The Last Night of the World

  • Fiction
  1. “What would you do if you knew this was the last night of the world?”

    “What would I do; you mean, seriously?”

    “Yes, seriously.”

    “I don’t know—I hadn’t thought." She turned the handle of the silver coffeepot toward him and placed the two cups in their saucers.

    He poured some coffee. In the background, the two small girls were playing blocks on the parlor rug in the light of the green hurricane lamps. There was an easy, clean aroma of brewed coffee in the evening air.

    “Well, better start thinking about it,” he said.

    “You don’t mean it?” said his wife.

    He nodded.

    “A war?”

    He shook his head.

    “Not the hydrogen or atom bomb?”

    “No.”

    “Or germ warfare?”

    “None of those at all,” he said, stirring his coffee slowly and staring into its black depths. “But just the closing of a book, let’s say.”

    “I don’t think I understand.”

    “No, nor do I really. It’s jut a feeling; sometimes it frightens me, sometimes I’m not frightened at all—but peaceful.” He glanced in at the girls and their yellow hair shining in the bright lamplight, and lowered his voice. “I didn’t say anything to you. It first happened about four nights ago.”

    “What?”

    “A dream I had. I dreamt that it was all going to be over and a voice said it was; not any kind of voice I can remember, but a voice anyway, and it said things would stop here on Earth. I didn’t think too much about it when I awoke the next morning, but then I went to work and the feeling as with me all day. I caught Stan Willis lookin...

Originally published in Esquire, February 1951