Nothing Becomes Nothing
Glancing around as sirens wail, I perch on a nearby telephone pole. Beneath me, tiny bodies mush together as people pour out onto the streets while rushing to get to their cars. A young woman fumbles with her keys before finally sliding inside a rusty buggy. All around her engines rev alive, their owners letting go a sigh of relief. Safe. Even as the cars shout, grating horns futile against the panic, bodies do not move from the streets. Unfortunate, grounded souls cry out, pounding on window after window, begging to be let in. I guess no one feels compelled to oblige. I turn my head as the crowd’s screams intensify: the cars, it appears, no longer wish to wait. Bones crunch underneath the rubber wheels, spraying crimson onto the windshields. No matter. The wipers will swipe those souls out of the way. The leftover, prospective roadkill disperses in a panic, like Danes from a golden mead hall.
They scream for loved ones they will soon leave behind. Humans are so loud.
I hunch over on my pedestal, my legs aching from the confines of my sedentary position. Falling ash coats the distant sky. Amidst the pandemonium I spot the buggy once again, its rider one of the first to escape the human blockade. Her bangs stick to her forehead, and I slowly tilt my head to watch as a single droplet clings to the edge of her nose, fighting to hold on. Leaning forward, I tense as it dangles in front of her tiny nostrils, swaying with each exhale. It won’t be long now before a final rush sends it falling down onto the wheel and shattering into a million tiny streams. Although inevitable, I imagine its destruction is quite painful.
Watching life fracture, billions of men slowly dying, is quite entertaining. Doesn’t it hurt, I once wondered? My death certainly stirred up quite, uh how shall I describe it, an uncomfortable, yes uncomfortable, feeling within me. But they just smiled and answered, “You're a fool. There is no knife.” I almost snort at the recollection.
I am no fool. I have not been a fool for many years since the unfortunate incident with Beowulf and the pool of blood and the men who lay but did not sleep! Gah! You know the tale. Of course I need not recount such oddities!
The woman. Car. Sticky hair!
I observe her movements and note the watchful eyes and pressed lips. A rare beauty indeed. What a pity, for she reminds me of Wealhtheow, another vision whose time with the grotesque Hrothgar was unworthy of her enhancement. I wonder if this woman looks the same on the inside. But alas, there is no time for such an excursion, cursed humans!
I feel the wind pick up around me. Why is it so hot? I feel so dizzy, so sick. Cars shout, and the woman seems angry. No one is moving. There are too many of them, too many all at once, and it’s formed a blockade that her cries cannot push past. The woman, along with many others, exits her car and tries to make a run for it. Useless. The maze of cars stretches for miles, and it's getting hotter by the second. It's only a little longer now. She shouts, but “I [find] myself not listening, merely looking at [her] mouth, which moved—or so it seemed to me—independent of the words, as if the body for the stranger were a ruse, a disguise for something infinitely more terrible” (155). I don’t care to understand what she’s saying, and neither does anyone else. People are too busy trying to cheat death. Some pray, some run, some even throw money at death, begging her to spare them from this injustice. Death does not care. She laughs. Death is taking what she is owed. I think the universe is grateful.
A mushroom cloud of ash and light grumbles while racing toward us. The blazing heat sizzles my fur, and I know it’s time. With a final glance at the woman’s petrified face, I smile softly to myself and jump into the fiery sun.
[Illustration via Robert Ingpen for Encyclopedia Of The Things That Never Were by Michael Fitzgerald Page]