Birdlime

The boy watched the world end. The mud wasn’t done with it yet, so he watched.

He rested his back against the redbrick wall, downtown’s largest bank, and slid down. Trembling knees popping and cheeks tight from sucking air through clenched teeth, he landed on the pavement, his jeans damp against his bottom.

He lifted his tingling hands to the sun and ignored the dome surrounding the town, the mud rising.

The sun beamed through his shaking digits. The sprinkling of mud like ants on a stick, the grime eclipsed the half-moons on his nails. The blue sky was empty except for the sun and the clouds and the dome and the occasional breeze whisking away the occasional bird but empty and then he spoke.

‘Could be checking for survivors.’

There were no more helicopters pulling out rich assholes, or fighter jets leaving behind their contrails. His back warmed against the sun-baked bricks. He rolled a single granule between his fingers and flicked towards the quiet main road of downtown.

‘They’re not looking.’

He searched with his thick tongue inside his mouth. The wet flesh dug into the depressions of his maulers. The boy laughed when he failed to scrape out the grit and hissed when his grimy fingers entered his kisser, scarping over his incisors.

‘Of course, not,’ he shook his head. ‘Can burn this place down for a laugh if you wanted to.’

He dropped his hands to his sides and gasped when his knuckles slammed against the hot pavement. He squeezed his lips together and screamed. Flakes of skin lifted had off the bone. Blood collected under the epidermis. He bit off the peeled skin and spat between his legs on the hot grey paving.

‘Yeah,’ he stomped the main road’s pavement. ‘You really are like garbage.’

He stomped again and slammed his foot as hard as he could. He stomped on the grey stones once more and his sneaker popped off his foot and flew through the air, over the sun, and landed on the road.

His scream echoed down the town’s main road and tears ran like sheep on a steep animal spoor. He left his sneaker to the tarmac, a rodent’s tombstone, a rat’s grave.

‘Screw this,’ he rummaged in his jean’s front pocket and plucked out a 1970s Casio cassette deck.  ‘Won’t die in the next hour. Won’t have it.’

His pupils dilated when he pressed the deck’s side button. The thick grey monster clicked and out seeped the sounds of Roxette through its black spongy headset. The noise jumped like bad acoustics from the walls and over the streets and he slung the sharp metal band over his head, careful to not slice the back of his ears again.

He closed his eyes and listened. The muddy dome around the town disappeared and the silence vanished.

Abandoned at the gas station, the cassette deck played the kind of music he did not grow up with or care for, but the Swedish Duo, dead in their town or city’s muddy domes, calmed him and he wondered if the same domes were all over the world. Probably. He would never know.

‘I am the only tomorrow.’

The boy frowned at how strange his voice sounded under the music. He cleared his throat.

‘Place is a fucking mess.’

The mud in the distance grew taller and taller, now over 40 storeys high, and the boy, too old to be called a boy but too young to take care of himself, watched the mud. He studied the road littered with dead cars, dead homes, dead strollers, and dead bodies of some he knew before the mud.

Washing the litter away with the 1980s pop lyrics, he sighed, tapped his socked foot to the rhythm of pop music, and wiped his caked hands on his jeans, singing, watching the mud.

‘Walking like a man, hitting like a hammer. She’s a juvenile scam, never was a quitter. Tasty like a raindrop, she’s got the look!’

He punched the pavement and, using the back of his hand, wiped the tears off his chin and sang.

‘Heavenly bound, ‘cause heaven’s got a number when she’s spinning me around. Kissing is a color, her loving is a wild dog. She’s got the look!’

What looked like specs of dirt tumbling off the dome’s growing edge were in fact chunks of mud as large as sedans breaking off. After the first week, even the debris crashing and piling with soft plonks against the rim had become too high to climb.

The muddy dome had collected itself up from the earth and surrounded the town’s perimeter, working up towards the peak he estimated to reach about a quarter of a mile up now halfway towards god’s workshop lightbulb, the high noon sun. Sunlight would vanish in less than two hours, the town closed off in maybe four, and the poor souls caught in darkness would have to wait to be crushed by the tumbling clay or for oxygen to run out within the cupola.

‘Need to move,’ the boy nodded. ‘Don’t want my neck broken by stupid mud.’

He fast-forwarded the tape and after six seconds clicked the play button again. He landed right after the first chorus and sang as he smiled, eyes closed.

