By Rodolfo Boskovic
There’s been an apocalypse.
Okay, maybe more like three. It’s hard to keep them straight.
If Toot had a mind, he could figure out how he’s still breathing. Truth is that this last apocalypse ended around when he was born. When he was younger Finny tried telling him about the complicated political stuff, who was fighting who and why. Toot doesn’t see the point of it all.
“The point is,” Finny had said sternly. “This is your legacy. You should know it.”
“Nah, I don’t think so,” Toot said, not looking up from his fries.
“History is written by those who survive,” Finny said. “In a way, being the last of our race, you get to pick which faction was right.”
Toot chewed on this in his half-baked way, thinking about it as the words came out of his mouth.
“Which faction had these little fresh fries that don’t go bad? I like them best. No one else made lasting food. These guys thought ahead!”
Finny hadn’t answered. Somehow picking McWilli’s Wonder Fries as the winners of a century-old conflict was worse than leaving it at a draw.
Finny never brought up the subject again.
That’s alright in Toot’s book. He understands the trick to surviving the end of the world, even if his ancestors never got it. You gotta take your apocalypses one at a time. You try to take on too much and it’s like putting too many fries in your mouth–you can try to swallow them all at once, but you’re just gonna make yourself sick, then you’re hungry all over again and everything tastes pukey.
Toot holds up a piece of fry in his hand now, thinking on this, before philosophically putting it away in his pocket. There will be time for this later. If his ancestors had figured this out earlier, maybe they’d still be around.
He knows other stuff too; he’s not all dumb. He knows he lives in this big metal thing floating around a star, sucking up energy. The metal thing–Finny always called it the monstrosity–was made to keep Toot’s race safe after they screwed up every place in the galaxy they landed with their wars and guns. Some genius back in the day thought he could bring these folks together and somehow they wouldn’t screw this place up too. He was wrong.
Now this place is all messed up. Not even gravity works right, unless you’re prepared.
With a sigh, Toot bends his knees, reaching his bum almost to the ground, then with his whole body he jumps straight up. Wosh! He shoots up like a green rocket, the momentum propelling him up. He’s in one of those ‘conflict areas’ with war litter all over them, so he gets lost. Twirling in a circle as he flies up, he gets a view of the whole area from above the wreckage.
A trail of McWilli’s golden arches leads back where Toot came from. On the opposite side, he sees more arches, stretching past where his eyes can see. Truly, he thinks, they were the greatest of them all.
Toot lifts his feet slightly in front of him in the direction he wants to go.
Knocking his heels together, the boots turn on, seeking the nearest flat surface. With a whirly sensation on his shins, the boots pick out a course. In a straight path across the metal sky, he flies. His coat hangs over his head like an inside-out umbrella; his skinny bum out for the whole dead world to see.
This is his favourite part.
With immense force, his boots crash against the side hull of a ship. The structure DONGS menacingly, vibrating his legs under him. Toot pats down his coat and shakes his legs about, trying to get the tingling sensation out of them. He walks vertically down the silver ship’s hull to reach the ground. His boots keep his gravity down to whatever they’re connected to, so he can walk in peace.
The ship has these awkward-looking fins at the bottom. Toot takes off his boots when he reaches them, sliding down one of the fins with his socks.
He squeals in delight down the fin, coming down in a tumble to the ground, rolling out of balance. Giggling himself silly from the thrill, he almost doesn’t notice he’s floating away from the ground again. Holding his boots in his hands, he points them down to the ground and knocks their heels.
With a short thud, he belly-flops to the ground, making puree out of the fries in his pockets.
Man, that was awesome.
He puts on the boots again. His face all flushed from the effort, he goes through the process of emptying his pockets.
Little tart balls float around him when he looks up at the ship. It doesn’t look like anything he has ever seen. The hooked fins at the bottom combined with the egg shape looming overhead give off a scary vibe that makes Toot’s belly turn.
