The day we’d cured the human condition was the day I put a bullet through my head and didn’t die. It was also the day I realized how scared I actually was of death, and after hours of muscle ache from holding that gauze against my open skull, after the wound closed and everything went back to normal, I had myself a good old-fashioned brainstorm. How ironic.
But when summer came, everything had fallen to shit. The air scorched my skin and parched my tongue every time I took a breath. The sun glared down on a rapidly-collapsing world, full of the undying bastard children of cruelty and misfortune. What was one to do when their cells regenerated faster than they decomposed?
My feet hit the pavement, now littered with jagged bits of glass to snap at my toes, thoroughly baked by the blazing ball of bitter disdain high overhead. Today was worse than yesterday. Though I’d often wondered the purpose of it anymore, I decided to heave one leg in front of the other on my way to the railroad tracks, where I’d surely meet Amy McHollister following them to the shrinking creek northeast of town. Sure enough, at Hampton Street I noticed a disheveled hoodlum study the movements of her feet in front of her. How long had she gone without sleeping this week?
It became increasingly hard to tell what mental state she was in. On the path to the creek, she rarely moved her hazel eyes from the ground, her lips tightly sealed in a thin line. But once we’d brush past the scratchy overgrowths and reach the shore, either the tears would trickle down or the lips would curve upward. It was her way, and I respected it.
I followed beside her, and we walked in silence. Ahead on the path, a bloody mess was strewn about on the dust. Some opossum or something, probably mauled by a mountain lion or beaten to death by some tard who didn’t know better.
Amy’s eyes were on it, though, and that was enough for me to interject. “Not a good idea,” I said. “We don’t know how long it’s been sitting there.
Her pale hand crawled over her stomach as we passed. I didn’t blame her. The ache was tearing at my innards, too.
We plopped onto the banks of the creek around dusk, and picked at the dirt until the boredom forced our mouths open.
“Y’know,” she started, her quiet, soft tones a relief from the crackling madness of silence in my eardrums, “I think I’d like something to change.”
I looked at her, studied her intently, saw the emptiness in her eyes and the dirt on her face. “Everything already has changed,” I replied flatly, letting my head bounce against a rock on the ground as I leaned back. “So now we have to roll with it.”
“Why do you keep coming here?” she blurted. She already knew; even though I’d never told her directly, she knew exactly why I followed her into a gradual oblivion.
I pretended not to hear. My eyes searched the bloodshot sky for planes that’d long since stopped flying. The mosquitos feasted on me in my carelessness. It really didn’t matter now.
I felt the ground beside me thump against my arm, and her hand found my cheek. “Despite all the troubles,” she said, “I’m glad you’re here to share them with me.” She pulled my head in her direction and pressed her gentle lips against mine. Our first kiss. We stayed that way for a full minute before she pulled away and giggled. Her laugh was a bell chime; it resonated in my very being. For an instant, everything was okay.
“When it started, people called it a miracle,” she shook her head and gazed back at the creek.
“It is,” I assured her, spreading a dumb smile on my face and locking our filthy hands together. “It’s a bloody, stupid miracle.”
We shared a refreshing laugh.