I'm looking for a short story I read in either Analog, or Asimov's or Fantasy and Science Fiction within the past few years.

In this story, a woman is awakened in the night by aliens communicating with her mentally, and told that the earth was about to be destroyed by a collision, and that she had 10 minutes? 2 minutes? left. She was told to prepare for transport, and that she could bring three items.

The plot development consisted of her going through stages of grief, asking questions, refusing to believe it, all while a large red countdown projected on her wall slowly descended to zero. "Then you will bring nothing?" she was asked at one point.

Finally, she recovers, grabs her laptop, and tries to download as much data as possible onto it given her time remaining. With seconds left, she unplugs the laptop, picks up a single rose, and grabs her cat. She notifies of her readiness, is told "Feel no fear" and is transported away. The reader is left in the room, as the counter resets to 10 seconds, and counts down to zero.

I want to say this story is called "The Rose", or maybe "Countdown", but I've spent hours searching the contents indexes of these three publications to no avail.

Any help, pointers, guidance, or identification would be most appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    Read it - so it would be in ANALOG. Sadly, my library of these has been spread across the country, so i can't look it up easily. Can I get back to you in a few weeks? – Covertwalrus May 15 '15 at 12:06

The story is "The Fourth Thing" by Stephen L. Burns in the September 2008 issue of Analog.

Woken from her sleep, Noelle is informed that humanity is at an end, and that Earth is about to be wiped out. The alien voice in her head explains : ‘A black hole with the resting mass of your moon is headed toward your planet at very nearly the speed of light. Such phenomena are rare and dangerous. When it hits, your planet will simultaneously explode and ignite’. She has a few minutes to decide what few possessions she will take with her, and we follow her thoughts as he runs thorugh the options.

  • This answer would be much improved if it explained why the story could be the one described by the question. – Bellatrix Aug 7 '17 at 1:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.