There’s something else about this ship Toot can’t put his finger on. It just… doesn’t look right. He hasn’t seen this model before in his travels, but that’s not surprising. Toot never travels this far out of his hangout spots. It’s got no weapons! Probably some sneaky weapon. Everyone had a weapon back then. That’s not all, though.
Toot gives the ship a look over again. He tries to puzzle out what’s wrong with his picture by looking at it long enough.
“That’s it!” he says out loud, laughing at himself. “I can’t figure this out like this. I need brain juice.”
All the great eureka moments of his life came about when his mouth was at its fullest. He knew no other method of researching.
Toot turns toward the next golden arches the way many scholars turned towards their mentors in the past and starts walking.
The walk to McWilli’s is pleasant enough. It must have been a residential area back in the day. It’s hard to tell sometimes with the way the monstrosity looks–buildings sticking out from every direction like the maw of a deep space predator– but these buildings have way less chaos about them. The craters in the area are haphazard, almost accidental, instead of the purposeful carnage everywhere else. Bodies are still floating down the street, but they have the look of rich people caught unawares as opposed to the hardened soldiers you see everywhere.
It’s nice here.
He spots the McWilli’s sign smooshed in-between two burned up monoliths. Whatever fire caught here was nice enough to preserve the goodness inside McWilli’s.
Toot skips towards his favourite place, barely checking where he’s going. He bangs nose-first against a hard surface. Taken-aback, Toot rubs the sore spot over and over like he’s applying first-aid measures. The tip of his nose turns a cranberry red from all the rubbing. When his teary eyes clear up, he sees what it was that he crashed against.
Of course he didn’t notice it! The thing is camouflaged. It’s wearing a shimmering silver suit that does something weird with the light. It’s like you have to look straight at it if you want to see it. He can make it out now because of the spot his nose left on it, right on the helmet.
Whoever this guy was in life, he was ready for some serious action. Not ready enough to survive, of course, but no one was–Finny needed a hardcore bunker to barely get through it. Toot looks this fellow up and down with the scrutiny of someone who’s been wronged.
Silver Man kneels on the ground facing away from McWilli’s. Come to think of it, Toot realizes looking at the man from the side, he must be huge! If on his knees he’s Toot’s height, standing he must be at least twice as tall.
Toot walks about the fellow, more in awe than annoyed now. Silver Man is holding onto something in his hands– a string with little balls on it. Toot has never seen a weapon like this before. He tries to pull it away, but there’s the same resistance he felt with his nose earlier.
Looking at this Silver Man, Toot’s head begins to hurt. There’s something about this guy as well, but he just can’t figure it out. Toot’s belly rumbles.
He needs resources to figure this out.
Toot walks past the figure and heads inside McWilli’s joint.
The whole place looks identical to every other one he’s ever been to. The walls are circus red, the counters have an unnatural gleam that survived massive genocides, and the back is packed full of goodness.
With a lunge, Toot makes it past all the floating customers and half-eaten burgers. Pushing both feet on the cash register, he dives through the cold kitchen door and into the back stock where they keep the good stuff.
Fresh fries are stacked against the wall all the way to the ceiling. There’s a little towel under the stack in an attempt to keep the fries in a clean space. Given all the “Freshly Made Fries” signs up front, Toot guesses he’s the only customer to see where the magic fries come from.
Toot dives right into the fries. Like in every other location, the front stack of fries is just the entry into a world of crispy goodness. In a second, Toot is surrounded by his favourite flavour in the world.
As his belly first comes into contact with this delicious factor, his brain starts working again. The fresh fries are all floating about. He’s floating about. Everything he’s ever seen today has been floating about, except–
Muffled words come from somewhere outside the pile. Ahead of him, the fries glow a bright crimson colour. Toot knocks his heels together, landing on the ground. A beam of light slashes through where his head had been!
Without a sound, the beam moves towards him at incredible speed. The fries give way to dust on contact. Sticking his feet in front of him, Toot knocks his heels again. With a burst of speed, he flies out of the pile, landing on the wall across from the fries.
In front of him, standing on the ground: Silver Man, holding a weapon. Toot runs along the walls, out of a window. Right behind him, a straight line of dust marks the wall wherever the beam touches.