‘I’m not afraid, a trembling flower. I’ll feed your heart and blow the dust from your eyes,’ he lifted his head away from the wall and scratched the back of his neck. ‘And in the dark things happen faster. I love the way you sway your hips next to mine –’

He fast-forwarded to the chorus. He waited. When the lyric “success” came up he shouted “some sex” over the music and laughed.

‘I’m gonna get dressed for success. Hitting a spot for the big time, baby. Get dressed for success. Shaping it up for your love, yeah!’

He giggled, hand over mouth, and cried not because of sadness but of joy. He liked singing. Others didn’t.

He rewinded the tape, just a second again, and shouted, ‘some sex!’ waited, tapped his foot twice, and screamed, ‘some sex!’ before he cackled and fast-forwarded the tape towards the end.

It didn’t matter how many times you burned the clay or poked, shoveled, spiked, shot, or screamed at it, the muck remained, and if you kicked a hole in the foundation the sludge slurped up the emptiness and the insanity started again.

His cackle had simpered down to a giggle and he waited for the tape to reach the last song.

Some tried to leave, of course. Even after the wall concaved and became too high to climb, some tried and tumbled to their deaths. Others, however, tried to stay and help where they could, be humble, be patient, be supportive, be killed by those who were injured, who had become violent or “gone off the cuckoo’s nest,” his words, not his mother’s, and almost everyone got killed except for the boy. He hoped his life would not be the town’s last tomorrow, but in the end, the sludge oozed upwards to the skies and only a few were left to watch the wall rise and he did not want to look for survivors. He hated the ones he already found but it was a numbers game and the safety of knowing where some of them were had helped him sleep the past two days.

He clicked the play button. The piano and synthesizer intro thumped his eardrums. He did not sing along. The song was too sad for him to sing with, and the Swedish woman knew her stuff, so he left her be and nodded when she sang, ‘Listen to your heart,’ and gooseflesh cratered his legs each time she serenaded, ‘I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t know why. Listen to your heart before you tell him goodbye.’

The boy rubbed his sweaty head. Sweat jumped off his buzz cut, a water sprinkler of skin and skull, and as he rubbed he watched the tiny droplets making tiny rainbows in the sun. The daytime shadows lurked over the parks, reservoirs, apartment buildings, corpses, carcasses, and debris —

From around the corner where the boy sat, a metal can shot out. It banged and rolled off the pavement and it clanged and wobbled when it stopped.

The boy paused the tape and yanked off the headset. He yelped. The metal band cut into the back of his ears. He pushed away from the wall and got up.

The can crawled out the road, climbed over the pavement’s ledge, and dragged back tinged and slipped around the wall again.

‘Huh?’

A low groan rumbled from behind the corner and whatever lurked there spat out the can and dragged it back using a string.

The boy had been careless. He looked around the empty streets, at the cars and shops that were too far to run away from someone with a gun and a trained eye, back at the growing shadow at the wall, the rumble of the dragged can growing and growing. He waited. His knees were stiff and his hands to his sides. He watched the redbrick corner closely.

The can flew out again and crashed and tingled on the tarmac but not dragged back.

He closed his eyes, smiled, and said, ‘fuck.’

An old woman shuffled out.

‘Fuck’s sake,’ the boy chuckled and held his hand over his heart. ‘Jesus Christ.’

Unaware of the boy, the old woman grumbled as she fished back the can into her hand, looking up the road away from him. She clicked her tongue when she threw the can in an easterly direction.

He slammed his back against the warmish wall, hand still to heart, and slid down, wiggling to keep his shirt from rising to his neck, and placed the metal headband gingerly back on his head, sighing, relieved the old woman was just someone who had —

‘Gone off the cuckoo’s nest.’

— and not a danger to him.

He pressed the rewind button and shook his head when the old woman threw the can towards him. From his periphery, he could sense her pulling back the can and calling out to him.

He ignored her. He tapped his foot on the pavement, nodded to the rhythm, and shook his head at the old woman. He did not hear the click of her revolver.

The world exploded.

The boy screamed like a seven-year-old girl when the old woman fired the gun in his direction again. One of the bullets pinged and its ricochet and nearly struck his body. Covered in sweat and stiff like concrete, he held up his hands and yelled at the old woman.

‘What the fuck?’

The headband cut into his ears when he pushed it off his head and on his lap. A puff of grit tinkled about four paces away around the hole she just made. He looked at his legs and patted his chest.

