The Last Day

(September 1, 2003; written flow-of-consciousness style)
Comment on this story | View comments

The wind up here isn't as cold as I'd expected it to be, given how bad it was on the ground. You'd think that the higher you climbed, the worse it'd feel - kind of like climbing away from Hell a step at a time, watching the thermometer drop as the invisible flames recede. I guess it's a silly thought, given that Hell is moving a whole lot faster than I can, and the flames are already here, but maybe I was still hoping. Worthless, hope; worthless, but that doesn't stop us from trying to keep it going, does it?

I can see the whole city from here - the parts of it not totally covered by smoke, anyway. Spirals of houses, too far away to see clearly but still so obviously broken, the fires more obvious than anything else. I passed an empty car with its radio going on my way, and stopped to listen; the only anchorman who didn't run like everybody else was reporting that something obscene like sixty percent of the buildings have either been looted or are burning. That's sick, they're sick. We'll all sick. Alas, poor homeland... I don't know any Shakespeare, so I'll just stop there. I know you hate it when I try to quote things I don't really understand.

It's surprisingly comfortable here, although I suspect that it's because I'm getting numb by degrees. I'm sitting staring out at the distance, ignoring everything inside the in-focus range of my nearsightedness. The guardrails below me are all bent and broken, showing places where drivers took their cars and dove for the quiet of the water, but I'm above that. I climbed up to the top of one of the support beams, and I refuse to look down at the last seconds of other people's lives, even as the last few moving cars squeal and dance and try to catch my attention. I think I came here to jump, but honestly, I'd rather think about you. There's no point in jumping down to a world that's going to rise up and eat me, is there? I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say.

I don't know where everybody is. Jessica ran off with four guys, presumably for a last ride, and Steve screamed something about stealing a baseball bat and helping himself to 'the shit I never got to buy.' That's probably not an exact quote, given how much Steve swears. Insert another 'fuck' somewhere - anywhere you want, since he'd do the same. I tried calling a few other people, but the lines are long since down, cut or fallen or maybe just tired of relaying pathetic messages about last chances and regret. Maybe it's better - I'd have had nothing to say, anyway. 'So, wanna go play pool before we all die horrible, horrible deaths?' How much do you want to bet Ben would have agreed to a plan like that? Heh, I'm hysterical. Anyway, I'm basically alone, except for the sirens and the howling dogs and the shrieking of glass breaking. I think I've also pinpointed the sound of a roof burning, but won't try to describe it to you. Better you never learn about it, my poor misplaced one.

Did you see this coming? I'd like to be one of those cynical, foresight-like-I-had-a-crystal-ball people who were going on about how they saw it as inevitable after the first few volleys were traded, but really, I just assumed we'd get on with life and things would be okay again. I didn't watch the news or listen to the radio, and even changed the subject when friends tried to bring it up - I hate politics, and I don't care. Well, I didn't care, anyway. Maybe I do now, by default. It's hard to ignore the world's issues when they're above your own head, I've learned. You'd think this would make me more sympathetic to those we've bombed before, the people whose existence I simply avoided considering, but no. I still don't give a damn about them, I just pray to be freed from the same situation they were in, simply because I'm me and not them. Like I said, we're all sick. I am embarrassed by my own survival traits - do you think that's why I won't survive?

Whoever said that war is hell was not quite right, I think. This isn't eternal suffering, although I'm sure it feels like it for the people trapped on the ground. This will end; we'll all be charred bits of meat by then, but it will still be over. They'll occupy our city for a while, just like the others, and either they'll be driven out or they won't. They will commit atrocities, vengeance for ours, and maybe someday we'll commit more to remind them of this. The people who gave these orders will die, and new people will immigrate and be born. No, war isn't hell, it's just a little more death than we're used to. Having said that, I have to ask, why the fuck do we let this happen? I'm conflicted, but so is everyone else, so I guess it's okay.

