The Last Hours of The Final Days

by Bernardo Fernández (Bef)


Story Copyright (C) 2011, Bernardo Fernández.
Images Copyright (C) 2011, Rudy Rucker.
3,200 Words.

Translated by the Author.
See Spanish Version

Earth died screaming...
Tom Waits

Our bike ran out of gasoline as soon as we crossed the intersection of Reforma and Bucareli. The bike coughed to death. Just like that. Cursing, Wok tried to start it again; he kicked it furiously, refusing to accept that the ride was over.

“What’s so funny, bitch?” he asked, half angry, half amused. “Stupid Aída!”  I’m always laughing.

We left the bike beside Sebastián’s Caballito. The huge sculpture used to be a brilliant yellow monument; now it’s a rusty wreck blocking Reforma, as are most of the other statues that we’ve been playing dodge-’em with since we found the bike.

Silently, Wok climbed the sculpture’s carcass. From the top, he scanned the horizon in search of a vehicle we could steal. Or at least milk some gasoline from.

“Nada,” he mumbled from his watchtower.

We could hear a few distant explosions.

“Let’s walk, baby,” he said, as soon as he got down.

Our skateboards hung from straps on our backpacks. Inside the packs we had everything we had left from before the collapse. It was not much, and it wasn’t heavy, but we were going to miss that bike.

 We still had a couple hours of light left, and we looked for a building that wasn’t too badly damaged. The best ones were already occupied, but finally we found a hotel that seemed safe.

Inside, it was a disaster. The rugs and wallpaper were ripped up, but I couldn’t tell if it was from looters or just aimless vandals. As usual, none of the intruders had even bothered to go up to the second floor. Lazy bums. Wok and I kept quiet, in case there was someone else inside, but as it turned out, the building was empty.

On the upper floors, the guest rooms were untouched.

“Weird,” said Wok.

We chose a room that overlooked Reforma Avenue. It was already night. Everything was dark: you couldn’t even see the bonfires that sometimes flickered in the buildings.

We felt very lonely.

I discovered that the shower had hot running water. Without hesitating, I undressed and took a shower. It had been a long time since I had had such a luxury. Wok joined me shortly after, but not before blocking the door. I was rubbing his tattooed back while he played with my nipple piercings. We thought we might run out of water, but didn’t. It was still flowing when he ejaculated between my soapy hands.

“I don’t get it,” he said, while we were using the towels we found. “Everything here is so... fine.”

I laughed. “You’re being paranoid, you silly boy. Just enjoy it.”

“It’s just not normal. If I had been here from the beginning, I would never leave. I’d defend it.”

“Maybe they got tired of waiting for the big one.”

Wok didn’t reply. We stared into the darkness beyond our window, looking out over Reforma Avenue. We fell asleep shortly after.

I was woken by Wok’s weeping. He twisted among the sheets, the first clean ones we’ve slept on in weeks. His dreams were unpleasant, as usual. Finally he rose screaming. He was soaked on his sweat.

“Easy. Everything’s okay,” I said.

“It’s... the nightmare. The fucking nightmare.”

“Thought so.”

He hugged me tightly, mumbling something I couldn’t understand.


“The big one. It’s coming. I can feel it.”

I laughed.

“Not funny, Aída. It’s the fucking end. The world is over.”

I laughed again. I said, “It’s been over for months now. And nothing happens. There’s no reason for anything to happen right now.”

The Nightmare was a collective dream that haunted little children when it all began. They said they could feel the pain of millions dying. Later it was dreamed by more people: teenagers, elders. Soon it became one more of the signals of doom. I never dreamt it. I don’t remember my dreams.

I hugged Wok, and held him in my arms. Soon, he fell back to sleep. 

We were woken by the thundering march of a procession northbound on Reforma. I guessed they were headed for the hill of Tepeyac: after the news broke about the meteorite, the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe became the obligatory destination for the thousands of desperate religious sects that had emerged.

Careful not to be seen, we watched them through the window as they marched by. There were thousands, all of them suffering from the long journey on foot. I felt sorry for them. Wok stared at them in silence.

