Author: Shon-Lueiss Harris

You expect the world will fall apart. It’s the one thing scientists, evangelicals, and politicians seem to agree on. One day, maybe in our lifetimes, it’s all going to end.

Except it doesn’t just end.

It starts with a kid, a bag of firecrackers, and a particularly dry Saturday afternoon. Not exactly what the eggheads in D.C expect to move the doomsday clock to midnight, but life can be surprising like that.

It gets worse, so you get ready. You go to Amazon, order an air purifier, and congratulate yourself on being prepared.

The kid’s mistake turns into a natural disaster. Politicians across the globe offer imaginative connections between their opponents and the fire. They urge you to vote in an election almost a year away. They say they can save you, eventually.

You forget what shade of blue the sky is. The taste of fresh air and what breathing felt like before your chest began to burn. You remember to vote.

They say you made the right choice.

Smoke from the fire covers a third of the globe. Global temperatures drop. Farmers work desperately to grow enough food, but the ash of the dead poisons the crop.

They say the economy is booming. They call you resilient before a doctor helps them put the oxygen mask back on. If they’re trying to be subtle, it’s not working.

You catch the sunrise one morning and feel hopeful. As the day goes on that hope spoils. You realize those glorious streaks of red and orange aren’t heavenly rays. This is a new level of fear.

Somewhere in all this chaos you screw up. You hunker down thinking you’ll weather the storm, only to be Pompeiied. Maybe you decide to leave but fail to plan ahead, and instead of escaping a hellish fate, you’re baked alive in your car (you always said traffic was killing you). Then again, you could be one of the countless people who simply forget to put your mask on before running outside.

If you’re one of the survivors, congratulations. Thoughts and prayers are now on the way from an undisclosed, underground bunker. Or at least that’s probably the case. They’ve gone quiet as of late.

Something clicks. An epiphany, like scales falling from your eyes.

Nobody is coming.

And if you survive that thought — if you don’t find the nearest deadly object and end it there — then everything changes.

You get ready. A mask to protect your lungs. Goggles to keep the neighbors out of your eyes. A sturdy bag with water, food, and plenty of room for anything you find. A gun, because feeling the rubbery grip in your hand calms your nerves a little. These are the tools with which you’ll forge a future.

The outside world is unrecognizable. You see grey skies. Not overcast, but a blanket of smoke so thick that you wonder if the sun has abandoned you, too. A sickly haze looms over the scorched earth like an empty pan forgotten on the stove, left to burn. It’s all a muddy blur of black and brown shapes obscured by a warped, grey film.

It’s a cold, empty ruin of a place.

But you walk out anyway. Maybe you doubt everything could just burn away. Could it be you’re hopeful, despite all that you have seen? Whatever your mental state, you put foot in front of foot. You feel something under your boot.

One small step. One small plant.

You smile.