Chapter Twenty-five: "Snow" by Ben Essex, Winning Entry

Snow is falling.

It smothers the soil, consuming the headstones. Line after line of white cross, each one marking a body. Each one a declaration to a dead soul: You shall be remembered. Promises buried beneath the ice. The air strikes my lungs, attacking via the throat. It hurts.

I’m knelt behind bushes, folded over and uncomfortable. Cramps all over my body. Muscles on fire. Been here for too long; lost track of time.

Staring through my rifle sight.

The cemetery is a good place- a good place to finish things. As good a place as any. There are enough of the damned here to put us all in fine company.

There holes in the sky.
Look at him.
He’s right in my eye. Smaller than I expected. Looks more impressive on TV. Dark hair trying to turn pale. Eyes recently wet, now drying. Tears will freeze.

He’s digging a hole.
Digging with his nails. With his bare hands. Making a grave for the body by his side. Digging for his life. Digging for her death. A little girl, I think it is. A dead girl, I’m sure. There’s a gap in her chest coloured crimson, and he keeps looking at her all droopy.

Mr. President. You’re just like me now.

The cemetery is a good place.

My finger presses down on the trigger.

The End Is Nigh
That’s what my sign used to say. No one took it seriously. I’d stand every day on the street corner, and try to tell the little people. Try to warn them. Old men and boys and women painted pretty, stumbling and fumbling past me. All so busy with their lives. Never taking a moment to peek outside, look beyond themselves, past their own concerns. Open your eyes! I’d scream. See the pattern! The connections. They’re hiding in plain sight, and you refuse to look.

(Thirty percent of “blind” people are secretly faking).

The crowds pointed and laughed. Or backed quietly away, calling me crazy. That’s not true. I’m only one quarter insane.
One quarter. Twenty-five percent.
I measured. I measured every morning, from little blue bottles on the kitchen counter. Two pills ground up. Powder spread equally over four spoons. Three spoons thrown away. Finding that balance took months. No pills at all meant my mind would run rampant- inconsistent, incoherent. Stripped order from my thoughts. Just one hallucination after another, driving me to distraction. Not good enough. On the other hand, taking a whole dose for a whole day... just as bad.
Made me dull. Made me stupid.

I found somewhere acceptable to stand. Somewhere in between extremes. Somewhere to hold the sign.
My sign.
Made it myself. Carved a square of proper wood and wrote the words in red paint. It wasn’t merely cardboard, it wasn’t cheap. Took a big chunk out of my weekly food budget. Didn’t care, it was worth it. Hammer and nail, saw and sand- stayed awake all night crafting the handle. Leaving indents for my fingers. I knew I’d spend a long time out in the rain with my banner. It had to be comfortable.

One Saturday it rained, and a kid with a Mohawk tried to talk to me. He was covered in slogans. I attempted to dispense advice; warned him about the corporate conspiracies. He should pick one brand-name only- choose a side. Otherwise there’d be trouble for him when the Price War turned nuclear. He tried to laugh, tried to walk away. Tried to act like he hadn’t heard me, but there was fear in his throat. I started with fear. Fear of myself. Fear of other people. Fear of everything.

Childhood unremarkable.
Spent in an orphanage of moderate repute. Didn’t talk much to the other children. Didn’t see the need.
“Quiet Frank,” said teachers.
Spent a lot of time playing with numbers. Numbers could be tamed. Stepped out into the real world. Couldn’t take it. Found a place to hide and stayed there.

Innumerable months sat hunched in the four by four box I called a home, sleeping on a bed of nails. Too scared to go outside; barely plucking up the courage to order food. My terror stood vigilant and blocked the door. It made me cry. I kept the curtains closed. Television was my only window.

Left computers alone when I found parts of them could talk back. I drew comfort from the moving pictures. Colours and lights and sounds to cuddle. Dramas didn’t interest me much- people too pretty, tans too fake. The news I found entrancing. So many stories of the world, so many disparate threads- reporters jumping from one country to the next, trying to make events fit a narrative. Often being successful.

There was a palpable direction, a definite trend to causality- waves and flows, graphs and bars. In England the market crashed, in Africa another military coup, in Egypt a bombing and in America a protest on civil rights. I caught the first scent of the pattern, the innate connection between every happenstance. I knew I could work out the details if I just concentrated- solve the puzzle. Make it fit.

 I could lift away my ignorance, and see the way the world truly worked. The news was limited. It soon became painfully obvious that each channel was biased. I had to go outside.

The government threw me scraps- they called it “welfare.” Drips and drabs of money, dropped from the tables of richer men. Good enough for me to live on. Little did they know, they were feeding the dogs of their own demise.

I made the sign.
I started venturing out. Gathering intelligence. Warning the masses- I had that much charity. The End Is Nigh. Of course it was. With so many black hands over every head, the world had to be doomed. I was small-minded, though. I thought it would be war or plague or perhaps the imploding economy. That’s what the pattern seemed to indicate.

Clearly I had not studied thoroughly enough.
I didn’t anticipate things dropping from the sky. Impacting without reason, rhyme or explanation. Asteroids? Meteors? Men from Mars? Nobody said. The news gave only scattered hints. Authorities didn’t have much warning, I think. Satellites saw the sky falling at the last minute, far too late to do anything but scream. The world ended in succinct repose.

