Heliotropism

Author: Mandy Szewczuk

We saw it coming, our apocalypse, through binoculars. It didn’t burn out our eyes, the way movies told us it would because it wasn’t a mushroom cloud or column of incandescent fire. What we saw, standing on top of our apartment building because when the news says to get indoors my instinct is to get the hell outside, was more of a rising, something that in the dimness of nightfall was like something blooming up out of the earth below it, though its emerging point was blocked from our view by other apartment buildings and squat, spreading concrete shopping blocks. All at once, I felt impossibly tired and that sense seemed to spread out from me to everything around me. The entire city seemed tired, but then, the city had always seemed tired, along with every single person in it. The workdays were long and the groceries were expensive and the roads were cracked and the buildings were ugly.

It was really ridiculous that we’d thought we were the only things living on a world as big as ours. The deeps were deeper than we pretended to understand, and history showed us how we built cities over older cities every time someone tried to dig a new basement and found graves filled with objects we analyzed and put into a museum with guesses about what they actually were. There was something even deeper, under all those layered cities, much bigger than a grave. It bloomed, sending fleshy shoots up into the sky, bioluminescent in shades of pink and seafoam green, the kind of colors you wanted for your yoga pants or your day planner, and it just kept rising up into the sky. Beside me, Warren started talking again.

“The street’s going to be totally fucked. They just repaved last summer, and we’re going to be right back in construction hell,” he muttered, watching through his binoculars.

The long fleshy leaves, plump and watery like a succulent, lit either from inside or from all the police cars on the ground, rose up with slow, weird majesty, a nature documentary on crack, and we couldn’t have been the only ones staring. The fear drew back like the water before a tsunami, and all of us idiots, raised on CGI excitement, rushed down to the beach to see what the commotion was.

“Isn’t it weird?” I remember asking Warren a second before our apocalypse happened.

“Isn’t it weird?” Warren asked me the first time we felt the ground shake from the gripping and turning of roots beneath us. “Isn’t it weird?” I asked when we found what looked like a garden but figured out it had been a playground with little bones gripped and lifted by stems that rose from the ground and twisted around rusted chain swings and monkey bars. “Isn’t it weird?” I heard a flower whisper next to my head before I knew better to dart away from it.

Our apocalypse is quiet, like the human race going to bed early after a really rough day. A few birds still shriek above us and sometimes there are rats, but otherwise, the world is resting as the vines rip it apart. Isn’t it weird, the way you can lose something you considered yours but turns out it never really was? The moss rolls over the city like a deep green glacier, and the air is the purest its been in hundreds of years. Warm-blooded just isn’t in style anymore, and we don’t have enough chlorophyll to relate. Isn’t it weird? Isn’t it weird?

3 Comments

  1. rjerbacher

    See what happens when you talk to your plants. A great take on the apocalypse. Nice job.

  2. Hari Navarro

    A ‘weird’ and wonderfully timely nod to universal complacency. Really well done.

  3. Tom Mazanec

    CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BIG 5K!

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