Almost Heaven

Previously: Rather than join everyone else in a bunker, Lyra and Alice are taking a road trip during the apocalypse. 

Content Warning: Brief mentions of suicidal ideation.

“Did you hear that — the thing, last night?” Alice asks as they pack their things into the transport. 

“Felt it, more like,” Lyra replies. She had woken up to the sound of a metal pot rattling and realized that the basement floor was shaking beneath her. “What do you think it was, an earthquake?” 

Alice shrugs. “Not sure. There were a couple when we were in California, but I didn’t think we’d be able to feel them all the way over here.” 

“Maybe they just got worse? I mean, that would pretty much track with, you know, the world ending.” 

“I guess,” Alice says, climbing in the driver’s seat. “Anyway, I figured out where we should go next: Bryce Canyon.” 

“Oh, sick. Yeah, let’s do it.” 

It becomes clear, as they make their way to Utah, what happened the night before. It starts with a thin haze of dust, which they initially chalk up to the wind. But then they reach the top of a hill and look out to see a landscape littered with pockmark craters and smoldering rocks.  

“Hell of a meteor shower,” Lyra laughs. “God.” 

“Yeah, yikes. What’s next, swarm of locusts?” 

Surprisingly, the meteors don’t prove to be much of an obstacle, apart from a few times they have to drive around destroyed sections of road. It isn’t long until they get to the park entrance, where Lyra has to pop out to open the gate. Her eyes catch on a display of brochures on the way back to the transport, and she grabs one, stuffing it in a pocket.  

When they get to the main attraction, they sit in the transport for a moment, silently staring. 

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Lyra asks. 

Alice nods, eyes wide. “Positive.” 

Lyra looks at the photo on the brochure — the beautiful, craggy pillars of orange rock, set aglow in the sun. Then, she looks back up at the scene in front of her — a pit, filled with a pile of dusty, orange boulders.  

“Well,” Lyra says, “Looks like the meteor shower got here first.” 

Thumping her helmet on the steering wheel, Alice grumbles, “God damn it,” and puts the transport in reverse. 

“Uh, Alice?” 

“We’re going to see at least one canyon today, I swear to God,” Alice grits out. 

“Okay? Where—” 

“Arizona,” she says. “Might as well go to the best one.” 

Alice nearly skips out of the transport, spreading her arms wide. “Now, that’s more like it! That’s a canyon!” 

Shaking her head, Lyra smiles to herself as she follows after. Six hours of vintage pop and driving were enough to turn Alice’s mood around, though she was never one to stay down for long. Hopping over the railing surrounding the lookout point, Alice motions Lyra over.  

“Careful!” Lyra warns as Alice nears the edge. “If you fall in and die, I’m just gonna jump off after you.”  

Alice ignores her, sitting down on the edge and patting the spot next to her. Lyra heaves a theatrical sigh but joins her anyway.  

“Not a bad way to go, though, huh?” Alice gestures in front of them. “I mean, look at the view!” 

Alice isn’t wrong. The Grand Canyon is especially beautiful like this, now that the sun has started slipping below the horizon behind them. It looks almost lit aflame, a glowing pool of molten rock. Lyra wouldn’t mind sinking into it. She can almost forget about it, all the rest of it — the craters, the burned-out forests, the crumbling, flooded coasts — so long as she keeps looking down at the rushing river, thinking about the thousands of years it spent carving its way through the earth and wondering how many millions more it will take until time smooths it over again.  

She wants to ask Alice something, something that isn’t about taking a swan dive over the edge. She waits until she can think about anything else, then asks, “Do you think we could have stopped it?” 

Alice doesn’t have to ask what she’s talking about. “The two of us? No, I think it was already too late by the time we would’ve been able to.” 

“Well, what if we were there before it was too late?” 

Alice shrugs. “Who knows? Maybe something could have prevented this, maybe it’s the sort of thing that was always meant to happen. Either way, it’s not like we’re the only people in the world who could have done something. There’s plenty of people who messed up more than us. It’s not our job to fix it.” 

Lyra frowns as she kicks her legs idly in the air, watching dust fall from the soles of her shoes. “It was someone’s job, though,” she says, quiet. 

“No one’s anymore.” 

Join us next week for another installment of this term’s apocalyptic road trip serial: Almost Heaven! Missed a chapter? Catch up on