Chapter I - The End is The Beginning
“O-oh Joe… D-don’t let me go, please…”
Joseph sighed, bringing his pale, barely concious friend closer. Their coworker, Nick could barely hold a laugh at humiliating scene as the three of them were walking down the street towards the city square.
Joe didn’t really expect anything new this Sunday. The weekend went by as it usually did - some exercise in the morning, dinner, an hour of jogging in the local park, and, of course calling his coworkers online and preparing to be disappointed. Their project have to be ready by the next Wednesday, yet his team never finished the testing phase.
In fact, most of them were utterly smashed.
“He-ey, Joe… how’s it go-o-ing?…”
Ekaterina giggled, staring past the camera with blank eyes, half covered by a messy, greenish, recently painted hair. Dumb smile was plastered on her heated face. Joseph quickly checked the view behind the woman. He saw a few familiar faces in the background and a large table, covered with various dishes, pizza boxes and drinks.
We have only a couple days left, and you’re already partying?!
An irritating feeling was poking Joe’s mind. His body tensed. A few long breathes steadied his mind, but the annoyance was still gnawing at his thoughts.
He heard a loud laugh. A blonde man in a sweater stood at a far corner of the room, talking with a person standing outside of the camera vision.
It wouldn’t be exaggeration to call Nicholas, the blonde haired guy in his twenties, his best friends since college days. Not like he had a lot of friends, anyway - he was way too focused on his studies back then. Even to this day Joe was still wandering what made the easy-going slacker like Nick approach him in the first place. Ekaterina, Nick’s ex-girlfriend jokingly suggested that he was simply using Joseph’s help to pass the classes - an idea which wasn’t so far-fetched, as Joe was one of the best students back then.
“Kate, can you call Nick now?”
The drunk woman blinked, then slowly turned around and waved. Well, tried to. Nevertheless, it seems that the message has reached the blonde man as he quickly and carefully picked up the woman in the chair, carried her over to couch and put her down, before taking her place in the chair.
“What’s up, mate? What’s the emergency?”
Nick’s smile was radiating with innocence.
“You haven’t forgotten, did you?”
Nick sheepishly scratched his head, awkwardly smiling.
“You mean the deadline?… Well, we thought it would be rude to miss Jack’s birthday, so we kinda just barged in… and then it turned a bit wild... Yeah. Don’t be too hard on newbie, man, he was against it too.”
“Was he? Well, I’ll promote him next then. Maybe he’ll take your place at the end of the month. Having a responsible adult around for once sounds like a great deal.”
Nick threw his hands up.
“Don’t hang me out to dry! Your task will be finished by the evening of Monday, sir! I’ll buy you a beer too!”
“Bribing your superior…” Joe shook his head. This lazy son-of-a-gun haven’t changed since college days. While Joseph was forcing his way trough the company ranks to secure the leading position, wasting at least five years of life as developer, fighting through a bureaucratic hell on a way, Nick decided to simply stay a keyboard monkey, a normal software engineer.
Sometimes Joe envied him. Between grinding his work and having fun by simply letting the flow of life carry him, he wasn’t sure which one he would prefer, if he had an option to choose again.
The feeling that his efforts would be wasted was hurting him on the inside.
“You may as well just kneel before the boss and ask for another week. But anyway, there is one more thing you should’ve done - but didn’t.”
“Oh no. And that it?…”
Hell, he needed some fun in this gray weekend too.
“Check this out! News say that today falling stars can be seen in our city from the main square, from 10 p.m. at the evening until midnight!”
“Oh, that’s cool.” Nick stood up from the couch to grab the last piece of chicken. “The drunk mess over there says that it’s a pretty unique experience. Never seen falling stars myself, though.”
“I want to go…” The “mess” in question, Kate, whimpered from the other side of the couch. “But I feel like dying…”
Right now there were only four of them in the apartment. Jack, the intern, and Nick were sitting together on the one side of the couch, while Joseph took the computer chair all for himself, with empty glass in one hand and piece of ham in another. Jack, upon returning from the kitchen and stumbling upon this amusing picture, snorted, bowed and asked “His Majesty” to “relocate his heavy backside”. Joseph’s expression was so smug that Nick’s hand unconsciously raised a chicken bone, only to quickly squash that tempting thought.
After about an hour, the group - consisting of Joseph, his, jokingly called “first mate”, best friend Nick, rapidly sobering still-as-green-as-her-hair Ekaterina and most responsible among the group, Jack - was on its way to the observation deck near the main square. Carefully and slowly maneuvering through the busy street, they finally reached their destination.
Black-green-haired woman let go of Joe’s arm. Slightly wobbling, she straightened her back, looking at the mesmerising night sky.
Around them people were laughing, pointing at the night sky. The clicking of cameras, excited voices and loud screams were surrounding them, drowning out anything they tried to say.
It was quite a spectacular view, Joe had to admit. Shooting stars flew through the sky extremely quickly, leaving behind a bright trail of light. He had never seen anything like that before.
“Man, look over there! That bright star!”
Joseph barely managed to recognize what Nick was saying amidst the loud chattering around. He turned his head in a direction his friend was pointing at, and indeed, there was a large, incredibly bright star.
“It’s pretty large. I wonder how it’s called!”
Kate quickly pulled up a search bar on her phone. Joseph kept staring at the direction of the star. Something was bugging him from inside and he didn’t quite understand why.
It felt out of place. The other stars were never shining as brightly as this one. They were much smaller, taking up much less space on the night sky and never grew in size so damn quickly…
He heard screams coming from behind him, before someone forcefully shoved him to the side. Joe quickly turned his head around, but there was no sign of his friends.
The loud screams, chaotic motion of the crowd, sounds of people running for their life jumbled together. Joe barely managed to figure out the direction people were running to. He felt someone tugging his arm. Recognizing Jack’s ponytail haircut, he sprinted after him, carefully, but forcefully making his way through the crowd.
However, they didn’t make it very far.
The light grew in intensity. Joe couldn’t discern night from day right now. The window reflections blinded him for a moment, causing him to swear and cover his eyes, desperately hoping not to trip on anything.
The panicked voices and yelling were drilling into his mind. He stumbled into someone’s back, causing him to fall down on the stone pavement.
Joe managed to quickly turn on his back.
He regretted it the very same moment.
The light blinded him. It was incredibly close. His eyes were screaming in pain. Joe instinctively brought his arms up, shielding himself.
It was futile, and his mind knew it.
Still, in his last moments, he found it to be a rather absurd situation. Dying by a meteor, on a completely random day of the year, three days before getting his paycheck. He grinned internally - at least it was a pretty unique way out. Not many people could brag about being killed by a huge melting space rock.
Was it even a meteor? Joe didn’t hear anything, except the echoes of screaming far away. There was no heat, no air pressure - he was enveloped in the light, with no temperature, sound or smell.
Joseph felt his consciousness slipping.
He tried to get up.
His legs felt no ground beneath.
The mind slowly drifted away. His body was aimlessly floating in the white void. His will to resist the temptation of diving into dark was slowly eroding.
He gave up.
And let the light carry him away into unknown.
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