by Noah Elliot Blake
For some time, six months really, we could tell it was coming more or less and we waited for it to appear in newspapers to confirm the dreams that slept beneath a history of sunsets and thoughts made in the dim, most of the time ignoring its descent and drinking heavily so we could pretend that the growing amount of squirrels found on stakes and the piles of skin seen slowly falling from the elderly were actually part of a funny, if not slightly heavy-handed, joke, performed by a local acting troupe or masculinity support group.
There was a movie I watched about a former drug addict who turned it all around to become a respected district judge. His bailiff, a kangaroo, assisted him in foiling bank robberies, gangs of arsonists, and, eventually, a cult of child pornographers who ritualistically ate the fingernails of their Chinese torture slaves. Owen Wilson starred as the kangaroo named “Hop Flop,” or “Officer Flop,” formally, and Clive Owen played the vigilante judge who thought of his mother’s record collection (a driving metaphor for undocumented loss) as constantly as he said the word damn for unnecessary emphasis, as in, “A turkey sandwich with some damn mayonnaise, please.” My mother told me it was based on the real life story of a man in New Zealand who also wrote a bestselling novel called Fuck Crew with a similar plot involving an alligator and the woman it loved. I remember nodding as I watched a review of the movie on “Entertainment Tonight” that described Owen Wilson’s performance as “surpassingly plucky” before flipping to several farmers in Iowa, who were clearly drunk, being interviewed to explain how they had not seen an insect in two weeks, and how uncommon this was for the end of spring. I turned off the TV and ate another handful of pomegranate seeds, probably wondering who would have pot that night.
A friend told me he saw pigeons flying upside-down in Georgetown, and week after week I heard about zoos closing. Somewhere around June I began to cum blood. Everyone quit going to the beach when the water turned orange and whales began piling up faster than they could be removed—the popular joke being, “Weight gain is murder!” One Saturday evening I went to a party where we all drank something called “Chicken Blood,” and I later told a girl, “Don’t worry, I’ve seen spiders put eggs in worse places,” which was a lie that would become true later when I took my dog, Melanoma, to the vet and found out that a nest had been somehow buried behind his eyes, along with half a dozen bottle caps. Dr. Sattler shook his head and told me his daughter had been missing for a month and he kept receiving e-mails to buy a plot of land on the sun from a sender with the address firstname.lastname@example.org. I paid my bill. Dr. Sattler followed me out the door and, giving me a colorless stare, asked loudly if I was interested in buying any meth. I left him without response. Melanoma, however, was incinerated. I did not collect his remains.
Stephen Hawking finally died in July. They found steroids in his blood and an underground gym thirty feet beneath his house, fully equipped and covered in posters of professional wrestlers. He left a note that simply stated, “I always wanted to see a woman turned inside out,” and there were rumors he was wearing lipstick when the medics arrived. That month my brother’s school closed indefinitely for a “decontamination routine” after three students who had died in a car crash appeared in the auxiliary gym and ate seven of one student’s fingers, both of another’s testicles, and the gym teacher’s scalp and nose. They also left holes in several lockers, as well as sixteen loaded shotguns and several grenades. My brother told me the staff suspected they had mined the field hockey field. Our mother went to Arizona to photograph rare lichen and giant geometric patterns forming in the sand. She sent only a cactus plant, already dead, from a 1-800 florist when my father died in a fire that was described as coming up from the ground and accompanied by “deeply baritone belches” from the sky. It melted four office complexes into what looked to me like candle wax. It was all as coincidentally symbolic as anything those months. Walking to work the next day, I could hear someone screaming for God, but I could not tell where it was coming from and I was by then too frightened to accept that the voice was issued, beyond any doubt, by an elm tree next to a lamp and a crosswalk.
On top of all this, Tom Cruise came out. The lead estimate told us eight thousand people killed themselves in the course of that week.
Astronomers wrote that the moon was shrinking but I could only worry about where the lost volume was going, guessing, I guess, that it would be better to go to sleep and let my dreams figure it out, but all they revealed were buildings with teeth and light so green it was revolting. Preparations were made for the president and key cultural and scientific leaders’ trip to a no-longer-covert underwater operations base near Antarctica. In a speech delivered just before his departure, he said the voyage was unquestionably necessary, right before pronouncing, “So, um, hang loose America.” Surprisingly, there was no public reaction to this. My friends and I bought firecrackers and tried to burn each other. Toward the end of things, I would remember our confused expressions and the way the air smelled like scorched cheese and hair and try to laugh.
Every time it rained in the later part of the month we were told to go indoors and secure our windows and locks. When it stopped, my brother and I would remove the boards to see fur and feathers everywhere, over a thick carpet of black ash that made me remember my father, but just made my brother sneeze. At that point we had basically given up. Another way of saying this is that our dicks were in constant, horrendous pain and we were jerking off together to commercials on late night TV.
The house vanished in August, leaving what was too late to deny as tracks, but I was too hungry to follow them and find that they led to the Potomac and I still felt that way when my brother came back soaked in purplish mud telling me you could watch a line of houses jumping even now. A petition went around wherein people demanded to be turned into rats. It was addressed to Jesus and Rod Stewart. I could not sign it, struggling to recall the last time I had seen a living animal.
My brother was killed when a sinkhole the size of an airport opened at the Jefferson Memorial and I was having trouble speaking or distinguishing if the things I saw were moving in reverse. Could you unwatch the world?
On the morning the sun turned black and opened its single eye, abysmally red and carved in total malice and everywhere, we knew it was over. It grew larger and larger and showed its hopeless grey grin and I closed my eyes but it didn’t relieve anything. Someone was playing Céline Dion as it began to vomit what looked at first like broken pots of ink but turned out to be two-foot tall, mechanized gorillas with huge, horribly fanged mouths jutting from their stomachs. They shook themselves off and commenced devouring people, bent and twisted trees, concrete, and street signs with no obvious preference. Crying, I ran to the place my home had been. The miniature gorillas were busy and I tried to be silent, though I could not stop weeping, partially because there was almost no light left and in the burgeoning dark it wasn’t impossible to see the color of things leaking upwards, pulled by the vacuum of thought and life that had begun in a steady advance of horrifying math too long ago, but mostly because I had been bitten on my calf rather badly and it hurt like shit.
Soon it was entirely black. Voices came and I continued crying until nothing could be heard at all, the quiet gnawing at the corpse of my consciousness. I pictured toothless smiles dripping with blood, the Grand Canyon filled with candy bars, Play Doh squeezing between hands with six fingers and falling. Not breathing much, I tried to speak but could not say, “A hunched shape dissolving and idle, shutter my eyes and sigh me a petal,” which is something I thought I read in school. I felt like the top half of an empty hourglass. Then I could see myself lying down and closing my eyes to enter a reverie of no motion again, followed closely by the specter of my vision that did not see anymore anyhow.