Those Who Remember Us
I wrote something for the first time in countless months. It's for my next book. I don't know if it's any good, but hey, I wrote something.
This is how it went:
The skyline was beautiful on fire.
I remember your hair twisting in the breeze: thin, dark strands whispering in the gusts of hot air from below. You kept your hair long and styled whereas mine remained tussled, looking like I had emerged from years of sleep haunted by dreams of better days and motions I once took.
The sun is growing larger and brighter every minute. It started over a year ago. First, days that should have ended became longer and longer. Soon, the night began at ten o’clock, then eleven, then midnight, then we were living in the Arctic Circle, the Aurora shimmering above us in the guise of cirrus clouds refracting constant daylight.
At first, it was beautiful, shimmering gold in the streets—blues and whites intermingling in shards of glass. Then the orange came and the red. And then the riots and the looting. Buildings were destroyed and bodies piled against each other, vibrant skin bathed in the taunting orange glow.
Blood flowed in the streets for months. The sun grew larger.
The people, us, we, a combined human agreement, decided to stop. The sun would not stop growing, and neither would we. Everything we had created—money, knowledge, history, even our biology—no longer held us together. We did not care anymore. It would all burn. Like our bodies.
Millennia of human evolution condensed into three essentials: food, water, closeness.
Your hand squeezed mine in a playful tug, and I looked over at you. Your eyes were shining, bright, and brilliant through tinted darkness. I squeezed back and then pulled you close to me, bumping shoulders, letting go of your hand, and wrapping my arms around your full body. You let out a laugh as we tumbled down through the dirt of the hill.
We wore more dust than clothes. But they had become a necessity. Coverings of the flesh, devoid of social modesty and stylistic expression. Clothes became a means to live in order to die.
You wore a tattered flowing skirt coming down to your ankles, tucked into an enormous pair of black leather boots. A black zipped hoodie stretched across your body. I was in a dark set of jeans, same boots, and a purple zipped hoodie, too small. We had traded. We both wore scuffed and cracked motorcycle helmets and stippled gardening gloves.
We smelled of earth and sweat and a primal essence that had not existed for millions of years.
I had the luck of knowing you for several years before the sun began to expand. I did not seek you out; I found you through the chaos of normalcy. Before normalcy became chaos. When things were different and death was a distant image floating on the dying light of a star.
Somewhere in the nearby city, a voice rang out, “ONE MINUTE! ONE MINUTE!” It echoed across the hills, “inute...inute...inute...” An explosive roar followed, thousands of people cheering and laughing. Horns and fireworks. People celebrating the biggest party in the planet’s history. And we lay together on a burnt hill, laughing.
I started knocking on your helmet visor with my fist and your voice, that voice, specific to you, lilting and unique, muffled by the thick plastic, made the air shimmer with laughter. Your wonderful voice. You.
You straddled me and playfully held my shoulders to the ground. I squirmed and kicked and finally lifted you off me and pinned you to the dust. We were laughing, the sound soft and muffled. You kicked and squirmed and your boot, unlaced, slowly shook off. Your foot became exposed to the light.
The whiteness of your skin immediately turned red, and became blackened.
You tuck your foot behind you, hiding it under your skirt, smiling that crooked smile at me and saying, “It’ll be over soon. It won’t burn off. I won’t feel it.”
“30 SECONDS! 30 SECONDS!” Another roar comes. More fireworks. More horns.
The sun grows above us, brighter and brighter. We came to this place because it was away from everyone else. It overlooks an industrial dump full of toxic chemicals and machinery. A dump that should not exist but does. A remnant of times gone by. In different circumstances, in different timelines, we would protest, and we would get it removed. The climate demanded it. If not changed, everything would be over. And now it is. Now we can do nothing.
Now it is our savior. No one knows of it. No one cares. The chemicals bubble and the fumes drift over us—we used to care. We used to care a lot. Now, all we care about is us. The dirt beneath our bodies, feeling the pressure of each other through layers of protective clothing, feeling an inward breath, seeing the expelled air condense on the face mask.
This moment is ours and will always be.
I want to touch you with skin and have my last image be of your face in the sun’s brightness. To the side, though, movement catches my attention and I turn my head to see what it is.
Walking hand in hand, a couple shuffles through the dust and ash. Shivering with palsy but with no aid. They stand confident, or as confident as their bodies would allow. An older man and woman make their way up the hill. He wears a full suit, dark shoes, and a handkerchief tied around his face. Dark goggles, once used for skiing, wrap around half of his head.
The woman wears a hand-knit sweater and a glowing white skirt, pleated and clean, obviously pressed before they ventured out, a large wicker sun hat, and a handkerchief around her face as well. No goggles, large bug-eyed sunglasses with reflective Aviator lenses—cobbled together, I assume, in earlier days. Open-toed shoes, her toes black and shriveled.
They walk majestically toward the sun. The man places his arm around the woman and pulls her close to him. She wraps an arm around his waist and rests her head on his shoulder. They shuffle down the hill until they are out of sight.
The sun flares and I panic. You immediately grab the side of my helmet and pull my head toward yours. Your gloves are off, the skin of your hands peeling and turning black. Your helmet is off. Your dark hair bleaching to a strange whiteness, the skin of your face becoming red and pocked with blisters.
I see your smile. Your actual smile. See your eyes brighten and your callused and worn hands, beyond your years, grab the sides of my helmet and gently pull it off. The sting of light makes me wince. But I can feel you, your hands on my cheeks. Your forehead is suddenly against mine and that smile of yours reaching upwards beyond your own body. My gloves come off and I no longer feel the light. I cup your head in my hands, closing my eyes, pressing into you, smiling and happy, ignoring the pain from the massive star eating the sky.
“5, 4, 3...” the countdown comes from the city, growing louder. The sun expands and whiteness overtakes us. Orange and red and even the billboards take notice.
And I take your hands in mine, lowering them from my head, intertwining with your burning fingers. Only a few seconds left to keep loving you.
We fold into each other as the light of a star that protected and cared for us incinerates our bodies. Time ends and space expands; our entire selves reduced to carbon absorbed by photons, spreading across the universe, becoming nothing and everything at once.