Out of the building, Toot knocks his heels downwards, gravity adjusts, he bends his knees and pushes away from the ground as soon as he touches it. With a familiar wosh he rockets away from McWilli’s.
Twirling, he looks behind. A large square is being carved around the window he just jumped through. With a crash, Silver Man pushes through a hole just big enough to fit him.
With slow movements, the opaque helmet looks up at Toot. The pointy weapon in Silver Man’s hand lifts to where Toot is flying, holding him in sight, before suddenly being holstered away.
Just like that, Silver Man glitters out of sight, leaving no signs he was there aside from the destruction.
Toot pukes a little.
He has never seen a thing like that.
A living thing! And it’s trying to kill him!
The why of it all never crosses Toot’s mind. It has a weapon; it must want to use it on someone. It can’t be helped.
Besides, Toot is on a mission. He can’t be bothered by little things like invisible murders, Finny needs his help.
Toot twirls again, looking for landmarks. He’s gonna have to avoid McWilli’s now, hungry as he might be. If Silver Man knows about it, there’s a good chance he’ll be at the next one. Toot’s mission is too important to leave it to chance.
He’s just going to hope there are some snacks along the way.
Out of nowhere, a long shadow eclipses his small frame, covering him in darkness.
An oxygen blimp makes its rounds above, rehashing dead air into breathable stuff.
Still spinning, he reaches the large mechanical balloon. Toot flips his body around, connects his boots to the blimp, then kicks out with both his legs. The force makes him fly across the sky, nearly paralleling the ground in the direction he wants to go.
Toot closes his eyes, a dopey smile spreading on his face.
He doesn’t get to fly like this very often. Those blimps are a rare sight these days.
Thoughts of Silver Man slip out of his mind like the air zipping behind his ear. The fast breeze feels familiar as it moves his hair about. It’s almost like a mother tucking his hair behind his ear.
“You’ve got to cut these locks,” Finny had said, moving his hair through her fingers. “They’re bound to get in the way when you’re leaping with the boots.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t–”
“You’re wearing the boots,” she said, pulling on the hair for emphasis. “I can’t have the future of our race squashed because he wanted to run around in his socks.”
“Okay, okay,” he said, pulling his hair free of her. “But I’m not letting you cut no part of me neither. Non-negotiable.”
Finny ran her index finger over her cracked lips. She does this when she’s working out a problem.
“When my granddaughter was a toddler, she had locks like that,” she said. “I bought her little pink bows to keep them in place. One just wouldn’t do. I had to fill her head full of them to keep her from ripping them out. She’d giggle as soon as she saw them, like she was saying, ‘do what you like old hag, I’ll just rip them right out.”
Finny giggled saying this. Toot could see the toddler in the old woman’s eyes. It made him smile.
“Lucky her,” Toot said. “You can put bows in my hair too, if you’re cool with me ripping them out.”
The old lady’s head jerked towards him, like someone being shaken awake. Her eyes clouded for a second, until, slowly, a smile spread over her wrinkled face.
“I bet you would,” she said. “Too bad. I haven’t seen a bow like that in these parts. You’re just going to have to be careful out there.”
“Careful is what I do.”
Toot jerks awake from his mid-air nap. Aquamarine buildings are zipping by beneath him, too quickly for him to make them out.
Using Finny’s stories for reference, Toot knows he lucked out. He’s exactly where he meant to go.
With a whiff of grace, he shifts the direction of his flight, aiming down a little. When he’s low enough to make out a destination, he locks onto a building with his boots.
A minute later he’s standing on a tiny rooftop.
This area is completely different from anything Toot has come across before. Structures here were built in the shape of stalagmites, wider in the bottom spiraling into thin cones. Looking down, Toot sees no streets. The buildings are so wide at the bottom, they take up every inch of space on the ground floor. Bridges link the buildings to each other at various angles; two out of every three are out of commission.
This is very inconvenient to travel through.
Stepping off the edge, Toot changes his gravity to the side of the stalagmite so he can walk down. The slippery surface feels like ice to the touch, even through the boots.
