Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Apocalypse Snippets #3 - Jacob Reuben, age 23

Disclaimer: This is part of a project I'm undertaking this semester to explore the way the apocalypse goes down in a novel I've had half-formed in my head for a couple of years. The following may be random, shitty first draft-type writing, unsuitable for human consumption, and may not make up a complete story by the end of the semester. Do not read while operating heavy machinery, not intended for ingestion, etc.

The moment it happens, the air sort of snaps and crackles. Those are stupid words for it, and I realize this as I think them. Humanity’s being swallowed up by something, and I can only think of it in Rice Crispies terms.

I’m standing on the sidewalk on Avenue des Champs-Elysées with my track jacket hoisted over my head to keep the rain out of my face, watching a row of TVs in a shop window as the news captions scroll by. I can’t read half of them - don’t speak more’n five sentences of French, just here for a summer research gig - but I can read the faces of the others clustered around the shop window, and one TV’s got CNN on.

It’s been trickling across the globe for half a day now - started with the Pacific Rim, near as anyone can tell, and just spread out. The news captions and explanations seemed laughable at first, but repeated over and over, with not a bit a humor, they sank in.

Underworld Attacking Humans.

Souls of the Deceased and Other Dead Beings Possessing the Bodies of the Living.

Armageddon Feared Imminent.

Half an hour ago CNN was playing a story about an ancient Norse god possessing a Starbucks barista. A woman in the crowd across from me broke into hysterical laughter and had to sit down on the wet pavement.

I almost had to sit down myself when they started running footage of the Ganges River. Millions of people milled around the banks to pray this morning, and then something rose out of the water and turned those millions of people into walking puppets. It happened quickly and invisibly - millions praying, millions gone limp like they were dead, millions getting up again, aimlessly, silent and glassy-eyed. They reran that footage for three hours, the newscasters poring over it for clues. All they found was that on close-up shots of the river, you could see the surface ripple and break like something was walking out of it.

A lot of somethings.

Anyway, the air changes when it hits Paris. You can tell people feel it because all at once the clusters of people on the sidewalks stop moving and the miniscule cars on the streets slow and bump fenders. Everything stops, and then everything moves. Pedestrians scramble for the subway, choking the entrance so hard they can’t even move. Drivers get out and join them, even though it’s pointless. I cling to the face of the electronics store, my coat still over my head even though I’m under the awning now, and listen to the glass shattering down the street as people make last-ditch efforts at looting.

I brace myself against the wall, clenching my eyes shut and praying that whatever takes me takes me quickly. The cacophony of the street stuffs my ears like cotton, and then I can’t hear anything.

But I can feel the smooth stone wall against my cheek, so I’m not dead. Or I’m dead and death smells just like a trash-strewn city street. I peel open my eyes.

Everyone is still here - in the street, clogging the subway entrance, trapped in tiny cars. But they’re silent. Some have fallen over, some are just board-stiff in the middle of everything, staring around themselves. I recognize the glassy-eyed stare from the news reports. And something else - music somewhere.

It takes me a minute to figure out it’s coming from the cracked open window of the Disney Store across the street - an old Doors album playing loud enough that it pumps into the street. Someone on staff must have a sense of humor. Must have had.

I check myself over - still breathing, heart still beating, hand still hurts from where I smacked it against a lab table last night. Faculties still intact. And in the window of the electronics store, I catch my reflection - no glassy eyes, same lost expression as the newscasters on the TV. I’m still here. Everyone I can see from here to the Arc’s been swallowed up, gone, and I’m still here.

That’s when I need to sit down.

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