“It’s happening,” cried Charlie. “It’s really happening.”
“It’s not happening,” Emmalene said calmly. “You’re fine. We’re all fine.”
But Charlie couldn’t hear her. He was too busy running over to the window. Too busy pressing his face to the glass. It was pitch black outside, but the window was cracked at the bottom, and the sorrowful cries leaked into the apartment. The fear flooded in. Charlie clasped his hands over his ears and rocked back and forth. Emmalene sat at the kitchen table and continued to eat her grapes.
A loud explosion in the distance. A yelp from Charlie. A sigh from Emmalene.
“How are you not scared?” Charlie asked, sliding all the way down the wall, his hands now tightly pressed to his forehead. “I mean, actual people are dying out there right now. We could be next. We probably are next. This city is small. Our apartment is top floor. Either a bomb will fall directly on our heads or the ground will shake so hard it topples us all.” He removed the hands from his face and looked at his sister. His vision blurred by tears and she became fuzzy. “How are you not scared?”
Emmalene looked at her younger brother, pathetically crumpled on the floor. She removed her feet, perched on the chair across from her, and gestured to it. “Sit,” she said.
Charlie began to protest, but Emmalene interrupted. “Sit,” she said, this time more urgently.
It was the first time Charlie saw his sister show emotion all day. Not when the president was assassinated that morning. Not when their parents didn’t return from work. Not even when the bombs first began to drop.
He got up from his corner and sat where she said.
“You ask why I’m not scared,” Emmalene said, her voice back to the usual calm tone Charlie had taken advantage of before. “Because there is no use being scared.” When Charlie opened his mouth in retaliation, she raised her finger and continued, her voice louder. “Because we’re going to die. For no other reason than we were born here. As if we chose it, as if we would gladly die for it.”
“So we are going to die?” Charlie’s voice was quiet. Emmalene barely heard him.
“The whole city is in ruins, Charlie,” Emmalene said matter-of-factly.
As if on cue, there was another explosion outside. It sounded closer.
Charlie shook his head. Again his hands gravitated to his forehead, grabbing fistfuls of hair. “I know there is no use being scared, but it is not like it’s something you can control.”
Charlie stared at her. “But you have so much control. You’re unfazed! It is the end of the world and you’re treating it like it is just another Tuesday!”
Emmalene grabbed another grape, rotating it back and forth between her thumb and pointer finger. “If the world is really ending—”
“And it is,” interrupted Charlie.
“And it is,” Emmalene repeated, “then why don’t we enjoy all the things we love? While it is still here, while we are still here?”
Charlie shifted in his seat.
“Have a grape, Charlie,” Emmalene said, as the outside chaos grew louder and louder.
“Well… they are my favorite,” he said finally. Emmalene offered hers to him and he took it. Impossibly, a smile found its way to his face.
The two sat in silence, and the bombs continued to fall.