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The End Of My World

"What would you do?"

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October 30, 1938

About a half mile into the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, I smell oil burning from running the engine so hard. I pat the dashboard of my old pickup. “Hang in there, baby.”

I’m struggling to drive while rotating my head like a damn owl, worrying the walls will collapse around us at any moment. The Detroit River would surely swallow us whole. To make matters worse, we lost the radio when we went underground, so I have no idea if they’ve reached Detroit yet. 

I steal a glance at Dorothy—the girl of my dreams—the girl who should’ve been my wife. She’s still wearing her waitress uniform dotted with grease from the burgers and fries. There’d been no time to change her clothes. She’s being so brave, even though I notice a few tears glistening on her cheeks.

I reach over and grasp her hand. Her skin is soft despite all the hours she spends dishwashing and cleaning tables, in addition to taking orders from customers. 

“Hey, we’re gonna make it.” My voice trembles despite my best effort. 

I want to reassure her. I want to believe my words, too. I need to believe!

She attempts a smile and squeezes my hand while her other hand pats Mickey’s black furry head. Usually, he’d be sitting up, tail wagging, looking out the window. But, no, he’s eerily quiet, resting his head on her thigh. He knows something’s wrong in his world.

I think back to how it all started just a few hours ago. 

I had been at work and slammed into Marvin while trying to get the tire on the chassis, all while the car was moving down the line. 

“Goddammit, Jimmy! Faster!”

Of course, the foreman saw the one time I messed up. All day long, I did the same thing: A tire slid down the ramp. I’d lift the tire and put it on. Then, another tire slid down the ramp. Then, I’d put that one on. It was the monotony one found working on an assembly line. 

On top of that, I couldn’t take a pee when I needed to. I literally worked in hell, drowning in my sweat most days. All the while, I heard my wife Shirley fussing in my head, “Quit complaining! Daddy handed you this job when most couldn’t find work!”

That was true enough, but homelessness sometimes looked like a better life.

My shift finally ended, and I raced to the toilet to let loose the pee I’d been holding for the last two hours. Afterward, I climbed into the old maroon pickup Daddy had left me. It was a Ford 1926, and despite hating working in that Ford plant, I loved that pickup. He’d bought it when times were better. Then, he died, and everything fell apart for me. 

I drove faster than I should have, always in a hurry to escape that factory. But when I reached the midway point, I’d slow down, never in a hurry to get home. The boss busted my balls, and my wife chewed on my ass, so I’d sometimes pull over at the midpoint for a few moments of peace. But I didn’t have the time since I’d worked late. Instead, I turned the radio dial, passing on Billie Holiday and Judy Garland. “Judy, I haven’t seen a damn rainbow in quite a spell,” I said aloud to myself. I stopped turning the dial when I reached the news on station WWJ.  The speaker’s grave, but bordering on panicky, tone caught my attention, and it took me a minute to comprehend his words.

And that was an eyewitness account from Grovers Mill, New Jersey. State police have arrived. Let me repeat: this is a grave announcement. By the evidence of eyes, we have invaders from Mars. These invaders have swiftly taken control of New Jersey.

Screams could be heard in the background, and I jerked the car to the side of the road and stopped to listen to more. Felt like someone had sucker punched me in the gut. 

Martial law prevails in New Jersey and now Pennsylvania. Washington urges calm. Continue your regular duties, as the military is determined to keep human supremacy on Earth. 

Shit! It’s happened! 

I had to get to Dorothy. No, wait, first go home and get Mickey, money, and Daddy’s watch. Turning back on the road, I turned down the volume and sped home. I needed to focus. 

The tires spun the gravel as I pulled into the driveway. I raced out of the car and flew open the screen door. Shirley stomped out of the kitchen, hands pressing into her hips. “Where’ve you been? Dinner’s cold!”

I pushed past her and ran to the bedroom, flinging open the closet door. I dropped to my knees and crawled into the back corner, locating the leather bag. I peeked in it to ensure the money was still there, then sprang back out of the closet. I jerked open a few drawers, shoved some clothes in the bag on top of the cash, and then grabbed the watch off the nightstand. When I spun around, I smacked into Shirley. 

