Milk.

 

When your gaze first met his, you didn’t think much of it. Just another random meeting of the eyes. Best to disengage before any awkwardness ensues. But the lobby in the hospital was quite empty, the magazines on the desk weren’t your thing and you never understood the concept of soap operas. There really wasn’t much to do but look around. The final alternative being; staring at a fixed point and appearing like a person in deep thought. A woman in deep thought. A depressed woman in deep thought. Given the stage of your pregnancy, there would be no separating that image from the “single mother, damsel in distress” stereotype. And looking desperate was not on your agenda. So you looked around.

Your eyes locked a second time. A fraction of a second longer this time. You would have disengaged earlier, but you wanted to closely analyze the expression on his face. Curiosity.

At once, the stranger who shared a room with you transitioned from a mild annoyance to a thorn in your side. To discourage any further attention from him, you started to make small changes in body language. The muscles on your face worked to make a more distinct frown and you angled your body away from him.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Minutes later, you were almost at your car when you heard someone walking towards you. Before you turned around you already knew who it was. Given that the doctor didn’t really tell you what you wanted to hear, you weren’t in the mood to entertain anyone. Particularly not that creep.

There was something about him though, and you decided to lend him your attention just a bit. You focused more on his appearance than his words. If you were the stereotypical damsel in distress, he wasn’t exactly the knight in shining armor. More like not-so-faint-heart.

You wondered exactly what his motives were. Why would he be attracted to a woman at this stage of pregnancy?   You knew looks could be deceiving but you couldn’t help but conclude that he didn’t look the kind of guy who had anything sinister or malicious planned. He was a sweet talker, and he so desperately wanted to woo you, so you allowed yourself to be wooed. Perhaps you had ulterior motives of your own. Perhaps despite your adamancy in appearing as a strong independent woman at all times, subconsciously you wanted a savior. Responsibility really wasn’t looking as alluring as it was often romanticized.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

A few days later, you heard the doorbell. You know you shouldn’t have been, but you were quite surprised when you saw that he had bought some daises and a bottle of wine.  The dinner table was already set. The fact that the aroma in the room didn’t repulse him was a good sign. You were actually quite invested in this now, so you put some effort into making a good meal. If the cow had milk to give, why shouldn’t you have your share?

You knew the small talk was inevitable, so you made your best impressions of a social creature. You were quite smug when you realized that being a less endowed natural actor wasn’t going to be much of a problem here. He was so much into you that he was ignoring all the little things. Your mirthless laughter, the blankness of your eyes, the flatness of your tone. Poor guy.

Eventually, the conversation started to go down more relevant pathways. Work, finances, personal life. You didn’t really know the dos and don’ts regarding personal information but you felt it was the perfect question to ask. Not too casual, but serious enough for you to seem like you were actually interested. You asked him how much time he had left to live. His answer alarmed you immediately: 12,056 years.

Moments after he stated this figure, your heart began to beat very very loudly. A thumping so intense you could feel it in your skull. How could he possibly have that long to live? Even your 120 years, among the vast majority of the population, was considered to be quite a lot of time. But this guy. Five figures?

The only people with numbers that high were serial killers. People who added to their own lifespan, what they stole from others. If this guy had five figures, he was either really old, or really prolific. And none of these options boded well.

You did not even delude yourself into thinking you could escape. All this while, you believed you were in control of the situation. But now you knew, like a fly in a web, there was no other fate but the cocoon.

You closed your eyes and tried to control your breathing. While doing this, he laughed. There was something about that laughter though. It wasn’t malicious. It wasn’t even emotionless. It was almost………..innocent.

Amidst all the emotional turmoil going on inside your head, confusion seeped in, and took center stage. Was he lying to me? Did I fall for such a cheap trick?

Your blood started to boil.

Seeing that you were far from being amused, he hastened his explanation.  He wasn’t lying, but there really wasn’t any reason to be terrified. Those figures were from a serial killer sure, but not him. And he didn’t steal that time on purpose. Turns out this guy had hit the apotheosis of all jackpots, literally. The one time he gets a little carless with his driving, he knocks down an injured killer fleeing from the police. And just like that, twenty victims worth of life, added to his own. How fucking lucky.

He starts to get all emotional. “I really wish you wouldn’t but I understand if you want to leave me because of this”.

Leave you? You almost burst out laughing. The pounding in your chest is still there, the throbbing in your skull is still there. But something has joined them now. Control, it feels good to have you back.

What follows is a performance worthy of the greatest stage in all the world. A stroke of genius seemingly ex nihilo. Perhaps your natural talent for acting wasn’t as diminished as you thought.

You let tell him not to fret. He might outlive you and all your great grandchildren. But, you will enjoy your time with him while it lasts. Like a grizzly bear, he guzzles your words like sweets from a honey comb.

After a hug and a kiss, he tells you he needs to leave. You smile and he wishes you goodnight.

What he believes to be the falling action, is, in reality, the climax. Your heart is pounding faster now. A beating so intense you start to wonder if he can hear it. Dead giveaway if he can. Beads of sweat start to form on your forehead. He turns around and starts to walk towards the door. Your fingers strengthen their grip on the kitchen knife on the table.  Now or never.

A perfect arc is drawn through space. One which spans air, flesh and air again. Your knees weaken but only one of you falls. You wonder if you have to cut him again, just to make sure, but the rapidly widening pool of blood takes away your doubt.

In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that the doctor refused to perform your abortion. You would have been settling for a shiny rock when an entire mine lay around the corner. This cow here had milk to give.

 

Mount Sharp’s Human

ENTRY 7:

The psychological analysis reports I have read all claim that astronauts, at this stage, are full of emotions like nervousness, anxiety, apprehension, disquiet and above all, fear. In science, all exceptions are given particular attention. And with my measured calmness I am nothing if not an exception. It is expected that I should be a maelstrom, but instead, all I am is a clear blue sky. I wonder if I should request another psych eval. Perhaps I’m not fit for this mission after all. But it’s also likely that this is just an astute attempt by my subconscious to get myself out of the mission. Am I really calm, or am I subliminally terrified?

A light beam slips through my window and bathes a portion of the chrome wall of my room in golden light. It’s dusk. Sunset. The final light before the long darkness, before the dawn, before newness and opportunity. Is there really an analogy in there? Or again, do I subconsciously have an ulterior motive? Are the parallels between the trajectory of photons and my mission unnecessary?

I miss my mother. I miss the scent of her shampoo. I miss Sunday afternoon pancakes. I miss Friday nights, bus rides to school, the boys, and the frustration.

 

ENTRY 9:

Sato wanted us to bury him on the planet. This would have been a very stupid decision, respect, tradition and custom be damned. You don’t get to introduce a foreign specimen into a controlled environment for sentimental reasons. Unless I can’t help it, all experimental protocol will be observed on this mission.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

A malfunction in the ventilation system brought to us a very stale smell. Along with the smell came the first sliver of a doubt as to if the incinerator would have been a good idea. We both felt nauseous but only Sato began to vomit. After the first round, he told me, “We should have buried him!”

