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Five minutes before the world went away, in a stadium in Des Moines, Donald and Hillary were yelling it out from behind glossy podiums inside impenetrable spheres. They were yelling about the impenetrable spheres. Most of us were happy that it had gotten as far as yelling and hoped they would soon address matters relevant to us with the same passion. As Hillary kept putting it, she was only in hers in the first place because Donald had taken a hit out on her. He kept insisting that her sphere looked dumb.
His was gold-plated. Each time that he felt that he must be seen yelling, he would unlatch his sphere and step out. When he was finished, he would step back in and latch its halves back together. An assassin would have had several clear shots, but he wasn’t worried about assassins—that’s not what his sphere was about. He had spotted hers when the stagehands were installing it, and he had worried that she would seem more presidential if he were to stay in the open like a loser.
The gloves had come off when Donald had begged his fans in the audience to find some way to murder her inside her sphere. The discourse had promptly declined. At one point, Hillary said his hat was “hillbilly-looking.” The cameras were not a big concern by then. The moderators had given up on questioning.
“You can’t say you didn’t mean it because you didn’t say specific words, Trumpwad! That’s bullshit, and clever people know so!”
“Maybe you gotta define what ‘is’ means. I don’t know. A lot of people say that.” He pretended to masturbate, then darted into his sphere. It clicked shut.
“That is irrelevant, and no one knows what you’re talking about, old man!”
Trump’s sphere clicked open. His hand was in his pants. What was likely an illusion looked pretty convincing.
“I buy that with half a chance you can end the goddamned world,” Hillary yelled, “but I will not buy that you’ve worked up a—”
That’s when it got weird.
I should have started with the weird stuff.
The stadium’s big screens had gone blue, and the crowd had known to fall silent. Their hush was loud, and the candidates now remembered them. They turned to see what the crowd was silent about.
The big screens flickered, and then the destroyer of worlds showed us his face. It was badly sunburned. His glasses were rimless. He was ginger and balding, cross-legged in the sand, not dressed for the beach—slacks and a cardigan—the destroyer of worlds. If you looked at the upper-left corner of the frame, you could see part of the Statue of Liberty’s torch. The shot must have been meant to include the whole statue. Two neon blue bricks stuck out of the sand.
“You had your chance, all of you,” he said. “You broke it. It’s over.”
Hillary cocked her head at the screen, as though she smelled ocean, seaweed, fish markets, salty air. Donald slammed his sphere shut. The latch rattled a bit and then clicked.
A seagull shrieked from just behind behind the camera in New York, and the sunburned man hopped back in terror, then shooed it away. He seemed embarrassed for flinching. We heard the Atlantic in the loudspeakers, or on our TVs, or later on YouTube. Then he spoke again and the ocean was silent.
“Everyone who ever lived is an asshole, and deserves or deserved the world that way created. I guess that includes me, but I’m honestly sick of everything, even and especially me.”
He grabbed a blue brick in each hand and pulled them out of the sand.
“Look at this stuff,” he said, brushing them off on his cardigan. “It’s new. I made it myself.”
And that was all—he clapped his hands, and the stadium in Des Moines was filled with a neon blue haze that scattered the atoms of the crowd before anyone wondered if vaporization hurt.
The haze lingered a moment, and then faded away. The seats were empty, but the stadium itself was undamaged. Hillary frowned at the vanished crowd, as though they had said something rude, then shook her head at them in annoyance. Her sigh was loud inside her sphere. She would later describe this as shock. Donald’s sphere clicked open, and he poked his head out. His wig was askew. He smirked. He may have thought someone was pranking them. The beach in New York was still on the big screens, but the destroyer of worlds was gone. Those of us who remained could again hear the Atlantic.
Then the stadium whined and crumpled. It hollowed out. It shook. Hills rumbled up from beneath the carpet and ripped it open in fissures. They let out yellow smoke that smelled of sewage and lit matches. The big screens went black. They threw sparks. So did the cameras. The rows of plastic seats in the stadium melted. The impenetrable spheres became threads of fire, breath from another world.
Donald and Hillary ran for the same exit. She had been stuck in her sphere when it had become fire. She threw her burning coat off as she ran. His wig flapped on the side of his head. He shuffled along with his fists at his armpits. A new fissure opened and tried to swallow him. He tripped in, flailing, and caught onto a ledge. The fall had knocked his wig from his ear, revealing a fragile, totally bald human being, clinging to crumbling earth above a rising hell, and Hillary could not bring herself to hesitate before reaching into the chasm to offer her hand.