“I think we’re lost, Olive,” May says. She’s sitting cross-legged on the hood of the car, a crumpled map in her lap.

“You think?” I say. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

May and I have driven out to Lovelace Canyon, or at least we tried to. Lovelace Canyon, according to the recent news reports, was a little tourist trap that hadn’t seen any action since the Stone Age. But since last week, it has become the most talked about place in America.

“Well, let’s think.” May says. “We stopped seeing news trucks a few miles ago, which means that either we’re really close to our destination, or we’re way off.”

Everyone told us not to go to Lovelace Canyon. It’s dangerous, Olive, they said. What you should do is get as far away from Lovelace Canyon as possible. What a laugh they’ll get back at home if we can’t even get to Lovelace Canyon.

May sighs. Then she mutters, “I just wanted to see it.”

“Yeah,” I say, looking down at May. “Let’s just go a couple more miles, huh? I can drive. And if we don’t find Lovelace Canyon, who cares.” May smiles slightly.

“Okay,” May says.

So I drive. We pass a few fruit stands and diners, and from time to time we see posters hammered to telephone poles that declare “Evacuate Now.” The further we go, the emptier it gets, until finally it feels like May and I are the only people left in the world.

“This looks promising,” May says, pointing at a sign that says “Lovelace Canyon in Two Miles.” Someone has spray painted a message over it, “Turn back now.” Next to the sign, an abandoned tank. Farther along, we see a couple police cars. They’d been blocking the road ahead, but now, abandoned, they’re pushed to the side. I shiver, but there’s no way we’re stopping now.

“Did you bring your camera?” I ask. May nods, patting her purse. May’s camera is her most prized possession; she’s had it for as long as I’ve known her. Though considering that I’ve only known her for two years, that doesn’t say much. Really, I hadn’t spent much time with May up until yesterday. She runs with the artsy crowd, while I’m more of a book club kind of girl. But she was the only other person in town who wanted to go to Lovelace Canyon, so here we are.

Finally, we make it. The gravel parking lot outside Lovelace Canyon is abandoned, even the news crews have left. A sign on a little tollbooth says that there’s a three-dollar admission into Lovelace Canyon, but there’s no one there to enforce it. When May and I climb out of the car, I start to shake.

This is it, I tell myself. This is it.

We edge out onto the viewpoint for Lovelace Canyon. There is a rope barrier between us and the chasm, which doesn’t feel sufficient to shield us from what’s down there. I swallow.

“Ready?” I ask. May nods. Together, we step forward, and look over the edge.

Two weeks ago, the American public was told that the world was ending. At the bottom of Lovelace Canyon, a place that was normally bone dry, a little cloud had formed. It expanded, and started raining a red, hissing, toxic liquid. The cloud grew, and would continue to do so, until it was a cancerous storm that would eventually cover the entire continent, and then the entire world.

Anything that the storm touches, dies.

There’s no stopping it.

Now, the storm has grown to the size of a three-story building. It pulses and shivers, staining the ground with acidic blood that seeps into the earth and poisons it. I can tell that it’s growing. Creeping its way up the side of the canyon. It’ll probably emerge by tomorrow.

May stares down at the cloud, and then she whips out her camera. Despite the circumstances, I laugh.

“You don’t waste time, do you?”

May doesn’t stop taking pictures. “Yup,” she says. She looks up at me, her lips pursed.

“Thanks. I mean, for coming with me. No one else wanted to go.” May says.

I shrug. “It’s fine,” I say. “I mean, I really wanted to see it, too.” May tilts her head to the side, regarding me.

“Was it worth it?” May asks. I turn to look down at the poisonous storm that’s churning away in Lovelace Canyon. I nod.

This, I think, is the end of the world.

“It’s lovely.” I say. 

—By Suscha W., 16, Washington