into the earth and others stepped over the cracks. A good handful of people caught fire. A unique fraction of them fell into the earth, while flaming—it was quite a sight.

A blue van came to a screeching halt in the center of the car park. A woman exited and screamed. She pointed to the sky. I followed her gaze and—there they were, the meteorites. I was beginning to worry for them.

People pulled out their phones, angling their cameras high. They swiped their fingers rapidly to combat the overexposure as their devices struggled to capture those burning space rocks. The crowd grew rapidly.

“You’ll never believe what I’m looking at,” a twenty-something-year-old narrated to a livestream. “I swear I see the biggest ever planet-sized asteroid about to make an impact…” I frowned, squinted. It was definitely not planet-sized. I was beginning to wonder if she knew just what a planet was.

She provided her dutiful commentary on the mysterious space rock up until it collided with her. What a shame. She probably had a big follower count. Lots of people would be sad.

I didn’t scream. This had all grown rather stale. Besides, it wasn’t like anyone was looking at me now that meteorites were flying through the sky.

I settled onto my back to watch the brigade of fireballs. It was beautiful, really. Those space rocks were close enough for me to distinguish their textures. Quickly, they were close enough for me to feel them too.

It was a camera flash of pain.

My metal bed shook as the earth cracked in two and swallowed the airport whole. Too late, the screams rose in full. It sounded like the whole world had thought to cry out all at once. It was loud for a moment, and then it was over. Everything fell into the earth.

I dropped, too.

It didn’t feel so much as a drop, but an entrance.

The blazing sky fell away. I plummeted into a roomy cavern. The Banana Man’s pick-up fell faster than I could, leaving my back bare to the rush of wind.

For a while, patches of trees and cars and people on fire lit up the dark. Eventually, we fell deep enough into the earth that the light was snuffed.

It was dark for ages. Silent, too.

After some time, I spotted pools of fire and a bedrock abyss. I saw some familiar faces and figured we’d reached Hell. The air tasted like rotten pickles. Then, the surface of Hell, too, cracked open and we fell levels deeper still.

It seemed as though the earth was being cleaved in half. Much like those videos online—where someone gripped an apple and pushed inward with the heels of their palms until it split cleanly in two.

I don’t quite know why, but it reminded me of an audition I’d almost booked—a supporting role on a popular rock soap opera. I would’ve delivered a stellar performance, but I’d been replaced by some actor named Peter. I hated Peter. I thought about him often.

I collapsed some levels further into the pit, passing many interesting scenes.

There was a lake of ice which looked like a massive crystalline snowflake. It was so perfectly aesthetic that it hurt to watch it shatter into bits. As I fell in through the hole where the ice had once been—with those bits of crystal, for a moment, hanging suspended beside me as we rushed past each other—a violent storm of souls gathered. They pressed so close that they passed through me over and over. Each time, I tasted salt and ash.

This was the footage of the century.

I hoped that the livestream I’d seen earlier was still recording.

I hoped that the world hadn’t yet splintered entirely so that some thousand people could be watching this. Or that, someday, an alien race might find this footage and pin it up in a grand hall on a distant planet for their green faces to gawk at. If anything at all had ever been—this had to be gawk-worthy.

The air had become intensely hot. My skin was no longer there.

There were rows of tombs far below. Neat like a graveyard except made of iron and nickel. They cracked open and more glistening souls rushed out. Then, that, too, cracked. In we all tumbled. I thought this would be it—falling and burning and falling and burning on and on. The rush of wind for centuries. After some amount of time, my soul hit something.

I’d reached the center. At the core, there was rock.

Igneous rock and empty space.

That was when I realized not only was there no more Bulgaria, but there was also no more Los Angeles. No more Hollywood. No more Internet. No more anything. I got a little sad then. The world had broken into jagged bits, like a shattered conch shell, and those pieces—all that I’d ever known—had floated into dark nothing. I wept. Loudly and grossly. Then, I was flattened. The weight of all souls past rained down and crushed me.



Kaitlin Tan

Kaitlin Tan (she/her) grew up between Manila, Philippines and Macao, SAR. She is currently a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University majoring in writing seminars and cognitive science. Her work has appeared in Contrary Magazine. If you are interested in contributing to the destigmatization of mental illness and encouraging a narrative of hope and recovery to those struggling, she recommends reading about (and, if possible, donating to) the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, January 15, 2024 - 20:56