What Remained After the Explosion
Following the third explosion on the third island in three years, Dunbar and Pike went alone to assess the damage. There they found a flooded crater of silt and powdered glass in the place where their nitroglycerin processing plant used to be. Walking the rim of the crater, Dunbar found the partially-melted heel of a leather workboot sticking up out of the ground. He crouched above the boot and waved Pike over for a look.
“Christ,” Pike said.
“I know,” Dunbar said.
The earth around the boot started to move. Dunbar and Pike jumped backward in surprise. Soon a naked man erupted through the glittering crust of silt and powdered glass. Uninjured, the man’s skin glowed as pink and fresh as an infant emerging from a bathtub.
The man fished the workboot out of the ground and poured the silt from the interior of the boot. He slid the filthy boot onto his foot and tugged at the blackened tongue. Dunbar and Pike gaped in disbelief as the man laced up his boot and clumped into the center of the crater. Before the two industrialists could say another word the man was gone, slipping soundlessly beneath the mirrored surface of the water.
The People in the Walls
Me and Sis waded the flooded hallways of the abandoned building, searching for edible food and clean water. Our bellies hung empty and distended beneath our chins; our tongues lay huge and dry and cracked inside our mouths.
As we clomped in slow motion down a long corridor, the water scudding swiftly past our waists, we watched small, flat-bodied people wage war with each other inside the walls. Wearing ancient clothes or few clothes or no clothes at all, they stabbed and slashed and burned many others of their kind, mostly men, but some women and children and animals too. Me and Sis kept walking. We didn’t say a word. We had seen so much of that already.
Farther down the corridor we discovered a vast, complex city the flat-bodied people had built inside the walls. Granite obelisks, lining gridded streets of stone, yawned along the ceiling above our heads. Beneath our feet, refracted through the murky burble of the water, sat a magnificent temple of painted marble. Crowded into a narrow corner where wall met ceiling, stood a hamlet of mudbrick huts capped with roofs of thatched straw. As we continued on, we noticed that the two dimensional city was empty of all life, and its streets were stained brown with old blood.
When me and Sis reached the end of the corridor, the walls lay bare; the storage rooms sat empty; the flat-bodied people were gone without a trace. Sis drew a long, slow breath and looked at me. We turned around and began the trudge back home.
Steve Gergley is the author of A QUICK PRIMER ON WALLOWING IN DESPAIR: STORIES (LEFTOVER Books ’22). His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, Cleaver Magazine, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fiction can be found at: https://stevegergleyauthor.wordpress.com/