No One Feels Fine at the End of the World
I stared at the broken merry-go-round. Most of the animals had been ripped from their poles and scattered. Half of the circus-tent-like-top lay in shambles. Shards of glass on the ground—a sick testament to how bright the place had once been—glittered in the moonlight.
Weeks of running, of barely surviving, had brought me back. Here.
To be honest I didn’t think I had any more tears to shed, but a single drop of salty water pooled in the corner of one eye and slid down my cheek.
Had it only been weeks? It felt like months. Years.
If I’d known then what I knew now, would I have ran? Or would I have faced the fate of most of the human race? Died then and there. Not had to go through the nightmare that the world had become.
Would I have saved myself from the burden of the truth?
I’d like to say I would have fought anyway, but if the past month had taught me anything, it was that no one knew what they were going to do in a life-or-death situation until they were there. Staring it in the eye.
Leaving their children to die.
I shook that thought away as I moved forward.
They’d been dead before my brain had processed the fact that there was a monster at the fair. Teeth. Claws. Skin the color of midnight and eyes that burned with hate.
A girl’s body had been hanging from its fangs before I’d had enough sense to even scream. And when I did scream, my voice joined the others.
I forced myself to move forward. I needed to know. I needed to see them.
The head of the purple unicorn my daughter had been writing lay on the blood-stained grass. The back of the lion where my son had been lay a dozen feet away. I didn’t want to think about my wife. I’d banished her from my mind, because even a whisper of her in my heart would break me.
Now it didn’t matter, so I moved along the grass, my eyes taking in the carnage, until I got to the steps that led up to the merry-go-round.
Scavengers had eaten everything that could be eaten. I’d grown accustomed to the smell of death, but was grateful that I didn’t have to tune that out now.
The wood creaked under my feet as I moved onto the platform. I stepped around what was left of clothes and a few body parts, until I reached where the body of the purple unicorn still clung to a once gold pole.
I almost smiled when I saw the seat belt still around the torso of my daughter. Of course my wife would have belted her on. Safety first.
A wave of emotions threatened to rise, and I had to close my eyes and remind myself that everything was gone, not just them.
And it wasn’t my fault.
A howl—piercing and alien—howled in the distance. The hairs on the back of my neck rose. They’d been hunting me for days. I’d managed to lead them away from the refugees, but this would be my last stand.
A broken fence lay beyond the merry-go-round, and beyond that lay the dimension rip that had spewed the apocalypse.
I had been at ground zero.
Why hadn’t I died here the first time?
Another howl. This one closer.
My eyes snapped open and I pulled out a flashlight. It didn’t matter if they saw me.
A light green coat lay on the ground. Arms ripped off and covered in dark stains. My wife. I let my gaze slide from her to the small, tan pants beside her.
Just five years old.
The beam of light illuminated something blue and red beside my son. I squat down and reached for it. My fingers trembled as I plucked it from the rough wood.
An action figure of my son’s favorite super hero. It had somehow escaped the carnage. I dusted a layer of dirt off and found it pristine beneath.
I looked at it for a long time. Long enough that howls turned to growls and then to pounding paws on the ground.
“Where were you?” I asked.
Of course I knew superheroes weren’t real, but it’s what my son would have asked.
The growling grew louder, and something howled just outside the merry-go-round.
I held the action figure to my chest. “I’m sorry,” I said to my family. “I’m sorry.”