At the front of the procession, their prophet was sitting on a throne that was carried by four men, addressing the people through a loudspeaker he had salvaged from the trash. I recognized him at once: he was Rodrigo D’Alba, a former T.V. host. He now wore a tunic and had grown out his hair and beard, but there was no doubt it was him.

“Another one who has resolved his life,” said Wok, softly. Many celebrities, actors and singers had created sects like this.

When the last of the caravan had disappeared, Wok rose to say:

“Well, let’s go find something to eat.”

We discovered that the hotel had a very well-stocked kitchen, which just made Wok more paranoid (“Everything here is too good, too damn good, fuck it,” he repeated like a mantra). Me, I just got hungry. In the end, he cooked some shrimp egg foo-yung. Wok’s half-Chinese, and he’s a fine cook, if he has the right ingredients.

We ate in silence; he was afraid that the smell of food would attract some punk. We were starving. When we were done, we left the place to retrieve the bike. Whatever was left of it.

It was really quiet outside; you couldn’t hear any more explosions. Everyone thought that the abandoned city would become a bloody battlefield. But the reality was worse. Nowadays, it seemed that everybody was successfully avoiding everyone else.

The bike was gone. Some scavengers must have picked it up during the night. It was nice while it lasted.

"Tweakenese" drawing (C) Isabel Rucker, 2011.

Wok raised his eyes to the sky. High above, the meteorite looked like a brilliant dot, just the size of a pixel. Nobody would ever imagine that it was going to destroy our planet.

“Do you think that the big one is going to be a lot longer?”

“Don’t know. We should be dead by now.”

“How can you tell?”

I unzipped my backpack to show him my quartz clock. I had it from before the world collapsed. Thanks to it, I hadn’t lost the notion of time, as almost everyone else had. With a little luck, the batteries would last till the impact. Maybe a little longer.

“It should have happened already” I told him. “Something went wrong. We’ve been living on borrowed time for two weeks now.”

Wok didn’t reply. We left the spot.

We came upon a man at the bus stop on Reforma Avenue. He wore a suit and seemed to be unarmed, but you never know. Wok palmed his switchblade, and I took out my nunchucks. We got closer.

“Hi, there,” greeted Wok.

“Good afternoon,” replied the guy. He was an old man.

His clothes were worn but clean. His shirt was perfectly ironed and his tie neatly knotted.

“Waiting for someone?” I asked, just to break the silence.

“No, miss. It seems that my bus has been delayed.”

Wok laughed. For the very first time in a long time, the situation didn’t strike me as funny.

“Are you nuts? There hasn’t been a bus by here in months. It’s not going to happen.”

The man looked at my boyfriend with total seriousness.

“Young man, that’s no excuse.”


“No excuse?... For what?” I asked.

“Not to go to work, of course.”

We were silent. The man looked at us as if we were the loonies.

“Sir, the world is coming to an end...”

“Look, young man, this is a country of institutions. If my bus  doesn’t come along in five minutes, I’m walking  to my office, as usual. Period. We are not going to let things like this defeat us. We, the Mexican people, are bigger than any misfortune. We survived the  earthquake in 1985.

I didn’t know what to say. The smile had faded from Wok’s face.

All we could do was to wait there with the man.

Five minutes, waiting for a bus that would never come.

“Well, I can’t wait any longer. I’ll walk. Pleased to meet you.”

Puzzled, we watched him walk away, until he almost disappeared among the rubble on his way to the Centro. For a second it seemed to us that he disappeared into thin air, just like a ghost. Anyway, we’ve seen weirder things all these months.

Without a word, we started to walk north, away from the Centro..

In the sky, the meteorite had grown. Now it seemed bigger than the sun.

We decided to skate. We tried not to do it very often, to save the wheels, but we lost our bike, and it didn’t seem like we’d find anything similar. It was made sense to skate.

Silence was almost deafening. We skated for a long time without talking. Only sound we heard seemed to be that of our boards. As we skated, the ruined buildings and heaps of rubble seemed to repeat, over and over, like the background in an old Scooby-Doo cartoon.

