Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Night We All Died

They were in a stranger's backyard sitting next to a kidney-shaped swimming pool.  The sliding glass door leading to the living room had been shattered and they could hear and see CNN on the television.  There was blood spatter against the wall panel.  Elliot thought it looked like a spritz of red windex.

"Where do you want to be when it happens?"  He asked as he reclined in a lawn chair.

"Hmm?  Here, I guess.  I mean, we only have an hour.  Not much time to travel,"  said Grace.

Elliot fumbled with the box of wooden matches, trying to strike one against the coarse side of the box.  On the fourth try, he got a flame and held it against the end of the cigar between his lips.

"Hypothetically," he said.

Grace considered this.  "On top of something really big.  Maybe Empire State.  With my mom.  You?"

"There was this bar in Toronto.  I forget the name.  It was just me and the owner one night - the night of the hockey riot.  And he and I sat on the terrace drinking whiskey sours and watching police cars burn.  Smoking cigars like this one.  Somewhere like that.  Or Brooklyn Pizza."

"You're going to miss cigars and pizza most?"

"I prefer their garlic bread."

"You wouldn't want to be with your family?"

Elliot puffed and shook his head, "In the final moments of my life, I'd rather not have any revelatory or confessional talks.  They know how I feel about them."

"Do they?"

"I would hope so."

Four hours earlier, live television feeds from the west side of the country had gone dead after a sudden flash of white.  In an hour, Elliot and Grace would know what that flash was, then they'd know nothing.  The air already taken on a metallic resin that lingered by the uvula.

"But that garlic bread," said Elliot and he exhaled relieved.  "Did you cook?"

"When I was a kid, I wanted to. I just never learned."

"I wanted to be a marine biologist as a kid."

"What did you do, anyway?" Grace said after a long pause.

Elliot held in the stale smoke and let it leave his lungs as he explained.  "Not very much.  I did some telemarketing.  I wrote a lot.  Worked in a...Best Buy?  No, Circuit City, when it still existed.  Never settled.  Were you Catholic?"

"Just Christian, but-"

"Lapsed?"

"Yes.  A while ago."

"Catholic.  Lapsed about...19 years ago?"

Grace laughed.  "You left church at seven years old?"

He smirked.  "Well, I wasn't excommunicated.  I just stopped waking up early on Sunday.  But, you know what I do miss?"

"What?"

"Those - uh...what do you call them?  'The body of Christ' things and then the wine - well, I was too young for the wine but those wafery things?"

"Wafers?"

"Sure."

"You miss those?"

"Best part of church.  I'd sit there for an hour - 'Shut up, shut up, just give me the cookie'."

She burst out laughing.  "You called it the cookie?"

"Well, never out-loud."

Grace nestled in the straps of the chair, arching her back slightly, smiling.

"Are you married?"  Elliot asked after a pause.

"I was.  Briefly."

Elliot pressed his thumb and forefinger together.  "Came close."

"What happened?"

He motioned to the television inside and waved dismissively.  "Like this but on a lesser scale."

An hour ago, Elliot was walking down the middle of an unlined suburban street.  The tar was as yet unscathed, freshly laid only days before.  Four houses away, a small garden in someone's front yard crisp yellow and halloween orange.  Most of the plants lay dead, broken and crushed by the Cerulean pick up truck that had swerved and ran over them before crashing into the wall.  The front door of the truck was ajar.  A woman in pajamas was half-limping a little further down the street, a nasty gash on her left side.

His iPod battery died.  He removed it from his pocket.  The earbuds fell to the street as he punched the tiny screen.

"Fuck."

At that moment, a young girl passed him.  She had bleach-red hair and gentle skin, paler than that which he was familiar with.

"Hey," the girl said and pointed toward the limping woman.  "Should we help her or what?"

Elliot stared blankly.  "Why?"

The girl paused.

They had found the house then and the porch and the lawn chairs.

"Figure it's getting close," said Grace.

Elliot nodded quietly.  He stubbed out his cigar.

Without warning, Grace stood and climbed atop him.  He pulled her in passionately, letting his tongue gently caress her lips as she pulled back to remove her tank top.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

...

Elliot awoke in a strange bed.  He was staring at a mess of red hair and flesh and blanket.  His eyes adjusted.  In the next room, he could hear the din of cable news.  He rolled on his back looking at the sunlight pouring in through the open sliding glass doors; it crept along his hand as he reached out.  Alien now.

Grace nuzzled closer to him and then began to wake.  Her head shot off the pillow.  Her neck snapped around the room, bird-like.

Their eyes met.

Elliot inhaled through his mouth.

He said

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