“Where will you be?”
“At the apocalypse.”
He snorts, and rolls his head back.
She continues to look at him, unmoving; deadpan.
They dangle their legs over the concrete ledge, close to the lapping canal water. Dead scum floats beneath their feet and it smells faintly of a harbour when the tide rolls out. They watch light dancing against the blank underbelly of the bridge, carrying traffic. Around them the detritus of broken industry lies shattered; a burnt out car, rusted steel drums, puddles made iridescent with a thin veneer of oil. A halo of fast food packaging flutters in the wind. Few boats wander past. Crickets chatter.
He thinks about what it would be like, to see the world end. Would it be quick, or drawn out? Would he even have the chance to make a phone call? He lies back a moment and tries to imagine that the sun is now a searing explosion washing over his body. If it was, then he’d be dead by now. Vaporised: burned into the earth as a permanent shadow.
“With my family then, I guess.”
“I don’t think you understand. It’s not about where you want to be, but where you will be.”
“I never thought about it like that.”
“It’s not such an easy question.” She holds her hands out, palms up as though the concept were an object for him to see. Her naked feet form a Newton’s cradle. The sound of skin kissing bounces off the water and concrete. He feels, for a moment, as he did when he was a child at the local swimming pool, listening to the unreal sounds of water slapping and voices ricocheting. Chlorine burning his nostrils.
He draws his eyes down, shuttering them from the sun.
“I’d be at home then, he says: sleeping and it would all be over by the time I woke up, or rather I would never wake up because I miss important events. Always have,” he adds, quieter.
“I like that.” She pulls a loose hair from his cheek and blows it away. “Permanent sleep. I wonder if you’d carry on dreaming.”
She brushes back one side of her hair, tucking it behind an ear. She cranes her head a little. The first audible chug from a pleasure boat rolls in from around a distant meander.
“I think I’ll be in a supermarket,” she says. “And I’ll be the only one smiling. Have you ever noticed that? That people never smile in supermarkets? They all carry expressions of boredom; or else annoyance, or inconvenience. I saw this woman once, in the queue and she was worried, you know? Like something was distressing her. She had the face of a trapped animal.”
“I’ve never looked that closely.”
“Well I have. And that’s where I’ll be, with all those people and I don’t think their expressions will be any different.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Why don’t you?”
“That’s not what I was asking.”
She giggles at him and shakes her head.
“Alright then,” she says. “I think it will be because they won’t realise what’s happening to them, because the idea that they will all die and no-one will be there to remember them, will be too much to handle. They won’t be able to comprehend it, so they’ll carry on as if nothing is wrong.”
“You’re a pessimist.”
“I’m not deluding myself. There’s a difference.”
“But what if they did realise?”
“They’d laugh. Really hard.”
“It’d be too late, the apocalypse will have happened.”