How it happened in the rest of the world, no one really knows. But these kids can tell you exactly how it ended - or began, some would say - right here in Palo Alto:
Oliver (13 years old)
The bedsheets underneath me were warm and soft. I yawned and stretched, pulling my cotton pillow over my head. I stretched my fingertips all the way to the headboard of my bed and lay there. I thought, another brand new day of summer vacation. What day is it? Is Mom working today?? Well, let's see... yesterday was... YESTERDAY!!! Suddenly, I opened my eyes and flipped the pillow off of my face. I stared up at the ceiling, at the pale yellow paint. Yesterday. Yesterday was the second to last day. The second to last day of the last day on earth. I remembered the news, on the internet, the radio, in the newspapers, printed in signs all over: UNEXPECTED DATE OF EARTH'S END: JUNE 29TH. THAT'S TODAY. Pain, an aching, tightening pain, formed in my chest. I hugged my knees into my chest and squeezed my eyes shut. There was no way out of this. All the books I'd read about desperate situations were intense, but I'd only sympathized with the characters to a point, for the problems were not mine. But here it was. Real life. Not a book. And happening to me. I didn't want to move. I hugged myself tighter. There was no way out of this. I was stuck in the middle of a desperate situation.
Bailey (10 years old)
The first thing I saw as I opened my eyes was the calendar I had glued to the ceiling the night before. It read:
June 29th: LAST DAY ON EARTH!
June 30th: First day in the Place After the Last Day on Earth.
A mix of curiosity and anxiety bloomed inside of me, somewhere deep that was reserved for the most extreme feelings. Finally. Finally I would get to see the Place. The Place that had taken my aunt, my grandparents, and my brother. Was it Heaven? The underworld? Somewhere we hadn't heard of? Just elsewhere? Nowhere? My mind churned, spinning in a pool of thoughts. Thoughts that made me curious. Thoughts that haunted me like a ghost that never leaves. Especially nowhere. That would be scary. Then where would my mind go? Where would my thoughts go? I couldn't imagine them simply gone. They had to go somewhere. I put my hands up to my head and shook it, my tangled blond hair waving in front of my face like a shaking curtain. Then I closed my eyes and tried to focus on one thought like the yoga teacher at school had instructed. Yes, it was ridiculous, but it might help. Bubbles, I decided. Focus on bubbles. Bubbles seemed peaceful and joyful to me, floating orbs, light and rainbow, shiny and transparent. I silently thought, bubbles, floating bubbles. Did bubbles have lives? What would it be like to live for a few seconds before popping unexpectedly? And die? That brought me back to my debate of the Place After Death. I got up and ran downstairs, hoping to rid my mind of the frightening thoughts.
Kimberly (12 years old)
I guess you could say I'm one of the most optimistic people in Palo Alto. And, hey, I'm proud of it. Optimism has gotten me through many hard things, and thanks to optimism, I'm almost always smiling. So the last day on earth. It was here, but it was not bad. I got to find out what the last day on earth was like. Besides, I didn't have to worry about it for another 18 hours. So it was okay with me. I slid down the stair railing to the kitchen, laughing as the air hit my face. Then I clambered back up and slid down again, because this was my last opportunity to slide down. I skipped breakfast; why waste time eating breakfast when I needed the whole day to enjoy the last day on earth? The world outside was warm. The sun was still spiraling its way into the top of the sky still - it was only six o'clock. I smelled the sweet peaches on the trees, colored perfectly like a sunset in Hawaii. The sunflowers were open, twisting towards the rising sun. They said, "Summer's here! Don't worry - not one bit!" I smiled back at them and spun across the street. Nobody was out but Mr. Gall, a quiet, lonely-seeming man who had a slight smile and a distant, faraway look in his opaque blue-grey eyes. I waved and he waved back. Like me, he didn't seem the least bit scared of the last day on earth. I grinned at him and he grinned back before going back to the dollhouse he was building. Then I spun across the street and around the empty baseball park. As I ran across a parking lot, I thought about all the things I should do before the world ended.