‘Did you just shoot me, you crazy bitch?’

‘You, you look at me when I talk, understand?’ the old woman’s lips trembled. ‘You look at me when I talk to you.’

She wiped her lips and spat behind the wall. The can dropped but she left it and her eyes peeled from her head, watching, scowling like a vulture.

The boy with his swollen brain yelled at the old woman again.

‘Stop waving that thing at me,’ he waved his hands around his head. ‘What’s the matter with you? Put that thing down!’

‘And I’m not some crazy old bat that’s gone in the head, you hairless monkey,’ the old woman waved the revolver in the air. ‘And you get up when I’m talking to you.’

The old woman aimed the revolver at his feet.

‘C’mon,’ she rocked the gun. ‘Get up, I says. Show some respect.’

The boy stood. The headset crashed on the pavement and the old woman’s eyes darted down, still pointing with her gun at his feet, and then eyed him.

‘What is that –? Don’t move.’

The boy backed away.

‘Calm down.’

‘Don’t move, I says.’

With his hands up, the headset trailed in front.

‘Can you point that thing anywhere other than my head –?’

She shot off another round.

‘Jesus Christ!’

The headset jumped when the bullet struck the pavement and he fell flat on his arse.

‘For fuck’s sake,’ the boy jumped, plucked out the cassette deck from his pocket, and threw it away. It did not break or vomit out the tape. ‘What the hell? You almost shot me again! Stop that!’

She waved the revolver at the music player.

‘What is that?’

‘What is what?’ he looked at his feet, at the ground, and back at her vulture eyes. ‘What? What?’

‘That.’ Her hands trembled. ‘What is that?’

The deck’s headset crackled out a weak rendition of the music the boy had listened to. He looked at it, then at her, back at it, and frowned at the old woman.

‘You’re not serious. You mean the –?’

‘I mean what I mean, hobgoblin,’ she clutched the revolver with both hands and aimed at the player. ‘Wha’s that thing, why’s it making that noise?’

He did not ask what a hobgoblin was but felt sure whatever it was he wasn’t it. He pointed at the cassette deck.

‘You gonna shot me if I pick it up –?’

She fired two shots at it and missed with both. The music had stopped.

‘What the fuck?’ he jumped back. ‘What the fuck, cut it out!’

The old woman made a raspy, drawn-out hissing sound, along with a grunting noise that to the boy sounded like a hungry pig or dog barking in the distance. His knees trembled and he rested his back against the wall, hands still above his hips.

‘Scared the boy really good now. Sum’bitch dancin’ like a headless cock.’

The old woman leaned against the wall and laughed out her drawn-out hiss. She slapped the redbrick, making the walls shiver. The gun dangled down her side. She looked at her feet. The can rattled and she looked back at the boy.

‘You see Spider?’

The boy looked at her gun and shook his head.

‘Nope,’ he looked at the fresh bullet holes in the pavement. ‘Just me.’

He cleared his throat. Sweat had formed on his forehead but he kept his hands steady, cocked, waiting.

‘You lost your spider?’

She dragged the can back to her hands and held it out for the boy to see.

‘Only comes out runnin’ if he hears it. No good sum’bitch without this can, you know,’ she ran the revolver’s barrel over the aluminium ridges. ‘You seen my Spider?’

She held her hand palm down to about her knee.

‘About this high.’

The boy’s throat clicked when he swallowed.

‘Big fucking spider,’ he chuckled but did not move. ‘You wear glasses when you don’t go out shooting strangers in the street?’

The old woman’s vulture eyebrows twisted. The gears in her head moved but the boy could see they needed oil. Not too smart but if you had a gun in your hand you were the smartest “sum’bitch” in any room.

The scowl dropped and she grunted like a hungry pig. She dropped the can and slapped the walls. The same shiver rippled off her hand into the stones.

‘Oh, no, you dummy,’ she cocked an eye at him, shook her head, and her voice crooned. ‘Not a spider. A pig,’ she pulled the can back into her hand and shook her head again. ‘Spiders can’t be as big as pigs. Only a dummy could think so.’

The boy lowered his hands.

‘Kind of a silly name for a pig.’

‘Kinda silly to think pigs would care what you call ‘em.’

She held her eyes at him a moment longer than the boy would’ve liked. She was courting, and her lips gave a yapping sound when she spoke.