With slow progress he makes it to the nearest bridge, changing gravity again to walk across it. As soon as he touches down on it, the floor lights a green ripple that echoes outwards from him. He feels a slight vibration from the cyan bridge as it responds to his touch.
As he takes a step forward, holograms spread out across from him. Like vultures seizing on bone, advertisements pop out from every direction, blasting Toot out of his perusal. They shout at him about every available product that can be purchased cheaply (for a limited time).
Far from annoyed, Toot looks on in awe at all the eye-catching signs. His attention is constantly jumping from one ad to the next in rapid succession. He reaches out for the sign of a familiar ad.
Tingling sensations engulf his hand, and with a glassy light, a small bag of fries materializes on his palm. He chomps down on the food, amazed at the warmth steaming out of it.
Without a thought, he begins walking away, following the flashy lights. Where McWilli’s ad had been, bulky red numbers float. Flashing, they follow Toot, making buzzing noises every few seconds. Engulfed in the lights from the other ads, Toot doesn’t notice the numbers looming behind him.
In quick succession, his hand jumps out to everything that comes across his face. Ponchos, hats, and every food he has never tried are now being poorly stuffed into his pockets.
Just as soon as he touches a sign, new red numbers replace it. Pretty soon that’s all that’s left surrounding him, with a buzzing sound now a constant. Not even Toot could fail to notice his mistake now.
The buzzing echoes off the stalagmites around him, amplifying it. Toot covers his ears, doing very little to deafen it.
He jumps into the air and clicks his boots in a general direction ahead of him. Toot flies across the bridge and into the building ahead. All his purchases spill onto the bridge behind him. To his vexation, the red numbers follow alongside him at matching speed.
The noise as he enters the building is deafening.
Buzzing is coming from every direction. All around him floating figures are surrounded by red numbers, making them nearly impossible to make out. Asteroid fields of goods float about, decaying at the same pace as their owners.
Toot sees a body stumble against the light of an advertisement. A pile of books materializes, adding equally to the garbage and the buzzing.
Across the building, the light of an exit sparkles with daylight. Toot leaps towards it, losing all gravity, keeping all numerical pursuit.
Outside again, more ads appear in his way. Unable to stop in time, he leaves a trail of knickknacks behind him.
Closing his eyes and concentrating, Toot knocks his boots downwards. With a soft thud, he lands on a bridge. Even through his closed lids he can see the blaring red light against his face, but he gains enough composure to remember what he came here for. With slow determination, he scans his surroundings, trying to ignore the buzzing in his ears.
There are enough cracks–not many–in-between the debt collections for him to see his way around. The numbers seem to follow his body, not his eyesight, which means he can position himself in such a way to see around them.
That handles the visual pollution. Now for the non-stop buzzing…
Toot walks around the ads, looking at them one by one. He feels the noise as physical pressure, pushing his head in on itself. Finally, when he thinks he just can’t do it anymore, he sees what he needs.
Putting out his hand, he grabs a box of earplugs.
Another set of numbers blocks a section of his vision, but it’s well worth the trade.
No noise makes past the earplugs. Toot’s head continues to vibrate from the blast. Still, it’s manageable.
Once again, Toot goes through the process of looking over the advertisements. Now it’s about finding what he came all the way out here for. He understands the rules of this place now, so it’ll be easier to navigate.
It takes a while for Toot to find all he needs. For unfathomable reasons, there are no ads for what he’s looking for. He wishes he had asked Finny where he could find it, but then again, he never asked her much of anything.
Toot doesn’t know how Finny came to find him as a baby. He doesn’t know who his parents are and why they weren’t with him. He doesn’t know why Finny was so far away from her aquamarine home, how she knew about the bunker that saved their lives, or why no one else seemed to know about it. There are literal and figurative worlds of knowledge Toot doesn’t know about, and likely never would.
These kinds of things never bothered him in the past, but knowing them now would have been handy. His search could have taken half the time if he knew how things were organized.
