I walk down the rain-soaked streets, taking to care to avoid the throngs of
homeless people on either side. At least there are no cars to worry about-
the limited supplies of gasoline, all the oil, goes to the armies now.
I trudge along, with no destination, with only some sort of innate,
incomprehensible urge propelling me. It's not as if I have much else-we're
a long way from the 'obesity epidemic' of a few years back, and my five-
hundred-calorie-a-day diet doesn't give me enough energy for very much
Nonetheless, I feel like walking, and walk I will. Never mind from whence
the urges come.
I shove my white hands, with their peeling, decrepit skin, into the pockets
of my tattered
coat. As I pass corpses with too-familiar faces; lying by the roadside like
the Somali famine victims of two decades ago, I'm reminded that I've got a
Before what? Death-but death is hardly acknowledged anymore-as anything
less than an escape from the hell we've created.
Seven years of death. A millennium of peace. Who would not want to believe-
and I cannot say I'm unbeliever. Yet, for all that I've endured, I cannot
bring myself to commit.
There are escapes-not from this world, but of it-minor consolations-poisons
to counteract poisons. Not unlike Victorian medicine.
A nervous hand gropes its way into my coat pocket, withdrawing a shabby-
looking paper package. Another comparison to khat-crazy Somalia-we haven't
got money enough to buy, nor land to grow, anything resembling food, but
there are drugs aplenty. The government gave up on trying to control the
drugs some time back-they give them out now, if you can believe that. You-
You, my past self, the dreamer of dreams-the one dared think you'd overcome
this hell-what, did you think your will was strong enough?
If it had been, you would held on him for your dear life-for your dear soul-
Both of them. You know what he meant to you-even and especially concerning
Him. Out of the whole race you so scorned, he was only one who made you
realize salvation's true desirability.
You loved them both-you could have spent eternity in their company.
What made you turn away?
The cigarette won't light properly. I throw it to the wayside in disgust.
An eager hand grasps it immediately. The scraping sound of fingernails
against the concrete makes me ill.
I walk on blindly in a vain effort to escape this place of horror.
Finally, here I am. The darkened streets feed into this-what remains of
this once-great city's financial district. The bright lights disturb me.
I'm used to the constant power outages of the residential areas.
There a few people out shopping. Shopping. Such a disgusting concept
anymore. Everyone knows what it means-if you can actually buy and sell-
My forehead and hand remain unbranded-by either side.
The streets are still beautiful, somehow-the atmosphere is comparatively
cheery enough to seem nearly festive. My idle mind wonders what I look like
in the bright lights-even in my half-dead state, I still possess an
unwieldy amount of female vanity.
I used to be quite pretty once. Not like an entertainer, not like a whore-
but nice. Clean enough. A quiet sort of prettiness-gray, subtle, cold. Like
the fog-or is it pollution?-that hovers mistily, just above the
There are couples milling about-yes, even now. Well, they did marry and
were given in marriage the first time this happened-till the moment before
the sky fell.
They also died. I wonder about these the most-was it better, to die an
ordinary death then,
or to go down in the apocalyptic catastrophe, unquestionably a sinner?
Should I just kill myself now?
The thought is tempting. Too tempting. I wander down the streets,
considering this option. I pass a number of lighted windows of my way-
though fluorescent bulbs give an impression of cold sterility, in this
world, they almost seem warm.
One lit window catches my attention-I cannot initially understand why. It
belongs to an older building-I remember, there was a coffee shop there once-
long ago, when I was still young. There's a crowd of people in there now-
lovely, clean people such as I have not seen in years -I cannot tell what
they are doing from here, but one profile catches my eye, even among the
No. He-he must be dead. He could not have survived in this world. Does he-
He sees me.
It is improbable. I stand in the light, staring at the beauty of his face
while mentally assessing my own ugliness. The Army jacket, the whore-length
skirt, the cheap, garish makeup.
His face is also unmarked. As if it could ever be otherwise-
I lunge towards the door. He comes out, meeting me with an embrace.
Eternity could not obscure our strange, nameless familiarity with each
At least, that's what I once believed.
He looks so beautiful-too clean, pure, for me touch. I shrink back to the
shadows; the truth hitting me like a stone felling a heretic.
Did I expect otherwise? Did I ever once imagine him damned? I knew-
I try to speak, but only stammer. Giving up prematurely, I look into the
building behind him. Strangely, it is now empty-and lit only with a few
He pulls me inside. His mouth forms a slight upward curve, yet his eyes are
as dark as the
world I come from. "I thought you dead."
"So did I-you, I mean."
"Are you-no, no."He smoothes my hair away from my pale brow, inspecting the
tight-stretched skin carefully. He moves his hands down to my sleeves,
which he promptly rolls up, exposing my colorless, emaciated arms. They are
turned about with an expert gentleness. His eyes flick away momentarily,
when I see them again they are glimmering strangely in the candles'
"So you didn't give in." He looks at me, a furtive, prying look as if he
can read my fate in my heavy-lidded, bloodshot eyes.
Because I knew better. Because I thought I could win my way to heaven on
the weight of my deeds-or undeeds-alone.
Because I loved you-and Him-though I neglected you both. Because I was
with the two of you-every hour. I knew you both were watching-mourning-over
my every sin.
"Because.you knew-you know-you know exactly why." Tears I could not bring
myself to cry since the last I saw him suddenly spill out now-over myself,
over him-I notice his the anachronistic fineness of his clothing as I weep
into it, and wonder if this, too, is part of the illusion. Perhaps this is
merely a dream-the product of madness. Perhaps I've died-but is this heaven
or is this hell?
He reaches out to hold me, soothe me to a lesser state of hysteria. He
brings me close to his warm body. I cling to him tightly, without meaning
to. He feels like life itself-and I am so dead.
"Are you saved?", he whispers into my matted hair, and I realize I'm not.
I'm reminded, suddenly, of when my cousin asked me these same words. A year
ago, before he disappeared into a forced labor camp.
I draw back, not to answer him, but the other One whose presence has become
That's when the first bomb falls. Suddenly unaware of the two of them, I
run from the room. People have gathered outside. I ask what is happening,
and a young, marked woman looks up at me, indifferently incredulous at my
blindness. "We're watching this world destroy itself."
I follow her next glance, as she tilts her head to the sky. The explosions
must be a hundred miles away, but I can feel the heat melting the paint on
I rush back inside as the first shock wave hits. I see him, looking out of
the window as I'm thrown to the ground. I cry out in pain but he does not
answer me. Only when I lift my head and see the crumpled pile of his
clothes on the floor, do I know. I rush towards them as the second bomb
falls, burying my face in them, absorbing what scent and warmth of him
remains. I know now, truly, that I am alone-they both left at the moment
I'd finally realized how far I'd fallen.
Note-Based on a dream I had last night-I pray not on my future.