‘You seen my pig, boy?’

The sun peered over the brown edge of their new world, the white-orange fingers pretending to be dusk.

He crouched down, rested his back against the wall, and pointed at his cassette deck.

‘Been listening to my music,’ he thumbed in the cassette deck’s direction and shrugged. ‘Didn’t see or hear anythin’ that I didn’t want to see or hear.’

The old woman’s eyes sparkled. She looked up to the dome and the sun and when she studied the player between her and the boy she squinted.

‘Why’s it dead now? Did I kill it?’

‘Can’t kill music, “dummy,”’ the boy kept his eyes to the distance. ‘The tape’s finished. Have to rewind it to make it play again.’

‘What do you mean play? It’s not alive that thing, is it?’

‘It’s as alive as it makes you feel,’ he looked at the old woman but looked away when her vulture eyes pierced into the back of his brain. ‘Music is like reading. Don’t mean anything if there are no people to enjoy it.’

The old woman lifted her hands up to her head, closed her eyes, and patted, muttered, and patted.

‘S’mumbo jumbo, s’what that was,’ she snapped her eyes at the boy, aimed the gun at him, and shouted. ‘I told you to get up when I talk to you. Get up!’

The boy closed his eyes and shook his head.

‘Can’t hear you,’ he pointed at his ear. ‘Can only see or hear what I want to hear.’

The old woman clicked the revolver’s hammer back. The boy opened his eyes but did not look at her.

‘You stand when I say you stand.’

The boy held out his palm to her, fingers stretched.

‘Five.’

‘What? Wha’s that for? I says you look at me when I talk.’

‘One two three for five,’ he looked at her and back to the dark horizon. ‘Five shots. Only one left with that thing and your shot is terrible so I’ll take my chances.’

She shook her pants pocket. A chime of metal tingled in the mouth of the tattered fabric.

‘Got plenty more to turn you into Swiss cheese, hobgoblin,’ her grunting became a low grumble like boulders scraping in a cave. ‘Get up or the last thing you’ll see is the front part of your head coming out your eyes.’

He placed his hand on his eyes and pointed in the direction of the cassette deck.

‘Not if I can’t get my medicine, I ain’t moving.’

He could hear her feet shuffle next to the can.

‘What medicine? What d’you talking about medicine?’

The boy never understood how actors could cry on demand but he thought about his dog getting killing, his mother getting raped, or —

The last song he had listened to came back like a broken dam. The music and the lyrics washed over his dry skin and the tears came. He pushed away his smile and pointed at the player again.

‘It,’ the boy frowned and rose his voice to a whine. ‘It makes the nightmares and voices go away. It makes me see things I cannot see when,’ he looked away, bit his lower lip, wiped his eyes, and bounced his shoulders. ‘It sometimes gets cloudy in my head, you know? Hard to think. Makes these funny pictures and voices in my head.’

The old woman stared at him. Yes, the old woman knew. The boy wanted to quiver his lips but thought might be a bit much. She lowered her gun, looked at the player, and with a defeated hand waved the gun in its direction.

‘Take it.’

The boy wiped his eyes and smiled.

‘You sure?’ he frowned at her, pouting his lips. ‘You not going to shoot again, are you?’

The old woman shook her head. The boy reached over, not getting up, and scraped the player closer. He checked it for dings and scrapes. The headset had a scuff mark but was not broken. He pressed the rewind button and waited.

The old woman watched and clicked the revolver’s hammer forward.

‘You said it can make you see what you want to see. What’choo mean by that?’

The boy nodded, not smiling.

‘Can it help,’ she shook the empty can over her head, looking up the deserted road. ‘Can it help to find my Spider?

He shrugged. ‘Dunno. Can make me see lots of things. Made me see places I’ve never been to. Made me see people I’ve never met.’

The old woman squinted.

‘But not see what’s happening around here this place?’

The cassette deck clicked. Back to the beginning. He pointed at the mud.

‘Did you see it coming?’

‘Couldn’t do anything when it happened, dummy.’

‘Exactly. No one did. Same for me.’

He held the steel headband with its spongy black earphones for her to see.

‘But maybe if two people do it, I dunno, we can see better than just one?’

‘He’s talking too fast,’ she shook her head. ‘I can’t see anything –’

‘Maybe we can find your Spider,’ he patted the pavement. ‘Sit. Come and listen. Just take a breath.’

