Angel Ted and the End of the World

Ashley Swanson

There’s a strange sort of peace that comes with the knowledge that the world will end this afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t peaceful at first. You see, an angel came to me in a dream. Not your usual, gleaming halo, white-feathered wings, harp playing sort of angel. No, this angel looked a bit like my next door neighbor, Ted. So you can understand my confusion at first. I’d questioned this angel’s credentials. Especially when angel Ted—complete with my neighbor Ted’s frayed, flannel shirt, jeans that were a size too big and bunched at the waist where they were cinched tightly with a belt—told me that the world would end in four days.

Angel Ted asked me if I had any questions. I didn’t. He said that was unusual. Ted claimed there was usually a lot of: Is there anything that can be done? Are we being punished? Why are you telling me? when one is faced with the end of the world.

Looking back, I wish I had asked him how he knew that—the usual. Has the world ended before? Are we on our fifth planet? I’m not sure if Ted would’ve told me, even if he knew. Ted has always been a bit sore since I refused to go on a date with him seven years ago after I moved into the townhouse adjoining his. Would angel Ted hold that against me too?

When I woke up from this encounter with the angel, I felt absolutely normal. I wasn’t clammy, nor did I feel sick to my stomach like I had in the past when I awoke from a bad dream. And I’m not sure if that was why, but for one reason or another, I felt entirely sure that I had in fact just been sent an angel messenger in the form of my abrasive neighbor.

The first day the imminent end of the world upset me. Gnawed at me even, picking my brain like a week old scab that just won’t heal. I walked the streets of my neighborhood looking around at the people. They carried on with their days. This one bustling off to work, that one pulling weeds, a kid riding a bike, a dog peeing on a hydrangea bush.

I wished I had asked how it would end. Was I to expect an enormous ball of flame to fall from the sky? Would the ozone layer evaporate, leaving us all to fry? Why did it have to be fire related? Perhaps it would be an untraceable deadly virus. Dear God, if that was the case, it might be inside of us already. I knew I had felt funny last Thursday.

Two days before the end, I thought about warning people. Here I am, the only one on the planet that Ted told. Wouldn’t these people like to know? Or did they already? Ted had always been a bit of a know-it-all. If he knew the world was going to end, I doubt he would have just told me. Maybe that’s why the old man from two houses down hadn’t washed his car this week. What’s the point, after all?

Eventually, the idea settled itself. I was a bit surprised actually, how it came to rest quite easily, comfortably even. You see, it’s nice to know, that a person doesn’t have to worry about next week, or next month, or that pesky dentist appointment next Tuesday. It’s nice to know that as the world goes to pot, it’s descent into filth will be short-lived. Cut it off before the true fall.

Maybe that’s what happens with the world? Maybe we get a chance to get it right. If we don’t, game over. Reload. Start from scratch with Player One. Maybe that’s what Ted meant when he said that some questions were usual.

And so, as I wait for the world to end this afternoon, I feel, not just relaxed, but a bit lighter. Euphoric, almost. I know that soon, it will all be over. I walk to the window and close my eyes. The sun is shining with added intensity today. The rays warm my face. It won’t be long now. I can feel it.

Author Portrait

Ashley Swanson’s love for
storytelling started in first grade
after she invented an imaginary
world, proclaimed herself as
princess, and convinced the other
children it was reality. Currently,
she lives in Iowa, where she teaches
college English. She holds an MFA in
Creative Writing with an emphasis in
fiction from Minnesota State
University Moorhead. When not
teaching or writing, she can be
found enjoying the outdoors with her
husband, daughter, and dog. Her most
recent works can be found in
Midwestern Gothic, Scarlet Leaf
, and 50 Haikus. You can find
her on Twitter: @AshQSwanson