I said, “Agreed. Waste of oxygen.” He gave me a look and then proceeded to vomit some more. Maybe burying him on the planet would have been a breach of protocol, but the asteroids in orbit would have been viable options. Too much of a hustle, I thought. I did not dwell on the burning remains. That leak in the ventilation system suggested to me that the condition of the ship was deteriorating further. The sooner we landed on the planet, the better. I left to check if the code for the landing sequence was still bug fee, leaving behind the smell of rotten flesh and the gagging sounds.

 

ENTRY 10:

The integrity checks I performed after coming out of cryosleep say various things. Things which can be summed up in flashing red lights. The ship is falling apart in every way possible. There are various reasons for this. For one, the urgent nature of the mission led to the hasty construction of Seven Sacred Streams. The safety checks were not as thorough as they should have been. Secondly, being in crystosasis for the duration of the mission made it impossible for us to conduct any maintenance. Due to power concerns, no robots were brought aboard the mission. Also, the large bouts of radiation the ship has been exposed to have catalyzed the decline of the ship.

Another disturbing issue, even with one crew member deceased…it doesn’t look like there’ll be enough resources to sustain the remaining two individuals for the planned duration of the mission…….

 

ENTRY 15

Before, we never really had any time to socialize, but being the only two humans for millions of miles forced us into interaction. Sato was a very nice human being. Back home, we would never have been friends, true, but talking to him is…refreshing. He has such a pure heart…that kind of unapologetic genuineness which is rare amongst human beings. He has a background in botany and geology. A third generation botanist actually. I have no one waiting for me back home, but he has a family. A wife, 3 kids and a cat.

Opening up to me won’t make me any less strict when it comes to standard operating procedure, but, nonetheless, I’m glad I got to know him this way.

 

ENTRY 21:

I had expected the constellations to be different on Mars, but they were precisely the same. Because of its ties to astrology, I had veered away from astronomy as a student, however, from the iota of knowledge I retained, I could tell that the constellations, though composed of the same stars, are taking slightly different trajectories across the canvas of the sky.

After rationing my meals, vitamins, oxygen and other miscellaneous resources, I have just 24 earth days to complete my mission. 23.36 Martian sols. I didn’t factor in resources needed for a return trip. After what happened, why should I survive? All I can do now is commit to finishing the mission. To make sure all required fields of information are transmitted back to earth.

The night deepens and I face the risk of thinking myself to sleep on the rusty Martian surface. As enticing as that seems, as aesthetic as the scene would be, it would still be very foolish. Despite the weaker gravitational pull of Mars, it’s still a challenge to rise to my feet in my space suit. I walk groggily back to Seven Sacred Streams, leaving behind Deimos as he tears through the night sky, and the constellations, as they watch.

 

ENTRY 1

This isn’t the world we deserve but it’s the one we made. I’m quite honored to have been selected for this mission. Part of me feels that the human race does not deserve another chance. But part of me also feels that we can do this. Maybe its compassion versus masochism again. I went to the space center today where I met the other two crew members. Sosuke Sato and Michael Lee Caddleworth. I’ve decided not to base any judgments on first impressions. On paper, they look good.

The final parts of the ship are being fired off into space for assembly. From the little that I saw, everything about it is geared towards ruthless efficiency. No space for aesthetics. Even an aerodynamic shape was too much of a luxury and had to be sacrificed. Which is why the ship is to be assembled in space. Hopefully, entry into the martian atmosphere won’t be too rough.

I saw Marley at the funeral today. She looked pale, pretty and pathetic. Life in the middle class does not seem to be treating her well. Maybe I should have spoken to her. Maybe I should have tried harder.

 

ENTRY 23:

I keep wondering how all gods are born. Of what I read from theology, gods were born to sustain the minds of primordial man and help their understanding of the universe. But that can’t be the only way. Of late, I’ve taken up the notion that gods are born of obsession.

What is a god after all? Is it not nothing but the object of our worship? And what is worship if not an obsession? I keep thinking about the mission. The mission, the mission, the mission. Seven Sacred Streams ran out of fuel 2 days ago. I can no longer rely on the mobile space ship as a refuge from the unforgiving Martian sand storms. I now have to depend on the surface rover for transportation. Rides on the rover are fun. It’s interesting how I keep coming up with new ways to keep myself distracted from the large doses of radiation I am exposed to due to the shattered lead shield of the rover’s engine.

What is god? The mission is god. Maybe I have a messiah complex. Maybe not. But the fact remains that the hopes of everyone back on earth lies on my shoulders. The hope of the entire human race lies on my shoulders.

Its now a race against time, and the deadline presents itself in various permutations. Will I complete the mission before I run out of resources? Will I die of radiation poisoning before I complete the mission? Will I run out of resources before I die of radiation poisoning?

6 sols more. I have already transmitted all the results of the research I have conducted back to earth. The findings are already painting a very interesting picture. Disturbing to the human in me, but interesting to the scientist in me. Now I race towards Mt.Sharp for a final confirmation of my findings. Maybe I’m being paranoid. I pray I’m being paranoid. Only time can tell.

Resources are dwindling, and with all the weight I’ve lost, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth the ATP to keep writing these entries.

 

ENTRY 17:

My hands are still shaking. Its very hard to write. I don’t want to justify what I’ve just done. It’s easy to fall back on it, but I don’t want to use the age old cliché of “for the greater good.” It was an idea I had tossed around in my mind….almost jokingly at first. But I surprise myself with how quickly I acted when the opportunity rose.

Maybe they’ll hate for it. Maybe I should be hated. But I acted for the right reasons.

Did I act for the right reasons though? Maybe I’m a terrible human being, maybe I’m criminally insane.

I don’t want to write about this anymore. I want to be alone. My hands are shaking.

 

ENTRY 27

Radiation poisoning does not treat the body kindly. Its been a day since my last meal and I know I wont be alive for much longer. I’m so weak, I feel it will soon be impossible to vomit properly. When that happens, I’ll just become another corpse on mars. A corpse that died by choking on its own bile.

I willed myself to be wrong, but even before I had descended into that wretched hell at the base of Mt.Sharp, I knew, with every fibre of my being, that I was right.

I have not the energy nor the time to repeat my exact finding in this entry. The detailed report is already en route to earth. After I clicked the transmit button, I found it fascinating, that an electric and magnetic field, vibrating at right angles to each other, could contain such…….such doom. For a moment, I considered not sending the report. The despair that the mission had failed would have been infinitely better than the despair that all hope is lost. I sent the transmission anyway because I knew better. Better to pass on the burden of releasing or withholding information to someone else.

I lie down now on the surface of mars. A scene not so different from that a few days ago. Days when hope was still our drug. Lone astronaut in the freezing desert.

I sense the shadow of death hovering over me, and at once, I begin to feel, with a deep regret, that I lived an empty life. I begin to feel sorry. Very sorry.

I’m sorry about my dad. I should have been there with him in his final days. How was I supposed to know how lonely it would be to die…with no one by your side. I feel sorry about my high school boyfriend. I shouldn’t have cheated on him the way I did. It’s silly to feel sorry about such a thing now, I know, but I can’t help my feelings. I feel sorry about Marley. Maybe my life would have been better if I had stayed at home with her. If I hadn’t left the town on a quest for education, money, power and glory. I feel sorry about Marley’s daughter…who’s going to die. A daughter who could have been mine. I start to cry.