After a  long time we reached the woods of Chapultepec Park, or what was left of them – just a few hollow logs. We passed by one of the few statues still standing. It was covered with graffiti..

“Wait a minute,” said Wok. We stopped.

“A national hero,” I said.

“Not this one. He was a presidential candidate, but he got shot.”

“Isn’t that good enough?”

“Guess so. No better president than a dead one. He was the best of this country.”

We laughed. Wok took out of his backpack his last can of spraypaint . He shook it up and wrote on the pedestal THIS COULD BE HEAVEN OR THIS COULD BE HELL.

“Why that?”, I asked.

“Just felt like it”, he replied.

We kept walking.

“Funny thing,” I said after a while.


“The future always seems better when it doesn’t happen. Like that guy, who got a statue for something he never got to be.”

“Any future is better than ours. And yes, it will happen.”

He meant the meteorite.

“Of course not. Wouldn’t you rather grow up, go bald, and turn into an old fart telling the kids that music of your time was better?”

“I’d never do that!”

“Sure you’d would. Everyone does. Take my parents, for instance. They were punk rockers. Look at how they ended up: desperate, joining Vicente Vargas’ quest for the promised land of Aztlán. Vargas wasn’t even a rocker he sang ranchero.

Wok said nothing.

“Don’t just live through your own destruction. Enjoy it!” I turned back to continue skating. Wok stayed there for a minute, thinking. Then he caught up with me.

“Bitch. You’re always right.”

Life’s not as cruel as Wok says. Can’t be. It isn’t a raw onion, and it isn’t a bowl of cherries. It’s bittersweet, like love.

Sweet as loving, bitter as pain.

But sometimes there are surprises. Right there, just around the corner, waiting to leap out at you, saying “Hey there! at last, Here’s a surprise for you. A nice one.”

That’s what finding the car was like. An electric car, one of those luxury supercompacts, waiting for us right next to the Oil Workers Monument, as if we’d rented it over the phone. A silver Matsui. This year’s.

Of course, at first Wok thought it was a trap. He wouldn’t even go up to it. We hung back a long time, waiting for something to happen, something awful.

Nothing happened.

Tired of waiting, I sneaked into the car.

“Aída!,” he yelled, frightened.

I don’t know what fear is anymore. What I’ve seen has worn out that word. When the world collapses, there’s no place left for fear.

There were dried bloodstains inside the car. There had been a fight, and the Matsui’s driver had lost. Maybe he was some rich guy who had hidden in a bunker in his Las Lomas mansion. Maybe he ran out of water or food. Maybe, one night, he tried to get out of the city. Bad idea. A hungry pack of cannibals must have blocked his way, folks who weren’t interested in cars. It’s a shame about the guy, but I’m sure he fed a few nomad kids.

When he saw it was not a trap, Wok came over and got into the car. He started the engine.

“They left the lights on. Battery must be almost gone.”

“It sure beats skating,” I said while kissing his cheek.

We got out of there. I’ve never ridden in a luxury car before.

We had fun for a few minutes, dodging  debris on the freeway, but then the battery died, just as we reached the northern suburbs. Wok got it started again without stopping, but as soon as we reached the Satélite Towers, not far from there, the engine shut down for good.

We left the car right there where it stopped. We got out, holding hands and laughing like children, and got away from there fast. .

The scavengers would thank us.

We spent the rest of the afternoon the way we spent the rest of every afternoon since everything went to hell: looking for something we were not going to find, since we didn’t know what it was.

We really wanted to skate in the ruins of the Plaza Satélite mall. It’s so huge. The floor was smooth, and there were no nomads camping in the Liverpool store anymore. We decided to spend the night in its furniture department, even though I would have preferred the previous night’s hotel.

“There’s no going back,” said Wok. “For us there are no yesterdays or ways back.”

I felt an unexplainable sorrow. I couldn’t find any more reasons to laugh. My happiness dried as my eyes watered, but I decided to drown my sadness with the very last laugh I had. With my last reserves of happiness.