After a few hours of walking, running, and jumping through buildings, Toot finally finds what he’s looking for. Reaching forwards, his hand tingles, and the prize falls between his fingers.
Toot smiles in triumph. His long travels finally paid off. With a holler, he bounds upwards, back-flipping over buildings. He does this over and over again, treating himself after a job well done.
The bold, red numbers follow him through his leaps. From afar, Toot looks like a buzzing red fly circulating giant spires. In his joy, he forgets the numbers and the buzzing aren’t the only ones after him.
Mid-jump, Toot connects his boots down again, but his way down is way shorter than expected. The numbers block enough that he can’t see much of anything. The surface under him doesn’t give the same cold feeling he is used to from the buildings. On contact, his boots echo an eerie dong that sounds familiar.
Looking through the gaps in his vision he can see that he’s on a fast-moving surface. During one of his leaps, he must have locked onto something passing by instead of a building. Whatever it is, it’s moving away from the aquamarine buildings.
Frantically, Toot moves his head about, trying to catch a glimpse of what’s going on past the blaring numbers.
He stands on a silver surface. The ground under him isn’t quite flat, but big enough that it could pass for it. From the corner of his eye–something glitters.
Toot falls flat on the ground.
Overhead he sees the holographic numbers explode like popped balloons. A single line clears away where numbers had been.
Toot takes off his ear-plugs and rolls sideways.
As he does, the surface where he’d been dissolves like quicksand. The buzzing sound of the numbers is overshadowed by the blasting of an engine.
Ahead of him, in the new gap between numbers, the man in the opaque helmet walks closer, gun in the ready. He lifts it again.
Without thinking, Toot rolls back where he’d been, only to fall into the hole Silver Man’s gun made. Wires and cracked metal block his vision as he descends.
In less than a second, Toot falls on top of a bed, it folds in on him, nearly catching his foot before he jumps away. The bed looks to have a spring mechanism to fold in on itself. He looks up and sees parts of the ceiling falling on him like crystallized rain. He runs out of the room, small crystals glittering out of his hair.
Only if he looks straight up can he see anything. It makes it hard to run away from the pursuit. With his hands, he feels his way out of this room and into open space.
He must be inside of whatever caught him when he was jumping around a second ago, but anything beyond that is a mystery.
Blindly, Toot runs forward, hoping on luck to take him away from his pursuer.
Behind him, he hears something heavy crash down roughly in the direction he came from. In a second he hears loud footsteps getting closer.
Panicking, Toot leaps upwards, his favourite method of escape. Hard metal hits against his face and ricochets him around the room. He knocks his heels together and runs in whatever direction is away from the footsteps.
He feels the crystallized rain of the gun’s victims against his skin before he sees or hears it being fired. In a last-ditch effort, he shifts his gravity against the wall and runs.
Suddenly, the buzzing in his ear lowers to nothing. At the same time, with an electric charge, the numbers around Toot disappear.
Still running, Toot looks around to see the inside of an oblong ship being torn apart. Silver Man, from a kneeling position behind him, is shooting his gun at Toot and hitting everything else. Where the beam of light touches, chunks of the ship turns to sand, giving Toot a view of the outside.
The aquamarine city is left behind in the distance as the ship shoots across the sky. The numbers and buzzing must be out of reach, then.
Toot’s coat, usually trailing behind him, turns to green dust as the beam touches it. The close call bolts Toot out of his distraction. Ahead of him, and furthest away from the armed man, Toot sees a room. He knocks his heels together and aims them that way.
Like a shooting bullet, Toot zips forwards, faster than the speeding ship. His feet crashes against the back of a chair. With his arms stretched overhead, he closes the door behind him. Silver Man shoots at the door at the same moment!
The heavy metal door dissolves in on itself. Through the opening, the beam lights on the chair where Toot is no longer at.
A foot away from the door, with his back against the wall, Toot feels sweat fall down his nose. He has never done this much jumping around in a confined space before. His legs feel like cracked glaciers about to come apart after all the gravitational shifts they’ve had to endure. It’s all he can do to stop them from shaking as he watches the chair’s back turn to a smoldering pile of ash.
