When I woke up, it was 6:36 a.m., November 7. It was a Thursday.
My arm was wet. I had been sleeping on grass, about 30 meters from a tree line. I don’t know how I got there.
The last thing I remember is screaming. Other people screaming, not I. They had screamed for help, but their cries were stifled.
It was as if they had all choked on their own fear.
And then it was silent.
The air reeked of sulfur. Sulfur and piss. The kind of piss that comes from knowing you’re about to die. The pungent smell of desperation, of losing hope. The smell of millions of people, lives flashing before their eyes, trying to spit out those precious last words. The smell of the heartbreak that comes with knowing they would never be heard.
I choked on every breath, and somehow got to my feet.
In the distance, faint sounds echoed from the buildings. Faint sobbing, prayers and groans. Far away, but I know that I am not alone.
If only they had been lucky. If only I had been lucky. Yet we were doomed to whatever this universe had decided for us.
The lucky ones died within minutes, millions of them trying to yell out, yet choking on their own words. Standing on a world full of oxygen, and yet unable to take a breath. They had drowned in their own terror.
And it was the last thing I remembered, before the world went dark.
A light was shining off in the distance. The lone beacon in a world that had suddenly gone dark. I debated with myself briefly, two sides of one brain bellowing at each other until both had gone deaf, and I heard nothing but ringing.
I started towards the light. Most likely a fool’s errand, but what choice did I have? As I stumbled over the corpses of women and children, their faces twisted in agony, what choice was there but to hope?
My feet were heavy. My body tired. And yet, I didn't just SEE the light, I FELT it. It called to me. It knew me.
I knew better than to follow it, and yet I knew nothing else.
10:31 a.m., November 7.
I’m at the door. The light hangs above it, an old lantern that has no business being visible from more than a block away. The building has no name, just a door, and a window through which I can see a crowd drinking and laughing.
I step inside, and the noise stops. Everyone looks at me, with twisted grins. People and things that almost resemble people, the likes of which I have never seen, stop and face me.
From behind the bar I hear a chuckle.
“Hello, Friend. They’ve been waiting a long time for you.”
The voice comes from a clown. Like a circus clown, with the stupid nose and everything. He stands behind the bar, a rag in his hand, cleaning the glasses. His teeth are like needles, a different colour drips from each point, and I swear I can hear them weep as they fall from his mouth.
He motions toward a table in the back corner, and tells me to have a seat. His voice is like poison to my ears.
As I approach, I see the party gathered. Laughing and drinking, they don't acknowledge my presence. A fish slithers from my pocket and drops to floor, gasping for breath, fighting for life like the people around us did only hours before.
Next to my chair sits what was once most likely a man, at some point, anyhow. Now he is nothing more than bone, with patches of dead skin stretched tightly over his yellowed frame. Strands of grey hair dangle from his scalp. He waves to the waitress, who smiles her toothless smile and nods knowingly in our direction.
Across from him sits a monkey. It laughs and shrieks, growing agitated and dipping its face into a bucket of red wine.
Next to him is the lion. Proud, he sits back, almost relaxed, observing. Blood drips from his jaw, and he barely seems to notice as I sit.
On the table is a six-sided die. It is mostly blue, with a green pattern. Around it, poker chips are strewn about. Each one has a face or a picture. My memories, scattered about across the table.
The lion leans forward. He smiles his toothy smile.
“Would you like to play a game?” he asks.
released September 22, 2013
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