The old woman hissed her drowned-out laughed and slapped the wall.

‘It’s a trick, ain’t it?’ she nodded and held the gun above her head. ‘You’re going to take my Charles away from me. Hobgoblin. That’s what you are. You’re a,’ she spat away from the boy. ‘Hobgoblin, ‘s’what you are.’

He placed the headphones over his head and pressed the play button.

‘I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about,’ he moved the spongy material just above his earhole and on his temple. ‘I’m going away now,’ he waved. ‘I can’t hear you. Buh-bye.’

The guitar intro and synthesizer drums pounded over the world.

‘Wait. Can’t do that.’

He placed his hands over his eyes, smiling, and tapped his socked foot to the beat. He could feel her vulture eyes scanning his joy

‘Look at me,’ the revolver’s hammer clicked back again but the boy did not look. ‘I said you look at me when I’m talking to you — stop that noise!’

She shot a round above his head. Redbrick grit sprinkled on his head. His heart pounded. The old woman’s revolver trembled in her fists.

Exhaling, he laughed at the old woman. Six rounds she shot. Now he had time on his side.

He got up and clicked the forward button. The last song was slow, gentle, beautiful, a melody that could make a seven-year-old cry. He held the player in front of him and took a step forward.

The old woman shook her head. ‘Get back.’

‘Do you want to give it a try?’

‘I says go back a step now. Go on back.’

He took another step. In punching distance, the barrel nearly touched his chest.

She yelled and he closed his eyes. She pulled the trigger, pull-pull-pulled, but no bang came out only the clicks. He took another step and pressed his sternum against the warm cylinder. First time having a gun’s barrel against his chest, made his feel Van Gogh-like. He took a step when she took one back. They were dancing.

‘I’m not going to take your gun.’

He pressed the cassette deck’s stop button.

‘I want you to listen to something.’

The old woman shook her head.

‘No, I never ain’t have tuh. Get back I says’

He was at the right song, his gut reassured him, and with his grimy hands, he gently placed the headband on her head, careful not to cut the back of her filthy ears with the metal.

She batted at the headband, her eyes darting up and down, but he touched her hand and lifted the revolver up to his head and pressed the barrel against his temple.

‘What’re you doin’?’ she tried to squirm her hand out but he was too strong. ‘Stop that!’

The bullets in her pockets jingled. Her nostrils flared as she breathed but beaming into this strange man’s eyes she held the revolver in place and waited, watching him.

He adjusted the headset over her ears and, lowering the volume, pressed Play.

‘Close your eyes.’

Her gaze jumped left to right.  ‘Wha’s that noise?’ she studied him. ‘I don’t, don’t like this –’

‘Wait,’ he smiled and pressed the spongey earphones into her ears. ‘It gets better. There’s a woman that’s going to sing,’ he stretched his eyelids wide open and closed it with emphasis. ‘Close your eyes and listen.’

The barrel, strange against his temple, moved to the rhythm of her heartbeat. She looked over his right shoulder.

In the cassette deck, the caged bird sang through the petrified tape.

The old woman closed her eyes.

‘She speaks too fast,’ she frowned.’ I can’t hear –’

‘Just listen to the noise behind her words,’ he took his hand off hers and studied her lips and cheeks, her eyes and nose. ‘Forget about the words. Just close your eyes and listen.’

The old woman relaxed her grip on the revolver. She lowered her gun and looked at the boy. Her eyes were wet not from age but with the experience of beauty.

‘Is she dead?’ the old woman asked the boy. ‘Is this woman dead?’

‘No.’

‘Who is she signing to –?’

She gasped when the chorus came. The revolver fell from her hand and clattered on the pavement. He did not look down and neither did she. She placed her hands on her chest.

‘She says you,’ the old woman looked at the cassette player, smiled, and batted her eyes, tapping at his chest. ‘She’s not dead?’

He nodded. She closed her eyes again.

He lowered himself towards the revolver. He continued to push himself down, slowly, softy, holding the cassette deck at her hip area, careful not to tug the earphones off, with his eyes still locked onto hers closed, searching the ground with his blinded hand, snapping his gaze down for just a second, plucked the gun, and dragged it slowly into his palm. He got up with tendons creaking like hinges on an antique lantern and his knees popped when he straightened.

He nodded. She had her eyes closed. The brushed metal made his hand feel solid, the wood handle prickled his palm, and with the butt of the gun, he tapped her on her shoulder.