The beam of light switches off.
Thundering footsteps approach what remains of the door.
Mechanical gadgets, a steering wheel and surrounding windows tell Toot he must be in the bridge of this ship. Out the window, Toot sees the ship is fast approaching the place he calls home.
Finny must be down there right now waiting for him to return from his mission. He has to get back to her.
The footsteps die outside the door. A gloved hand twice the size of Toot’s reaches into the hole made by the gun. With Silver Man’s push, the remains of the door are shoved aside.
Gun raised ahead, the silver figure shuffles into the room, barely visible under their camouflage. The gun, however, is there for all to see.
Holding his boots in his hands leveled with the side of the gun, Toot knocks their heels together. In a whirl, the boots fly off trying to find the nearest flat surface. In their search, they take the gun with them, sticking it under their gravitational pull. Silver Man, still holding the gun is pulled along.
In a flash, the man is stuck against the cockpit’s window, which instantly begins to crack. He tries to shift the gun in his hold, attempting to point it at Toot. The effort serves only to speed up the cracking.
As Toot watches, the window breaks! The boots, still searching for a surface, zap away into the distance. The gun, still attached by the pull, flies off under it. The owner of the gun, unable to hold onto the gun at such high speeds, free falls.
Maybe in defense of its last survivor, or maybe from the joy it gets from creating pain, the monstrosity decides this is the most opportune time to make gravity as heavy as possible. The silver figure flies downwards at the speed of a moving train.
Toot, now alone in the ship, shifts his attention. His sigh of relief dies in his throat.
Looking ahead, he sees the ship is going straight to his home in a collision course.
He runs forward, but slips.
“Never take off your boots,” Finny’s voice echoes in his head.
“You know me,” he answers, grabbing the steering wheel. “Careful is what I do.”
Managing to stay level to the ground, the landing looks to be nearly possible. However, at the speed of its approach, anything short of disaster is inevitable. The strange oblong ship crashes against the only home Toot has ever known.
The wreckage leaves nothing recognizable as a building, matching the surrounding motif of death and destruction to a tee.
Inside the cockpit, glass and loose wires cover every surface. The remains of the captain’s chair hang off the ceiling. Instead of its pristine oval shape, the ship’s insides look like an artist’s representation of a crushed soup can.
At the back of the ship, there’s a boy who looks an awful lot like sushi filling. Toot’s head pokes out of a soft-looking circle, made out of a mattress.
As soon as the ship began its descent, Toot lost grip of the steering wheel he was holding onto. With no boots to secure his position, the force of the descent pushed him all the way to the back of the ship. His socks, slippery at the best of days, had no grip to fight the pressure.
At the back of the ship, Toot found himself back in Silver Man’s bedroom. A jolt of the ship made Toot jump, hitting the remaining ceiling, then the bed. The force made the bed fold in on itself, this time with Toot in it.
Hence how he finds himself in his current position: completely trapped, but alive. Only his head from one side and his socks from the other stick out of the engulfing mattress.
With his hands locked to his side, he tries half a dozen times to punch the mattress with no success.
Toot kicks off his socks. Leveraging his head against the wall and pushing with his feet, very slowly and painfully, he manages to get himself onto a standing position.
Once more on his feet, Toot jumps in the air to pump himself up.
“Okay! Let’s go!” he screams.
Running with all his speed, Toot crashes against a wall. The mattress springs back into being flat, pushing Toot backwards as it does. Toot hits his back against the opposite wall and falls to the ground.
In pure exhaustion, he leans his head back against the wall, taking a second to breath in all that happened today.
In a jolt of panic, he rummages through his pockets, looking for something. Finally, clutching it between his fingers, he leans back again in relief.
No longer bound by the boots to keep him on the ground, Toot finds himself floating through the room. The ship must’ve had some degree of artificial gravity before the crash, some of it lingering long enough for Toot to get himself out of the bind he was in. Now, left to the monstrosity’s whims, gravity is as light as he remembers it ever being.
