by Max Hipp
Steve lived distracted. There was always a game on, a gadget to make life faster and easier, a hobby with accessories to buy. His favorites, though, were the two-and three-hour Hollywood blockbusters shown in dark theaters, where he went to forget.
He found Sharon, marble-colored hair and taut face, in line for the punchbowl. He smiled at her, feeling some slow beast stirring within. The moment she took his arm, he had visions of wall-sized televisions, tiny computers, sleek new sports cars.
Through the camera he watched Veronica wail and cough. His glowing wife, transfigured like Jesus upon Ascension, held the pink baby against her breast. He waved like they were parade floats moving past, a cruise ship sailing away.
His mother and father had died in a car wreck. As the pastor extolled them as symbols of goodness for mankind to emulate, Steve’s phone warned him of an online auction ending soon. Though he felt conflicted, he bid on the set of golf clubs he had always wanted. At the graveside service, he won them, imagining his mother smiling down on him. His whole life she had told him, “I just want you to be happy.”
The Rapture delivered the last good people to heaven. The dead shot like missiles into the gunmetal sky. Steve watched the twenty-four-hour news networks until the Armageddon coverage turned to electric, hissing snow. Sharon and Veronica were still missing. On the portable wind-up radio he listened to the repeating cycle of songs until it ended with a metallic screech.
Every morning he foraged and split furniture for kindling. He no longer cared about birds dropping from trees, the great fires in the distance, or the nomads in bathrobes clanging machetes at him. Each night he counted what he had left (e.g., seventeen matches, twelve gallons of water) and wrote the numbers down in a notebook Veronica once used for History.
When the fires reached the neighborhood, he stood in the yard in threadbare pajamas, wading boots over his slippers, a moving blanket wrapped around. A silk moth fleeing the inferno bounced off his forehead and drew crazy patterns in the air. He followed it, forgetting to retrieve anything more from his house.
The four winds ceased. God hung a rope from heaven for Steve to climb. Instead he stumbled past, staring at the broken lines in his palms.