The world was about to end, and there was nothing I could do about it. Those were the facts. The scientists were dead, the news said, their space shuttle smashed to bits by the comet's inexorable progress. Along with them died our last hope, the last possibility that humanity would be given a reprieve.
When the anchor signed off for the last time and Channel Four went dark, I sat and stared at the television for a while. Three hours, they'd said, give or take. That was how long until the comet hit. After that, nobody knew exactly what would happen. Maybe the planet would blow up. Maybe we'd be cast into some eternal darkness, freezing away our last days under the pall of a malevolent cloud. We'd die instantly, or we'd die slowly, painfully, but we'd die either way.
I didn't want to meet my end sitting on my ass in front of a dark television, of that much I was certain. But what was I going to do? People said kiss your loved ones, but I didn't have any, not anymore. My parents were dead, and I was as good as dead to my ex-wife. She'd moved a thousand miles away, and had a new husband to comfort her. All I had for company were my regrets.
I stood and strode across my apartment to the kitchen table. I looked at the care-worn badge which lay there for a moment, then scooped it up. I held it up to the light, but it didn't shine, not anymore. I rubbed my thumb over the words "Police Department," then determinedly fastened the badge to my belt, just off center. My shoulder holster was on the table too, and I shrugged into it as I checked the clip in my gun. Sixteen rounds, just as always. I'd never fired it outside the range.
I was going to fire it today.
It was a ten minute walk to the station house. The streets were completely deserted, save for a scattering of cars parked at odd angles in the middle of an intersection, their doors hanging open, abandoned. I'm not sure what I expected to find. Maybe panicked, screaming people, running everywhere and nowhere. But not this, not this vicious silence. It was as if the world was collectively shrinking away from the red glow which grew unnaturally in the northern sky. Even the wind held its breath in anticipation.
I pushed open the door to the station. It seemed empty. Part of me wanted to check and see if there were any prisoners in the holding cells. It would be pretty lousy to die alone behind bars, almost as lousy as it would be to die alone and free, even if everyone else in the world died with you. But I'd have to find the keys, so I put the idea out of my head. Maybe they deserved it, anyway. I doubted it.
My desk was on the third floor. I shared it with some joker from the other shift who had a thing for bobbleheads. Four of them sat on the right side of the desk, their springy necks oddly still, blank eyes staring at me. I swatted them away and listened to them smash on the linoleum as I dropped into my chair. The springs argued with me as I rolled toward the desk.
The folder I wanted was in the lower right hand drawer.