Alan (11 years old)
The last day on earth was not scary - just interesting. It left me wondering what would happen, well, afterwards. I made a document of my life to bury, just in case other creatures visited earth after all its inhabitants had disappeared. That way, they had a first hand document of my life, just like the Rosetta Stone in Egypt. I took the big clay rectangle I had carved last week. My art teacher once mentioned that clay lasts a long time, for thousands of years. The clay tablet had already been fired and was about 5 feet by 3 feet. All over it I had written in my neat-as-a-computer-handwriting about my life. I had written about what a typical weekday was like, what a typical weekend was like, the technology we have, my favorite food, my birthday party, and the best day of my life. I wrapped it in plastic wrap, the kind that doesn't biodegrade for hundreds of years, and started digging a hole in the backyard. I took out a big wooden shovel with a strong metal front and stabbed it into the ground. The earth was soft and spongy and the shovel slid easily into it. I dumped the dirt in a mound next to my hole. As I continued the monotonous job, I accidentally let my mind wander. It wandered over the mountain of curious thoughts, through the fields of happy, optimistic thoughts, and right into the dark cave of hideous, frightful, and haunting thoughts. That cave had been pushed into the back of my head, but my mind found it. What would happen to me and the rest of my life? Where would I go? I had to get out of this. But I couldn't. I was stuck in the wrong life at the wrong time. When my mind had finally fought it's way out of that cave, I realized I had dug a large hole, big enough for me to fit into. I looked down at my clothes. I was wearing my old paint stained t shirt and a pair of pajama bottoms. I was fine. I placed the clay tablet inside. Then I climbed into the hole and pretended I was traveling in a time machine. I relived the time when I went to the water park. I got a giant snow cone. It was icy cold with the sweet flavor of oranges. Then I pretended I was traveling to the future. I imagined that I saw the earth. It was barren and dry, like Mars, but two strange creatures with giant eyes were digging up my clay tablet and trying to decipher the mysterious symbols.
Lilac (13 years old)
I stared out the window at the flowers spiraling towards the sun. At the sun, a golden ball of hope shining in a pool blue sky. At the trees swaying gracefully like beautiful ballerinas. The kind of ballerina I would've become if it weren't for the last day on earth. I dreamed I would become a ballerina, maybe become part of San Francisco Ballet. I'd be Clara in the Nutcracker Ballet. I'd perform in that large, grand theater in front of crowds and crowds of cheering people, dressed nicely in velvet dresses and fancy suits just for me, me and all the other hardworking dancers. And after the performance, I'd come out in my shimmery makeup and beautiful dress covered in ribbons, lace, and sequins. I'd give out autographs to aspiring little ballerinas and say, "It all comes with hard work. You have to be determined to never give up. You have to work hard, for a long time." Time I didn't have. Time that I would've spent practicing and dreaming. I turned to my Scrap Book. It was full of pictures of my role models, my dance competitions, ballerinas, beautiful ballet performance ads, and medals I'd won. On the very last page, I had drawn a blank square, about five by five inches. Around it I had drawn glittery designs in gold, silver, blue and pink. It was where I was going to put my picture of me as Clara. But it couldn't happen. It was a dream, literally ended. Demolished.
Cameron (12 years old)
That night, we gathered outside to watch the earth end. It was 11:00 p.m. exactly. Every bone in my body shook - no, rattled - with pure, undying fear. The tortilla chips I ate were crunchy and pierced the roof of my mouth. I would've tasted their salty, delicious flavor, but it tasted bland to me. Buddy, my dog, rolled over on his stomach, begging to be stroked. I absent-mindedly reached out and scratched his soft stomach. I didn't feel his warm, silky fur. I only felt the little knots in the fur on his stomach, neck and head. The smell of chicken drizzled in thick, smoky barbecue sauce wafted over a fence and down the street. I didn't smell the salty smoky sauce and the tender juicy chicken. I only smelled the bitter scents of the slightly burned wings. 59 minutes ticked by. The air on my face would've felt warm, welcoming but it felt hostile and unfriendly. I grabbed my brother's hand. It was cold and trembling. 20 seconds, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 10... 3, 2, 1.
They woke up from their dreams. All 7 billion people on earth. They rubbed their eyes and looked around. The view they saw was the exact same view they had seen the morning before, the morning before that, and the morning before that. A typical day. But no typical dream. The dream was vivid. They could play it over and over again, and it never changed, never faded. A blessing in disguise. Because from that day on, it nagged at their minds. A dream with a message: Live life. Live it to the best of its capacities. Live like there's no tomorrow.
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.
— Pope Paul VI