Dome

This is a chase. I’m moving fast, in a vehicle that looks and feels somewhere between a car and an ATV. It’s loud and right now I’m the only one on the road.

The road is mostly dirt, the concrete showing in patches like that bald spot that you try to cover up with an intense combover. Dirt is kicked up by my tires, and I swerve at the next corner while hitting the brakes, and in the split-second I’ve stopped my friend has hopped on, and we speed down the road again. Call him Reggie, but he won’t be with us long. Continue reading

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FIFTY-FIVE, 2.0

“There’s a broken system here. Not between humans or animals, or thought. But a broken system of science. Planets colliding, asteroids on vigilante ventures through space. The solar system as we knew it is spiraling out of control, gravity loosening while the light of the sun fizzles out. But in this mess of darkness and haze of uncertainty, we must hold our grips on reality.”

These words run through Miller’s head as he leaps towards the first PEAC of the day, getting a head start on all of the work to be done. So much work.

Tess reminds him over the radio, “Just the Eastern seaboard today.”

“No pressure at all, right?”

Ever since he watched the President on television give that speech, the most important speech of Miller’s lifetime, he’d been trying to work and do something good. Now, he feels less a pressure and more of a sensation that he is almost the only person standing between the end of all things and the unity of the planet.

Oh, Miller doesn’t hold illusions of grandeur, nor does he let his ego lift him up because of his responsibilities. He just embraces the reality, the situation in front of him that had been laid bare by his father right after that infamous speech.

“You and only you remain. Our last hope to make things right again, or at least keep them right for a little while longer.” It hadn’t been the most encouraging message a father could give to his son, but that was okay with Miller. He’d never been particularly close to his parents, and once even tried to run away.

This was during the first of four Gravity Crises, when he was a small boy. Two days later, by the time he’d floated to the highest building in Manhattan, Miller decided it was too scary in the world and came home. His parents were more concerned about earth than anything else, and had barely noticed that he was gone.

Now, Miller takes to floating with ease and doesn’t mind great heights. They are necessary, in fact, to his daily routine. He travels over 500 miles in a day, jumping and floating and even utilizing the jet pack to reach each PEAC across the United States.

The PEACs are Primary Electromagnetic Activation Constructs, and must be reset once a month in order to maintain the planet’s flimsy gravitational field. Miller was never properly trained to handle these PEACs, but picked up on their necessity from the public broadcast that spans the nation four times a day, and includes information on other ways to maintain the planet.

When he learned that he was only one of 500 survivors on earth, Miller was just impressed by the sheer fact, and the hard numbers behind that fact. Satellite readings of every living being on the planet gave the survivors a sense of things, a good idea on where to coalesce, and also where to spread out. No one needed to remain in Canada or south of Mexico, for instance. And the former highly-magnetized region of Russia had been decimated when the moon had dispersed and millions of rocks had cratered into the earth.

That was a difficult two years, and Miller was glad that he was only a baby at that time.

Miller finishes today early, and returns to rest against the one tree in his yard at the center of Central Park. The grass is tall and the bushes still standing, though not as green as they once were.

Tess walks over and plunks herself beside him, pulling a few candy bars from her pocket. She’s nice enough and doesn’t ask too many questions, which Miller likes because he doesn’t have any answers. For a time she is quiet, then she says, “I heard the twins missed their PEAC today. Well, PEACs. All of them. Looks like we’ll lose Florida.”

Miller remains quiet. He never liked the Twins, a pair of oddballs who would rather mess around then try to save the planet. They argued there’s no real reason to keep on keeping on, that it’s going to disappear anyway, so what’s the point? Miller was afraid to admit they were right, and maybe that’s why he disliked them so much.

“You want any?” Tess held out a candy bar.

Miller took it and ate the candy slowly, staring up at the sunset that was purple and blue and fading to black overhead. “Berries?”

“It’s got raspberries, yeah.”

“Thanks for the treat.”

She nods and rests her head on his stomach as they both stare at the sky. While they watch the darkness take over, he wonders aloud, “This is worth it, right? The reason we do it all?”

Tess looks up at him and smiles, her teeth awash in chocolate and berries.

Miller sees her ridiculous smile and yaps out a laugh.

Tess says, “Totally worth it.”

FORTY-TWO, 2.0

They didn’t have souls. Empty vessels made up the population of the planet. But that didn’t stop Earth from wanting to invade.

The soulless are the easiest to consume.

There’s no guilt. No afterthought. No regret. No thrill. No sensitivity.

