Will sat on the floor. He smiled at Lulu. She sat near to him. And smiled back. They moved their pieces across the gameboard. It rested on the floor between them. This was their fifth round.
Down the street, the beach waited for the tsunami. And it washed in, bringing its disaster. The town flooded, collapsed. The town sank. Many were never found. Bodies washed onto faraway shores. The air smelled of brine and decay. Gulls fed.
Inside, where the game was being played, Lulu and Will shuffled cards. Rolled dice. Moved pieces. They watched each other. Something felt like a secret. Maybe it was the aloneness of it all. Will looked at the gameboard, and he scowled. He was certain he was going to lose. He should have had Perpetual Loser stamped on his forehead. Lulu nudged him. ‘You surrender?’ she proded. ‘ Never!’ Will declared.
A tremendously terrible flash. The sky erupted. Anything in the clouds fell to Earth. The atmosphere was fire. Life burned. Every plant died. Everything died. One could not plan for a gamma ray burst. The majority had never heard of one. Most perished, fairly soon. The rest, later. There was nothing for a very long time.
‘Are you cheating at this?’ asked Will. He was suspicious. He hardly ever won the game. They played it often. Lulu hissed at her friend. ‘I’m a witch, loser! Witches always win!’ Will shook his head. ‘Is that confirmation, then?’ he said. Lulu wagged her finger. ‘I’m just better at this than you. Don’t be a sore loser.’ Will rolled his eyes. He rolled the dice. A two. He barely had to move his piece. Will groaned. Lulu looked beautiful when she smirked.
On Old Burial Hill, the graves shifted. The dead moved. They pushed aside their coffin lids. They crawled upward. Some were just bones, while others still had skin – albeit, dried and in sinewy tatters. They stumbled from the cemetery. The townspeople ran. Those who were slow were pulled down. The streets filled with screams of the living. The dead moaned and filled their hollow insides. All was gruesome. Gulls picked at what the dead left.
There was a scratch at the window. Lulu jumped. ‘What was that?’ she whispered. Her fear was the fear of a child. A simple noise. Easily explainable. Often not even worth explaining. The reasoning so dull. Will could not be bothered to look up. He shrugged, rolling the dice. ‘Don’t know,’ he mumbled. ‘Wind.’ The dice clattered on the gameboard. Two. Will sunk his face into his palms. ‘Some luck I got.’
A rat bit a vagrant. A sore formed and grew black in color. Another vagrant found a sore on himself. Then, another. The mailman became covered in black sores. His wife wilted darkly with sickness. A heavy shadow fell upon his son… his son’s teacher… the teacher’s mother… the mother’s knitting circle… their grandchildren. First one neighborhood died, wiped from existence. Then, the next neighborhood vanished. The gulls flew low, landing among the rot. They ate the diseased and dying. The sidewalks and roads were littered. Piles of the dead. Hills of the dead. Mountains. Some men moved about in plague masks. The gulls scattered.
Lulu grinned, madly, moving her pieces to the Home space on the gameboard. This would surely be another win for the small girl. She was so slight in her dress, bunched around her knees. Lulu counted the spaces between her last piece and Home. She shook the dice in her hands. ‘Come on nine,’ she prayed to the ceiling. The dice fell. They clacked and bounced and came to a stop. ‘Nine!’ Lulu cried. ‘I win, again!’ She pushed her piece to Home. Will could not believe it. The odds seemed impossible. Another loss. ‘Shenanigans,’ he said, sourly. ‘This is some otherworldly shenanigans.’ Lulu hopped to her feet and danced around the room.
It was July, but the snow had come. It snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed. The colossal shelves of ice moved, quickly. They buried and froze the land as far south as Ecuador. There was not enough food to sustain so many people. Parents consumed children. Or pets. Occasionally, both. If you did not flee, the ice consumed you. Civilization fell. The core of humanity fell. There were no more dreams. There was no one to dream them. There were no more night-terrors. Terror was not a concept without someone to feel it. There was nothing to feel under the ice. Under the miles of ice.
Will gazed at his prancing friend. ‘Another match?’ he pleaded. Lulu paused to consider his brown eyes. ‘We’ve played five times, dummy.’ She giggled at his furrowing brow, his flushing cheeks. She kissed him. Just once. A short peck on the lips. They were both stunned. Lulu rushed to speak. Anything to break the silence. ‘I feel bad that you always lose.’ Will blinked. He touched his lips, and said, ‘So you kissed me?’ Will laughed. Then, they were both laughing. It was all there was in the home. Two kids laughing in a living room.
The sun expanded. Red and giant. It swallowed the world.
‘Should we sit outside?’ Lulu asked. Will said, ‘No.’ Lulu nodded, ‘It’s good in here.’ ‘We’re having fun,’ agreed Will. There, again, was a scratch at the window. Lulu looked to the boy. ‘Still just the wind,’ he told her. Lulu picked up the dice. ‘I’ll play again if I go first.’ Will laughed to himself. ‘You’re always first, Lu.’ And he was perfectly fine with that always being the way.
The wind whispered down the night road.