PLANET X

Kallus stared up at the sky, the once dark clouds already lightening. It wouldn’t be long now. A few minutes maybe. And then it would be here.

What to do with those few minutes? What was there to do? He looked around, already knowing what he would see. There were a few people milling around, standing and staring up at the sky like he was. Most others were shut up in their homes, some to be with their loved ones and others foolishly believing a few walls and a closed door would be enough. The streets were otherwise barren, vehicles abandoned everywhere he looked. The stores that lined the street were all shuttered up. And for the first time that Kallus could remember, the lights were off. Not that he needed them, his eyes penetrating through the darkness just fine. But still, that funny little detail made it all so much more real.

Kallus took in a deep breath, trying to suck in as much as he could. It was strange. Breathing had always come so naturally, something you didn’t even think about. Now, he had a hard time remembering what to do. And he tried to make it last, enjoy the experience as much as he could.

As he stood there, his hand drifted to the piece of paper in his pocket. He lifted up, the dark material flapping in the small wind, and looked over it. It was a list of all the things he had wanted to do in the last few years before this moment. He was sure at least 90% of the people here had similar lists. It had been on everyone’s mind since the news first broke. What did you do before the Apocalypse?

His planet, Bacchura, sat at the very edge of a solar system, millions upon millions of miles from the sun at the center as well as any of the other planets around it. Because of that, the people lived in almost perpetual darkness. The sun’s light only ever reached here in short bursts and even that never really made it through the atmosphere.

Until now. Bacchura’s orbit around the sun was around 10,000 years long and it was this generation’s misfortune of being the one’s to live at the time when the planet was closest. It was growing closer and closer to the sun and soon it would pass out of the Kulan Belt, a ring of comets, asteroids, and other small bodies, and directly into the sun’s gaze.

Kallus didn’t really understand all the science but he got the gist. Since the planet had been living in darkness for so many years, the sun’s full power would turn the atmosphere aflame and everything in it as well.

They had been feeling it this last year. The growing heat, more and more light seeping through the dark clouds. Their atmosphere, after thousands of years, had grown resistant to all forms of sunlight but after all this time of holding it back, once the planet passed out of the Kulan Belt, it would have an unobstructed view of the sun. The atmosphere would hold for a little while. Then it would fall. And the planet would burn.

The thing was, the planet had come out of the Belt about an hour ago. And Kallus could feel the heat on his skin, the sweat pouring down his skin. The increasing light stinging his eyes. He wondered what it would be like, to see the sun. Painful, to see that light? Or maybe something more. He hoped so. If he had to die, he wanted to see something beautiful as he did.

There was some comfort in knowing that the planet would continue, would survive. Specialized bunkers had been built to house the next of their people. But not everyone. Thousands, maybe a million would be saved. But billions would fall.

Kallus saw the clouds begin to break, the light coming in faster now. It was down to seconds at this point. He heard the cries and screams as people came to the same realization. Kallus took in another breath, feeling like his lungs were on fire now. He hoped that when the next time came, people were more prepared. That they wouldn’t have to go through this again.

Kallus looked back around at the people around him. One man was praying. A woman sat next to her children, holding them tight. One person was slumped against the wall, eyes closed. A young couple were sharing a kiss. Two older men were seated, playing a game til the end.

He took in another breath, knowing it was probably his last this time. He felt a tear on his cheek that was boiling in the heat. There was still so much to do. When he was a kid, he had felt like he’d had all the time in the world to do what he wanted. Now, he couldn’t help but look back at all the things he could have done in his life but didn’t.

He couldn’t help but see that woman with her children and those two men playing games or that couple sharing one last kiss and then look to see no one beside him. No one to comfort. He’d never had the time to find someone like that. First he was too busy. Then, when the announcement came, he’d felt it hadn’t been important by then. Now he wished he could take it back. Find someone while there was still time. But it was too late now.

He looked to his right at hearing a small sniffle and saw a woman crying as well. Maybe not too late then.

“Hey,” he said. She looked over and he held out his hand. She hesitated and then took it. He offered her a sad smile and then looked back up at the sky.

It took maybe ten seconds but the clouds finally break apart and the sunlight came pouring through. Kallus felt the woman squeeze his hand and he squeezed back. He continued to stare straight up and he swore he could just see the sun in all of that burning light. And he was right. It was beautiful.

Then the sky turned to fire and everything became ash.