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From The End of the World and Other Stories by Alexander Lurikov:
I have a lovely view of the end of the world. It is just outside my window, beyond the flower beds, between the row of pine trees and the lonely gravel road.
Pilgrims come from far away to witness the end of the world. I invite them in for coffee and idle conversation. We stand at the window and tell stories about the places we’ve visited, the people we’ve met. The other day an old man stopped by for a glass of gin. He insisted on playing cards at the table by the window. “I want to see what I’ve been avoiding,” he said.
He taught me several card tricks and informed me that he’d been a magician as a boy. “I still know a few of my old routines,” he said. “In fact, I could probably make you disappear if I wanted to…”
The end of the world looks loveliest at sunset, smoldering beneath a scorched sky, alive with distant light. I fall asleep at the window, my shoulder pressed against the cold glass, my dreams waiting to escape.
The end of the world is most frightening in the morning, with its every feature apparent in the pale light. I leave my house and follow the road into the city. Here, in the shadows of skyscrapers, no one knows that the world is ending. I wander the streets like Nietzsche’s madman, alone with my terrible knowledge. I want to warn them with screams, with the truth, but I find I have no voice. So I slink away to a park in the hills and hide beneath the canopy of an enormous oak. Soon I am asleep and dreaming.
I drift back in time to the days of my youth, to a small seaside town I used to visit with my family. The sand burns beneath my feet; the dune grass slices at my skin. I seek shade beneath the slats of a driftwood shack. Someone has collected sand dollars and seagull feathers here. I suddenly feel as though I’ve entered a sacred place, a shrine. There’s a memory pinned against the shore-pine wall, a fragment of someone else’s past. I look away and bury my hands beneath the sand.
I am back beneath the oak tree. Time clings to me like a wet rag. “There is no past,” I whisper. “I must return to the end of the world.”