With a push against the floor, Toot makes his way out of the hole Silver Man had made at the beginning of their struggle. Toot still has no idea why he is being chased or even if the chase is over. At the moment he’s got some time to finish his own mission, however, and that seems like enough.
Floating outwards, like a first-time astronaut taking their baby steps, Toot leaves the wreckage behind. Fires start and die around, not quite getting the oxygen necessary to spark in vehemence.
Despite the destruction, Toot jumps along in a determined stride towards the spot where his home had been. There’s nothing of worry or sadness in his face; resolution is all there is to see.
After reaching the ruins of his home, he moves rubble about, as the near lack of gravity makes the labour easy enough. With a few minutes of this, he finds what he’s looking for: the bunker.
When he was a baby, Finny grabbed him and whatever supplies she could carry and buried herself down here. Ever since that day, the two of them had lived their lives underground. Finny had done this in expectation of the next catastrophe, sure to be right around the corner. Toot just felt towards it what most children feel towards their baby blanket: safe, warm and full of memories.
Toot, body parallel to the ground, punches in the numbers on the bunker’s lock. Smoke hisses out of the steel door’s hinges. As it clears, a number of steel doors hiss open in unison beneath the first.
A metal ladder is stuck to the wall uselessly in a world with no stable gravity. He lowers himself down the long drop by pushing with both arms against the entrance. Green lights ignite alongside the walls in the descent as his body passes near them, making the darkness below even more prevalent. The bottom appears unexpectedly out of the darkness, the same colour of night.
As Toot’s feet touch the tiles, the bunker lights up around him. Slow at first, but in cascading speed as it fans out, touching every corner of the bunker.
Compared to the world above, the bunker looks more like a hut. These four rooms make the backdrop for Toot’s entire childhood, as neither he nor Finny could tell if the world above would take them.
It had only been a year since Toot set out in search of food upstairs, finding McWilli’s for the first time. Finny had already lived a full life when she brought him down here as a baby, and she never left.
Still floating, Toot heads to the bedroom he used to sleep in as a toddler. The door is ajar how he left it.
Toys and pictures float around the room as a childhood in debris form. Finny’s face, always calm and tranquil, is on display in every picture, Toot being behind the camera.
That face, the only face Toot has ever known, lies on his childhood mat now. The tranquility on her face, now permanent, contradicts every horror of the world above. In her entire race, her lips are the only ones smiling, whether dead or alive.
Toot floats through his childhood, reaching the only mother he has ever known.
Loosening his fingers, he releases the gift he travelled so far to get for her. Half a dozen pink bows float out of his hand. Carefully, Toot distributes the bows around Finny’s short white hair. The effect is that of a departed queen, crowned for the afterlife.
Toot stays a moment, making sure the bows will stay in place. After Toot looks over the room, he turns his back on his home one last time. With a push against the floor, he travels out the way he came, shutting the door on his past.
Half a mile away, floating with the remnants of his suit, Major Gregory Kemp’s camouflage is flawless. He looks as shattered as the world around him. His ungloved hand grabs at the crucifix he carries with him.
The Lack of oxygen is already making it hard for him to see what he’s holding onto. He was hoping to fix this place; make it Earth-like. Now there’s nothing left to do but pray for the damned.
His Hail Mary mission to give those self-mutilating humans a second chance has come to a predictable end. This place was meant to be a fresh start. But no, he had decided to make the same mistakes that landed his race here to begin with. He decided to kill and take what wasn’t his. Now he is the one dying, and with him the human race.
His vision goes out.
He prays for those he left behind. He prays for his soul. Finally, with cold running in his veins, he prays for the lost alien boy he tried so hard to end. He prays the boy will find better brushstrokes to end his own species’ history.
About the author: Rodolfo Boskovic is a Brazilian/Canadian writer based out of Vancouver. He enjoys Dungeons & Dragons and playing with other people’s pets. His short story “Backyard Mysteries” can be found atCommuterLit online magazine. To follow his future work, his Twitter is @Rederfer
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