I feel sorry about the earth. About every single living thing on that planet. About how everything is doomed for destruction due to chemical reactions, psychology, evolution, and the destructive march of time.

I feel sorry about the ship. It was a good ship. Seven Sacred Streams kept me warm and safe.

I feel sorry about Sato…whose body I left rotting somewhere beneath a Martian dune. He did not deserve to die that way. I had no right to be judge, jury and executioner.

I feel sorry about my cells. The multitude of cells which worked tirelessly to keep me alive. In spite of myself, I can’t help but feel I failed them too. This isn’t the world we made, but it’s the one we deserve.

We are all going to die, but I would have preferred not to die alone.

I’m sorry.

 

 

 

MISSION REPORT

FINAL TRANSMISSION

By Dr.Katherine Strange

ABSTRACT:

When I first signed up for this mission, I had no delusions about what was ahead of me. I knew the task ahead would be difficult, and I tried to the best of my ability, to prepare myself. In the psychological evaluation tests, we were asked what motivated us to accept this mission. For my crew members, it was simple: Duty. But for me, it was much more complicated.

I thought at the time that perhaps I was motivated by greatness, that I was the heroine who would forever be immortalized by her deeds, that I was a 22nd century Achilles. But now, I’ve had quite a lot of time to contemplate that answer, and I know it’s false. I was, in fact, motivated by compassion.

It may sound like a lie, for someone who’s spent a lot of time screwing people over in order to climb to the top. But when you’re stripped of a lot of things you thought were important, when you’re stripped down to your bare self, you have a lot of room to think clearly.

Perhaps, being in cryosleep has altered my brain chemistry in some way, and I may have retroactively altered my motivations. Nonetheless, I feel compassionate about all of mankind. And I have a burning desire to save us.

The caveat to having a burning desire though, disappointment cuts through to your very soul. I had invested so much of my emotional energy into the success of this mission. Every night, before going to bed, I imagined the tears of joy on the faces of my superiors when I send in the good news, all but touching their warm faces, all but feeling their relief.

Humans have always been ruined by their own expectations.

There must be some kind of philosophical term for this phenomenon though. It is a twist of such literary proportions that I am almost certain that it has been explored by some creative genius in his thousand page novel and discussed with passionate curiosity in many college classes years later.

To whoever receives this message, if you read it alone, I shed a tear for you, for the burden of this knowledge is not easy on the soul. You can read ahead, navigate through the scientific semantic and statistical reports, cut through the raw data and draw an inevitable conclusion.

Being human, you are going to be frightened by what you see. So frightened that you triple check the data. Your fear will not be made baseless however. You will become even more frightened then, and try to consider the possibility of forgery. Of Insanity. Heck, you’ll be so desperate that a genetic lack of creativity will not stop you from visualizing all possible ways this data could be false.

You can go ahead and read the reports. But that will be a waste of time. I’ll just tell you now what I found, in as few sentences as possible. I’ll be brief…a shadow hovers over me.

Millions of years ago, the first humans evolved on mars. Back then, the planet was verdant and beautiful, with lots of water and so much oxygen. Then, as the eons passed, the state of the planet began to deteriorate. The flora and fauna began to die off. Living conditions were growing increasingly unfavorable. The planet was heading toward a mass extinction level event. An event catalyzed by conflict, decadence and pollution.

Finally, the event happened, and in the span of a million years, the most complex of organisms disappeared from the surface of mars while the most simple of organic molecules spawned on a planet close by. A planet we call Earth, our home.

The origin of life has always been a mystery. One of the great questions whose answer was unknowable. Unknowable, up until now that is.

When the state of the Earth began to deteriorate, the country’s strongest nations came together to organize this mission. A mission to gather data on the planet mars and find out how quickly it could be terraformed into a new Earth. Well, the joke is on us. One big fat cosmic joke. And with the vast emptiness of space, no one will be left to laugh.

Of what I found on Mars, of the data I gathered, Mars will never ever support life. Not again. Eons ago, before the last humans died on mars, before it become this rusted wasteland, a project was commissioned in which an evolutionary engineering process was started on a nearby planet. When they realized they could not save their home, they at least tried to save their species.

Are you laughing yet? Are you bellowing in hysterical laughter? Imagine how foolish we seem now. Having destroyed our planet to the point where we have to buy bottled oxygen from stores, we seek a new home, only to realize that a previous version of our species destroyed that place a long time ago.

Despite the cruel irony, I think this proves conclusively that the fate of humanity is one of self-destruction. Maybe we should give up. After all, natural selection is a flawless mechanism. Human beings may be destined to burn bright and fade fast.

For all my opinion is worth, I do not think we should despair too much at this realization. The fact that we ended up this way after a second try only conclusively proves that there was literally nothing we could do to change our fate. This should take a lot of guilt off our chests.

If my mission achieved something at all, it has brought to light the knowledge that we are quite close to the end point of human civilization. In spite of this, we should love, and create and be. So that we can claim to have lived.

 

 

THE END

 

TECHNICOLOUR

 

It had been a week since the riots had stopped. However, she still heard strange sounds. Sounds of glass breaking, of car alarms, of honking horns, of anarchy, and of carnage. In their climax, the sounds she heard were mostly in her head—Resilient remnants of terrible times. However, more often than not, the sounds were very real.

In the aftermath of the riots, the remaining survivors had taken to the streets. They were jumpy, cautious people in search of food, ammunitions and other survival gear. The worst had passed, yet their hurriedness remained as a monument to their fear.

Alternatively, there were people fully resigned to the reality of their situation, spending their time breaking into jewelry stores. The decaying bodies of angry rioters and unlucky police officers were the silent witnesses to their meaningless crimes. In this new world, a diamond was little more than a shiny rock.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
The thought of going outside still terrified her. In her fear, she sought to drown herself in isolation. This was an exercise in futility, as the sound of break-ins always kept her acutely aware of human presence.

Thus, she tried another type of therapy. She cleared out all objects from what used to be her bedroom, until it was nothing but a space enclosed by four walls. After this, she sat cross-legged in the center of her room. It was her intention that, with a muted room and a muted mind, there would be no anchor for her bad thoughts to hold onto, and her anxiety and paranoia would fade away in the overwhelming nothingness.

Unfortunately for her, things did not go according to plan. And this was very much her fault, for she had desperately purged from her subconscious a vital factor needed in her calculations. At nightfall, the object she called “a demonic halo” proceeded to cast the room in a bluish hue, and her space was void no more.

Before things had really escalated, people had taken to calling the objects that floated above their heads as “tags”. Insofar as the form of the objects was concerned, “Tag” was a very suitable epithet. The objects were holographic, rectangular and seemingly fixed. Placards floating above each person’s head. Each of them a different color, each of them denoting a different number.

There in the silence, the bluish glow of her tag brought to her mind an image of a scene that took place days earlier. An image of a man bleeding out on the floor while she hid just a few feet away. And before she knew it, against her will, she began to relive, in its full totality, the chaos.

As the night progressed, the PTSD did its worst. That night she lost consciousness in cold sweat and with trembling hands.

…………………………………….

