Jeff stared as the second hand on his watch ticked away another hour, winding his mind tighter and tighter.
There was a morbid fascination with watching the seconds of one’s life tick away irrevocably. People did it in all sorts of ways, not realizing that was what they were doing: microwave oven timers, a New Year’s Eve countdown. Whenever someone would say something like, “I’ll see you in two weeks,” what it really meant was, “When two more weeks of my life are over, then I’ll see you.” When someone said, “I wish it was the weekend already,” it meant, “I have no use for the days of my life between now and then.”
Every deadline, every scheduled event was a way of keeping track of more of life going by.
Jeff was entering the fourth hour of watching the second hand grind away the moments of his life. There would not be a fifth.
And what, really, was the difference between watching the time tick by on a wristwatch and what his mother and grandmother were doing? They had gone to the church to pray, and they had doubtless been saying the rosary for as long as Jeff had been watching his watch.
The results would be the same.
Few had seriously considered a threat from the stars. That was the stuff of science fiction. And politicians define as “a waste of money” anything that doesn’t immediately pay off for them personally. Thus, no deep space early warning system, and no countermeasures for asteroids taking aim at humanity’s only home.
This one was special, too: it wasn’t going to hit the Earth. Not directly. It was going to hit the back side of the moon at just the right angle to smash it and rain continent-sized missiles down on the planet.
Jeff continued to stare at his watch. After the long vigil, it finally read 6:18.
This, the scientists said, would be the moment of impact in orbit.
Only moments to go now, Jeff knew. And he sat in his home, shut away from the praying and the crying and the screaming, watching the second hand of his watch. His mother had given him the watch as a high school graduation present only the year before. A simple inscription was engraved on the back: Psalm 90:12.
It had been his late father’s favorite verse and Jeff hadn’t had to look it up: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
The loudest and last sonic boom Jeff would ever hear shattered the silence. And the windows. And the planet.
Einstein told us that God doesn’t play dice with the universe, Jeff thought just before he died. But he does play billiards.