The Lineup at the End of the World
So I guess I'll try writing a story here on my smartphone. Tapping through letter by letter could challenge my patience, but with practice I suppose I'll get more adept at the keyboard, maybe even as fast as writing by hand. The main problems I'm experiencing now are bad aim and a sore neck—and forgetting that this app saves with a double click on the back button.
Actually, I'm surprised all this stuff is working. I expected the Second Coming to be a bit more cataclysmic: stars falling from the sky, the heavens rolling up like a scroll, satellites exploding, the Internet crashing, Christ shooting down like a human EMP to knock out all the smartphones.
So there was a white streak across the sky and a sound like a trumpet and the next thing I know, everybody on the street has the placid desire to find the nearest park. Now I'm standing in this queue, waiting for my turn to see what's at the head of the line and typing this story.
My money's on Judgment. Not that I think that's Jesus down there. I figure right about now he's on the Mount of Olives, showing the Jews his wounds and explaining how he got them.
I don't think it's one of the Apostles, either. Pretty inefficient asking twelve men to judge the entire Old World. I'm betting on a minor functionary. Heck, it's Judgment. How big do you need it to be?
Speaking of money, there's a shaved-ice guy here with a bicycle and a cooler full of relief. I'm going to get some before it melts or sells out.
Well, I'm back and I'm broke. A bunch of folks claimed they didn't have a yuan on them, though I'm sure they were loaded with plastic, so me and some others forked out for them. The sun's right overhead. Nobody should have to brave that without a dose of coolant.
I was probably 573rd from the business end of this lineup. I've moved twenty places in twenty minutes, so they're talking to one a minute like I do in English classes. I do love efficiency.
I just realized that at one interview per minute, number 573 will have been in the queue for nine and a half hours. My back is going to be sore. Then again, nobody's been cutting in or complaining, so maybe I can drop out of line for a few minutes, stretch my legs and lower back, work out the kinks, and slip back in between the tall woman texting in front of me and the pot-bellied dude chomping a sandwich behind me. I don't want to be ornery when my life gets critiqued.
Here I am a writer and I've barely said a word about my surroundings or the other people in them. We're in Central Park—Kaohsiung, not New York. Is New York still there? I guess it could be. I'm one of maybe six Caucasians, and the shortest of the bunch. Today no one seems especially concerned about the length of our noses, the whiteness of our skin or the hairiness of our forearms. No children are cringing behind their grandmothers at sight of the narrow-faced TV people.
Grandmothers! There are a lot of old folks in this queue—and pretty far down. Just a minute.
Okay. Now I'm number 1042 or something. We've just had a general reorganizing of our linear community. Anybody with a stoop, gray hair and liver spots is a few hours closer to getting their grades. Didn't want the heat or suspense killing them before they heard their verdicts.
And now people are drifting away from the stillpoint. Some of them look ecstatic. Some of them look worse than depressed—despairing, like the demons are dragging them down to hell. The ecstatic ones are smiling at their own thoughts, eyes glazed like their minds are somewhere else. The despairing ones look dazed, staggering or slouching, presumably home to stew in their lonely juices. I want to comfort them, but their Scream-like faces give me the knock-kneed creeps. My hackles are up just looking at them. A lot of them are moaning. The damned look a lot like the insane.
Home. I wonder how many people aren't able to get here. There must be a few. Time for a little door to door after I ask my neighbours to save my place.
There were a few, mainly old folks whose kids were at work when the call came. I ran into a dozen or so others who'd had the same thought and, from what they told me and my own experience, rounding up the sub-ambulatory was mostly a matter of shouting through front doors in side alleys and walking past empty guard desks in apartment lobbies, commandeering a van or sedan and guiding people into seats before ferrying them to the nearest park. Even the puny one-block parks seemed to be open for business.
I have no idea how far I am from the hot seat now. Must be in the same figures as my salary—which is sad either way.
The sun's going down. It's a pink sunset, makes this town look like a sandstone arroyo. I'll be sleeping on my feet if they don't hand out place savers and let us go home.
Something's happening. People in white robes are materializing all along the queue. They're walking up to people and—Whoa! They're taking their hands and disappearing with them.
There's one in front of me. I