Hours later she was faced with the same conundrum as before. The sun was setting, and with its slow descent upon the horizon came the promise of another episode. Typically, her choice had been to suffer through the night. However, this time, she was leaning towards taking a different decision. This had a lot to do with the fact that her agony had now surpassed her fear.

Naturally, the part of her that had lived through the riots still wanted to remain within the safety of her apartment, but it was dusk, and she wanted to get ahead while it was still light out.
……………………………………
She tried to make as little noise as she could when opening the door, however, due to rusty hinges and deathly silence, her endeavor must have been announced to all the inhabitants of her building, if any remained.

She hesitated after opening the door. Waiting for a sound, for a reaction, for an indication of danger, for the signal to rush back into her room, for the safety of living under circumstances beyond her control, for the safety of her decisions being taken for her.

But no warning came and she was simultaneously disappointed and relieved. In her disappointment, in her relief, her conviction hardened and she began her descent down the stairs.

……………………………….

She stood in front of her building now. It was cold, as she expected, and she tightened her jacket. The street was empty. She estimated that seven out of every ten people must have died in the days before. But three out of ten was still good odds, and she was bound to run into someone sooner or later. She reached into her pocket. The cold touch of the steel of her knife reassured her. Then she began to walk down the street.

………………………………..

A few blocks from her starting point, she reached a newspaper stand. Before the halos appeared, back when things were still normal, she used to pass by this same spot after work, to grab her favourite fashion magazines. She would always give in, against her better judgment, to tabloid celebrity news rather than fitness magazines. She had even developed an acquaintance with the stand’s owner. A middle-aged man named Stanley who had a fetish for Asian porn magazines. Judging by the state of things, he had been caught up in the Helter Skelter days earlier. She didn’t want to think of Stan’s fate. In spite of herself, she began to wonder if he had been trodden by the crowd, knocked down by a car, or shot in the head. The thought of his brains leaking out on a street somewhere made her want to puke.

She reached into the stall and took out a newspaper. One of the last that had been published before everyone lost their minds. The cover story read:

DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE A PIECE OF SHIT?
WORRY NO MORE!
FEBRUARY 20th, 2017.
Ever since the mysterious rectangles appeared over everyone’s heads the whole nation has been going crazy!!! Stocks crashed overnight, unemployment skyrocketed and divorce lawyers just can’t get their phones to stop ringing. The holographic placards seem to follow you wherever you go. If that isn’t disturbing enough, think about the numbers they denote. Numbers which most people are convinced represents value. The best scientific minds are at a loss to an explanation. The Minister of Defence is convinced it’s some kind of terrorist attack and has been locked in a meeting with her advisors since the appearance of the placards. The President is yet to give a public address.

One of the world’s smartest economists and a supporting member of SETI, Dr.Mau Koch, has been seen on TV expressing a professional opinion that the number on a person’s placard is actually the value of the person’s life! Don’t be so quick to denounce the claims though, because thought they may not admit it, people have been reacting to the placards in surprising ways. Some people were denied entry into a club because their numbers were too low. Green energy company, SunFlower, saw their stocks fall after rumours surfaced that their CEO had a two digit number on his tag. Rachel Royce and Michael Sputner, celebrity power couple, have filed for divorce. Insiders suggest that this is due to a large difference between their individual numbers. People are starting to get agitated and people are starting to get scared. Police Reports reveal that some minor “incidents” have also taken place, though no loss of life has been reported yet.

An informant has informed as of impending Martial Law! Stay indoors people and stay safe!
-Richard Shultz

After reading the poorly written article, her mind flashed back to the first appearance of the halos. She had been visiting her parents in the countryside that weekend. That afternoon, she sat in the porch reading, while her next-door neighbors organized a barbecue. The fragrance of flowers in the nearby garden and the odour of burning pork combined beautifully to produce a smell that excited her. A smell which she gobbled up in deep, strong breaths.

That Sunday had been tranquil. Maybe even halcyon. But in retrospect of all the horrible things that proceeded, that day had been nothing but a portent of destruction. Like the soft, cold sea breeze that brings to sailors the scent of salt and memories of home, only to turn out to be the first gale of a coming storm.

She had given in to drowsiness and was descending softly into sleep. To her dismay, her peace was disturbed by voices from the house next door. Voices which were rising in volume. Freaking neanderthals, she thought. She had just decided to ignore them when she heard her sister scream. A sound which jolted her into full awareness.

Later that day, what was supposed to be a special family dinner had degenerated into a heated debate. Of course her father, the family know-it-all, was in full swing. His protracted speech made little sense. As though it was more an attempt to explore the full range of his vocabulary than to provide illumination. He was so raucous, mannerless and totally oblivious to the fact that he was showering everybody in spit. A piece of chicken dangled from his beard. She had always thought him so unevolved. He disgusted her.

“What’s the matter sweetie?” her mother asked. “You haven’t said a word.”

“Nothing Ma, just tired.”

“It’s the government I tell ya! Spying on its own citizens like we’re tadpoles in a fishbowl!” her father went on. Her mother, sister and brother, his awed spectators.

She was tired. Tired of arguing. Of noise. She had hoped this weekend would rejuvenate her after her hectic week at the firm. Yet, trouble had found her yet again.

“It’s nothing Dad,” she barked. “It’s probably some kid’s retarded science project. Geeze! Can’t you shut up just once?”

He looked at her, as if he had just noticed she had been standing there.

Perhaps she should have felt guilty. But all she felt was the satisfaction of having gotten her way.

She might have been foolish. Foolish in not showing more concern. It wasn’t exactly her fault. Her fatigue kept her from giving thoughtful consideration to which she had decided was merely a passing headache. That night, sleep did not come to her easily. The blue glow was already having an effect on her psyche.

The next morning, she said her goodbyes as she prepared to leave. Her father did not take notice of her impending departure. His eyes were glued to the television screen. Frankly, she was surprised he hadn’t wrapped his head in tin foil yet. He was watching the channel five news.

“The Government have released a report saying that the holograms are merely part of a population census. All should remain calm.”

Later, as she was being driven to her house, she wondered if she should have kissed him goodbye. She didn’t dwell on the matter though, as she was soon pondering what she had heard on the news. A population census? This is merely an invasion of privacy. I feel….violated.

To distract herself, she began to read her e-mails.

Moments later, the driver of the truck in front of her car saw a red tag and mistook it as a traffic signal. Her driver, in order to avoid the halted truck, turned sharply to the right. Though he avoided the vehicle, her car turned up on the opposite lane, and before oncoming traffic.

………………………………..

A soft bang drew her out of her reverie. With the onset of awareness came a temporary panic. By standing in the middle of the street, lost in her thoughts, she had advertised her vulnerability. She looked around nervously and then started walking again. Her pace had increased perceptibly.

While walking away she fell back into that same train of thought. It was somehow funny, that she had experienced the apocalypse not as a leading character or a protagonist but from a third person perspective. After the crash, she was hospitalized, and a 15 inch TV had been the window through which she saw the rise of madness and the fall of civilization.

A few feet away from the newspaper stand, she heard another bang. This time, her pace was not the only thing that quickened. Her heart started to pound with an intensity that rattled her cranium.

