Stick your head out the window on Sunday night and listen carefully -- you may hear the collective cheer (or groan) of millions of Lost fans watching the ABC series' finale. Fans are nervous that six years of obsessively watching the science-fiction thriller have all been in vain.
"I will be disappointed if it's not a roller coaster ride," says Alex Green, who is taking part in an intense Lost-a-thon on the streets of Manhattan. (He and his buddies are watching all 120 episodes of the show ... in four days.)
Watching episode after episode, Green has gotten used to roller coaster plots. Like every fan, he's a little queasy from six years of twists and turns and time travel loops that have made Lost into a nerdy thrill ride. So how will it finally end?
That's been the big challenge for every storywriter since humans first put pen to paper. How do you do "happily ever after" in a way that feels original and satisfying?
Aristotle wrote that a proper ending is one that naturally follows some other thing, but has nothing following it. Aristotle would have loved (spoiler alert!) the fade to black at the end of The Sopranos.
"Some of the most famous works of literature, like the Iliad for instance, just end in the middle of things," says Marianna Torgovnick, an English professor at Duke.
Torgovnick wrote a book called Closure in the Novel about how literature wraps things up. In the 19th and 20th centuries, authors preferred that something life-altering occur at the end of a narrative.
"The big three are the death of the character, the marriage of the character, or the character moving on to a different place or locale," Torgovnick says.
Barring a "bloodbath" or "very special wedding of Kate and Sawyer" a pleasing literary Lost ending almost demands that some folks finally get off that dang island.
But Time magazine's TV critic James Poniewozik says a sci-fi mystery show like Lost has to jump over a higher bar than a sitcom or character drama -- with Lost, it's not just about catharsis for fans.
"They are looking at [the ending] to be the answer to the puzzle," Poniewozik says. "It's supposed to be the thing, the key that makes the other 120 hours spent watching this series worth it or not."
That's some serious pressure for a television writer. At Professor Thom's, a bar in Manhattan, hundreds of people gather each week to watch Lost. You can tell they are sharpening the pitchforks in case the ending is a failure. Ariel Gonzales says he has his personal pride on the line.
"I have a buddy at work who has been telling me for the last six or seven weeks that it's all a big waste of time." Gonzales says. "Nothing is going to get answered and it's just going to be a waste of six years."
He's not alone. Most of the Lost fans in the bar have serious fears about what the ending might be: the whole thing was a dream ... or all the characters get killed off ... or it turns out they are actually in hell ... all unsatisfactory, cop-out endings, fans say.
The producers of Lost, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, just say wait and see. They've been working toward this ending for years now, and they point out that one of the themes of the show is the power of faith. Then again, another theme of Lost is deception and con artists. So take your pick.
Perhaps the only clue is a not-so-veiled message they sent to fans in the next-to-last episode: "Every question I answer will just lead to another question," said the mysterious, matronly character played by Allison Janney.
We've been warned.