art by Cheryl Owen-Wilson
The First Stone
by Wren Wallis
"Here," says Nina, "hold this," and she puts it in my hand. That's how I come to be holding the stone when the world ends.
It's hard to tell at first what's happening. We've been standing on the beach in the bleak afternoon light, gray shore and gray sea, sand and spray whipped into a fine stinging mist by the December wind. We were beachcombing. Well, Nina was beachcombing. She said we ought to have a walk, for old times' sake, after the meeting with the lawyers but before the whole thing was done.
I thought the meeting with the lawyers meant that the whole thing was done, but I went along anyway. For old times' sake. For Nina. She meant it as a gesture of peace, probably. That was Nina.
There isn't really anything left to say to each other so we don't say it, just walk along with our heads down in the wind. I keep my hands in my pockets; Nina keeps stopping to pick up a shell or a piece of foggy beach glass or a colored stone. She has a knack for spotting the pretty things half-buried among the sea-litter. But then she turns to me and says, "Here, hold this," and I put out my hand and she places in my palm a stone the size and shape of a robin's egg, a warm shade of terracotta, freckled with black and white.
It doesn't feel like anything special. It feels like a stone, maybe a little warm from her hand. And then the world ends.