Burning it didn’t work.
Poisoning it didn’t work.
Trying to scrape it up with bulldozers didn’t work.
Washing it away with water cannons didn’t do the trick either.
Have they tried asking it nicely? That was Sundiv3r, hanging out in one of many apocalypse chatrooms
JoJoJo: I’m pretty sure it spit in their faces when they did.
PoppedSausage: Well, maybe it is sentient. Maybe it’s a massive, intelligent lifeform.
Andy223: Uh-huh. I think you’re looking for a sci-fi channel.
PoppedSausage: Have you looked out your window at all lately? Sci-fi’s happening. All we don’t know is exactly what kind. Why couldn’t it be something intelligent? Maybe it’s trying to communicate or something?
JoJoJo: Fuck that. It’s killing us. It’s strangling our world.
SunDiv3r: Why not? Why did we think we were the dominant species, and we were just going to go on forever? Who says that’s how it has to be? Why shouldn’t something bigger and nastier stomp on us? Why not extinction?
Andy223: Thanks for cheering us up.
Sundiv3r: What? We’re nothing special. The next step came along. Maybe this is just extinction for us humans. How are we going to grow food? Farm animals?
I kept this vigil. Night after night. Maybe some kind of warped addiction. It felt as if knowing and speculating, numbing myself to the whole situation was somehow more productive than resting my mind from it.
Andy 223 was saying: Underground.
I ventured: Mushrooms?
Andy 223: Not just mushrooms. Bring UV lights down. Filter some rivers, right?
JoJoJo: To feed billions?
Andy223: Well, maybe not billions.
Something about that brought the enormity home to me. Bigger than the Black Death. That’s what I thought. Dwarfing of all the wars and natural disasters heretofore. It was too grim a comment for me to want to type.
JoJoJo: Just wait till the nuking starts.
SunDiv3r: What nuking? Nuke what? It’s everywhere. They can’t nuke everywhere.
JoJoJo: They have the nukes.
SunDiv3r: Yeah, but what would be left?
JoJoJo: The places that aren’t as bad.
SunDiv3r: Less bad. Not immune.
JoJoJo: Yeah but people get desperate. The right people get scared. Maybe if they drop enough nukes, they can cripple this thing and there’s some survivors. The right people get scared enough, sure. They’ll do it.
SunDiv3r: Yeah, but nuclear winter…
JoJoJo: Nuclear winter. You said it.
I slunk away from that, and into the respite of bed. It was about 4am, and Zara was lying, half-sleeping. She welcomed me into her arms, clinging like Glad-wrap. The warmth of her skin on mine became a lifeline.
“I love you,” she murmured, the way she did in half sleep.
“Sure. Same. Always.”
“You sound tired.”
“I am.” But also sleepless. Only really able to fall asleep when the first light of morning started brushing against the curtains. Only when I knew the morning was actually going to come.
These were my days: waking up after noon, stumbling into the kitchen for some breakfast. Thanks to my purchase of long-life milk – I gloated a little in my head about that – we were still able to eat cereal. And Zara always kept the shelves stocked with tinned fruit, and with the oranges and nectarines bottled by her friend Sadie – Sadie she hadn’t heard from since all this started, whose phone was dead, and nobody else Zara knew really knew Sadie, and so she just didn’t know, and Sadie was the first one she really started fretting about…
We ate our fruit and cereal; we did so, looking out the window.
We watched the news stations we could. Gorged on desperate news.
Zara went into the little spare room to spend some time on the exercycle. I did a few half-hearted press-ups and crunches in the lounge. Zara would read a book, while I surfed. I’d watch some Netflix while she sat on the couch beside me sketching. They were mostly random patterns, swirls and curls and triangles. She only occasionally sketched something: a face, an idyllic landscape. She was running out of pencils.
We ate dinner. We watched more TV. We kept finding ourselves drawn to the window. Unable not to look out. We mostly saw just the steady build-up of our sea of white. We saw vines begin to climb up stone and brick walls. A house down the street had partially collapsed. We might see police or ambulances show up – the vehicles struggled; the engines needed cleaning out after every run. Paramedics in hazmat suits. Police in full body armour.
Sometimes a backdrop of sirens.
Sometimes loud music echoing through still streets. We might see groups of gangs that we’d later start calling bandits, all metalled up and dressed in black. Faces covered. Some held flags. They walked down the streets like a parade, advertising to the city that they owned it now.
Zara might go to bed around midnight. I’d tell her I was coming soon. I’d spend the next three to four hours in chatrooms before I followed her into bed. I felt as if I loved her more than ever. She was the sun in the dark, she was water in the desert. I craved her and clung to the sight of her. In our shrunken world she took on an importance beyond what she’d had in those days of normalcy. Since there was little else, she became my everything. She welcomed me into the refuge of her arms every night.
One by one they winked out. Our people.
I tried to call my dad and couldn’t get hold of him. Zara tried calling Sally and couldn’t get hold of her. She called Mikey and it took three attempts to illicit an answer.
“Have you heard from Sally?”
“Sally? No, not in days. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. But it’s not like Sally.”
“I’m not sure she’s in town anymore.”
“She said a few people in her complex, plus her sister and family, they were all going to get out of here. In a convoy, like. There’s a mechanic in the flat above her, he thought he could keep the cars going. I don’t know where. She was still deciding if she was going to risk it or not, and then that’s the last I heard.”
“Then why won’t she answer her phone?”
“I don’t know.”
“There’s still cell coverage. Most places. So why?”
“I don’t know, Zara.”
He did. I could hear it in his voice. The best answer was a lost or damaged phone, but Mikey’s voice didn’t seem to believe that.
And then Tony.
And when she tried to call her parents to see what they’d heard, there was no answer there.
She cried in my arms, and I had nothing to say.
When I talked to Enid, she told me Lucy had been in an accident – maybe an accident. She’d been taken to hospital, but no-one was allowed to visit, and Enid frankly didn’t know what had been happening.
Ben told me he was all right, he lived in an outskirts hill-suburb, and things were a little better, though his view of the suburbs below him showed him some houses had caved in. The gum having gotten into their structure or something. “Shit flows downhill,” he said, “it must be wild where you are.”
“One word for it.”
“Stay safe, dude.”
“Yeah, I’m trying.”
“Don’t go out. There’s people out there getting their guts ripped out. I don’t know if it’s the bandits or something… else… But it’s scary stuff.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Are you running out of food?”
“They’re having trouble restocking the supermarkets.”
“I’m considering bailing. But that’s challenging in its own right. I don’t know if you’ll be able to do it from where you are. I’ll call you though, if we’re going to try. I’ve been talking to a couple of my neighbours. I’ll let you know if it comes to that.”
He didn’t. He didn’t call again. And then Enid’s phone stopped ringing.
Zara called Mikey. That number, too, had been disconnected.
We sat on the couch, cocooned in each other’s arms. They were all gone, or at least out of reach. Zara had tried calling some other people she knew. Reception was starting to get a little patchy. A few news sites were shutting down. Mikey was the closest of our friends – distance-wise. Sally and Tony were about equi-distant but in opposite directions.
“It’s only three blocks,” I mused.
She said, “Shall we try?”
I honestly wasn’t sure if we should or shouldn’t. But I was a mixture of terrified, desperate and bored. “Yeah, let’s do that. Tomorrow morning.” I’d heard about what happened to people going out at night.
Picture credit/discredit: author's own work