By Nick Gardner
The three of us are bellied up to the last bar in the world, tipping back Car Bombs to the televised violence of the end times. Barman shakes martinis, changes channels as the film crews covering the chaos are slaughtered. In the static between reports, I imagine strings of newscasters like lemmings at the edge of the cliff.
Ich, the critic in our group, says that lemmings are cliche. Give me something fresh.
I say, Nothing’s fresh. They knock us down and knock us down again.
Yo, ever the poet, mumbles, Not with a bang but a whimper?
Yo is right. Many bangs, many whimpers. Car Bombs. Biblical plague.
The apocalypse started yesterday with no warning, as prophesied. The foremen banged E-stops on the presses and fled to their Miatas. The CEO and board members took off in private jets. We split into factions: eye color, finger length, pronation. It escalated: Fire fell from the sky. Tsunamis. De-extinct dinosaurs gnashing bodies bloody, the NRA in big game paradise, gunning down T-Rex. Yo, Ich, and I careened out of there in my IROC Z, cringing as Quality Control was cleaved lengthwise by a longsword.
Now safe at the bar, the sky darkens with vultures that poof into a cumulus of feathers, followed by the sound of rapid fire, a supersonic whoosh of Navy jets. Barman thumbs the channel as a white whale rushes a nudist beach. Flying saucers tractor beam cows in a football-size hailstorm.
Sensitive Yo starts to tear up at the massacre, but Ich cuts her off and points. The Factory’s CEO fidgets in and edges his way to a booth flanked by board members, the mayor. Says, I’d kill for a drink. We all know he’s killed for less.
I order Car Bombs around and we chug, then order beers.
Barman finds a channel showing a volcano erupting as an atom bomb is dropped into it, but it cuts to static. The ants have won! says Yo. There is no hope.
Ich fumes alone.
The CEO leans back to give his belly room to heave at the mayor’s jokes, and Ich has had enough. He huffs over and pulls the chair out from under the CEO, who spills red wine down his shirt as he hits the floor. We hear the rip of split pants and his face is Merlot-stain mad. Ich says, Why don’t you fucking do something? I look around for Yo and see her sliding through the bathroom door.
The CEO’s up and fumbling for his piece. The mayor’s being held back by board members. Barman steps in with a shotgun in one hand, a cleaver in the other. The rest of the clientele are poised with weapons out. Barman says, You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
Nobody wants to leave.
The melee’s behind me now as I whisper through the door and step onto a throat. I try to tread lightly but keep slipping on the dead, keep tumbling into them, puke in a space between two bodies. The trees in the square are on fire, no longer doing their job of cleaning the air. The earth has gone silent, just a stray pop of bomb or pepper of gunshot. Bodies overload my thoughts. Bodies everywhere. I lie down on the street. I close my eyes, make myself stop breathing. I pretend I’m like them, try to be just another body, but my chest keeps rising and my eyes keep blinking. Every tick and itch says, Hey, I’m me.