Just consumption.

That’s what they did. They consumed. And consuming something with a soul could be tiresome.

Very.

The soul, you see, will then consume from within. So one tries hard to not consume a soul.

If a soul consumes you, instead, than you will find yourself empty and alone. Forever.

And eventually you will again be consumed, from the outside in.

And then you will cease.

Cease to exist.

Cease to believe.

Cease to know.

But you will try hard to avoid that. By having a soul. And keeping it. And what do you do if you have a soul?

You consume a life force without a soul. Simple as that.

So the planet was appetizing for that reason, and that reason alone. All of earth could survive another year just by consuming the beings that had no souls, from the planet far away. But there would be nothing left on that planet, and then it would die. This was a small sacrifice, Earth felt, for the future of Earth itself.

Or, at least, the near future.

If you cannot see beyond the near future, then it doesn’t matter much. But Earth never looked through a telescope all that much, except to find a planet with beings devoid of souls. If Earth had the knowledge and wisdom to look farther ahead, they would see even more.

Vision would expand. Life would expand. And the planet would live forever.

Happy, and free, and full of souls.

Instead, they could not see that instead of a telescope, they were looking into a mirror.

The Last Woman

Five minutes.

Byron had five minutes to live and no one to spend it with. Five minutes of nothing, just silence and brightness.
All he could do was watch and wait, watch and wait.

He almost spoke to the Woman in front of him, but couldn’t stand to hear his own voice. She sat on the bench with a perpetual smile and empty eye sockets, rotting teeth and flaps of skin gray and torn from her cheekbones, her skeletal hand on the ground, palm winding away into dust in the wind with each breeze.

The Woman’s voice was the last voice Byron ever heard, besides his own. The thought of speaking into nothingness was too much to bear.

He still couldn’t understand how he’d found her, months ago, as though she’d been sitting on that bench the entire time, waiting for him while the sun exploded and flames stretched toward the planet, reaching to tear them apart.

She’d spoken to him three months ago at the very same bench. At the time, Byron had been struggling to hold onto reality. Knee deep in needles and spent bags of powder, Byron could barely see straight. Alone for three years, he found himself bored and not quite willing to take the leap off the highest skyscraper, so he did what he could to stay alive and make reality his own. Any kind of drug or distraction had helped Byron simply live after being alone for so long.

This Woman. She had beautiful skin, smooth and shining from sweat, cheeks a deep red, hair curly and frizzy but somehow was meant to be that way. She was perfect to Byron. Her red cheeks grew more intense as they talked, and Byron could feel the chemistry between them, the heat being processed.

“I didn’t know anyone would still be here, let alone anyone like you.” His voice was cooked, raw, leathery. he’d barely been able to muster a sound, only prodded himself further after hearing her chuckle on first seeing him. He’d sat next to her, unable to look away. There was a faint drizzle in the air, moist and warm water starting to rain down and blow in the winds that had begun to pickup. By nightfall the winds would overtake the city and more trees would fall, the last remaining bones of sidewalk landscaping.

But for now, there was Byron and the Woman. “I do believe you’re flirting with me.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone, talked to anyone.”

“You’ve still got confidence. I like that.”

“Where did you come from?”

“Upstate. Nowhere town you’ve probably never heard of.”

“There haven’t been towns for years…unless…” He stopped. He didn’t want to think it was true, but couldn’t deny that she might be just like him, have come from a time almost forgotten.

“Are you, are you as old as –” She laughed, cutting him off.

“Oh, dear, all this time and you still ask a woman her age?” She laughed, harder, her cheeks flaring red. The look in her eyes went from joy to understanding and acceptance. She let out another chuckle —

And then she flashed out in a flame. Like that. Mid-sentence, mid-laugh.

Byron couldn’t help but laugh at the sight, tears immediately trailing down his face, wet and boiling to his chin. He watched her body flare up once more, top layer of skin burning away.

He stood and ran from the flames, then, and kept running until darkness folded in on him and he awoke miles away, an area he recognized from the fields of yellow (once was green) grass. He waited in this field for months, eating whatever remnants of bugs or insects he could find.

Then he saw the sun begin to sputter and burn, and ran back to the bench.

To the last living human he would ever see before the sun ate the planet.

And he waited, and watched, and waited. As the sun burned closer and closer. He almost spoke, but decided to wait in silence instead.

He felt a burning, looked into the holes within the skeleton of the Woman who had laughed. He smiled and began to laugh as the heat became unbearable.

He burned.