She could tell that something was coming. The volume of the bang brought her to the awareness of two details. One-Something was approaching. Two-It was approaching fast. Slowly at first, and then with a heightened intensity, she began to hear, a rumbling noise. A deep growl, like thunder, but incipient.

She started to run, but in her panic, she lost her balance and fell hard. The adrenaline flooding her system numbed the pain she had been expecting to just a dull throbbing.

The source of the sound was much closer now. She willed herself to rise but her muscles just would not obey. Despair was taking over now and tears began to flow.

“Quick! Over here!”

She turned and saw that a few feet from her, standing to the side of the road, at the entrance to an alley, was a short man, beckoning.

“Over here, now!” the man said.

She was frozen in place.

The sound grew louder and louder. Closer and closer, it came.

Then, in several quick movements, the man dashed to her location, heaved her to her feet and helped her into the alley.

Moments later, it came thundering past. And she saw that “it” was actually not as abstract as her mind had made it seem, for “It” was actually “they”.

In the relative comfort of the alley, she looked toward the street and saw several men on horseback galloping at full speed.

Hooves collided with tar to create small explosions. And over the sound of that terrifying noise one of the men shouted “WOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!”

And as quickly as they had come, they were gone.

“We’re safe now,” the man said.

She said nothing as she was still panting.

“That was some crazy bunch,” the man said. “Damn. I think one of them had a chain of grenades over his chest. Were those assault rifles? Good thing they didn’t see us.

“My name is Errol. What’s yours?”

Silence.

With subterfuge, she slipped her right hand into her pocket.

“Not much of a talker I see,” Errol continued. “I don’t blame you though. We’ve all changed.”

She turned to look at him. Critically, this time.

He was average in every sense of the word. Except for two distinct features. One, he had a wide scar above his left eye. Judging from the look it must have been recent. Two, his tag glowed a light green. On it was the number 22345.

“We have to get going. Can’t stay here for two long. They might be back. Or worse.”

She wanted to protest, in spite of the fact that he had just saved her. However, with the horsemen in mind, she found herself thinking that he might not exactly be the worst company.

Hesitantly, she followed him.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

It had been a day since she had decided to leave her apartment. A day since the crazy horsemen. She was now in what used to be a bar with other survivors. Among them, Errol, his brother and six other people.

Since she followed Errol to this location, she made sure to keep a cautious distance from everyone. She rebuffed all initial attempts at small talk and soon, they all knew not to bother her.

They had spent the previous night in silence. As if they were all in denial of the reality of their situation. As if they did not want to taint their delusions with conversations.

However, this night was looking to be different. Maybe it was the bottle of booze they had shared earlier, but Errol and his brother Siegfried were feeling very chatty.

“Come on Errol, you really think this number above my head isn’t currency?” Siegfried said.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous Sig,” Errol said. “The government said it’s just a population census.”

“The government. Ha,” Siegfried said. “You’re so naïve Errol. None of those fools knew what was going on!”

“C’mon Sig”

“Listen here little brother. They say it’s a census yet people all around the world have these tags above their heads. Some people have even been spotted with numbers waaaaaay in the trillions. Even your lady friend there should be proof that the census claim is pure horseshit.”

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“Then what exactly are these numbers Sig!” Errol barked.

“I really can’t say for sure, little brother,” Errol said. “Everybody seems to have their own opinion. But there are several key pieces of evidence that could inform your own opinion.”

The bar quieted down. Everybody was now listening in on the conversation with an intensity.

Siegfried, who was a natural showman, adjusted to this attention with panache.

He went on, “A friend of mine at the factory had a wife who worked as a janitor at the space agency. He told me that a few days ago, she had stopped going to work. She hadn’t been fired or anything. Apparently, they had discovered something which they absolutely could not risk being leaked to the media.

“Unfortunately all their efforts were futile. A few days after her suspension the channel five news reported that astronomers had discovered an artificial mega-structure lurking behind Jupiter.”

Channel five news, She scoffed. She remembered the news item very well. She was in the hospital, recovering from a foot surgery that day.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Mae, a middle-aged woman, said.

“I kid you not, my lady,” Siegfried said. “Look, I know it all sounds ridiculous. But Mau Koch, you know Mau Koch, right Errol?”

Errol grunted in affirmation.

“Well, anyway, Mau Koch figured the whole thing out,” Errol said. “In an exclusive interview with Richard Shultz, he revealed that the “mega-structure” was actually an alien ship!”

“There’s no such thing as aliens,” she said, speaking for the first time.

They all turned to look at her.

She did not cower at their stares. Rather, she went on, “There’s no such thing as aliens. Channel five news is trash. Other news channels reported that the ‘mega-structure’ was actually a ninth planet just outside the solar system. ”

Siegfried smirked at her and then took a sip of his beer.

“Well Ma’am, you have your beliefs and I have mine,” his tone was so condescending. As if she was nothing other than an ignorant buffoon.

“But Sig,” Mae said, “You can’t possibly expect us to believe that. I mean, come on, aliens.”

Sig smirked again, “some of you are so stupid that you won’t even believe something when it hovers right over your head.”

Silence.

She felt very insulted and was about to raise her voice when a man said, “I think we’ve exhausted all other rational possibilities.”

She turned and looked. It was the man they called Karl. A former sociology professor.

“I don’t like the sound of aliens any better than any of you do,” Karl said. “It may be absolute bullshit. But when last I checked, no nation in this world possesses such an advanced holography technology.”

He gestured to his tag. “567,768” it said.

“All this time. We have lived under the assumption that humankind is the only race in the universe. This belief stems from the age long evolutionary mechanism of self-centeredness.

“Human beings have an inborn habit to glorify ourselves. Religiously, we are the chosen people. Mortal, flawed and ordained by the gods. Historically, we are the winners, the survivors. The sons and daughters of the kings who did not fall in battle. Scientifically, we are the perfect people. The right combination of genes necessary to thrive and to reproduce.

“But if it turns out we are not alone in the universe, all those beliefs are merely self-comforting lies.”

Siegfried broke the silence first, “Couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“So how do these three elements fit into the narrative?” Errol asked. “First the tags. Then Aliens. And then the carnage.”

“Two elements, my brother,” Siegfried replied. “Just the Tags and the Aliens. The carnage was entirely a construction of human beings.”

“That can’t be right Sig,” Errol said. “After the tags appeared, shit just started going south.”

“Things had been going south way before the tags appeared, Errol,” Karl said. “The tags were merely catalysts. The carnage that followed was the climax of human decadence.”

“It is truly sad,” Karl continued. “Human beings have never been perfect creatures. But the worst thing to happen in the history of human kind is the advent of self-consciousness. Of rational thought.”

God did not plan on our consciousness developing so well,” she spoke, surprising everyone including herself.

Karl looked at her and smiled. “A line from a poem, if I’m not mistaken? But it’s rather superbly appropriate. Human’s should never have evolved to the point of developing a consciousness.”

“Why,” Errol asked.

“Because with consciousness, our actions were no longer directed by instinct. And we now had the power and free will to defy nature.”

“Well that went on great for us,” Siegfried said, taking another sip.

“I know right!” Karl replied. “Lead-poisoned drinking water, human cloning, carbon emissions, unnatural weather patterns.”

“The atomic bomb,” Errol chimed in.

