Almost Heaven

“We now believe,” a woman in a white lab coat says into a microphone, lit up by flashing cameras, “that the surface of Earth will no longer be viable for human life within 100 days.” 

It’s Lyra’s Sunday morning routine to flip through channels on the Holo while her roommate, Alice, makes them breakfast— Pancakes, today. Lyra stays on the news channel, watching the scientist explain various charts and projections. Behind her, she hears the spatula in Alice’s hand clatter down on the countertop. 

“What about Envirosuits?” A reporter asks. “Haven’t those held up so far?” 

The scientist shakes her head and starts talking about radiation levels. Lyra stares down at the steam coming off her cup of coffee. It’s not as though they didn’t know this was coming. But it’s one thing to know the world will end and another thing entirely to know it’s actively ending.  

Engrossed in the press conference, neither of them notices the pancakes burning until they smell the smoke. Alice swears as she shuts off the burner and gets to work scraping burnt batter out of the pan. Newscasters on the Holo begin discussing the pros and cons of different bunkers.  

“Well,” Lyra says, “there’s a place just out of town that Aaron— You know, Aaron, from work? He showed me pictures, and it looked nice. I could sign us up.” 

“It looked nice?” Alice asks, incredulous. “Do you really wanna spend the rest of your life underground?” 

Shrugging, Lyra sips her coffee. “You liked when we went caving. This isn’t so different.” 

“It’s completely different,” Alice argues. “In the cave, we were actually in the earth, and we could leave when we wanted. A bunker’s all metal and fluorescents.” Shuddering, Alice starts a new round of pancakes. “No, thank you.” 

“What about the Ark?” 

“Same thing, except in space, which I guess makes it marginally cooler. But it’s still dying in a big metal box.” 

“Our descendants would get to colonize another planet, though,” Lyra counters.  

“Which brings up two other snags in that plan: One, colonization sucks, and, two, neither of us wants kids.” 

“You’re not wrong.” Lyra frowns at Alice’s back, watching her flip the pancakes. “Still, those are kind of our only options.” 

“There is a third option.” Looking over her shoulder, Alice smiles with what Lyra has learned is a dangerous glint in her eyes. “Road trip.” 

“I…” Lyra blinks. “What?” 

“Think about it.” Alice slides the pancakes off onto the plates and starts gesturing with the spatula. “We could hit up all the national parks we haven’t gotten to see yet and all those kitschy roadside tourist traps, like the world’s largest yarn ball, or whatever. Go out with a bang.” 

“Alice,” Lyra says. She searches, wide-eyed, for some sign of jest in her friend’s face and finds none. “We would die.” 

“We’d die in the bunker. We’d die in space.” Alice slides Lyra’s plate over to her. “Sure, maybe it’d take longer, but be honest with me, Ly: Would you really be happy never seeing the sky again? Wouldn’t you rather go out with it?” 

Suddenly, Lyra is no longer hungry. She sets her fork down and turns away, finding herself looking at the collage of photos they’ve hung on the wall. They’re all of her and Alice. One in front of the cave, another in a kayak, one from when they went ziplining in Costa Rica and the two of them by a waterfall. These are the things they work day jobs for — the plane tickets, the equipment, the magic they feel, surrounded by the majesty of nature. They don’t talk about it, but it’s a sacred thing between the two of them to be able to walk out into the forest with another person, to stand there amidst the thrumming energy of trees and open sky, knowing they share the same feeling of awe. Lyra tries to imagine a life in small, metallic rooms filled with recycled air, but she can’t picture herself or Alice in them. 

“Okay,” Lyra says, and a grin spreads across Alice’s face. “Okay. Road trip, it is.” 

 Join us next week for the second installment of this term’s apocalyptic road trip serial: Almost Heaven! Catch all installments at