© 2007 Farrell Winter
Welcome to Armageddon. This was Jamie’s first thought when he realized he was still alive. “In case of nuclear attack,” the principal told everyone at the beginning of the school year, “crawl under your desk.” He’d been thinking about that ever since. How was crawling under your desk going to protect you from the heat? Or the blast, or the radiation?
It must have protected him, though, because here he was. There was no more classroom, no more school building, but here he was. He crawled out from under the rubble of splinters and looked around. Near his head was a board with jagged, protruding nails. I wonder if I would have been better off having those nails penetrate my brain, he thought. But they hadn’t, and he was alive. He could do anything he wanted, now. He could even have sex. He went looking for Tahesha. If she weren’t dead, she’d probably welcome the opportunity to have sex, to…fuck. She was said to favor white boys. Even if he weren’t on the football team, surely (considering what had just occurred) she’d welcome having him put his noodle in her doodle. He laughed aloud, and a coughing fit brought him to his knees. No more football players, Tahesha, he was thinking. They're all pigskin jelly now. You’ll just have to fuck a poet. Pigskin jelly, now where had that come from?
Jamie walked to where he thought Tahesha’s classroom might have been, but couldn’t find her. He did find Mary Ann, though, head at an odd angle, eyes and mouth open. Boys could wear braces even beyond college, but Mary Ann was the only girl who thought she could still get away with wearing braces in high school. His best friend Simon thought Mary Ann’s freckles were sexy, but Jamie found freckles as dorky as braces. Simon was dead now too. A month ago, in gym class, Jamie stole some money from Simon’s wallet. Simon discovered the theft and asked Jamie what happened. “I saw Chuck hurrying away with something in his hands,” Jamie lied. “I think he took it.” Jamie knew that Simon knew that the two of them together – the poet and his crippled friend (Simon had braces on his teeth and legs) – couldn’t stand up to Chuck or any other football player.
Looking at Mary Ann now, Jamie thought, I can’t fuck Tahesha, so I’ll fuck you instead. Get ready for a treat, dork. The word necrophilia entered his mind. He wondered what it meant. He kicked away the debris covering the rest of her body and it turned to dust, bringing on another coughing fit. Radioactive particles in my lungs, he thought. Not healthy. There was no rest of Mary Ann’s body; just a blood-caked shred of the blue dress she wore that day, the one Simon said emphasized her well-developed breasts. Where were those breasts now, he wondered. “Tits. Not breasts, tits,” he said aloud, then shouted, “I took your money, Simon. I took it, not Ch–.” Another coughing fit.
Mary Ann seemed to be staring at him. What’s that, my dear, he thought, you want to give me a blowjob? O.K. He reached for his zipper and began vomiting. A week earlier, his class had discussed the effects of radiation poisoning. When you begin vomiting, you have about two weeks to live, he remembered. Or was it three weeks? Three days? It didn’t seem to matter, now.
When he came to, the sky was pink. Had it always been pink, or did he just notice it? He picked himself up and walked over to what had been the faculty parking lot. There was Mr. Terwig, dead at the wheel of his convertible. Everyone hated Mr. Terwig, and now Jamie had another reason to feel that way. Instead of staying with his class when the bombs fell, Mr. Terwig tried to escape, the pitiful dork. Jamie went around to the passenger side and tried to open the door. Only a dork locks the doors and rolls up the windows on a convertible, he thought. He reached over the window to unlock the door and opened it, then went around to open the driver side door. He kicked Mr. Terwig’s body out, jumped into the car and noticed the expensive watch he’d always coveted, on what was left of Mr. Terwig’s wrist. Terwig was constantly flashing the watch in class, as if to say, “I’m better than you punk kids, and I have the watch to prove it.”
Jamie sat in the driver’s seat and removed his learner’s permit from his wallet. He tore the permit to bits and flung the pieces up in the air. Radioactive learner’s permit, he thought. Then he threw his wallet as far as he could. The key was in the ignition and, miraculously, the car started. He roared over the watch, crushing it (and Mr. Terwig’s arm), then headed toward Jefferson Boulevard. He couldn’t remember if Jefferson were the second or third president, but did remember him as “the democrat.” Jefferson had everyone in the White House, even the Negro servants, call him by his first name. Tom, or Tim. This was a stark contrast to the first president, whose name Jamie couldn’t remember, who insisted on being referred to as “Your Excellency.” He turned left on Jefferson onto Broad Street, heading for the freeway. Maybe that was the first president’s name, Broad. President Broad.
In the next town, Sgt. Holst crawled out from the wreckage, David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” running through his head. As they poured you out of the octagon tent, he thought. No, wait, that isn’t right. He left the octagon tent of the former police station and found a patrol car that wasn’t wrecked. He had the keys and started it up, heading towards the freeway. Blood dripped from his fingernails. The sky was a reddish pink. He began reviewing his life, concentrating on all he regretted. His wife and children were obliterated, of that he was sure, since he seemed to be the only living creature left on Earth. He didn’t regret losing his family too much; he never really liked them anyway. He thought of his dog and began crying, tears of blood. He drove on through a red haze. My biggest regret, he thought, is that I didn’t kill more niggers, saying the last word aloud, shouting it. There was no one to make him say blacks anymore, or African-Americans.
Up ahead, another car approached him. Fast. I’m gonna give that fuckin’ nigger a speeding ticket, he thought. No courts, no judges, no jails left. He didn’t even have his ticket book. But the law still counted. Speeding was against the law, and he would enforce the law. He turned sharply to the left and slammed on the brakes, blocking the speeder’s path. A second or two later he reconsidered, and tried to move the patrol car to a safer spot. There are no gas stations, he thought, and he’ll run out of gas eventually. I’ll just follow him and arrest him when he stops. The car wouldn’t start again. He sat there, wondering what to do.
Jamie sped on, vomiting blood all the way. It won’t be long now, he thought. Up ahead, the freeway suddenly ended. No, that was a car, a police car. A police car, Jamie thought. What in the great jumping hell is a police car doing there? He laughed aloud, began choking on blood and vomit.
Sgt. Holst watched the car come nearer. He estimated its speed at over 90 mph. A voice in his head said, Get out, Matty. Get out of the car. “Get out?” he asked aloud, and noticed his fingernails bleeding. He heard a subtle, high-pitched noise, and looked up. The speeding car had transformed into a halo of white light, with rays of white light emanating from it in all directions. Eyes filled with blood, he smiled and said, “Ah,” as Mr. Terwig’s convertible slammed into him.