We were still skating when it got dark. Without warning, I felt an icy chill  shoot down my spine. I stopped short.

“What’s on the matter?,” asked Wok, frightened.

“I can feel it,” I said. He could feel the anguish in my voice.

“What is it? What do you feel?”

There it was, clear and loud, no doubt left: the chill was slowly crawling up to my neck.

“Aída! What are you feeling? You’re scaring me!”

I turned to him. A tear came down my cheek. I thought I had forgotten how to cry.

“I feel... the pain of millions of people about to die.”

The first shock came in the middle of the night. We ran out into the parking lot, barely in time to grab our stuff. The mall collapsed among screeching metal and crumbling concrete.

I’ve never seen an elephant die, but I guess it must be something similar.

A hard wind was blowing. It blew away the dust in just a few minutes.

We stood, uneasy, in the empty parking lot. There seemed to be no one around for kilometers. We could hear only the wind’s howl, as it tried  to drown the silence. Without a word, we lay down on the floor.

“Did your parents know each other in 1985, when the earthquake hit?,” asked Wok.

“Course not,,” I replied. ,” “You already know that.”


“Mom was seven in 1985. Dad was thirteen,” I added, in the dark.

Wok replied with a groan.

“I’m scared,,” he whispered in my ear.

It seemed as if the ground was slowly sinking.

“So this is the end of the world,” I said with a sigh.

A glowing rock crossed the sky. It was a fireball the size of an orange, and it fell to earth several kilometers away.

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” he whispered.

“That’s a quote from an old movie.”

“Thought it was a song. Dad mumbled it every Sunday, drinking beer in front of the TV.”

“My parents used to say it, too. Where are they now?”

“Praying, for sure,” said Wok.

We laughed.

“I have a surprise for you,” I said. I groped for it in my backpack. It was hard to find without a lamp, but finally I got it and gave it to him.

“Some shades?”

“They’re Ray-Bans,” I said, putting on mine . “You always wanted a pair. I found them in that first Sanborn’s store we slept at.”

“You’ve been carrying them around since then?”

“I knew we’d need them. Don’t forget that I wanted to be an astronomer. I was already accepted into college – in physics.”

There was a new quake.

“I dropped out of school,” he was suddenly gloomy.

“It doesn’t matter. You’re only nineteen.”

“Not a day older,” he replied, as the sky lit up again. He looked gorgeous in the shades. He kissed me.

 “I love you.” I managed to whisper it, then the roar of the earthquake drowned me out.

Our bike ran out of gasoline as soon as we crossed the intersection of Reforma and Bucareli. The bike coughed to death. Just like that. Cursing, Wok tried to start it again; he kicked it furiously, refusing to accept that the ride was over.

“What’s so funny, bitch?” he asked, half angry, half amused. “Stupid Aída!” I’m always laughing.

But suddenly, I stopped. It was so unexpected that Wok stared at me in surprise. “Hey, what’s the matter?”

“I... it’s just...”


“The end of the world doesn’t seem funny anymore.”

We stood there, beside the yellow wreck of El Caballito. Only sound we could hear was the wind blowing the debris.

“Come on, baby,” he said, hugging me, “It’s been your laughter that keeps me going on.”

In silence, we walked down Reforma Avenue.

“So... this is the end of it all,” said Wok to break the silence.

I started laughing again.

“You see? That’s my babe,” said Wok.

“Been there, done that,” I said.

He held my hand. We kept walking.

In the distance, an old man seemed to be waiting for a bus.





About the Author

Bernardo Fernández, AKA “Bef,” is a novelist and comic book artist living in Mexico City. Among other books, he’s published three science fiction novels and a noir novel that have been translated into several languages (but yet not into English). One of his short stories is included in the noir fiction anthology Mexico City Noir, published by Akashic Books (NYC). His novels have been awarded several literary prizes in Mexico and Spain. His latest book is Espiral, a graphic novel without words. His bilingual website,, should be online by late April, 2011, in Spanish and English.  You can read his blog in Spanish at, and follow him on Twitter as monorama.

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