“The atomic bomb. The apotheosis of it all.”

“You men are being to abstract,” Mae said. “The riots started because people started to believe that these numbers above our head represent the value of a person’s life. That belief was the trigger that upset the social order.”

“And who said they don’t represent value?” Karl said. “What Siegfried said about the space agency isn’t some made up rumor. The mega-structure is not, as they would have us believe, a ninth planet.

“It’s true they found something lurking beyond Jupiter. And its true that it was an alien space ship. Soon after the discovery was made, a probe was sent out. They found the aliens all right, but they were all dead.”

“What?” Siegfried exclaimed.

“The Aliens were all dead.”

“Who killed them?”

“Not who but what. Many astrobiologists and astrochemists believed they were diseased. Who knows, maybe it was some space parasite.”

“This makes absolutely no fucking sense,” she shouted.

“I know. I know it makes no sense,” Karl said. “Before the riots started, one of the popular theories circulating among higher ups was that aliens were actually here to enslave us.

“Some intellectuals thought that numbers on the tags represented our serial numbers. But a conflicting and popular idea was that the numbers represented the value of our lives.”

“What criteria did they use to judge the value of a person’s life?” She snapped. “My number is the highest I’ve seen yet I’m nothing special.”

“I think,” Karl said, “The criteria used is unknown and unknowable. The question itself is a deeply philosophical one, well beyond our tiny minds. Even beggars and junkies have been seen with higher numbers than kings and politicians”

“Why did they even need to display these numbers?” she asked.

“I really don’t know. When you walk into a supermarket how do you determine the price of items?”

“Are you kidding? You think they intended to sell us? To who?”

“I don’t know. To other aliens I suppose.”

“Oh fucking bullshit.”

“Look, I know this is very hard to take in,” Karl said. “This narrative didn’t go exactly how anyone thought it would go.

“The aliens are dead. And their price tags have already catalyzed the collapse of governments. It would be naïve to consider what took place in the last couple of weeks as anything other than an apocalyptic event. The end of the world has come to pass. But instead of a super flu, a volcanic eruption or a meteorite, we were destroyed by an unlikely combination of events.

“It fucking sucks. To be left behind in this senseless world. But we’re here now. And I don’t know about you but I want to live.”

Karl finally stopped speaking and the silence that followed was heavy. Everybody was taking in what he said and everybody was contemplating the future.

She was thinking too. Karl was right. It didn’t matter how the world had ended. Only that it had. Maybe she was lucky to be alive. Maybe she wasn’t. But the long night had come and she had to live through it.

The world had become a cold and dangerous place. Filled with the insane and the fearful. This group was her best chance of survival. Sure, they weren’t perfect. But they were her best shot.

After all, she wanted to live.

DAWN

Life is a funny thing. Even in death. The more you get, the more you want. At first, you’ll be happy just to hunt. Just to kill. But soon, you get inventive. Shall I kill killers today? Or thieves? Prostitutes? Children? Shall it be a quick death? A slow death? A sip? A feast? Before you realize, you’re in full swing. Discretion never meant anything to you in the first place. You’ll feed right there in the night club. A perfect scene to stage a murder. There among the cacophony of lights and the dissonance of guitars. There among a hundred not-witnesses. What does it matter, as long as you arrive at your coffin before the sun comes up?

Sometimes, when you try to avoid the most obvious dangers, you fall prey to the more insidious ones.

Gone are the days when I lived wild. When I was a young vampire high on the remnants of my human blood. Nighttime fumblings with strange women in dark alleys easily transformed from sexual endeavors to nutritive ones. Sometimes they were combinations of both.

Blood was never enough for me. I would always combine with alcohol and drugs. Deep during the night, on Harley-Davidson motorbikes, speed and light trails would combine to produce psychedelic episodes of epic proportions. In those moments I was a true Modern Vampire of the City. A creature of the night. You cannot experience true hedonism until you’re free of the fear, of the inevitability, of death. Being immortal, I went all out.

But sooner or later however, you realize that actions have consequences, even in death. Spend so long avoiding the Reaper, He soon finds you.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The members of my Coven were hunted down and slaughtered like dogs. Squealing and yelping like pigs before the butcher. I never fully realized that there is no grace in death. No. Not until I watched my brothers die.

There were the heroes of dark fantasy. The Van Helsing’s and Ben Mears’. Heroes not unlike knights of folklore, facing goblins, giants and dragons. Good and evil were never blurred lines to them. And glory and fair lady were always one climax away.

And then there are the animals known as hunters. Perhaps the greatest sign of their cruelty is their creativity. I had been captured once by hunters. Death did not come as I expected. Instead, I was skinned. My body was the canvas. The hot knife was the brush. And the hunter was the artist. A dark artist indeed. The echoes of my screams complimented perfectly the sadism of the act. As the sun rose, and my consciousness faded, I thought that I would not live to see another sunset. However, I woke again at night, to see that my wounds had healed, and that the hunter had come, once again, with his knife. The prolific Picasso. The resilient Mozart. It was then that I realized that those who died during the hunt were the lucky ones.

As fate would have it, I escaped. I was rescued in fact. The various vampire factions in the city had decided to put aside their differences in order to battle the rising threat of the hunters. The enemy of my enemy. However, I had had enough. When you’ve almost been tortured to madness, you come to realize that there’s absolutely nothing poetic about burning bright and fading fast. The hunters had asserted to me just who was top of the food chain. The message was clear. I fled.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Hilton was a small town. Right about in the middle of nowhere. The people were plentiful and simple enough to promise sustenance without trouble. Provided I didn’t get too excited, I would live for decades without arousing suspicion.

Here in Hilton, I experienced for the first time in death, just what it meant to feed for survival and not for pleasure. In the city, I could feed several times a night. However, in Hilton, I never ventured beyond a body a week. And it wasn’t always humans. Sometimes cows, sometimes pigs. Sometimes I didn’t even kill, I just fed. Word travels fast in small towns. Get too excited and soon you’d have mobs, torches and pitchforks.

I made my nest deep underground in an old well. The water had long since dried up and the place was full enough of rodents that would sustain me in times of difficulty.
The life I would have in Hilton did not promise to be glamorous but it would be long. If there’s anything I learnt in captivity, it’s that I want to live, even as a dead man.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Fast forward several months and we come to my current predicament. It wasn’t simply death by sunlight or by hunger, but rather, a cruel combination of both. I had exactly three days. Three days after which the sun would rise, never to set for eighty-two days. Never to set for eleven weeks.

I should have seen this coming. I should have known. But in the midst of the hunt, I attuned my senses to focus on the dangers before me, at the expense of the awareness of less immediate dangers.

In the city, I was so attuned to the cycle of night and day and night and day. How was I supposed to be aware of the planetary revolution? Of the shifting axis? How was I to know of the summer solstice? However, ignorance is no excuse and nature is unsympathetic. The midnight sun was coming for me. Bright, unforgiving and seemingly eternal.

Vampires, by default, lose consciousness when the sun comes up. Provided you have enough blood in your system, you wake up once the sun sets. A fully grown human being has enough blood to sustain me for about a week, but the solstice promised to be several times the length of a week.

The danger was very real. The sun would prevent me from hunting. Without hunting I would run out of blood. Without blood I would never wake.

