We Have a Few Minutes

Jamie Stevens

“You know, I never got to stick a thumb up my ass.”

I almost choked on my coffee. Of all the things that would have snapped me out of watching the apocalypse in motion, that wasn’t high on my list of expectations. Phil was standing right next to me, staring out of the same window at our steadily encroaching end. I could barely hear him over the noise behind me as everyone else on our floor swamped the elevators and fire exit. I didn’t favour their chances. We’re on the 60th floor, and I suspected almost everyone else in the building had the same idea. I could have joined them, spent the rest of my time on Earth thinking that I just might make it. Or I could’ve unpacked one last interesting conversation. The choice was obvious.

“I don’t suppose you’d like to elaborate on that, Phil?” 

“Well, I was just going over everything I didn’t get around to, and the only one I think I could actually do now is jamming a thumb up my ass,” he said, not taking his eyes off the window. 

“Makes sense. What else was on your bucket list?”

“Dune buggies in the desert, skydiving, and making a croquembouche with my wife all came to mind.”

I rifled through my pockets to check if I still had my keys on me, their presence confirmed by a pleasant jingle-jangle. “I’ve got the keys for the windows if you want to give skydiving a try?”

Phil stepped closer to the glass, looking at the ground below. “Hmm… no, I better not. Thanks though.”

I nodded. Phil walked away, returning with two office chairs and a can of Pepsi. “Cheers mate,” I said, taking a seat next to him. Phil pulled out his phone, staring at the photo on his lock screen. With a deep sigh, he slid it back into his pocket before turning back to me.

“What about you? Anything you reckon you could tick off in the last few minutes?”

“I don’t know, the only ones I can think of are a bit too big. Get married, go to Romania, be in a Star Wars, that sort of thing.”

He nodded, making a sound that simultaneously meant “I know exactly what you mean” and “I can’t relate in the slightest”. Our floor was quiet now, most people had managed to cram themselves into the stairwell. The door was quite thick, but the occasional scream of someone getting trampled still managed to crawl through the gaps. 

“I reckon you should,” I said.

“Should what?”

“Pop a thumb in your ass. I think we still have a good few minutes left, may as well.”

Phil crossed his arms as he looked up towards the ceiling, his brow furrowed. “Yeah, I guess I should. It’s odd, I know it isn’t really going to matter for very long, but I’m still quite nervous, you know?”

“I understand. You may want to decide quickly though. There’s no time like the present… or at least there won’t be.”

We both shivered as another scream clawed through the cracks. Phil paused. “Maybe not, then. We still don’t have a toilet on our floor, and I don’t particularly want to see the…uh… aftermath of that ‘stampede’.”

“That was always weird, right? Not having a toilet up here?” 

“Oh yeah, incredibly weird. I think only three floors in the whole building don’t have a toilet. Quite literally shit out of luck.” Phil grinned. He always did have a winning smile; it was something his wife mentioned frequently.

Phil’s smile was whisked away by his return to the window. The end of the world didn’t look very far off at all now. I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears. “You could just do it here,” I said, desperate to keep some sort of conversation going. 

“Right here? Are you sure?”

“Of course Phil, ‘drop trow and go to town’, as they say.” I tried my best to copy his smile, hoping he’d cheer up. 

Phil took the bait. “Who says that?”

“Well… ‘they’, I imagine.”

“And I don’t suppose you’d know who they are?” asked Phil, his smile returning. 

“I… haven’t the foggiest idea, to tell you the truth,” I said, unable to think of something clever.

Phil stood from his chair, placing his can of Pepsi on the floor and taking several deep breaths. “You know what? I will! I’ll do it right now! Apocalypse be damned, I’m going to put a thumb up my asshole!” he said, staring triumphantly out the window as he fumbled with his belt buckle. 

“That’s the spirit, Phil! One last hurrah!”

He straightened his back before turning to me, his trousers falling around his legs to bunch up at his ankles. He looked rather puzzled. “You’re… you’re not going to watch, are you?”

“…Could I?”

“May I ask why? If… if it’s got anything to do with… well, I just want you to know I’ve never seen you in that way before… and I’m married of course so –”

“No! Good heavens no, Phil. That’s not it at all!” I said, taking a deep breath. “If… to tell you the truth, Phil… I’m scared. I’m very, very scared.” I was failing to hold back tears, wiping them away with one hand.

“It’s okay, go on,” said Phil, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“I… I look out that window and I see what’s about to happen. I know I can’t do anything to change it, but Christ, Phil, I’m still so scared. I don’t know. It sounds silly even in my head, but… well I think it would be rather funny, and maybe comforting, if I could spend my last moments watching my best friend stick a finger up his ass instead of looking out that window.” 

Even through the sniffles, I couldn’t suppress the giggle. Neither could Phil. “Well, I suppose it couldn’t hurt. One last hurrah, hey?”

“One last hurrah. Thank you, Phil.”

“Don’t mention it,” he said. He wore the brightest, kindest smile I had ever seen. He gave me a great big hug before bending over the office chair and removing his underwear. It had become awfully bright, so Phil wasted no time. The last thing I heard before it hit was one last “Hurrah!”.

Jamie Stevens is a first year creative writing student chasing his first publication. He enjoys writing speculative fiction of all sorts, chasing any and all ideas to grace his attention span.