I just saw a plane, the first that's flown anywhere near me in at least an hour. That seems like a long time today, but then, there's already a genocide going on below - dropping any more bombs would be redundant, so surely their pilots can do home for a nice little sleep. I know that's a lie, so please don't bother correcting me - I know they'll be just as haunted by this as I would have been if I'd been in their shoes. I just don't care, because they're killing me, and I don't have a lot of empathy for people who kill me. (Not that I have a lot of practice.) If you were here, maybe I could have forced a laugh and a wave for the guy up there, but as it is, I'm just going to stare at the horizon. Everything below is death, everything above is somebody else's life.

I just don't know. Everybody's down there looting, fucking, screaming, praying, and dying, all at the same time. They're trying to achieve something, anything, before they're shot or burned or irradiated or whatever else, and you may be wondering why I'm not with them. We're social creatures, you might argue, and I might feel better if I weren't alone. Well, do you know what? It doesn't make a bit of difference whether I'm a part of the masses fulfilling their final dreams or a solitary being perched atop a bridge, because no action anyone could possibly take will ever be worth anything.

We can't get away; we know that. The borders are guarded with more than men with guns - they're guarded with fire and enough radiation to peel the flesh from an elephant, the fallout of a dozen nuclear weapons. We may live another hour, a day, a week, but the end result will be that we will all die, leaving a nice, empty space for our conquerors to fill. Well, once the soil stops glowing at night. Faced with that, what would you be doing? I'm betting you'd be sitting up here too, thinking thoughts for me. There isn't anything a person could do that would matter - not even this, but I cannot convince myself to jump just yet.

Okay, so you get laid one more time. Your seed will never fertilize her eggs, even if it wasn't already dead from the poison in the air. You might moan for a few minutes, but there's no way your mind would be involved, so you're really just wasting energy. Okay, so you steal a van's worth of the objects you always wanted to own. At the risk of diving headfirst into Fight Club, what will that get you? Another few hundred pounds of weight to lug around, and maybe fifteen minutes of morose GameBoy play. Go ahead, people, murder your enemies, save children stuck under fallen beams, run in circles screaming out the names of that guy you loved in third grade - you'll all end up in the same place soon, be it your vision of the afterlife or the ground. I know you don't want to admit that you're really about to die, but trust me (and the air raid sirens), you are. You'll leave no legacy, no offspring, no future. The future will do fine without you, but that's not the point.

Someone just ran up to the space just beneath me, and threw herself head-down into space - I didn't mean to look, really, but what she did was too amazing to miss. She was singing a song that sounded like it belonged at an Irish wake, a celebration of the lost, and she paused with her hands on the guardrail for just a moment, looking up at me as she wept. I guess I've been talking to you aloud; I hope you're not embarrassed. She waved once, like a queen, her index finger practically touching her pinkie, then leapt forward, her arms bent over her head like a diving champion. She sang all the way down, though the words faded into a strained hum as she neared the bottom, and I watched until even the ripples that echoed her vanished. There is something so polite, so serene, about her exit... I'm not sure what to think about it. I wish I could do the same, but in some foolish, selfish way, I cannot bear the thought of copying someone else's death. She understood, though - she knew that the riots and the orgies were hollow cries for help that will not come, and chose the dignified path to Valhalla. Or maybe just the bottom of the river. Either way, my dear, I envy her. Perhaps I will find you in Heaven, and together we will find her, and we will all become friends. I don't think my mind is as clear as it was before it was filled with entropy.

This may sound truly disturbed, but you know, there is something oddly beautiful about the fires down there. I feel like a god, observing a pattern that seems far too chaotic from within but logical and necessary from without, even though I can also feel the heat radiating up from the concrete and my vision keeps getting worse. I want to spread my arms and embrace all of the death and those still dying, reminding them that there is nothing they can do and that they should not even try. Stop your mindless sex and your random, terrified violence, and accept the fact that this is the end! Someone else's children will enjoy the world you have left behind, even though your temporary existence was just a little more temporary than it should have been. It will all be all right. I feel like they need my permission to give up and go, so I'm going to cut this short. It is time to show them that a last-minute life isn't a life at all, and I hope you would have respected this if you weren't already waiting for me at the bottom of this bridge.

Dammit. For all that I say nothing matters, I'm crying as I mouth these words, because I really just want to see the reflection of your face as I hit the water. I am a hypocrite, but it's hard to be anything else when my world is ending. Please be waiting for me. I have hope, still.