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The door chimes as a punk-looking teenager takes a peek inside. He’s got a stripe of green in his hair, a skateboard under his arm and the words, “MAGNUM OPIATE” splashed across his shirt. I suspect it’s the name of some shitty band.

“Are you open?”

“Yeah, but don’t try anything.”

Behind him, a burning man stumbles down the sidewalk, waving his arms frantically. Nobody stops to help put him out. Normally, I would, but considering the riots and chaos going on today, I can’t really take the chance and leave the store unattended, even for a moment. I already had to pull the metal blinds down when a pair of girls in school uniforms threw a concrete block through one of the windows. I’d spent the next hour cleaning up glass.

“Pack of Newports?” says the punk.

“I’m going to need to see some ID.”

“Seriously? Come on, man, give me a break.”

“Show me ID or go find your smokes somewhere else.” I let my left hand dangle near where the revolver is stashed behind the counter. I’ve never had to use it before, but then again, it had never been the last day for planet Earth before either.

“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” the punk asks me incredulously, “It’s over, man! We’re fucked! Maybe you didn’t take a look outside, but there is an alien invasion going on, man!”

As if on cue, an explosion goes off somewhere down the block. The punk and I stare each other down as the sound reverberates, drowned out by the rumbling of a collapsing building and the terrified yowling of a dozen car alarms.

“Why are you even here, man? Don’t you have family to be with?”

“No,” I say, stone-faced. “I don’t. This is all I have. And as to why I’m here instead of drinking myself into a stupor, it’s because I got called in to work today. Because somebody has to man the store. Because even though things look grim, and you, and I, and everyone else will probably be nothing but charred bones and ash on a smoldering field of carnage tomorrow, I have to be here on the off chance that I will live to see another day, and if I do, I’m still going to need a job to pay the rent.”

There’s a pleasant moment of silence as the punk and I look across the counter at each other. The car alarms singing the song of their people and the screaming and sounds of running outside seem almost to fade away.

“Haven’t you got better things to do than stand here and argue with me on the last day of the world?” I ask finally.

“You’re fucking crazy,” the youth glares at me before snatching up his skateboard off the counter. He flips me the bird on his way out the door.

“Thank you, come again!” I call to him.

I stand there, watching him run across the street, and I realize my hand is holding the revolver. For a moment the thought of sticking the barrel between my teeth overwhelms me.

“Fuck that,” I say to myself. It’s got six shots in it, and there’s a box in the break room with another ten or twelve. I don’t want to use it on another human being, and I certainly don’t want to use it on myself. What I really want is to stare down one of those E.T. motherfuckers who dropped their ships all over my planet and razed the major cities to the ground. I want to see what color they fucking bleed.

When the first ships descended seemingly out of nowhere, all shiny and silver like chrome fish, I told my wife to take the kids and stay with my folks in Baltimore. I thought for sure it’d be safe there, seeing as how close it was to the Capitol. There’d be all sorts of military presence nearby.

But I was wrong.

Baltimore was now a graveyard and here I was, alive behind the counter at this Stopmart in Southampton, waiting for the E.T.s to finally get around to my town.

The phone rings and I pick it up.


“Doug, it’s Bob.”

“Oh, hey Bob, what’s up?”

“I was hoping I could convince you to come join Edith and me in our bomb shelter.”

“I appreciate the offer, Bob. I close up shop around 10 and–”

“Doug, look… I’m sorry about Jan and the kids, but standing out in the open, waiting to die is not the way to honor their memory. We gotta try to survive!”

I sigh. “Bob, I’m not waiting to die.”

Casually, I spin the chamber on the revolver. Six bullets here, ten to twelve in the break room. I wonder how many E.T.s there are in an invasion fleet? I wonder if I’ll even get a chance to see one, or if they’ll use those cheap-ass microwave rays on their ships like they did in Baltimore.

“Doug, buddy, there’s still time. Once Ead and I are in the shelter, there won’t be a way to communicate with the outside. I had a satellite phone installed, but–”

“But you weren’t expecting all the satellites to get taken out.” I say. “10 o’clock, Bob. Jefferson can’t fault me for closing a little early I think. Nor will he even know. I’ll be over by 10. If you can’t wait, I’ll understand.”

I hang up. I can’t say goodbye, it would feel too final.

The door chimes as the greasy, green-haired punk comes running back in. He’s breathing hard and there’s dirt and what looks like blood covering half his face. Apparently he misplaced his skateboard.

“They’re here!” he yells, wild-eyed. He leans back and holds the glass doors shut with his arms for a moment before realizing what a stupid idea that is. The way his pants are hanging off him, the aliens might think he’s trying to moon them.

“The ships are coming?” I ask.

“No!” he runs and crouches in the candy aisle. “The fucking aliens are here! Like actually here! There’s a whole fucking army marching this way!”

No way.

“They’re coming on foot?”

“YES!” the kid throws his hands up at me. “They’re wearing space suits with glass helmets and carrying big fucking guns that shoot, like, a death ray or something! I barely got out of sight as they flash-fried a whole crowd down on Emerson!”

I clench the revolver tightly. Six in the chamber.

“Here, kid,” I say, fishing the keys out of my pocket and tossing them his way, “Lock the door. I’ll be right back.”

“What? Where are you going?”

“I’m going on break.”


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