From a prompt: Write a story where a simple mistake causes the end of humanity.
|Mr. Graves tried to duck as a ball came sailing by his head. He was quick, his job often required him to be, but sometimes fate was quicker. He threw up his hands but it wasn’t in time and the small foam ball hit him in the right cheek bone. His coffee flew from his hand and landed on the breakfast table.
“Martha!” he yelled. She came running in, drying her hands on a dishtowel. Martha was weary to the bones and looked it. Whatever anger he felt melted when he saw her. She had stood by him after all these years and he knew that he would always stay by her.
“Honey,” he said, his tone softer. “The children are playing baseball in the house again. I’ve spilled my coffee over my work.”
She called the boys over, the older one knowing that they were in trouble while the younger one remained innocent in his obliviousness. She scolded the boys and reminded them to take their rough housing outside. She quickly began to help Mr. Graves clean up the mess.
“Don’t be too hard on the boys dear,” she told him. “They’ve got the energy of youth and it won’t stay that way forever, even for us.”
He knew she was right. He placed a hand on her shoulder blade to let her know that his anger had truly passed. He gathered his work and stopped.
“Dear,” Mr. Graves said. “Where is the harvest report? I’m going to need it today.” Martha looked at the coffee stained reports and asked him if any of these were it. Mr. Graves told her it was not.
“Were you having breakfast with Cart this morning?” Martha asked. “You know she likes to draw her visions. I bet she took it.” Cart was Mr. Graves youngest child, full of joy and wonder. The last of his three children and no more than a toddler. Drawing seemed to help Cart manage the visions she saw in her head. Mr. Graves and Martha went to Cart's room. They found the young girl sitting on her bed, drawing furiously on a piece of parchment, the flat surface of her knees acting as a table. Martha walked over and gently took away the paper and handed it to Mr. Graves.
Mr. Graves looked at the paper and his daughter had indeed drawn on it, in crayon the color of soot. The image was a joyful one, though, with a black sun above a black prairie. Mr. Graves thought it seemed calm and peaceful and the love for his daughter grew. It was just work after all, thought Mr. Graves. With his report in his hand, he headed to the door. He put on his coat to keep the chill off his shoulders and began to head out. He looked down at his harvest report and tried to make out the letters that THE BOSS had sent him. It was tough and he was running late. It would never do to run late. There was a lot of writing on the page, obscured by Cart's drawing. But at the bottom, two words caught his eye.
The two words were not what he was expecting. He stopped and looked at the harvest report closely. The black crayon had run together the letters, made bridges and slashes and Mr. Graves wasn’t quite sure he saw what he thought he saw. After a moment of study, he sighed, the air whistling through his teeth. So today is the day, he thought.
Before Mr. Graves took another step all three children ran at him and hugged him around his bony thighs. He should really start eating more. But after today, he would have all the time in the world to do eat.
“Have a great day Mr. Graves!” they shouted in unison. “Knock ‘em dead.” They all laughed at the inside joke.
“You don’t have to call me Mr. Graves, it’s a ghastly nickname you know,” he told his children. They just laughed. Mr. Graves looked down at the list and read the two words again: EVERY ONE. After today, they would do a lot of laughing together.
“Just call me Dad, ok?” he said.
“Dear, let them have their fun. Not everyone’s father is the Grim Reaper. You’re famous,” Martha said and beamed. She hugged him around his protruding clavicles and gave him what passed as a kiss against the blaring whiteness of his forehead.
And so Death left his home to perform his final harvest. Everyone. Everyone was now on the harvesting report.
Mrs. Everly O’nest was enjoying her last meal on earth. And through no fault of her own, so was everyone else.