I was lucky for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because that box of mine was a basement- a squat quite far underground. When the roof fell in and the floor cracked open, I remembered the old duck-and-cover drills. Lacking anything as solid as a desk, I settled for an open doorway. I survived with torn clothes and bloody hair. I survived. The other reason I was lucky; I’d studied enough.

I had someone to blame.


Thomas Hayward. President Thomas Hayward. Forty-fifth to hold the title. Thirteenth since the office was occupied by anyone worthy. (Thirteen. Number of major astrological events falsified by the media).

Hayward. Tall in body, soft in mind. Thinks he’s tough just because he’s a Republican. No imagination, no perspective. Confronts unexpected situations by shouting at them. Dullard with delusions of intellect. The best this country has to offer? Pah. He watches Fox

I’ve heard every one of his speeches. I could tell you where his wife went to school, each daughter’s favourite colour. I can detail each of his mistakes in alphabetical order. “Honesty.” That was the code-word of his campaign. Only a moron would run for high-office and hope to keep clean. Only a liar would win and claim to have succeeded.

I remember his victory speech. He wore a smile, but his eyes were tired. Young man, unprepared for the responsibility.

He’s not even good enough to be indoctrinated into the Big Conspiracies. The Illuminati and the Masons and the Lizard Men- they all left him alone.
Because he’d be a liability.

The kind of person who’d retreat to that bunker under the East Wing, snivelling beneath the White House rather than accepting fate with his kin. That deplorable bunker- just one more layer of yellow for the bureaucracy. I thought about killing him. Every day I walked by the White House gates, spying for a way in. If only the Military hadn’t deemed jet-packs unsuitable for civilian distribution. No matter. I would find another way.

Bought a hunting rifle.
Saving up for it cost me two months without luxuries like deodorant and soft toilet-paper. The five-day wait was agonising. The rifle is the only thing I carry with me, now. The only thing I took after my basement collapsed. Weapons will be necessary. In the face of disaster, people become animals. I may have to kill.

Takes courage.
I had to work up to murdering Hayward. He couldn’t be my first. Too much risk of weakness- I might imagine the blood and chicken out. Had to start smaller. Saw the kid covered in slogans again. He walked past me often. I took to keeping an eye on him. Took to carrying a knife. I could feel the sweat on my brow and my hand on the hilt; the thickness of it, the war-drums in my heart.

Tomorrow, I’d say, every day. Tomorrow, when he ducks down that alley. I’ll be waiting. Practice for me. Mercy for him. He had the hair of a junkie, and those labels would get him into trouble.


Tomorrow the world ended, and now I’ll never get my chance to practice. I’ve spent a long time walking; appreciating the ruined city. Flattened trees and rubble everywhere. Survivors in street-gangs; I’ve heard gunshots in the distance. No sirens anymore. The horizon is gorgeous dark, but the cold air burns. Wish I owned a jacket. Suppose I could take one. Stealing... feels like it would be crossing a line.

I’m still civilized.
Civilized enough to be hiding in the bushes, with my gun pointed at the President. I knew he’d survive. I knew it. Shying in his bunker, pretending to be strong.

I’m surprised he hasn’t kept his entourage.

While surveying the streets of this newly made purgatory, I saw something from the corner of my eye.
Something strange, something alien.
(Looked like a giant amoeba, sort of. Moving weird... floating.) A hallucination. They’re happening sooner than I expected. Without my medication, it won’t be long until I lose my balance altogether.

And fate, as if in compensation, has given me this moment.

I may never have done it before. I may never have had the courage, or the opportunity… But now... I came to this cemetery by coincidence.

Always thought the crosses looked pretty. Wanted to see them in the snow. And now I do see; it’s beautiful.

There he is. Burying a girl. I recognise his child.

President Hayward, what drove you to my maw?


Burying his daughter. Because he’s lost everything now, I think. His family, his country, his office. He’ll be all alone in the New World. Oh my God. If this is Global... does that mean the Illuminati are gone?

(Hallucinations. If they’ve started already, could this be one? Am I staring at nothing? Or could that man be an innocent stranger? The President... here... alone... improbable. Doesn’t fit the pattern).


His matchstick reign has been toppled. How does it feel, Mr. Hayward? You’ve got nothing left. Dead daughter in the dirt. Dead country all around. The world will be new, and you’ll be frightened of it.

(Could be a stranger).

You’ll be frightened of everything.

Will it make you angry? Will it eat you?

Just like me.

I put the rifle down.

Though you’ll never know...

I walk into the snow, unseen.

...We’re kindred spirits now, Hayward.

Can feel the medication wearing off. Won’t have to wait too long. I’ll be blinded again.

The end is nigh.

The cemetery is a good place- a good place to start fresh. As good a place as any.

Snow is falling.

Chapter 26

funny bunny says:
2007-09-08, 06:45
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Me says:
2007-10-27, 13:33
Este e o novo método de comentar...
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2008-01-21, 04:36
This rocks...
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