He kept on walking. It was the only thing he had left, that still made sense. Just to keep on walking, one foot after the other. He couldn’t really think of anything else. He looked at his reflection in the windows as he passed the shops. Bread. Jeans. Shoes. Nothing interested him anymore. Not now that he knew there were only four days left.
He started to look at all the people that passed him, that walked in opposite directions. Everyone seemed so sure of themselves, hitting the pavement as if it gave them joy. Men with fancy suits and briefcases, checking their phones every now and then, checking the time. He wanted to shout at them that time was still here. That as long as they still breathed, time was there. And that they should stop rushing from one moment to the next as if there was some greater meaning to it all. There was none. He knew. He had searched for it for about 4 billion years. And now it was all coming to an end. And he had failed.
When he stopped he found himself at the corner of Broadway and 8th street. He knew this place. He turned and walked past the banks, some coffee chains. Astor Place was filled with students, sitting on benches, reading books. Chatting with each other as if the world was not going to end. He crossed the square, walking east towards St Marks’ Place. Which wasn’t a place, but a street. A lousy street filled with everything that you could get everywhere else, and where you could meet everyone who didn’t matter. Maybe that’s why he had always liked it here. He quickened his pace to leave the big shiny buildings behind him. All those windows reflecting the sun, it made him think of everything he wanted to forget.
He crossed 3rd and walked along St Marks. Chinese people sitting on the steps in front of a shop selling unrecognizable things, smoking a cigarette. Ten dollar psychics. Karaoke bars that were never truly deserted. Liquor stores. Korean restaurants. And the smell. It was unmistakably New York, that smell of rotting garbage bags smoldering in the sun mixed with urine.
He walked into a small supermarket, and found himself amazed at the wealth that stared him in the face. Two thousand years of accumulation of strive and hunger, and now he could just walk in and get whatever he wanted. Products that had spend weeks at sea to be consumed by him in less than a minute. He walked across the isles and he had to make an effort not to start crying. All of this would be lost, and how long would it take humanity to get to this level of sophistication next time? He couldn’t predict it, of course. Just like the times before. He never knew when he hit the fail-switch what would happen. Once it had taken humanity twice as long to simply form small settlements. If you could even call them that. But he had never before seen humanity reach such lofty heights. There were problems, sure. But all of this within reach. For a dime!
He left some coins at the counter, not willing to spend any of the remaining time for the owner who was somewhere in the back, taking care of what he sure thought was something important. He shook his head. Leaving all this alone, open for people to come in and walk out with whatever they felt like. How had this happened, really? He knew he was the one who should be most qualified to answer that question. He had studied humanity the longest, this was going to be his fifteenth cycle. But the change had been gradual. And not universal. There were still places where he’d rather not spend more than a single breath, if he could help it. Perhaps that was what made it so difficult, this time. Knowing everything humanity had reached, without understanding why. How did those morals become such common goods, why did people stop having as many kids as they wanted in order to take better care for the ones they did have? There wasn’t a specific answer to all those mysteries. So when he went back, to see everything start over again, he wasn’t sure he could make it so New York would appear again. Not exactly like this, anyway. And he wasn’t supposed to be sad, it would be another round of experiences, another set of observations. The Great One had ordered it, so it would be so. But couldn’t he feel sad without questioning his orders?
He jumped up the few steps, out of the shop and back to street level. The sun shone on his head as he opened the package of licorice. The salted kind. He took a bite and relished in the flavor that hit his taste buds. He almost closed his eyes, but then it hit him. He grunted.
Only four more days until he’d have to face the dinosaurs again.
"You have just been told by a source you trust implicitly that a meteor is going to take out life on earth; there is nothing that can be done to stop it, and they have no intention of alerting the public. You have four days until impact/game over. What would you do with your time?"
Please read the disclaimer.