Author : Jared Lynch
The water quit flowing from the taps shortly after the sirens stopped. I hadn’t paid my rent in three months, but I didn’t expect to receive an eviction notice. None came. There hadn’t been a train for four months.
Karen and I were always in before curfew. At night we hid away in our attic apartment, looked at the empty faces of the houses. Sometimes we read by candlelight. Sometimes there was light in other windows.
Gunfire eventually replaced the vacant ambience of the trains. Sporadic became more frequent. Pistol shots, then automatic. It reminded me of the fourth, lighting sparklers down by the river, gunpowder accumulating in a cloud beneath the fireworks.
The pepper plant and onion were growing well in the planter hung outside my kitchen window. Then one day heavy boots thudded up the stairs, a gloved fist on my door, an AR-15 pointed in my face. “Food can only be grown by government approved producers. This is your only warning.”
The next day we drove to my sister’s and stood in their yard with her husband. The peppers, lettuce, onions, carrots, kale, cucumbers, zucchini, garlic, rhubarb, corn, and radishes were all gone, picked clean from the stem. There were boot prints in the pumpkin patch. Mark said, “We’re leaving soon, going to your dad’s. Come with us.”
I said, “We’re still waiting to hear from her parents.”
That night there was an explosion in the distance. We saw fire on the horizon. Gunfire moved across the river. When she pulled back the curtains, and saw what our world had become she crawled back into my arms. I said, “Calm your fearful pulse my lover.”
She said, “The skyline is beautiful…everything is washed in a thin orange haze.”
I said, “You’re beautiful. Kiss me.”
We fell into each other. Automatic outside. Short bursts. Another explosion, closer. There were no lights in the windows.
The next morning we drove to my sister’s. The trunk was filled. Our packs were in the backseat. Gallons of water stacked on the floor. We parked off the alley in the back, walked through the trampled pumpkin patch. Empty house. A note on the kitchen table: Had to leave. Made copy of map for you. Meet us.
We drove through empty neighborhoods. We approached a checkpoint on the road leading out of town. Five bodies haphazard on the shoulders of the road, four soldiers and a man dressed in combat boots, cargo pants, and empty holster, laying facedown in a halo of blood.
We followed the map out through the country. The smoke was sporadic. That day the solitude felt barren. We hadn’t left the city since the spring’s green. She asked, “What are we going to find out here?”
I said, “Another house. Maybe the future.”
There was smoke in the rearview mirror.
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