She snapped open her eyes and looked at the gun.

‘Here,’ he said. ‘You dropped this.’

The old woman looked at her hands, empty without the can and gun, and grimaced with her vulture’s scowl at the boy. She bared her teeth. Before she could snatch the gun away from him, he pushed the revolver sideways into her mushy chest, pressed for her to take it, and waited until the gun was back into her palm.

‘Dropped it,’ he said and looked at the ground. ‘Could’ve killed you if I wanted to but didn’t.’

She dangled the gun against her side. Her sparse lashes were stiff not moving along with her eyes.

He took her hand again and placed the barrel against his temple.

‘It’ll get you a long way if you learn to trust someone without a gun in your hand.’

He pressed the stop button. Her eyes sparkled but were not happy. She sulked and touched the strange man’s hand with the cassette deck.

‘Why’d it stop? Where is she?’

‘Do you want her back?’

The old woman nodded like an idiot. ‘Can she sing for me again?’

He pressed the rewind button, held it down for exactly six seconds, and pressed play again.

‘There you go,’ he held the player up to her. ‘Do you want to hold it?’

She looked at her revolver hand and then at what he assumed was her “can hand.” She glared at him. ‘You won’t trick me? This isn’t a trick, you dirty hobgoblin.’

He tapped her pocket with the bullets. ‘Can’t hurt you if I don’t have these, can I?’

The old woman looked at the gun pressed against the strange man’s head.

‘Let’s trade,’ he held the player between their faces. ‘Give me the gun then I can give you this.’

The tape played the boy’s favourite part of the song. The tape was near its end again. She dropped the gun to her side but shook her head.

‘I can’t do it,’ she looked at the strange man. ‘I’ll be alone.’

He pressed the stop button. Her eyes grew wide.

‘Here,’ he pointed at the cassette deck’s white triangle. ‘If you want the music–if you want her to sing again just press this.’

She fumbled for the button but he jerked it away.

‘Give me the gun.’

‘Make her sing.’

‘Give me the fucking gun then I will.’

‘Fine!’

The old woman threw the revolver over his head and held her empty hands out.

‘There,’ she pointed over his shoulder. ‘There, there, there! Now make her sing, make her sing for me!’

He cursed under his breath, shook his head, and pressed the button before pushing the cassette deck into her hands and jogging away.

The revolver had landed near the pavement’s drainage hole. He picked up the piece, bounced it in his hand, and went back to the old woman with the gun in his pocket.

She stood, watching. He watched her. She pointed at the cassette deck.

‘Make her sing again,’ she shook the player, looked underneath it, and tapped the plastic covering. ‘She keeps stopping.’

He walked over and showed her the “beginning” button, the stop one (‘don’t need that one,’ she said. ‘Just make her sing,’), and the “finish” arrows (‘don’t need tha’ one neither — just make her sing all the time).

He let her press the buttons herself. She smiled at the sun. Eyes closed, the old woman thanked the boy, reeled in her can and, turning her back to him, threw the aluminium container, calling out to her pig.

But after four or five paces the old woman stopped and leered over her shoulder at this strange man behind her.

‘Can Spider hear me with all this racket?’

‘We can’t hear what you hear.’

She cocked an eyebrow.

‘You sure you’re not just being a dummy? Only mean can hear it.’

‘Only you can hear. I promise,’ he pointed in a westerly point of the muddy concave. ‘Say. Pigs like dog food, don’t they?’

‘Some do,’ the old woman nodded. ‘Spider sometimes likes cat food too, but makes him fart up a storm if he even gets a little bit of it in so I don’t let him anymore.’

‘Think there’s a dog food depot down this road.’

She nodded.

‘Know there’s one mah-self.’

‘He might be there. There’s a pet shop close, too. He might be there.’

‘Smell is pretty strong in the mornings,’ the old woman smiled and threw the can.  ‘Might be.’

He followed and held his hand up to where the sun would be hiding behind the concave.

The ant-like grit on his fingers became harder to see. He spat, took a deep breath, wondered how many breaths they had left, and followed the old woman and her rattling can.

Outside, it was afternoon but within the sun would never rise again, and when the sun had reached its natural horizon, the dome closed with a squelch and two gunshots echoed inside the muddy vault.

©2018 Theo Volschenk. All rights reserved.

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