They Both Die at the End

By: Adam Silvera

DEDICATION


For those who need a reminder to make every day count.

Shout-out to Mom for all the love and Cecilia for all the tough love. I’ve always needed both.





September 5, 2017


MATEO TORREZ


12:22 a.m.

Death-Cast is calling with the warning of a lifetime—I’m going to die today. Forget that, “warning” is too strong a word since warnings suggest something can be avoided, like a car honking at someone who’s crossing the street when it isn’t their light, giving them the chance to step back; this is more of a heads-up. The alert, a distinctive and endless gong, like a church bell one block away, is blasting from my phone on the other side of the room. I’m freaking out already, a hundred thoughts immediately drowning out everything around me. I bet this chaos is what a first-time skydiver feels as she’s plummeting out of a plane, or a pianist playing his first concert. Not that I will ever know for sure.

It’s crazy. One minute ago I was reading yesterday’s blog entry from CountDowners—where Deckers chronicle their final hours through statuses and photos via live feeds, this particular one about a college junior trying to find a home for his golden retriever—and now I’m going to die.

I’m going to . . . no . . . yes. Yes.

My chest tightens. I’m dying today.

I’ve always been afraid of dying. I don’t know why I thought this would jinx it from actually happening. Not forever, obviously, but long enough so I could grow up. Dad has even been drilling it into my head that I should pretend I’m the main character of a story that nothing bad ever happens to, most especially death, because the hero has to be around to save the day. But the noise in my head is quieting down and there’s a Death-Cast herald on the other end of the phone waiting to tell me I’m going to die today at eighteen years old.

Wow, I’m actually . . .

I don’t want to pick up the phone. I’d rather run into Dad’s bedroom and curse into a pillow because he chose the wrong time to land himself in intensive care, or punch a wall because my mom marked me for an early death when she died giving birth to me. The phone rings for what’s got to be the thirtieth time, and I can’t avoid it any more than I can avoid what’s going down sometime today.

I slide my laptop off my crossed legs and get up from my bed, swaying to the side, feeling really faint. I’m like a zombie moving toward my desk, slow and walking-dead.

The caller ID reads DEATH-CAST, of course.

I’m shaking but manage to press Talk. I don’t say anything. I’m not sure what to say. I just breathe because I have fewer than twenty-eight thousand breaths left in me—the average number of breaths a nondying person takes per day—and I might as well use them up while I can.

“Hello, I’m calling from Death-Cast. I’m Andrea. You there, Timothy?”

Timothy.

My name isn’t Timothy.

“You’ve got the wrong person,” I tell Andrea. My heart settles down, even though I feel for this Timothy person. I truly do. “My name is Mateo.” I got the name from my father and he wants me to pass it down eventually. Now I can, if having a kid is a thing that happens for me.

Computer keys are tapping on her end, probably correcting the entry or something in her database. “Oh, apologies. Timothy is the gentleman I just got off the phone with; he didn’t take the news very well, poor thing. You’re Mateo Torrez, right?”

And just like that, my last hope is obliterated.

“Mateo, kindly confirm this is indeed you. I’m afraid I have many other calls to make tonight.”

I always imagined my herald—their official name, not mine—would sound sympathetic and ease me into this news, maybe even harp on how it’s especially tragic because I’m so young. To be honest, I would’ve been okay with her being chipper, telling me how I should have fun and make the most of the day since I at least know what’s going to happen. That way I’m not stuck at home starting one-thousand-piece puzzles I’ll never finish or masturbating because sex with an actual person scares me. But this herald makes me feel like I should stop wasting her time because, unlike me, she has so much of it.