“Winter’s setting in quick, isn’t it?” Mabel peered out of the window at the gloomy street. “I can’t believe it’s dark already.”
“I know. And it’s only 11.15.”
“You’re kidding! I was thinking it was closer to four in the afternoon. Didn’t I have lunch already?”
Aaron laughed. “Nope. Must be getting your days muddled.”
Mabel scratched her head. “Time does drag in this office. So how can it be dark at 11.15 in the morning?”
“Beats me. Shall I Google?”
Mabel shrugged and returned to her paperwork, chewing the ragged tip of her pen.
“Shit. Oh, shit. Shit.”
“It’s a… shit.”
Aaron stared at her, the colour having drained from his face. “It’s a black hole. The darkness – it’s not darkness. Well, it is darkness, but it’s not night darkness. It’s a black hole. We’re all gonna die.”
Mabel laughed. “Where you getting that from? Is it one of those conspiracy theory things? The rapture or something?”
“No, I’m serious. Look.” He gestured at his computer screen. “It’s all over Twitter. And the BBC and The Guardian and The Sun and The Daily Mail and…” he flicked through tab after tab in his browser, flashing headlines of Black Hole Doom and End is Nigh and Experts Estimate 1 Hour Left.
“Woah, woah. Slow down. Start from the top.”
Aaron took a deep breath. “There’s a black hole. The Earth’s gonna be pulled in. Nobody knows what’ll happen after that. Probably death, they think. The world’s about to end.”
Mabel shoved him aside and skimmed over the news article on his screen. Her breath caught in her throat. “This says one hour left. And it was posted… 55 minutes ago.”
“I guess we’ll face the end of the world together,” Aaron muttered.
“No. I need to call Alf.” Mabel grabbed the office phone and stabbed in her husband’s number. “Pick up, pick up, pick up. Why hasn’t he called me? Do you think he knows? I need to tell him. I have to be with him when the world ends.”
“There’s no time – he works at the other end of town, doesn’t he?”
“They might be wrong, there might be more than five minutes left. I have to try to get to him.”
“It could get dangerous out there. Gravity’s gonna get all fucky. Advice is to stay indoors.”
“No, Aaron. No! I will not spend the last five minutes of my life – of everyone’s life – here in this office with you. I hate this job. I’ve always hated it. And I can’t stand you – your condescending ‘I’m always right’ shtick and your terrible jokes and your arse-licking behaviour whenever the boss comes in. You do my head in every single day. It’s bad enough that I have to spend seven hours a day, five days a week with you, but I will not spend the end of the world with you too.”
Aaron clutched his chest. “Wow. That… that really stung. I didn’t know you felt that way.”
“Well now you do. I bet you don’t want to spend the end of the world with me now, right?”
Mabel slipped on her coat and grabbed her bag, shaking her head and muttering under her breath.
Aaron watched, his shoulders slumped. “It was a joke, Mabel.”
She froze. “What?”
“The black hole thing. There isn’t one. It was just a prank.”
Mabel clenched her fists. “But the news reports.”
“Fake. I wrote them.
“But the sky.”
“Just normal darkness. It’s 4.30 in the afternoon – I changed the clock. You did have your lunch today. Tuna sandwich, remember? I didn’t think you’d actually fall for that one.”
She slumped down into her chair. Her bag slipped off her shoulder and thumped onto the floor. “Jesus, Aaron. How could you do that to me?”
He almost laughed. “It was so ridiculous! I didn’t think you’d take the bait.”
“Yeah – you got me good.” She offered him a small smile.
“At least now I know my co-worker hates my guts.”
“Shit. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said all that stuff.
“But you meant it.”
She said nothing.
“Gonna be real awkward working with each other from now on.”
Mabel winced. “You sure the world isn’t ending? ‘Cos on second thoughts I’d quite like a black hole to come and swallow me up right about now.”