It was actually a good year, the year before the downfall, a surprisingly good year in our little town. It was a year of bread on the table, a year with a new IPA in our glasses, a year with friends who visited with great frequency. There was laughter, that year, and uncontaminated water flowed from every faucet. In general, our children were kind, that year, to the animals they found in the forests, and I held your hand as we walked through the park. If there was a body in the street, it was never there for long, and we were sure it would all be explained. We repurposed a cement truck and turned it into a terrarium. We volunteered at our local food bank, and I kissed the back of your neck whenever I had the chance. Yes, there were inconsistencies, glitches in the master plan. Try not to trouble yourself about this. Try not to linger on the sporadic demonstrations in the town square or the new candidate shaking his fist and shouting. Maybe a reporter had her camera smashed beneath a boot. Maybe a protester was dragged out by his hair. But these events were uncommon enough, and they tended to sort themselves out. Even Paradise, we said, is a work in progress. So we did our best to revel in our garden, and we left a saucer of milk on the patio for whatever would come to claim it. We had faith in our neighbors. This is not to say we were naïve. We knew breath was not promised; the end would come eventually, and since we didn’t know when—we recycled, we composted, we loved each other deeply. Sometimes, the end of the year arrived like a door kicked in. A wine glass falling from a startled hand and shattering across the kitchen tiles. Sometimes, the end arrived too quietly to notice, idling like an unmarked van just outside. The breath of autumn curling through the curtains. The moon contemplating Earth from its vaulted adytum. If there were war drums, they were far away, on the other side of the mountain range. We rarely heard them. The nights were mostly calm and we held each other while we slept.