What happened to the world was gradual. I've forgotten what it actually was, but I have faint, fetal memories of what it was like. A smoldering dread that never really caught fire till there wasn't much left to burn. Each sequential step surprised us. Then one day we woke up, and everything was gone.
My "heart". Does that pitiful organ still represent anything? It lies motionless in my chest, pumping no blood, serving no purpose, and yet my feelings still seem to originate inside its cold walls. My muted sadness, my vague longing, my rare flickers of joy. They pool in the center of my chest and seep out of there, diluted and faint, but real.
He is spent. His mind is mercury again, its brief surge of humanity melting into an oily residue on its surface, and he no longer understands the feelings he felt in that strange moment on the overpass. But he did feel them. They did happen. They rest on the murky seabed of his mind, buried under sand and silt and miles of grey waves. Patient seeds waiting for light.
It's more eerie to be alone in a city that's lit up and functioning than one that's a tomb. If everything were silent, one could almost pretend to be in nature. A forest. A meadow. Crickets and birdsong. But the corpse of civilization is as restless as the creatures that now roam the graveyards.
Came to . . . see you.” “But I had to go home, remember? You were supposed to say good-bye.” “Don't know why you . . . say good-bye. I say . . . hello.” Her lip quivers between reactions, but she ends up with a reluctant smile. “God you're a cheeseball. But seriously, R—
I think the world has mostly ended because the cities we wander through are as rotten as we are. Buildings have collapsed. Rusted cars clog the streets. Most glass is shattered and the wind drifting through the hollow high-rises moans like an animal left to die. I don't know what happened. Disease? War? Social collapse? Or was it just us? The Dead replacing the Living? I guess it's not so important. Once you're arrived at the end of the world, it hardly matters which road you took.
She hugs me. It's tentative at first, a little scared, and yes, a little repulsed, but then she melts into it. She rests her head against my cold neck and embraces me. Unable to believer what's happening, I put my arm around her and just hold her. I almost swear I can feel my heart thumping. But it must just be hers, pressed tightly against my chest.
It frustrates and fascinates me that we'll never know for sure, that despite the best efforts of historians and scientists and poets, there are some things we'll just never know. What the first song sounded like. How it felt to see the first photograph. Who kissed the first kiss, and if it was any good.
But we don’t remember those lives. We can’t read our diaries.’ ‘It doesn’t matter. We are where we are, however we got here. What matters is where we go next.’ ‘But can we choose that?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘We’re Dead. Can we really choose anything?’ ‘Maybe. If we want to bad enough.
And yet ... But what if ... I want to do something impossible. Something astounding and unheard of. I want to scrub the moss off the Space Shuttle and fly Julie to the moon and colonise it, or float a capsized cruise ship to some distant island where no one will protest us, or just harness the magic that brings me into the brains of the Living and use it to bring Julie into mine, because it's warm in here, it's quiet and lovely, and in here we aren't an absurd juxtaposition, we are perfect.
Every time I go to sleep, I know I may never wake up. How could anyone expect to? You drop your tiny, helpless mind into a bottomless well, crossing your fingers and hoping when you pull it out on its flimsy fishing wire it hasn't been gnawed to bones by nameless beasts below.
She gathers my half of the blankets around her and curls up against the wall. She will sleep for hours more, dreaming endless landscapes and novas of colour both gorgeous and frightening. If I stayed she would wake up and describe them to me. All the mad plot twists and surrealist imagery, so vivid to her while so meaningless to me. There was a time when I treasured listening to her, when I found the commotion in her soul bitter-sweet and lovely, but I can no longer bear it.
Of course, if I eat all of him, if I spare his brain, he'll rise up and follow me back to the airport, and that might make feel better. I'll introduce him to everyone, and maybe we'll stand around and groan for a while. It's hard to say what 'friends' are any more, but that might be close.