The moment before the moment

There will always be the hour before the world was destroyed, and people tend to remember that moment with terrible clarity, polishing it in their mind like a stone. 

One morning, April 16 eight years ago, I awoke in my girlfriend's bed to hear the wind-blown tree limbs raking the side of the house with wild fingers. She had a white mosquito net hanging overhead, a purely aesthetic touch, but one that felt familiar and comforting to me from the years I slept under nets in Senegal. The trees hissed and grated in the darkness. I arose and got dressed, barely trying to keep quiet over the noise of the wind, kissed her goodbye and went to work at my firehouse. It was the 66,953rd morning of my life, what should have been another forgettable moment. By now I should have no memory of the net, the wind, the trees, the kiss. 

But that morning, a house caught on fire, and the wind turned it into an inferno as firefighters entered, trapping and killing my friend Kyle as he searched a second-floor bedroom.

Now that morning lasts forever. The trees writhe and buckle in my memory, and the wind keens like an animal, like a foul portent, or like nothing, the wind howling through just another morning that happened to be the last one before the end of the world.