Authors: M. Starks
By: M. Starks
For those with an open mind and heart.
by M. Starks July 2013
I never imagined that I'd see the day my dogs would be picking through our bones. They had been so cute and adorable, but now they are scrawny and full of jagged edges. I watch the way the pom-chi likes to tear at my mother's flesh the same way she would tear up a toy, relishing it's cotton innards.
It's sickening. Like watching a man at the rodeo being gored by a bull, but you can't seem to look away. It's fascinating, strange even. A common place thing that centuries of domestication held at bay.
It's an eat or die world for them. The idea that they are literally biting the hand that fed them is lost on them.
Thank you owner, for this last meal.
They seem to say as they bow their heads for another rending and ripping of flesh.
Thankfully, I am out of range. I know they would try to eat me as well, I, a live prey animal that a pack can quickly take down. Fresh marrow to lick clean.
My stomach churns and I finally look away. I place the binoculars in my old ratty pack and sit a moment longer, waiting to see if I'll lose my stomach contents or not.
For now, I am alone. I don't have a plan. All I know is that
have destroyed my world, and I am one of the few left behind. Stuck with all of the violence and death they caused.
The plants are dying off. The clouds are dark and menacing. The storms of late have been the worst I've ever seen, and that is coming from a girl who has witnessed some of the most turbulent, scary storms of the century before
I haven't heard my name spoken aloud in some time. I haven't even attempted to use my own voice in just as long. I've just kept my chin up, my head down, as if that contradiction makes any sense, and as a little fish in a movie used to sing:
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Swimming, swimming
The passing of days is not something I know. The cloud cover is immense and continuous. There is no beginning and no end to it. I don't know if the sun is shining, or if the moon is beaming. All I can depend upon are my body's sleep cycles and needs.
The future is bleak and uncertain. I live from moment to moment. How I lived in comfort with frivolous things to keep me occupied is beyond me, far from my reach now.
Once our destruction became something of a certainty, I knew acceptance would be the only thing that would not destroy me. Hope would erode and cut away at my heart. Acceptance and adaptability have kept me sharp. I don't know how many people I encountered in those early days that were sitting on their knees crying and yelling,
why me? Why this? How could this be happening?
I just thought,
Okay, it happened. Now what?
And that kept me safe.
The nausea sits in my throat, I swallow the bile that rises, willing my last meal to stay put. I haven't had much to eat in a while, and what is left is precious.
I stand, shakily. One leg and then the other, a familiar cramp making me pause for a moment. A hot breeze rushes through my hair, as though I stood up under a salon hair dryer.
That's the thing with this new world. There are currents. Lots of them. Currents of winds. Currents of fears. Currents of time and uncertainties.
I move down the hill, back toward the bunker I'd discovered an indeterminate time ago.
That used to be my neighborhood, where my parent's bodies lie. I'd gone down into it several times in search of supplies. I'd often stopped by my parents, crying over my loss, unable to place flowers on them, unable to expend energy burying them. There were just too many bodies, the earth is too hard, and I was barely moving around myself. Watching our dogs pick away at them… it's painful. I chide myself for not doing something sooner.
I was seventeen when it happened. I feel like I'm at least a hundred now. I'm certain only months have passed but I couldn't say how many. I was in my little sporty car when the shockwaves hit. Most people agreed it would start with a pulse. You know, that thing we'd already been dealing with in degrees from the sun's solar flares? Some sort of pulse that would knock out power and any electronic thing. Others thought it would be a bomb.
Instead, it was sound.
You see, loud sounds like explosions have been known to carry farther because those particular wave patterns bounce off of hot layers in our atmosphere back down to us. They knew that temperatures controlled that frequency of sound. The way the scientists on TV explained it was that at 20 km above our earth, beyond the stratosphere, is a layer that absorbs the UV rays of the sun, and there the temperatures rise. This was the final barrier, containing the sound within earth's atmosphere.
They mimicked the explosion sounds, intensifying the volume. It felt like God had finally chosen to speak to us, but it was so loud the words were distorted. It wasn't God, it was them. Rattling our homes apart. Making the ground shake. Scaring the heck out of every living soul.
Imagine what the Jurassic Park movie did with that cup of water by using a bass sound…. then amplify that quite a bit. Ponds, lakes, even the ocean went crazy.
Who knew just how much a bit of sound could disrupt life?
My head instinctively jerks.
What was that noise?
My hand lingers upon the metal door frame I was about to pass through. Someone or something is on the other side. My haven, the only place I have left.
I feel anger surge through me. Seconds tick away, the silence that follows is a constant roar in my ears.
Maybe it was me. Maybe I'd made the noise shuffling my feet.
