by Susannah Mandel
"So have you decided yet?" Becca asked. "What you're doing Friday?"
"Oh, God knows. Last-minute house party with the boys, probably." Selwyn rubbed absently at her temples. "At least if the apocalypse comes there'll be plenty of gin in the house. You're invited, of course."
"Thank you,” said Becca.
"And you? First Night again?"
Becca snorted. "Once was enough, thanks," she said. "Especially this year, with freezing rain as a bonus!"
"You think it'll still be coming down on Friday?"
"It's been two weeks, hasn’t it?" said Becca. She nodded toward the window. "Does it look to you like it's planning to let up by then?"
Selwyn considered the thick, cottony light filtering through the glass. "Not likely," she admitted.
Becca watched her rise and walk to the window, watched her face shade into silhouette. Behind it, runnels of rain made bright worms on the pane.
"Do you think," Becca said, quietly, "that everything's really going to blow up?"
The shadowed face was silent. "Depends what you mean by that," it said at last.
"You know what I mean. Everything really stopping working. Lights going out all over the world."
"A technological apocalypse,” Selwyn said, slowly, “seems to me unlikely." She paused. "What people do, of course, that’s more unpredictable.”
“There’s all kinds of doomsday predictions going round,” said Becca. “I’ve never felt so medieval.” She hesitated. "I could almost believe, at moments, that it really is going to end.”
"Do you really think that will happen?" Selwyn asked in her low voice.
"I don't know," said Becca. "I – you know I wouldn't, ordinarily. But this is such a strange time. What if something really is coming that will change the world? Again?"
"A singularity," said Selwyn. "You can't see it coming, but before and after it, history is different."
"Yes, like that," said Becca. She shuddered a little. “You think you’re in the real world, and then something impossible happens. And you say, Oh! The world was like that, all along."
Selwyn came over to her, touched her gently on the head. "Don't kill yourself over this. You'll find out in three days what the end of the story is."
“I guess we will,” said Becca. Her hand closed and opened upon the desk. "Stay a little longer, please."
Selwyn leaned one hip on the edge of the desk, and stroked Becca's hair again. They stayed there together some time, in silence, looking out at the rain.