Where the Apple Falls
by R.K. Gold
It was the perfect spring day to ignore. Carl finished his run around the lake, then went to his backyard to pose in front of Grace’s garden. He posted a shirtless selfie on Instagram. #Blessed. He didn’t correct anyone who thought he planted the flowers. Ever since his fan video of dancing in the streets went viral, his social media felt more like a full-time job. Advertisers even reached out to him, offering to pay him if he endorsed their products in his posts. It’s why he held up a new energy drink called Bliss before and after his run. Though it had enough calories and sugar to sustain a small village, and he never took a sip of it, the money was good enough to post a genuine smile next to the can.
Carl didn’t hear Grace come outside until she repeated herself. “I said we’re out of food!”
“I’ll go grocery shopping in a couple hours.” He leaned back on the porch to get a shot that showed off his body, found the filter that shaded his muscles just right, then wrote #NoFilter.
The smell of eggs woke him the next morning. He spent the night on Pinterest looking at all the things he would never build and forgot to go grocery shopping like he promised.
“I had free time after we spoke so I picked up a few things,” Grace said and handed him a plate. Carl took so many pictures of it that it was cold by the time he took his first bite.
“So, a few of the girls and I are planning a white water rafting trip to Colorado this summer. Thought maybe you’d like to tag along.”
“You say something?” Carl spat out the cold eggs and tossed them in the trash next to the sink.
“Yeah, I said Leslie, Joanne and I are planning to go to Colorado in June. Thought maybe you’d enjoy going rafting with us.”
“That’d be cool.” Carl paused. His eyes widened. “Actually, that’d be great for the new channel I’ve been talking about starting.”
“Sure, sure, whatever you need,” Grace said. She kissed her former fiancee on the cheek then left for work. Carl didn’t mind that she called off the wedding. He wanted something large he could broadcast to the world. She wanted a small beach wedding for their closest friends and family.
Carl was about to go outside and live stream his morning workout when an unknown user tried facetiming him. It could’ve been a fan but he had better things to do. Seconds after ignoring the call another popped up. This one didn’t even give him the option to ignore.
“Sorry for barging in but it’s important,” a stranger said.
“I’m actually pretty busy, so if you don’t mind — ” Carl tried to x out of the chat but it wouldn’t close.
“Unfortunately I can’t. See, Heaven only just got into Pokemon Go! and — it’s pretty addicting. I can see why so many of you got hooked.”
“Right, I’m your guardian angel L and I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“Oh yeah?” Carl asked sarcastically, ready for this conversation to end so he could get back to his video.
“It’s the end of the world, and unfortunately I failed you. You didn’t make the cut. But hopefully, this warning gives you enough time to change your fate.”
“Yeah — right. Take care L.”
“Remember the golden rule!” they called out as Carl hung up.
Just as he was about to begin his workout the sky darkened. A mixture of red and black clouds blocked out out the sun and the earth shook.
Carl ran through the garden and out the back gate. The streets cracked. Flames erupted from the fissures but no one paid any attention. A woman was about to cross into traffic. Her face was buried in her phone and she was oblivious to the car speeding towards her. The man driving was distracted. He was recording a young girl’s face on his lap.
Carl yanked the woman out of the way just in time as the car sped into black fog. She yanked herself free from his grip and kept walking until she disappeared into a burning apartment complex.
“Carl!” Grace called.
“Grace!” he shouted back.
She walked through a crowd and spotted him. Before they could meet, a light shot down from the sky and encircled her. She dropped her phone as the light lifted her off the ground. A small crowd gathered to record her.
Carl forced his way through. “Grace!” he shouted up, but she didn’t respond. She passed through the clouds. He picked up her phone. Though the screen was cracked it still worked. He had never gone through it before, but now he saw she had almost no apps on it except the ones that came with it.
The background was a picture of them kissing. Neither one looking at the camera.
Furious, he threw both phones into the lake and ran to the closest shelter; a small hut where kids could rent out paddle boats and canoes in the summer.
His neighborhood burned and in the distance, he could see the rest of the town burned too. L was right.
A loud screech pierced the air. It stabbed Carl’s ears and made him curl into a ball on the ground. Gusts of wind rattled the hut. Shingles on the roof blew off.
Carl poked his head out the window and saw a spider-like creature with the long snout of a wolf, crawling out of a burning pit. The few people that noticed the creature tried to take pictures of it. One man even stood beside it and posed for a thumbs up selfie before the beast ate him whole.
There was no saving him, no saving any of them, but he was the only one hiding. He was the only person afraid of the end. He didn’t want the fear, he wanted oblivion.
The grass around the lake caught fire. Carl ran from the hut and dove into its shallow waters. He spotted his phone on the sandy bottom but as he kicked to retrieve it, it fell further down. The whole lake sunk. He swam deeper and deeper for it. His breath running out, but his mind as empty as the screen.