Based on ‘Next To You’ by Chris Brown
You’ve got that smile…
“I can’t wait for you to come home.”
The dark-haired girl on the iPhone 7’s LCD screen giggled at those words, shifting her gaze to the corner as her dimples bloomed. Below, the name ‘Juliet’ was written in Arial font right next to a pink heart emoticon.
“What time’s your flight again?” Romeo asked.
Juliet acted a pout. “Come on, how many times have I told you already?”
“You know how bad my memory is.”
“Well it doesn’t keep you from remembering my birthday every year.”
“It’s at 4.20,” said Juliet. “Singapore time.”
“So you’ll be here around… 1 tomorrow?”
Romeo smiled. “Got it. I’ll be there to pick you up.”
“Don’t be late.”
“Don’t tease me.”
“Oh,” Juliet said. “I better get going. I won’t make it to the airport in time if I miss the train.”
“Well then you better make sure you don’t.”
Juliet smirked. “Of course, your highness. Good night! I love you!”
“Love you too.”
…that only heaven can make.
Romeo had a frown carved across his face as he thumped behind the wheel of his silver Honda Jazz. Blocked on all sides by columns of vehicles, he was stuck. Inconceivably painfully stuck. The sun was bright over the MCE, its drops catching onto the spires of the CBD, spearing into the wind like a pride of Babels. On the other side, the Singapore Strait sparkled like an open treasure chest that kept the stars each time the moon fell. The radio blared Jet Lag by Simple Plan while the screen beneath it displayed 12:50 in glowing orange.
He reeled forward in his chair, nearly smashing the horn with his forehead. Rising, he glared at the radio in annoyance.
He slammed his thumb into the stop button.
Looking through the windscreen, he saw several people leaving their cars, gasping and pointing to the distance with mouths agape.
Romeo stepped out.
The soft powder blue of the sky was disfigured with epicentres of black lines. The ugly cracks crept across the heavens with high-pitched shrieks, tearing clouds into feathered piles.
Coming loose of its divine bindings, a pizza slice of azure lurched through the air. It smashed into Marina Bay Sands, splitting the boat on the building’s head clean in two, spilling innards of metal, glass and screaming humans.
“It’s the end of the world!” someone yelled.
Others added their screams to his and, as if in unison, more fragments began falling from the sky. Struck in the head, Capital Tower fell.
A red Vespa squeaked down the highway in the wrong direction. As it passed, Romeo stretched his arm out and shoved the rider off his steed.
“Sorry,” he said in response to the rider’s curses.
Climbing aboard, he sped off to the East and yelled, “Siri!”
“Yes?” a disembodied woman’s voice sounded from his shirt pocket.
“What time is it?”
“It is now 1:10 pm.”
Ring ring. Ring ring.
“Hello? Romeo?” a girl’s voice said, petite.
“Juliet! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, but the sky is falling!”
“I know!” Romeo yelled as a piece of sky slammed into the road behind him.
“What are we supposed to do? Is everything just going to end like this?”
“Doesn’t Changi have a bomb shelter or something? What are the police there doing?”
“Everyone’s just running away in a panic! Romeo, I… I don’t want to die like this. I don’t want to die before I see you one last time.” Juliet’s voice was trembling at the seams.
Romeo frowned. “I’m on way, Juliet. Run to the basement and hide! I will find you there. I promise.”
“Okay, I will-”
I pray to God everyday…
Changi Airport was a destitute ruin of smashed-up concrete and flickering bonfires by the time Romeo arrived. The carcasses of taxis, buses and cars slumbered restlessly, sandwiched between cracked tar and sky. The tang of iron was rich in the air. Romeo refused to look at the bodies, strewn like litter across the ground.
Above, only a few patches of azure remained. The surrounding space was consumed by rainbow-tinged nebulas undulating in a sea of darkness, distant and distinct.
Bearing that one thought in mind, Romeo stormed into Terminal 3. He pulled a torchlight free from cold fingers and flicked it alive. The basement floors were largely more intact than those above except for areas where the sky shards had pierced through the ground and the unfortunate people who had happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Romeo kept one hand cupped around his mouth as he ventured through the darkness. Here and there he found survivors, all wet, curled up and shaking. Juliet was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t want to besiege them with questions.
He entered Terminal 2, a labyrinth of broken pillars and shattered escalators. Once again, he headed straight for the basement. The survivors were sparse there. Under a collapsed section of wall, he found two hands clasped together, one bigger than the other. A spike pulsed up through his chest from his gut. He coughed.
Finally, he made his way to Terminal 1.
He found her hiding next to a DBS ATM on Basement 1, head down and hands around. Their eyes met, both dry.
Almost immediately Romeo’s knees buckled. The torchlight fell from his fingers as he lunged for Juliet and pulled her close. His tears streamed in rivulets down the back of her Calvin Klein blouse, just as hers did down the back of his Esprit T.
“I… (Thank you)” he said, pulling his face away. “I found you. (Thank you)”
“You did,” she nodded, feeling his cheeks with her fingertips.
Embracing each other once more, they cried.
The torchlight flickered, then died.
…that you’ll keep that smile.
Published on Symbal Magazine on October 17th 2016