Desperation is a funny thing. You could call it a facet of madness. I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t. However, I knew that if I went to sleep I would never wake. My options were thin. I couldn’t skip town. The next bus would arrive in Hilton the day after the Summer Solstice began. I had just one option left.

It’s very funny. Something you would read out of an old fantasy novel really. A “ritual”. Something I picked up during my brief affairs with the elder ones. At the time, I listened just as an indulgence of their weird habits. I was skeptical of such things at first, but later, it occurred to me that a walking, talking, flying dead body is in no position to be skeptical. My desperation further pushed me to try it.

The ritual seemed simple enough. A small concoction. A tiny price to pay. Bloodsucking monsters? 24 hour days? Human sacrifice seemed a fitting addition to this debacle. Just three people. Three people and some minor casualties. Maybe.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The people of Hilton are very religious. Old fashioned in a way. It’s the type of town where everybody knows everybody else by name. For this reason, I rarely ventured among the living during the night. I lived purely as an animal. Sleep, rise, hunt. Repeat. But my project meant I had to break this routine. A price to pay for my continued existence.

The child was fairly easy. Early as dusk came, I rose from my well, to prowl the school playground. The dying light did not bother me, since I hid in the shadows. Unseen but seeing. When playtime was over, I followed two young boys as they walked home. I had no time for games. I did not frighten them. There was no talk of “did you hear that?” At a fairly isolated location, under the cover of trees, I swooped down.

You would think a virgin would not be difficult to find in a small town high school but it would shock you. I employed the same strategy I used with the children. Waiting in the shadows at dusk. Eventually, one girl isolated herself from a pack. Foolish, I thought, as I began to follow her. When I got close enough, my heightened sense of smell told me that something was amiss between her legs. In anger, I fled. I searched desperately for another child before they all went indoors. A maiden, innocence, and the light of the lord. No age had been specified. In time, I found one, and returned quickly to my well. I had already killed the first child and drained his blood into a chalice. The second child constituted my supper that night. The fate of the former would befall this child. The child was kicking and screaming. Crying. Perhaps in life I would have felt for the girl, but as a vampire, you tend to see all humans as what they ultimately are: fodder.

My incisors had already been claimed by hunters. In order to puncture his veins, I drew my knife.

Two nights had passed and the final night had come. The summer solstice was upon me. Light of the lord, your time has come.

I did not have to rise early in order to hunt the priest. I waited and waited until midnight. My stomach rumbled and though the urge to drink from the chalice was strong, I resorted instead to the rodents. Finally, the hour came, and I rose from my well. All black, like a true harbinger of death.

I flew slowly over the town. It was such a small town. Full of so many innocent people. Yet, no town is fully innocent. Each settlement, each gathering of humans, has its own dark secrets. And as I flew over this town, I sensed that evil was taking place elsewhere. Incarnate in other forms, in other shapes. Under the cover of the night, behind locked doors, and under the institution of matrimony.

Eventually, I came to perch upon the roof of the church. The priest was within. I could smell him. I stood on the roof, and surveyed the town for a final time. And then I went in.

The pastor was kneeling before the altar as I entered, praying. Deliver us from evil. I smiled.
I waited till he had finished. Finally he rose. Sensing me perhaps, he turned.

“Ah son. What brings you here this time of the night? ”, he said. I sensed that deep behind his bravado, his fear was beginning to take shape.

I decided to humor him.

“Father I have sinned”, I said. The sarcasm was imperceptible in my voice.

“Well, it’s never too late to bring your woes upon the lord,” he said. “Come, join me.”

He took a seat at the pew. As I started my long walk down the aisle, I began to imagine in my head just I would kill him. Perhaps I would snap his neck. Perhaps not.

I sat down at the pew with the priest. He looked gaunt. Worn, even.

“Was just ‘bout to turn in before you came in son.” He began. “Now, you can tell me all what’s troubling you. But before we begin, share a drink with me.”

He reached into his robe and brought out a bottle. I raised my eyebrow in skepticism.

“Can’t blame an old man for havin’ a little sip now and then, can you?”

It smelled like common booze. He took a long drink and then handed me the bottle.
I took a sip. He seemed satisfied.

“Now what was it you wanted to talk about son?”

“Father”, I started, looking down.

“Father I have-”, I paused. My head was spinning lightly. A brief dizziness caused perhaps by the swift motion of my head when I decided to look away.

“Father I-”

I choked. A burning sensation had started in my oesophagus. My body felt heavy. I fell towards the ground.

The periphery of my vision consisted only of blurred lines. I turned to face the priest, and in my confusion, I could just make out, what looked like a smirk on his face.

He rose.

“It isn’t holy water if that’s what your wonderin’. Holy water is good, sure. But for some robust types, it just goes straight through their system.”

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I turned away, trying to organize my thoughts. To consider my options. My strength was fading fast. My insides were on fire.

“When the Rudolph twins disappeared, I thought it was nothin’”, he started. “Just kids being kids. I thought they’d soon be found.”

“Then, I started to get real suspicious when little Clarice Withers also went missing yesterday.

“A younger hunter might not have caught on this soon. But when you’re as experienced as I am, and you couple those disappearances with complaints of sick livestock and amnesiac wives, you just know, there’s a bloodsucker in town.”

The priest was standing over me now, a shotgun in hand.

“Small town like Hilton, we don’t get many of your kind around. But guess you got sloppy. And I can almost understand your haste. With the summer solstice comin’ and all.”

My senses began to go haywire. I could hear spiders beneath the floorboards. The sound of their crawl threatened to split my head. Far far away, a thunder strike all but shattered my eardrums. The priest was still talking. His slow speech cut through my sensory overload like a knife through butter.

“Maiden, Innocence and Light of the Lord huh? Figured you’d get me easy? I don’t blame yer though. How’d you know that weak old Father Castor was a retired hunter?”

BANG!

The whole town must have heard me screaming. Tears gathered in my eyes and saliva dripped from my mouth. My now destroyed leg further slowed my crawl.

The priest quickened his pace.

“Back in the days, I used to live for the hunt. Nights spent crafting traps just to hear some ol’ bloodsuckers squeal. But I had to give that up. I couldn’t keep up anymore. No, not after I lost my left foot.”

I was getting desperate now. Frantic.

“Got caught in one of my old bear traps. They had to amputate my leg. I had to give it up.”

BANG

The bones in my chest had mostly been smashed to bits. My screams barely made a sound this time. The air would not rush into my lungs.

“I decided to move back home. Serve the lord a different way, you know?”

He picked me up and pinned me against the wall. He wasn’t nearly as weak as he looked.

“Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”

In one swift movement, I reached into my cloak, took out my knife and stabbed him in the eye.

“AAAAARRGH!!”

“YOU MUTHAFUCKIN’ BLOODSUCKER!”

Nobody had to tell me to take this opportunity. With a burst of strength I started to flee.
I couldn’t fly. Not while I was this weak. Not like this. Instead, I leapt, fell, crawled and leapt again.

In time, I made it to the town graveyard. Beyond which was the high school, beyond which were some abandoned buildings, beyond which was my well.