“What are you doing? Did you hear—“

“Mickey!” I cut her off and pushed past her, hurrying down the hall toward the kitchen. “Mickey!” I called again.

The German Shepherd immediately appeared from underneath the dining table and bounded to my side, jumping against my chest. “Good boy, get in the truck.” He bolted outside through the screen door I’d left open.

“Jimmy, you talk to me right now! What are you—“

“I’m leaving, and you better go to your Daddy’s,” I yanked open the refrigerator, grabbed my Guinness, and turned toward the door. 

Shirley grabbed my arm. “Leaving? You mean like for good?” 

“Yup. Run on down the street to your Daddy’s house.”

She stomped her foot and wagged a finger in my face. “You won’t find better than me, Jimmy! Daddy always said you were no good! So, you and that stinky dog, go ahead and leave!” 

Huffing and puffing, I leaned in where she could smell my breath. “You tell your Daddy that I quit that miserable job!” I turned and walked out the door, yelling over my shoulder on my way to the truck. “And Mickey was always right about you! You never smelled right!” 

I climbed into the truck and headed toward Michigan Avenue. Along the way, I kept looking up at the sky. Due to the clouds, it was impossible to see anything. Don’t panic. Just get Dorothy. 

I didn’t let my foot off the pedal until I pulled up alongside Johnnie’s Diner. 

“Stay,” I called to Mickey, then flung open the diner’s front door. 

The little bell rang, and Dorothy looked in my direction. 

“Jimmy! I wasn’t expecting you—“

I reached her and tugged her arm before she could tuck her order pad into her apron. “Come on, Dorothy. There’s no time.”

“What are you—”

I didn’t attempt to lower my voice. “On the radio, they're talking about an attack. We’re in danger; now come with me!”

“An attack? Jimmy, you’re scaring me.” She stopped our forward progress. “What attack? Are we alright? What’s happening? Jimmy! I can’t just walk out! Jim—“

I turned and grasped both of her slender shoulders, shaking her hard enough to stop her rambling. “Dorothy, I love you, and you’ve got to trust me. Now come on.” 

Her eyes shot as wide as saucers, but she nodded and grabbed hold of my hand. 

My stomach grumbled, and I said, “Wait, let me take some pies.”

I dashed back, slid two apple pies off the counter, and pulled Dorothy to the truck. “Get in, doll. I’ll explain everything.”

She climbed over Mickey, who surprisingly didn’t bark once at her even though it was their first meeting.

“Just listen,” I said, then turned up the radio and drove off.

Some radio communication has blacked out in areas. Three Mars machines are now visible. The enemy has blown over trees and homes. I’ll keep talking as long as I can. There are about thirty of them on the ground. One is wading the Hudson like a man wading a brook. Oh my God, they’re lifting their metal hands. People are running. 

Oh no! It’s no use. People are falling like flies, crossing Fifth Avenue!

Screams came from the radio, and Dorothy shouted, “Jesus, Jimmy! What are they?!” 

“Martians, Dorothy. They’ve attacked New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and are headed our way. We have to get out of here.”

The radio went dead and then came back with a different voice speaking. 

Three million people are fleeing the Invaders. All communication with New Jersey has closed. Artillery, the Air Force, everything in the area has been wiped out. 

“Turn it off!” shrieked Dorothy, crying into her hands. 

I turned the volume off and patted her leg. “We’re getting out. Don’t worry, Dorothy.”

“Where? Where can we go, Jimmy?” She bent forward, clutching her stomach. “I don’t feel good.”

I looked over at her. “Stay with me, sweetie. I’ll take care of you. Look at me.”

She turned her head, but the color had left her face. I quickly rolled down my window so some air could refresh her. 

“I’m thinking we’ll go to Canada. The Detroit-Windsor tunnel is our best bet if we can get across before they blow it up.”

“Blow it up?” she sobbed. 

I cursed myself. “They won’t do that before we get across.” Damn, I shouldn’t have said that.

She shook her head while she rocked up and back. “But I don’t know anybody in Canada.”

“You’ll know me.” I turned to kiss her cheek. “I figure we’ll just hide in the mountains somewhere.”

I heard her inhale sharply several times, and then she slumped back against the seat. I hoped the initial shock was wearing off. 

