Somewhere in Subliminal Spaces
was Zoev. Strung like a taut wire. In the dirty unapologetic puddle, Sun got poached. Howls of people they addressed as Leftovers — separated from those that left for a permanent exile — rung in his ears. Skies above, as clear as mirror, held no promise of rain. Light reflected from everything except the blackened-out mounds of earth. Zoev stood on the causeway next to the sludge of toxic chemicals, to his right were weeds shrouded under soot.
Things had precipitated fast. Way too fast. How many days ago was he in the cockpit of a fighter jet bombing the land below? A mere switch of the button had rained gamma rays; everything got decimated; wildly circling vultures were all that there was left to show for life. Lastly, the prized land—barren, a chemical dump—had meant nothing. Hours later, they had ordered an emergency evacuation to the edge of the planet. Beyond the boundaries of known homes.
Suicidal shame it was—the waiting ships’ crew had body-scanned the passengers for microbes. Deaths and diseases on the journey were unaffordable—they had scanned people inside out. Passengers had buckled onto seats, five in a numbered chamber, packed from floor to ceiling with fuel and food.
Amidst bursts of confetti, people had thrown wads of currency, rejoicing because they’d been allowed into the journey. As a final unshackling.
Little did they know: money was ash. Money, dust.
Zoev had scrambled to get onto the ship. Far too many here—everyone murmured under their breaths. People got squished; there was a stampede. The problem needs trouble shooting—someone had suggested. There was a shower of bullets; people had fallen like game animals—bloodied and maimed in a heap, but nobody could care less.
Alas! Zoev was stopped at the final passage—a trace of the ordinary flu!
Zoev decided to run along the causeway, turning back spitefully to see the glistening tip of ships leaving for another street, an away home, pointing to the skies, looming over the burnt out stumps of Cedars.
He ran as fast as he could—dejected, hungry and thirsty. He thought he’d die of thirst. Finally, he sneaked into the humble roads of the town he once lived in. He stood outside his childhood home, taken over by a family of overgrown plants, black nightshade, pink water speedwell, water plantain and dwarf spurge, all dying, or just tethered to life.
He looked around: Once the pride of the Mediterranean, now a ghostly town of half-eaten buildings, the crowns all smoked black. Yawning windows screamed—shrieks which none heard. They had bombed the town before it was too late. The ships wouldn’t have room for everybody.
Zoev, a prisoner of the Sun and skies and whatever became of its clouded amalgamation, trudged through the ashen blocks, the smell of death was overpowering. His tongue hung loose.
Evening descended. He watched the crepuscular skies sliced by white and black fumes rising from the destroyed precincts. Insignia of stupidity!
Zoev thought of the calm turquoise planet it once was; and saw only tufts of amber dead grass. He remembered Jane, his wife. He thought of his mom. I’ll fall back on lives and afterlives; I’ll own you forever. His eyes welled up.
Further down the street, he saw a Rottweiler at the bend—black and mahogany, its forehead arched. It was hungry; narrowed its eyes to measure the domain challenger. Zoev aimed his pocket knife like a spear at the animal. He stood like a Greek statue and threw. At lightning speed, the Rottweiler charged, an arrow off a bow. The spear had no chance. The dog struck the man to the ground and with its paws held him to the dust till his head threatened to burst. Zoev lay like dead. The animal paused and circled him.
Tired Zoev wanted death; he did not beg for mercy. But the animal gave him pardon and crouched. The night they spent face to face. Nothing moved, only the ships leaving, one after another.
When the sun emerged, all fire and fury, Zoev rose to his feet. He wasn’t sure if he was grateful to be alive. He ignored the Rottweiler but it followed as they paced together across the once-charmed cobbled walkways, down to the river, east of town.
They saw traffic frozen in time; cars mangled; cycles twisted in a heap when the people tried to escape like mad.
The river lay dead. Zoev walked over its broken bed, and reached its dried middle. He began to dig furiously—in its depths may lie the native element that could quench his thirst.
The Rottweiler watched him surreptitiously, afraid of the fanatic man. From the core of its being rose a voice—ingenuity of man is matched only by his unwise actions! Zoev kept on digging deeper. No trace of water. Mounds of dry sand piled; blood oozed from his fingers.
Now a dust storm rose, obscured the definitiveness of day or night. Winds came in from every side. Man and animal, unguarded, were like offerings to the elements. Zoev screamed —not a wise thing to do—sand entered his mouth, blinded his eyes. He was beginning to give up when the Rottweiler darted towards the stone banks, led, the man ran behind.
They reached a dark cavern, the corners of which were lit by a feeble ethereal light. Zoev did not know where he was; he stood numb and drained. In that light, the Rottweiler marked out—clear water seeping by the rock sides, like a melting heart. The dog watched the man lick, like a return to the native element after the apocalypse. AQ