Wednesday, January 11, 2017

After the End [Short Story]

I turned off the TV and headed to the back of my house where my bed awaited me. I understood what they were saying on the news. It was no longer some weirdo in front of the Supermart accosting me with a sign that proclaimed 'The End Is Near.' This was the actual moment. No more clever theological discussions and no more political pundits talking turkey. All the talk was about to disappear forever.


The words bounced around in my head as a small smile crawled up one side of face coyly. I guess I've always been a bit weird. While most kids were playing soccer in the schoolyard, I was sitting alone in the sandbox, pondering the end of civilization or reading books on survival. A queer kind of neurosis that wouldn't ever really allow me to do anything with my life. After all, if the end were to come, what difference would any accomplishments make? And now I had heard the words spoken as gospel on the lips of talking heads.

I grabbed an extra blanket and spread it out on my bed. Most of my life has been a sleepless dream. Insomnia comes in many forms and I've experienced them all at one time or another. Yet that night I was tired and knew I'd have no troubles falling asleep. As I slowly undressed, I began thinking of all that would be gone come the morning.

No more Mrs. Lafiter and her morning routine. Every morning at 6:05, regardless of the weather, she could be found walking her dog on our quiet, suburban street. Every morning for the past 6 years since I'd moved to Maple street, I'd awoken to the sounds of that damned dog. A chuckle escaped my lips at the thought of a peaceful dawn. Mrs. Lafiter would be gone forever. For that matter so would that poodle-dachshund, thing.

My second grade teacher had once overheard me talking about the end to myself. You may have guessed, I was bullied quite a bit. At the moment of eavesdropping I was fantasizing about all the bullies in my world dying. Simple, childish way of lashing out. My mother came to take me home early that day. As we drove home in our old, midnight blue Mercury Cougar station wagon, she didn't say a word to me. In fact no one did the rest of the day. We ate dinner in silence. In the morning we resumed as if nothing had happened. I just inherently understood, it was something for me to be more careful about in the future.

Even now I was still sensitive to bullies. Even when they weren't mine. Reginald Peterson lived three doors down from me. I thought of him as I slipped on a stained white t-shirt. Reggie as my neighbors called him, was a bully like the ones I grew up with. I remember one day I saw him beating on a child half his size. The eyes were pleading to me for help. I stepped in, and Reggie ran off afraid. I've never thought bullies running away was cowardice. More strategic. I saved a boy that day from further hurt, but I had opened the door to a lot of pranks. Flaming bags and toilet paper rolls became an everyday part of life. Reginald Peterson, he too would be gone now.

So would all the rest of my neighbors. The ones who whispered rumors as I walked by. Those who talked over fences and parked cars, discussing my eccentricities as if I couldn't hear them. But I heard. I knew their laughter. Soon they would all be gone and silence would prevail upon the earth.

I closed my eyes. An image of a thousand butterflies filled my head. When I was 16 my parents took me to mexico for a festival that celebrated the arrival of the Monarch Butterflies. I had learned in science about the path they take to migrate each year. It was fascinating to me, the life and death cycle. My parents saw it as a chance to encourage a more normal behavior in me.

I was dazzled by the site of them fluttering through the sky. A cloud of red and black wings, swirling around within itself. I couldn't quantify it. They weren't a liquid, yet the way they moved, was fluid in the sky. A pool of water swimming through the air, creating tiny eddies of butterflies. I felt drawn to them, the way I sometimes felt when visited the ocean. I wanted to become a part of it. I wanted to join my soul to that liquid.

Sleep came then. I lay in my bed, not bothered by the sound of something whistling through the sky. The shaking of my house that followed, rocked me further and further away. While I dreamed of Mexico and monarchs, I was blissfully unaware that power had gone out all over the city. Had no idea about the fires that sprung up in a forest a mile and a half away. Even the churning of concrete as the ground opened wide, rippling down the middle of Main Street, held nothing for me. I slept more soundly then I ever have in my life.

Hours passed, before I awoke. The sound of barking outside my house sat me upright. I looked at my alarm clock but discovered there was no power. I grabbed my watch from the side table. 6:06 am. I couldn't believe it. That damn dog had survived. It didn't occur to me that I too had survived. I got up quickly and looked out the curtains ready to see what the apocalypse had wrought. What I saw was unbelievable. Hurriedly I got dressed and headed out the front door.

"Howdy, Neighbor!" came the cheery salute from Mrs. Lafiter.

I looked around. There was damage everywhere. Several houses were in various stages of collapse. At least three different cars had large rocks, possibly meteorites, crushing them. There were many cracks and crevices dotted around the street. I saw Reginald Peterson peering into one and pointing out things to a group of smaller children, who were intrigued. Various mothers were scolding them and yelling at them to come back away from the fissures.

"What the hell happened?" I asked Ben Palmer, the local handyman.

"What do you mean 'what happened?' The apocalypse happened," he responded.

"Yes, but why are we still alive?"

"Isn't it wonderful?" Mrs. Palmer jumped in. "I heard it on my husband's old shortwave radio. No casualties."

"Yeah, and not just here. The whole world is shot to hell but no one is dead." This last came from Michelle Edenberg, who held on to the hand of a squirming four year old girl.

"The end of the world came and no one died?" I asked aloud, more to myself than anyone else.

"Not yet," Ben answered. "From what they're saying on the shortwave, every nation has been leveled. It's going to take decades to rebuild. Power plants are down all over the world. I'm not even sure how the shortwave is still operating. I'll tell you what though, everyone's on their own. We're going to have to figure out how to survive."

I smiled, for the first time in my life feeling no dread hanging overhead. More than that, feeling like I had purpose. Like I belonged. The apocalyptic child had come home.

"You're in luck," I said, "I know all about surviving at the end of the world."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails