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I woke up and wasn't sure it hadn't happened.


An elite team of astronauts had been sent to combat an enormous robot, somewhere in outer space, who was irreversibly programmed-- determined, even-- to blow up the world. If they could destroy it before the timer ran out, then we would all be safe. Massive apocalyptic explosion averted, sigh of relief breathed.

The event was being broadcast live on TV, all over the world. A grey-on-black countdown clock with digital numbers slipped lower and lower, second by second. One by one, the robot had picked off the members of the team until finally, now, only one was left. Floating in open space, he still had time.

Like everyone around the globe, my mom and I were at home watching; her from the couch, and me standing too close to the television. He hovered dangerously but necesarily close to the steel outer shell. Close enough to touch it, to plant the device and come home safe, to all the parades and marching bands the world could muster.

I watched the timer. I had seen timers before, in movies. They were machines that all had a setting for 00:00 but never, ever reached it.

He fumbled with his equipment. 00:02 read the clock in the splitscreen. In these, the epic final moments, it didn't occur to me to worry. Soon I would be seeing him triumph.

00:01. He hadn't even begun to reach towards it. He fumbled with the equipment some more.

00:00, while he floated there. The timer was all that was on the screen. And that was it.

I looked back at my mom to find her calm, quiet. The light on her was a pale, unflickering TV grey. Her acceptance was immediate and seamless. "...Okay."

In a matter of seconds we would hear the first and final, earth-encompassing bang. And we would die. Like thunder after lightning, we waited in the living room together, listening for it.


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May 2009



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