I am weary. Exhausted. I imagine that the lack of sun might cause depression, my mother often spoke of serotonin and Vitamin D as essential to our well being. Depression makes the limbs and heart heavy. I read that somewhere. That it makes one feel fatigued, as if they cannot go on.
I'd say the ruination of my planet just might have had that effect. Day after earth day passes and what am I doing but surviving? There is no joy, no sun in my life. No one to share my feeble attempts at humor, such as when I fell in the abandoned grocery store over my own feet while scavenging for food. Normally that would have made my cheeks burn and I would laugh to show that I'm alright. I laughed, by gut reaction alone, and there was no one there to laugh with me.
It's probably a good thing, that laugh might have scared them. It sounded more like a wild bark.
It had to have been my feet that made the noise, echoing back to me from the door as I trudged down the steps. As quiet as I have been, if something was inside waiting for me, it was just as quiet.
My hand shakes as I open the door, the low squeal of the hinges announcing my entrance.
Honey, I'm home.
My haven is dark. Foreboding. I don't feel alone. I can't explain it. I know it's more of a psychological test of my mind, thinking that something might be in here waiting for me, and so my mind generates paranoia and feelings of being watched.
It's sort of like your best friend catches a cold and you think you have one. Maybe that is a bad example. Maybe its more like the person you are closest to in your life breaks a bone and you feel a phantom pain for them that you don't have.
In the inky darkness, it feels full, like something is sucking up the light. I shine my flashlight around the room but find each corner devoid of any life form.
I will myself to relax. I bolt the door behind me, forcing a deeper breath in and out of my lungs.
Slow your heart, just keep swimming.
Mantras I am reduced to in the hole in the ground, afraid of my heart problems.
You are alone.
I tell myself, willing my heart to relax.
Alone. Just keep swimming
I lay upon the bottom bunk, my eyes staring at the twin bed above me. I miss the stars. Night was my favorite part of the day. Peering up into the murky void of space, glints of light winking down at me from billions of light years away. I found it comforting. Knowing that somewhere out there, something was happening. Beyond us and our puny wants and desires.
I guess I know what my puny desire holds now. Destruction.
I close my eyes. Sleep comes unbidden, I'd only wanted to picture the stars I can no longer see.
I dream of them. Beautiful balls of gas, raging with forms of fire unlike the fires of earth. Blues and greens. Reds, purples, yellows. They burn as if they are lit from within, gems radiating light.
When I wake, I feel rested for the first time since my world ended. I miss waking to the sun streaming in through my windows, alighting on the dust motes in the air. I feel emptier than I have since the world ended.
I rise, stiff and achy. I feel my forehead, it's hot on the back of my hand. I'll have to go in search of antibiotics soon.
After relieving myself under the clouds and bare tree trunks, I make breakfast. Cold, greasy soup from a can. I tilt my head back, allowing the globs of mucus-looking sustenance to slide from the can to the back of my throat. The grease coats my tongue, the taste is lackluster. The sugar rush is immediate and unsatisfying.
I miss going to restaurants and ordering what sounds good to my palate at the moment.
My stomach grumbles and gurgles. Uh oh.
I excuse myself from breakfast and trot back to my cloud covered bathroom on the surface.
What feels like days pass like this. I wake, eat, barely make it to the bathroom. My forehead feels hotter, if that is possible. My energy is sapped. I sleep.
I might be dying. I don't know if I'm ill from a virus, bacteria, or food poisoning. Maybe the aliens unleashed something to find and kill the last of the humans that have hunkered down somewhere.
I don't know, and almost don't care anymore. In the middle of the end of the world, I have the runs, and I don't know how much longer I'll be able to lift my body to give it more to diarrhea out.
Sleep comes in fits and broken passages of time. Dreams come and go. My mother smiling back at me on the raft at my grandpa's cabin. The river is dark and wide in my child's eyes. Bugs flit and float on the surface of the water. The sound of the oars slapping the water, cutting it, dividing it, pushing us further downriver. This becomes my father's legs sticking out from under the car. A hand outstretched as I place the 3/4 inch socket wrench into his palm. His strong, lean body moving, squirming under the strain of getting the bolt loose. My face in the mirror, after showering. My hand as it wipes the steam from the glass, and I see my honey colored eyes and wet blonde hair reflected back. Fireworks on the Fourth of July, the tiny American flag waving in my equally tiny fingers. The sparkler my mother is preparing. Oddly, I see my mother smiling a lot. She didn't smile as much as my dream recollections show to me, but I don't mind. These moments are beautiful. Precious. I try to hang on to them, my little dream stars that are covered by the clouds of this new world, the cloud of my fever.
I startle awake. I don't know what woke me, but my eyes flash open. I nearly sit up, but my strength has waned. I reach for the flashlight and flick it on. Three eyes stare back at me.
I am not alone.