“Thank you for getting me, Jimmy.” She rubbed her cheek against my shoulder before leaning forward, untying her apron, and tossing it on the dash. 

“There’s no time to get your things, Dorothy,”

“I don’t have anything to get, anyhow.”

“I stopped by the house and got the money I’d been saving. It’s not a lot, but it’ll take care of us for a bit.”

“As long as we’re together, I’ll be alright.”

And so here we are, just crossing over into Canada. I release my held breath. At least we make it through the tunnel alive. My hands still shake while I hold the steering wheel, though. 

“Hey, my Luckies are underneath the seat. Can you grab one for me, doll? Matchbox, too.”

Smoking settles my nerves, and we continue to follow the road ahead, unsure exactly where we’re headed. I keep looking over my shoulder, expecting to see a big machine in the air chasing us. 

I’m not sure how far we drive before I pull off on a dirt road that seems to lead to a forested area. We’ll be safe here. From what I’d heard on the radio, the Invaders are hitting populated areas. 

“Let’s get out. I have some blankets for us.”

I spread a blanket on the truckbed and lift her up to join me. I offer her a beer and place one of the pies in front of us. Thank goodness it’s already sliced because I have no knives or forks. 

Wanting her to feel safe, I motion for her to snuggle beside me. Luckily, it’s an unseasonably warm night for October, so we are warm enough outside. We sit quietly, eating our pie and sipping beer. It would be the perfect first date if it weren’t for the damn Invaders.

Looking up, I notice the clouds have moved on, revealing twinkling stars sprinkled unevenly across the sky. Everything suddenly feels a whole lot better. Strangely, sitting in the back of my truck with Dorothy, there’s a coziness that feels like home. 

I finish another piece of pie, then wrap my arm around Dorothy, pulling her closer. “Look up, sweetie. Those stars are looking after us.”

She tilts her head upward, her blue eyes shining. “You really think so?” Her soft, supple body melts into mine. 

“I know so.” I gently turn her head toward me and kiss her. Sure, we’d kissed before, but it had always been a rushed kiss in the alley behind the diner. We’d always look around to make sure no one could see us. But now, we are all alone except for the stars, and they won’t tell. 

“You said you loved me earlier, Jimmy. Did you mean it?”

I tuck a blonde curl behind her ear. “Why, of course, I meant it. I fell in love with you the first time I walked into that diner, and you came over to take my order. I thought you were the prettiest thing I’d ever seen—pretty without even trying.”

She kisses me, then rotates on her hip to cuddle against my chest and wraps her lovely legs over mine. 

“I thought you were real handsome. And when you smiled at me, I felt special… then I noticed your wedding band.” She frowns, and her chin dips when she speaks those last three words.

I tip her chin back up with my finger, forcing eye contact. “Well, she’s gone now. I told her I was leaving and not coming back.” I look down at my left hand, slide that old piece of metal off my ring finger, and fire it toward the trees. Before she can say anything, I kiss her passionately on her pretty pink lips—a long, wet kiss she won’t soon forget. 

When we open our eyes again, I press my forehead against hers and look deep into her blue eyes. “If I’d met you before Shirley, I’d never have married her.”

I no longer consider myself a married man, so I pull Dorothy down on that blanket, and we do what couples in love do. If this is to be my last night in this world, I’m spending it making sweet love to her. 

~xXx~

When the sun rises the following day, we climb back in the front of the truck and hear nothing but static on the radio. Either we are out of range, or the Invaders have taken out communications in our part of the country. Despite worrying about the rest of the world, we feel blessed to be together.

I drive back to the main road and continue in the northbound direction, driving until we see a small mercantile on the side of the road. 

It’s quiet. Too quiet. There are no cars around, but we stop to see if we can buy some supplies.

Dorothy and I walk into the store, and my eyes shoot to the newspaper on the counter. 

I snatch it up, spotting the headline: Orson Welles's radio narration of a “War of the Worlds” episode caused widespread panic. 

As I read the words underneath, I rapidly blink, thinking they might change, but they don’t. 

I become impossibly still. I hear Dorothy’s voice beside me but can’t see anything except the words sprawled across the paper. 

Even without the Invaders, my world, as I knew it, has ended.

Published 
Written by WriterGirl
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