The Night the World Ended
We had been planning the dinner party for months. It was to
be an extravagant affair complete with catering from Don Vic's and a trendy
local jazz band. The guest list had grown from twenty-five or so to around
sixty. Word gets around about an event like this and people start making polite
inquiries. The extra invitations go out and next thing you know, you're wondering
how much of your retirement savings will be left. Turns out that was the least
of our problems.
We live in a contemporary home off a sleepy state road on the
outskirts of Seattle. There is a beautiful ocean view from twelve of our thirty-six
rooms. The main room is a sprawling space in the middle of our home, lit by
an octagonal skylight three stories up during the day and by numerous ornate
wall fixtures at night. On either side of the room are enormous fireplaces.
Often they alone light the room. On the ocean-facing side of the room, large
double doors open to a vast, partially covered deck. From the deck one can
descend a flight of steps to a walkway that leads to the Pacific. From our
section of beach, you can see up and down the coast for miles.
I am a publishing agent for a large firm in Seattle. Among my
clients are some of the most profitable authors in the world. I have been
doing this for just over ten years and by rights I am very successful. On
the night the world ended most of my clients were present with their spouses.
Other guests included colleagues, friends and neighbors. My wife had invited
a dozen or so of her real-estate friends and their spouses, one of whom was
the mayor of Seattle. The cause for celebration was the publishing of my own
first novel. At age thirty-five, my childhood dream had come true in the form
of a three hundred-fifty page thriller about a soviet spy who infiltrates
the CIA. The reviews were in and the book was a hit and my career as a publisher
was probably over. I intended to write full time now that I had gotten a taste
The guests began arriving around six-thirty. Cocktails were
passed out among the early arrivals and much discussion was made about the
unusually dry weather we'd had of late. The guests that had never been to
our home were given a brief tour that drew the expected oohs and aahs. The
band began setting up around seven o'clock and the food half an hour later.
By then, most of our guests had arrived and were getting comfortable.
After everyone had eaten of salmon and lobster and most were well into
their third drink, there was a loud dinging sound that slowed then stopped
conversation. All eyes turned to the small stage that had been constructed
for the band. Standing there with a glass and spoon next to a stand-up microphone
was Lawrence Fillmore, the president of my publishing firm. He gave the glass
one more stroke and smiling, addressed the crowd.
"Good ladies and gentlemen, how nice to see all of you
here this evening. I know it's typical for the host and hostess to make the
first speech in their own home, but I felt compelled to give you all a bit
of history first. You see, it is not every day that we celebrate someone's
leaving our firm. Wade has been ours for ten years and we hoped for
many more. But alas, the bug has struck and struck well and it looks as if
he will be a client now!"
"If you're so lucky!" It was Thomas Washington, one
of my best clients. This drew a bout of laughter from the gathered crowd.
"Yes, of course!" Larry said, still smiling. "We
certainly hope so." He drew in a breath and seemed to become pensive.
"Wade first came to our firm in 1990, having graduated
from Yale with a degree in Business and Literature. A strange combination
I thought at the time. I remember our first conversation as if it were yesterday.
He told me of his plans to be a writer then, but said he would like to learn
the business first. In less then five years, he was among our top ten agents.
I think we all forgot about Wade's desire to be on the other side of the business,
but apparently he did not. So here we stand today celebrating the publishing
of The Private War, authored by our very own Wade Closter! Congratulations,
friend!" At this he held up his glass in a toast. There were "Here,
here's" from the crowd and everyone toasted.
Feeling a little embarrassed and perhaps a little tipsy from
my two cocktails, I bowed a little unsteadily. I could feel the flush in my
"Speech, speech!" someone cried. And it was followed
by more of the same. My wife nudged me a little toward the stage and feeling
a little more embarrassed now, walked toward the mic. That was when the strange
things started to happen. Before I got to the stage, I heard gasps of surprise
and shock from the guests gathered behind me. I turned around to see that
a number of them were looking up throught the skylight. There was a hush then
as everyone began to stare up. I looked up myself and saw with wonder seemingly
hundreds of twinkling pink and green stars. They would appear then flare, and
then shoot off to another part of the sky. It looked like some sort of fireworks
display, but there was no sound.
Some of the guests had made their way to the deck. Shouts of
wonder came from that direction and I found my way outside to have a look.
The sky was filled with the lights now. Pink and green dots springing
up at random and then shooting away. I had never seen anything like it before.
to be continued...