The Birds and the Bees
The leaves hung like hummingbirds hovering for food. In swarms of suspended metals, autumn’s glinting deposits waited to settle on the scorched ground.
Next came the wind. Warmer than a lover’s kiss, colder than a refusal, it took me in its swirling embrace unsure whether to throttle or enfold. Me and that last of all trees in that last of all places.
Those leaves that remained whipped about like bees stinging at my skin, my throat, my everything. In beauty, I died.
We all did.
In hallowed halls we found them cowering like the frightened mice they were. Dark shapes with white-flecked collars, the clergy crumbled as our ravaged world burned.
“Where’s your God now!” bellowed one unruly bystander.
I would never forget their reply.
As one, they stood and said, “He’s already here.”
I had flirted with the idea of immortality, who hadn’t, but discarded it with little further thought. When one was young, one dismissed such notions. When one grew older, in my case, much, then it required further attention.
I had no need for a body; it had always been a disappointment. My brain required the attention as that was where my true self resided. I had no family, proper friends, not even a dog, so had no commitments to consider. Unless death was a commitment, in which case I considered it fully?
The preparation took two months, nothing more. Immortality, that ideal which had transfixed the Greek scholars onwards, came to me in less time than it took to grow a vegetable garden. I was rather euphoric about the whole affair.
The day came, and I flicked the switch. A cobalt light crackled through my hillside laboratory at the same time as something far brighter illuminated the horizon. I didn’t hear the explosion, but my mind told me it came.
Life had left my physical form, replaced with the vessel, in my case an old goldfish bowl full of a saline and vinegar mix, that contained my brain and ocular receptors. They were all I needed. At least, I’d thought so.
My bowl lay on the ground, as fortune would have it, with its lid still screwed on and me floating around inside it. The Earth, however, had changed. The sky was crimson, clouds gone. The sun baked an already charred planet.
Too long. I’d left them too long. Mankind had blown themselves to smithereens and all that remained was a brain in a glass with eyes to stimulate it. I was alone. More alone than any person could’ve dreamed. What was more, I always would be. Always.
I promised him everything; it wasn't enough. Fifty years of saving, collecting, consuming without practical purpose, wasted. There at the end of all things, as my tongue withered and eyes crisped, the devil wouldn't even sell me some water. Maybe that was my torment? Maybe he just wanted a laugh?
Hope was the contents of a duffle bag buried by the sea. The last of the last, my child would be taken by the waves when they chose, not man, a restoration of life's balance.
I turned my back on my past, our past and strode back into the desert.
We emerged from the ruins of a wrecked Earth unsure of what the future held. When the Holy man pointed to the moon and proclaimed it our new sun, I realised nothing had changed. I told him and the others it was still just the moon. They laughed. I left.
A maroon moon hung over the valley like some titan's amulet. The thing flickered, pulsed and flared against the stars. Flared! I wiped my glasses. Burgundy flames leapt from its surface in a cosmic waltz. Flames!
We'd done it. We'd killed the sun. I wept as the universe turned red.