I. Terra Firma The end begins with disintegration of the foundation. The ground, unnoticed until destroyed, crumbling like dried wedding cake. Grass and yellow desert shrubs peeled apart by warm sands and footprints, stripping the earth bare. Then, there’s only dust covering the fevered flesh.
You are fifteen and you don’t know who you are, but that’s okay. He’s going to tell you. You wear dresses the color of chewing gum, jeans that bind your legs like Saran wrap around sliced meat—you need to look hot but not slutty. You stand curled because boys like vulnerability. You thought you were a bouquet of flowers but you are only an empty glass vase.
II. Flora Without the ground, the flowers flourish. They sink their vines into dark gaping crevices and slither until there is only mounds of verdant limbs, strangling the trees and smothering vegetation until it withers. Blossoms erupt from their skin, but the people devour them gratefully.
He arrives with honey coated hair and caresses of freckles. Sunflowers could grow from his palms and he exhales galaxies. You realize this is what you’ve been awaiting. He is in a band. You want to be his music. He plucks your vocal cords and presses the keys of your ribs and it is tantalizing. You’re frantic for more. Can imagine foaming at the mouth. Reaching. Sprawling.
III. Fauna The males of every species die first. And without them, the females riot. The bears claw at each other’s wombs and the does grow antlers to tear through toughened fur. Nature turns herself into a jungle—sweat and war and blood. But then, there is peace and it is like they never fought.
On your first date, he picks you up in an old Corolla and it’s somehow endearing. You are simmering in fruit-scented perfume and your arms are glazed with lotion. He flirts with the girl at the ticket counter and says she has pretty eyes. You boil. Through two hours of gunshots, headshots, bodyshots, you imagine all the ways you could hurt her. He takes your hand.
IV. Cultas People don’t panic. They thought it would end with zombies, aliens, robots but it is only earth. So, botanists smear pesticides on choking branches, zoologists shove articles of femininity and hysteria, and the others stampede to the office or tend to children, ignoring all the collapse.
He pulls you to the backseat of his car and smacks your lips with his. You start with eyes open but close them because that’s how it’s supposed to be. He tastes like nothing. Just wet—sticky summer dew or saliva. You’re stuffed with tongue and teeth as he presses your skull to the window. Leftover needles where he shaved burn your cheeks. Flies writhe in your stomach.
V. Plaga They call it the living dead, body-snatcher, soul-sucker. Paralysis is the first symptom. Motionless vessels litter the streets. Are they people or only bodies? Parts they don’t need turn to ash: nose, legs, arms, eyes. Then, they are but organs, and those rot too. It all returns to earth.
The car’s seats are soft and worn. You focus on that. Your hands are cold and splotchy like old vegetables. He takes one of them and puts it on his dick: you can feel it through his jeans. His fingers crawl up your shirt and seize your breasts, pinching and pulling the tissue. You stay still because you are supposed to want love. His mouth never leaves yours. You are being eaten alive.
VI. Mortem The survivors are few. They roam the earth like plastic bags in wrathful wind. The only sounds now are buzzing and billowing. Buildings crumble to piles of splintered wood and abandoned books and rusted billboards. Then, there is only earth, but day and night still continue.
He pulls away. Crimson gloss stains his lips, and his milky sweat melts with yours. He is smiling when he says “that was fun,” and he puts your hair behind your ear. It gives you hope. He drops you off at your house and waits until you’ve unlocked your front door. He doesn’t speak to you again, but you keep grasping. Grasping at nothing. Like a child reaching for fairytales.
Miranda Williams is a student and writer from New Mexico who currently resides in Arizona. She received her BA in Literature from Arizona State University in 2020 and is now pursuing an MA in Women’s Literature. Her work appears in Breakwater Review, Third Point Press, and Menacing Hedge, among others. Additionally, she is the co-founder and lead editor of Ember Chasm Review. Her current projects include a short story collection tentatively titled THOSE WHO GROW HORNS and her first novel inspired by Beats poetry, found objects, and the Santa Fe Forest. Find her on Instagram @mirandaiswriting.