A good dog sitting in a green field in front of a blue pond. Behind him, the sun sets brightly behind a cityscape.

My phone flashes with an alert that the world will end by close of business today. I swipe left on the notification and refill my cup of coffee, wondering by the end of which business day, exactly. Eastern Time? Central? Pacific? It’s mid-morning and I have never been a morning person, but as I swirl in the sugar and cream, I find myself wishing I had gotten up sooner, when my dog first whined with the sun rising, licking my ear for attention.

I’ve wasted the whole morning, I think to myself, and I only have 6 hours left. Around me, the kitchen sits cluttered; new mail suffocates old mail; yesterday’s coffee mug is in the sink with the crusted caffeine ring barely smudged off; a new pair of pants still in the shopping bag sit on the table, ready to be returned. Now it feels silly to think of returning pants to a store that won’t exist by dinnertime, so I fish the receipt out of the bag, crumple it half-heartedly, and toss it away.

I didn’t even get to wear the pants, I think. It’s a pointless thought but it’s there nonetheless and all I can do is think about all the things I had planned for the upcoming week, knowing all the planning has gone to shit. I rip the tags off the pants and squeeze into them, the zipper just barely coming up all the way, but for once I don’t care.

By noon, I’ve finished my second cup of coffee and am scrolling mindlessly on social media, sifting through posts of people who are relieved to have a quick and painless obliteration, and posts from people frantic and crying, trying to find religion—any religion—in the final hours. I don’t know where I land on the matter, but I find myself hoping I go wherever my dog finds himself next. He sits in front of the storm door, his nose twitching, smelling the old and familiar and I wonder if he can smell impending chaos, if he can smell the oncoming of nothingness.

I call for him to come to me and he obliges, much as he always does, trusting that with me is where he’ll find a kind word and a pat, but all I have for him is a clinging hug, his scruff smothering me with the comfort I so desperately need.

When I slow my car to a stop in the empty parking lot, I realize it’s just us two in the whole park. The large lake sits at the bottom of the hill, and for a moment, I believe this is all a hoax. But there’s a stillness in the air that doesn’t come with seasons or with the patience of waiting. Stepping outside, it feels like even the trees around us are holding their breath, not a naked branch budging, not a single critter scurrying amongst the wet leaves to taunt my dog. 

He pokes his nose in the air and sniffs and between the stillness blanketing us and the sight of the silver lake sitting like pooled mercury, I feel like we’re in a snow globe, entrapped in a scene that doesn’t unfold, only stagnates. I wish at this moment that it’s true.

After we walk up and down countless wet knolls, my dog’s snout twitching its way through land we’d traversed dozens of times, we settle on a bench that looks like it’s been hand carved from the nearby trees. I know things must really be dire because my dog settles down beside me and rests his head on my shoe instead of pulling and whining until we’re up and walking again. I look down at him and think, how do you stay so calm, but I imagine beneath his layers of fur and skin and muscle and bone, deep in his heart that speeds and slows at the simple pleasures and scares of life, he’s harboring the same unease I am, neither one of us wanting to alarm the other.

So, we sit and watch slow ripples move from east to west on the lake’s surface, a slight breeze bringing a final, brief caress to the earth, like a wave or a pat on one’s face. I prefer the stillness because I think of how much easier it is to die when you feel like the last living thing, when you forget how good something as simple as weather can feel. My phone buzzes in my pocket but I keep my hands in my lap, occasionally reaching down to scratch my dog’s ears, to whisper how much I love him, and though he doesn’t look up at me, his ears move this way and that like little satellite dishes, not missing a single syllable I toss his way.

The sky mirrors the steel blue and gray of the water, and despite the chill, I think how lovely it is to vanish on this day where so much around us is already in hibernation. I’m glad to be here with my dog and I think how funny it is that this whole time I’ve worried about him aging faster and dying before me, but in the end, we’re going out together. There’s a sadness buried in that comfort and for the first time in my life, I embrace both.

I repeat my therapist’s mantra of breathing in and out, in and out, until my breaths deepen, and a numbing peace settles over me. I look down at my dog, and for the first time since we’ve sat down, he looks up at me, his eyes soft and liquid brown, relaxed and content. When he doesn’t break his gaze, I know it’s happening, I know we only have minutes, perhaps seconds left, and I think for the last time, I hope I’ve been good enough to wind up with you.

I reach down to kiss the groove in his forehead, right between his marble eyes, missing the flash of hot light just over the tree line, and just as quickly as I blink, it’s made its way to us, encompassing everything living and inanimate, my dog and I becoming nothing, but becoming it together, equal as the man-made lake and the wilderness around us.

Photo by Tony Fischer, used and adapted under CC.