Paperwork At The Apocalypse


He knew it was the end of the world. Let’s just get that much straight. He understood that this was his last day on Earth- everyone’s last day on Earth- and he wasn’t immune to the gravity of the situation, wasn’t unaffected by the emotion or philosophical implication. He cared. He just had paperwork to do.

He got into the office early that morning, turning on the fluorescents himself, navigating the grid of abandoned cubicles and idling screen-savers. He was all alone on the second floor, all alone in the building, and it was lucky that he had the spare key because not even the security guard or maintenance people had shown up today. He loosened his tie and sat at his desk.

There was his Action List, right where he left it yesterday, underneath his half-eaten protein bar wrapped safely in a plastic sandwich bag. The first item needing completion: Call-backs. Clients who left voicemails before lunch got their calls returned between the hours of two and three, and those who called after lunch received first priority the following morning. There had been six clients with questions about company policy, and he dialed every number, dutifully waiting as the phones rang unanswered, politely leaving detailed messages with the time and date.

“Call me if you need to- I’ll be here until six.”

The next item on the list was finalizing contracts. There were twenty-one completed last week and he had to make sure all six pages had been filled out entirely, a scanned copy of each in PDF format automatically delivered to his desktop Review file. This is where he made sure pages four and six had been signed, and- if necessary- he updated e-mail addresses in the database for newsletters and surveys.

His family- and everyone else on Earth- was at home, in the streets, drinking, fucking, holding each other, declaring their love and telling secrets that no longer had any stigma. They were enjoying their last kisses- and in the cases of the children- their first. They were savoring food and the taste of oxygen, laughing and crying. They were praying for forgiveness for being human, which is actually not a crime. The sun would not rise tomorrow and the Earth would stop turning… there would be no life. There would be no more. And we all knew it.

Back at the office our intrepid employee was spell-checking a thank you letter to the New Haven Chamber of Commerce. He had misspelled “appreciation” but fixed it with a click of the mouse. He would join with all the others, if he ever got this work done.