The Symphony at the End of the World (flash fiction)

Here’s a piece of flash fiction about spending the last moments of humanity in a concert hall. It’s about 530 words and has an estimated reading time of 2 minutes. Let me know what you think!

The concert hall was surprisingly quiet, given what was happening. Marshall and Celeste settled into their seats in the front row, and they held hands tightly.

“Are you okay, babe?” Marshall asked.

“For now.” Celeste’s eyes were teary.

No one had expected the imminent nuclear holocaust, so there was a shortage of bomb shelters in the area. The people who couldn’t find one had few options but to live their last hours as they saw fit.

Marshall and Celeste, who’d only been married for a year, decided the best they could do was go see the city’s orchestra. Word spread that the orchestra would play an “End of the World” performance.

“I love you, babe,” Marshall said.

“I love you, too.” A tear fell down Celeste’s cheek, and mascara was running around her eyes. “I’m just … I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”

“Me neither. But we’re together. That’s all that matters, right?”

The concert hall was mostly empty, save for a few older folks. Other than a few of the performers, Marshall and Celeste were the youngest people there.

Upon hearing the news of the nuclear threat, droves of people had committed suicide. Others had looted and rioted, and still others drank and drugged themselves into oblivion. Anything to blot out the pain of reality.

Marshall looked at the program, surprised there even was one. Most of the selections were songs usually played on New Year’s Eve, songs with majestic endings. There was Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C Major, his final symphony. There was also Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, a grand piece.

But the orchestra would start the night with a lesser-known work to Marshall: Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem. The program described it as more tranquil than the other pieces to be performed.

The conductor, a bespectacled young man, faced the sparse crowd and began to address them. “Friends,” he said. “I suppose this is the end, huh? I can think of no better way than to spend it with you all.

We travel into this dark night, not knowing when the end is,” the conductor continued. “So let us celebrate life with music, the excellent healing balm.

“Let us begin!”

With that, the orchestra began to play.

Sinfonia da Requiem started slowly, quietly, and Marshall and Celeste held each other tight. The sound of the oboe and clarinet played softly; Celeste was sobbing by this time, and so were a few others in the small crowd.

Marshall held his wife close, and she buried her head into his chest. These were the last moments, perhaps of humanity itself. The music began to swell, ever so slightly, until finally, the cymbals crashed, and the string section was in full swing. Then the piece settled back down again.

When the first bomb detonated near the city, the Sinfonia da Requiem was coming to its quiet close. Marshall and Celeste, the classical music lovers, perished in the concert hall with all the rest.

But, at the very least, they heard one last piece of beautiful music before they passed away.

The End

(Photo by Samuel Sianipar on Unsplash)

Author’s Note: I’ve had this story idea for a while, so I hope I did it some justice. I began listening to classical music only a few years ago, and I can think of no more tranquil experience than seeing classical music live. The idea of watching a symphony play before nuclear Armageddon sounded so poetic to me, perhaps like the musicians playing on the deck of the sinking Titanic.

I’d never really heard of the classical music pieces I mention in the story until I did some research, especially the primary one, the Sinfonia da Requiem. The Requiem piece isn’t too long (about 7 minutes), so I’ve included it below. It’s a wonderful piece of music!

7 thoughts on “The Symphony at the End of the World (flash fiction)

  1. Terveen Gill August 3, 2021 / 8:36 am

    This is truly heartbreaking and also an unimaginable situation. Turning away from fear to embrace the final moments with some soulful music.
    Brilliant writing and concept. 🙂

    • Nick Pipitone August 3, 2021 / 8:50 am

      Thank you, Terveen! I’d had this story idea for a while, so I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it 🙂

  2. Ashley L. Peterson August 3, 2021 / 9:59 am

    It reminds me of the musicians on the Titanic who played right up until the end.

    • Nick Pipitone August 3, 2021 / 10:14 am

      Indeed! Thanks for reading, Ashley.

  3. Dave Williams August 3, 2021 / 10:32 am

    If the end is coming, this sounds like a nice way to go. As long as loved ones are with me.

    • Nick Pipitone August 3, 2021 / 12:42 pm

      I agree! Thanks for reading Dave

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