Had to avoid Main Street because of the police action. More of a surge, really. A response to the squatters in the old Capitol building. The anarchists started moving in about a month ago and I guess the mayor had had enough and decided to clean house. That, or there was an election coming up. Not that I care. You wouldn’t catch me at a polling place. Nothing but target practice for one group or another or the worst, a random lone wolf looking to make a name for himself in the annals of history.
So I had to reroute to Cherry Avenue and work my way around the ruckus. Would have made it too, if it hadn’t been for the sink hole. Swallowed up the whole intersection, antique autos and mopeds and stray dogs probably. I didn’t stick around to find out. I should have chosen another path because the surge had encountered more resistance from the squatters than they’d planned for. Ironic, no? How did anarchists become so organized? The riot swarmed over me and I end up with a face full of mace and a lung full of teargas. I couldn’t see or breath to find my way out.
“Come on, you can do it. It’s perfectly safe,” says Daddy. “You won’t feel a thing. Promise.”
“Promise like birthdays?” The little boy looks up at his dad. “Or promise like Mommy’s coming back?”
The dad’s shoulders droop. He takes a deep breath.
“You two come through or step out of line,” says a security guard. He waves a short dark club at them.
“It’s okay,” Daddy says to the boy. “I’ll go first so you can see it’s safe. Just wait for me turn around and then you do it the same way I do. Okay?”
The boy bit his lip as his dad said ‘okay’ again, but this time it wasn’t a question.
The dad lets go of the boy’s hand, adjusts his shirt, and steps through the security scanner. Red lights flash and the sound of sirens fill the air. Daddy is knocked to the floor by the security guard and suddenly there are guards all around everyone in line, shouting and pointing and hitting and the boy cries, an open-mouth scream, wanting for all the world not to have to walk through the scanner and get knocked down.
At the end of the world, the last man alive drives himself to the emergency room of his local hospital. The door dutifully open at his approach and he drives right into the lobby. As he tumbled out of the car, clutching his chest, a greeter-bot rolls up and beeps at him.
“Welcome to Mercy Hospital. May I see you insurance card, please. ”
The last man on earth struggles to a seated position and tries to explain that he’s having a heart attack. His speech is slurred due to the stroke he’s also experiencing so the greeter-bot asks for his insurance card again to no avail. Man and bot are at a standoff, one experiencing catastrophic injuries, the other experiencing a moment of clarity as it realizes its obsolescence faces him in the form of a frail middle aged man who insists on gurgling, vomiting, and messing himself instead of following regulations.
There was a time when planes flew overhead leaving vapor trails in the sky as if tracing the latitude and longitude from a map or a globe. There was a time when people walked on the moon, not so far away but a lifetime ago now. There was a time when the asteroids didn’t fall, destroying every city and population center with over 50,000 people. There was a time before the sentinels came to watch over our small village to ensure no one became a threat. There was a time when the sky was blue and we all knew the sun would rise tomorrow. Just like the moon, those times are a lifetime ago and feel like dreams or theories scribbled in a reference book, hard bound, set upon a shelf with other impressive looking books in a room filled with leather and wood and reading lamps that burned with electric lights.
The theater was empty. It was always empty. Still, he kept to the schedule. Every night at 7:00 he played the last reel of previews of upcoming films that would never arrive, which gave him time to make a batch of popcorn. Seven minutes later (he did skip a few reels of previews) he started the feature film, a German flick with English subtitles, Aguirre the Wrath of God. The irony of the title was not lost on him, but he didn’t think the South America setting was much of a parallel to his own urban megalopolis, even if he was the last person in it. Between reels three and four, he paused to make another batch of popcorn. He estimated that the supply of popcorn and salt would likely outlast the freshness date of the oil. Still he’d enjoy the rituals for as long as he could.