There Is No Fixing This: Chapter 5
The End III
You could say it’s lonely work, I suppose. Though looking back, I’ve always been fairly lonely. Not many kids to play with at the end of the world. Those you did meet were more likely after your supplies than a game of catch. My parents had been gone for years now, having been some of the first reclaimed once the benign intent of the eaters of the dead was discovered. We talked long about their decision. It was the right thing to do. Still, lonely.
Their faces swirl now, just behind my eyelids. Backlit in blue as I attempt to catch my breath after throwing in the last piece of meat for the feast. Faces. No way of knowing if they were the right ones, pictures only remained in books. That’s one thing that always made me laugh when people would write stories about the end of the world. The absolute necessity of remembering what’s been lost. Prolonging the pain. Intensifying it to a point where it becomes unbearable. Self-serving vanity.
Not for me. Memories were memories, we never needed reminders if they were correct. History was never fond of the truth, anyway. No, I prefer these faces that aren’t faces. Indistinct and hazy. More the emotion of memory made manifest. Bathed in the haunting blue, I open my eyes.
I gather my tools and scrape my shoes on the dirt to clean them of the stickiness. My walk home wasn’t long. But I would take my time, more so than usual, tonight. I have made peace with my reclamation, I did so long ago. When you go out though, when you know the date of your demise, you’re drawn to reverie, to flights.
In truth, I hated my parents. Not necessarily for who they were as people, but for damning me, as all parents have damned their children by causing them to be. I don’t think they are really to blame though. All animals exist to procreate, to keep going, forever. We just got unlucky enough to have the ability to add meaning to the procreation. Love, continuation, labor, vanity. To the point where some were forced into it, not of their own will. Thankfully, I was able to skip the bodily control unlike those before me, and some of those unlucky few beside me.
The screams woke us, as screams often do. The already dilapidated house next to the one my family had occupied came alive in the night with the screams. My mother huddled with me in the corner, my father shuffled to the window. Some would say that it was a lack of sympathy that kept my father from venturing out into the bleak night but think of how many times before the end would screams go unheeded, cries unanswered. Other’s problems, for lack of personal involvement, were theirs, that’s how we ended up here.
As the screams continued blood curdling and unending, I worked my way free of my mother’s grasp and crawled slowly across the unfurnished and laughably still called “living room,” to the window beside my father.
His breathing was heavy. He smelled of sweat and dirt, as we all did. Straining to make out definition, two red eyes glowed on the road, flickering in the exhaust of a truck left idling outside the house next door. Looking back, it’s curious we didn’t awake at the sound of the motor arriving before the screams. Motorized vehicles were rare enough in general, in town especially.
Fear gripped my heart as the pitiable creature was pulled from the wreckage of civilization. Long, dark, nappy hair thrashed about as her form was carried towards the truck by two hunching men. I would later learn that these were outliers, people who escaped to the barren parts of this country once the end was in sight.
These outliers believed, I was told later, that our seemingly inevitable extinction was but a fleeting fancy. They believed, that if they were to round up enough women, under the watchful and scornful eye of their god, that humanity would be saved. A new generation would be born, and humanity would continue. A hiccup. A chance for repentance. As the years passed and these outliers inevitably died out as well, it seemed laughable to me that those who yearned so dearly for heaven often fought the most viciously and abhorrently against life to escape having to travel there. Laughable, if only for the hypocrisy.
The woman’s cries bled into the walls of the house from which we watched. Vibrating through my skull, boring its way into my core. That pain, that desperation, I kept with me. Growing it inside me like the child I would never carry. Allowing it to wrap its vines around my bones and through every inch of my being, becoming the fuel I needed to survive, the clearest picture of humanity at its basest.
The reclamations had already begun at that point, though still fought against adamantly. Never doubt people’s capacity to hold on to hope that is not there, for that is what we were taught. The endless procession of extinctions we brought in our wake, the devastation of nature. No matter how much destruction we wrought, we would never end.
That woman’s screams, cries to an uncaring universe left unanswered, are where we all should have been mentally. The red eyes of the demon pulling away in a burst of exhaust melting into the night took with them the last vestiges of optimism and hope I had in my young age. Though changes, even in better times (if there were ever better times to be had), were normal and consistent for one still a teenager, they were less so in my parents. The loss of light that I had held onto within them was snuffed that night. Though they didn’t know it yet.
Looking back, even with them and everyone else lost to time, the woman’s screams in the night remained and informed every single decision I made even this night.
My clarion call into eternity.