I propped my body against a gravestone. I couldn’t navigate by sound since my senses were going haywire. Miles away, I could smell the blood of the priest as he bleed all over the floor. Fireflies cut through the air like airplanes.

My nerves were failing and I had no energy left to take to the sky.

I couldn’t die here. I just couldn’t. Was fate so cruel as to draw my attention to the impending danger of the summer solstice just to let me die of a gunshot wound?

I lay there for a while. That thing called hope kept me in mental cycles in which there was a possibility of escaping this predicament. A squirrel will run up to me. A bird will fly over me. Their blood will rejuvenate me.

As time went on, my expectations were becoming increasingly unrealistic.

My brothers will find me. Robert Long’s hysteric wife will come for a midnight stroll. This is all a bad dream.

Fuck!

My vision was failing. My breath was slowing. One of the last things I saw before I lost my sight completely were the shadows. Shadows which were deepening. Shadows which were lengthening.

The midnight sun was rising.

Sad Boys/Free Fall/Currency

Sad boy,

You let the time pass, fruitlessly, hoping that the night can contain your grief. Even the bubbles that come together in the water bath, that grow and shrink and drift apart, to give a metaphor to your despair, soon give in to turbulence, and burst. Don’t look away, you know no one cares. Not even probability, or shampoo companies.

Endless nights engrossed in thoughts. Trains guided by the echo of a powerful intellect. Why is everything so blue? Why does my water now taste of tears? Does solitude nourish the soul or devastate it? Were metaphysics and geometry simply filters, sugar and anesthetics?

The neurons proceed in their dance. At the tip of Freud’s Iceberg, you’re bold as a lion. But, down below, there’s a party going on. We laugh and drink and piss on concepts that used to be encapsulated by words such as “self worth” and “confidence”. We see now that despair is the true reality.

What is purpose? Was it not this lie that was told to you like a mothers love? What is friendship? Isn’t it merely currency, with which we buy security and love and the thought of being wanted? What are dreams and ambitions? Ah, that demon and his brother which make us think that Apollo’s journey is worth it.

Sad boy, reality is not for you. Reality is this Persepolis where those whose bubbles still hold meaning for them convene. You’re a sad boy, because their bubbles may never burst. They may drift apart, but they will never implode.

And now you’re in free fall. A leaf caught in a battle between North Wind and True Wave. A life enclosed by four walls:

  1. Memory
  2. The future
  3. The past
  4. What if

 

End.

Najenda

We Begin.
It seems like a desperately random series of events.
A comet is knocked of course by the gravity well of an asteroid.
It crash lands onto a planet in the early stages of formation, all fire and wrath. Organic molecules are released onto the planet.
Macro-molecules become bio-molecules. Temperatures cool. Conditions become reasonable. Evolution starts.
Fast forward a few million years, and life is thriving. Prokarya multiply, spread and conquer. And soon, the atmosphere is all the rage. What is climate?
A few hundred years more, and nature is a beauty now. Evolution is a true artist. Heterotrophs and Autotrophs settle into roles and relationships which spawn survival and perpetuation.
Millions of years more and, what is consciousness? What is language? What is emotion?
This is where it gets interesting.
What is culture? What is War? What is Strife?
In time, the human population thrive on the surface of the earth. Over seven billion human beings in number. Living, loving, fighting, reaping, destroying, and being.
The upright ape has developed a consciousness to the point where self-destructive behavior is as common as productive behavior. Where insanity has devolved into nothing but a point of view. Where art can be as necessary to stability as safety or food.
******************************************************************************
It’s a sunny day and a young girl in a blue dress sits beneath a tree with an apple in her hand. The gentle breeze shifts the leaves and allows the sunbeams to dance across her face. Her mind is as tranquil as the blue sky. She is at peace.
In time, her mind is disturbed by a thought, just as a bird in flight breaks the blue of the sky, but much more violently. The thought spawns another thought. And another.
And another.
Eventually, the thoughts reach a crescendo and her mind is not the sky, but rather, it’s a violent and stormy sea.
She breathes in and all is calm. It’s easy to seek refuge in the boredom, in the tranquility. She breathes again, taking in the scent of nectar and pollen and serendipity.
She closes her eyes and digs her fingers into the warm earth beneath. She brings a handful closer to her face to observe. Without opening her eyes, she takes in a breathful of the dirt, the earthworms and the life.

 

What is humanity, she wonders?

March

My nostrils are dry and my head feels like its about to split open. My nerves struggle to confer with my brain. As a result, I am deprived of the full experience of the pain of my disease. A small victory for me in the midst of this banal life.

My mind cannot linger on minutia though.

I am staring out at the star. A benign red giant. A mother to a very affluent planet.

The planet itself is beautiful. An intelligent species, a superb culture, a staggering progression. But in spite of its beauty, I do not think about the planet.

My thoughts remain on its lone red giant.

And I ponder. Creation, death, evolution, life, reality, programming, destruction, existence? God.

God?

I couldn’t care less about God at this point. After all, what is She? if not another variable in this continuum. This immortality. This endless cycle of space-time. Or should it be life-death?

The red super-giant still has .9 billion years before the big light show.

My thoughts depart from stellar life cycles just moments before I destroy the lone planet.

The next planet orbits a super-massive black hole. This time, I sit down and watch an episode of “I love lucy” as I set the planet to implode.

944 million lives being extinguished in the backdrop of a black and white sitcom.

At first, I was creative. I would erupt volcanoes, fire meteors, unleash deadly viruses, generate civil unrest which would then escalate to carnage.

But later, (or sooner. Time really means nothing to me at this point.) I would just blow the planets up.

This was also fun at first, but ennui just turned BOOM! to BOOM to boom.

The next one was a binary star system. Perhaps my recent reveries had made me sentimental. I got a little creative and generated gravitational imbalances that caused the stars to spiral into each other and explode, destroying the seven planets that needed them for sustenance.

This act of rebellion against routine was pathetic and I felt more mundane after it.

The inhabitants of this universe, this stored information, their intelligences have concluded that the end is near.

They are quite right, but for the wrong reasons.

I don’t blame them. The truth is severely overrated. They are better of in their confusion.

What would they believe? That they were created for a purpose? That existence isn’t void of meaning? That love and loss and despair are aspects of reality? That they have to progress not just as a marker of time but as a marker of hope? That their reality is real?

Ignorance is bliss.

Even in their uncertainty and fear, ignorance is bliss. Their mentality is so dependent on their being right that if alternatives are explored, insanity will follow.

I know the truth however. And it isn’t blissful, or wrathful. Its just truth.

The truth?

Its destiny.

What would they do with the truth? They believe that their “science” is a search for the truth? No. Its simply an indulgence of their own self-importance.

I know the truth however.

The truth that I destroy planets not because I am God, or war, or natural disaster as they would believe.

The truth that this “existence” boils down to a few googol lines of code and that I am simply a computer viruses, deleting sections of the code, sections which end up being interpreted as planets. Deletions which end up being interpreted as explosions.

If they knew the truth, they would be compelled to ask, “Whose hard disk?” But by virtue of experience, I know that question would only lead to this answer, “Whose hard disk?”

Its just destiny, the ignorant will ponder. The knowledgeable would know.

And I would destroy.

BOOM! to BOOM to boom.