the Last Ones Here
by Nathan Amundson
As the words left her lips the girl began to feel the table and chair vibrate, to skip a bit across the floor. Soon it was shaking, then throwing off its contents as a bull with an unwanted rider. The walls crumbled, and fell. Centuries of dust and soot and remnants of smoke and of time itself rained down upon the pair. He was there, she was sure, but she could no longer see him among the thick black clouds.
It occurred to the girl that it did not much matter whether the man was there at all. By this time he could be inches from her face, or clear across the fields. Maybe thrown upon some hill like a used-up doll, discarded and with limbs akimbo. What would the look upon his face be, she wondered. Something close to abject horror, she thought. Or maybe a bewildered unknowingness, a complete and utter lack of understanding. Yes, that sounded more like him. It sounded like what he deserved.
As he lay on the tracks - were they tracks, or downed trees, they could be anything for all he could see - the man could feel it. It was a pressure, without pain. Something had gone through him, seemed to have pinned him there. Like an insect pinned to a board he was conscious but without any control over his predicament. He thought he could hear her, through the howl of wind and timber. Something caked his skin. Dirt, yes, but something wet, oily. No, that couldn’t be her. She’d never been known to speak up, much less cry like that.
It didn’t end. It went on like this for an immeasurable amount of time. There was no reason to it, and no answers to be found. The man knew he would not be moved from this spot, wherever it was. He would stay there. He wondered if the girl had made it out. Where would they have gone, anyway? This thing, it did not have any tail to it, far as he could tell. It might go on like this for years. What could stop it? The man tried to roll a bit from side to side, to pitch his head up even, but he was firmly stuck.
They stayed like that for a while. Thinking of each other. They were physically detached now, too. In each other’s thoughts, but without warmth or longing. So this is how it was going to be. They could agree on that, at last. The decision had been taken out of both their hands, and there was some measure of relief to be found in that. There was something else now, too. It was a fire, it must be. How could it be so dark, the air so black and thick, without a fire. They felt the heat descend upon them. This heat could rival Madrid in August, no, it beat it. This heat was smothering. There was an awe to it. It took their breath and in time the ashes covered them.