By Megan Kingston
So It happened- on a day like any other.
It was a Sunday, we remember the crowded supermarkets, the church services, the family dinners, but we mostly remember the After, burned into our minds. Because there was no After, really, because After implies that time had passed since Before.
And time had passed- and it hadn’t.
And we didn’t notice- until it was too late
And then it was upon us and we weren’t ready and now, suddenly, we were thrust into After, a new world, and we weren’t ready.
It wasn’t the classic doomsday frenzied madness that we’d read about. It was quieter. Smoother. Because we didn’t notice. And then the broadcasters reported It and we stuck our heads outside because there was no way we didn’t notice It when It happened because we still lived in the world and people in the world notice when it ends.
But we hadn’t.
A Japanese couple fought over a layoff.
A group of American teenagers listened to old music and wished for better days
A Brazilian birth certificate was printed
As was an Austrailian death certificate
A Pakistani child skinned his knee
A child in Puerto Rico clung to the limp hand of her mother
All while the world stopped.
We know the time It happened. We know this because we have science.
But very few of us know where we were at that time because we don’t have souls.
Somehow, somewhere, some gears ground to a halt on the planet as we knew it and we just Went On Living Because Nothing Had Happened.
We blamed technology
an absent father
And anything we could to distract ourselves from this fact because when someone asked us where we were when It happened we couldn’t answer and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be and we’re so advanced and intellectual and we aren’t brainless zombies like the ones before us had accused us of being and Obviously We Have Souls!
We are the Top of the Food Chain!
And we thrashed around blindly clinging to nothing important because nothing was actually important anymore and why does it matter if you have the nicest car when you don’t know if you’ll be around tomorrow to drive it? But that doesn’t stop you from emptying your bank account so that you can get it before your coworker.
No one knows how we got this way- or when.
Blame anything you want if it’ll stop you from looking at yourself.
We don’t know how much longer we have here.
But we will be the last ones.
Some didn’t want to find out, so they left early with the gun or the rope or the knife.
We called them brave.
Before, we would have said they were cowards because there is A Life Worth Living.
But this is After.
Where everything is different, except us.
One of the American Teenagers tells another he saw it coming (he didn’t!)
The Japanese Couple does not speak- still! (a layoff hardly matters now!)
The Brazillian Mother wishes that her child will have a good life (he won’t!)
And everyone is so achingly The Same As They Were Before even though they act like It has changed them but It hasn’t. They have the same souls but now they have lived through with themselves from Before and they need a new self for After. They get baptized and abstain from foods that were once living beings and read a book that they weren’t required to and they think that they are Fresh and New and Pure but they are The Same As They Were Before because those eyes that try to see into people now are the same eyes that didn’t notice the beginning of After when It happened.
What is After?
It is bright- always, always.
No one said It would happen. Not the scientists or the weathermen or the Fortune 500 president or the Queen of England. No one we know saw It before It happened. No one knows Why or How.
A man saw It. He tells himself this. He told others this. We thought he was crazy but he saw It two years ago in his parent’s basement and he tried to warn us and he stood on the busiest street corner in his town and tried to tell us It would happen but we laughed at him because we were content and happy and who cares about the crazy man yelling at you on the street corner when you’re about to finally, finally go out with the girl you’ve liked for a whole two months?
And now that It happened and he knew he was right even if we didn’t, no one remembers that he was right. He doesn’t think we deserve to know After when we wouldn’t listen to him Before, so he barricades himself in that same basement from Before and blows his brains out to the deafening silence.
As this bullet is fired, an American Teenager two blocks away vaguely remember a man who told her about It. She is the type of person who will listen when People talk to her- no matter who they are. She nods and smiles because she is too polite to ignore People. People like this about her. She hates this about her.
But still- now she knows that the man is not crazy! It happened! He told her It would happen and it did! She suddenly must find this man! What else does he know?
It is hot outside, of course, because it is After and we don’t have much time left now, but she runs barefoot down streets she’s known her whole life to the busiest corner in town (between the Burger King and grocery store) to get answers from the man who saw It before It happened, but of course, he is not there because no one listened to him and he did have the answers in his Mind but that Mind is now oozing out of his skull and onto the fraying rug in a drab basement no more than half a mile away from the American Teenager that heard his warning but didn’t listen to it.
She does not know that the last shred of hope was ripped away. She prays that the man will be there tomorrow.
How long has it been since Before?
We do not remember.
Before was measurable.
But After is just waiting for The End.
The End seems closer now, we know this, and we are not scared anymore. We spent After waiting and waiting and hanging around holding on for it until we were ghosts and now it doesn’t matter who we were Before or After because now we are nothing. We don’t have feelings or desires and nothing happens and everything is standing still and we wish we were with the lucky ones who used ropes and knives and guns because the waiting, the feeling yourself fading away, is torture but we are frozen now so might as well wait for The End because it might be pretty damn spectacular. It is bright- always, always, and hotter, so much hotter, than it was when the American Teenager went to find the man who saw It first.
We do not leave our homes. Some of us were among the lucky ones who raided the supermarket in bulk in the days after It happened, and those who weren’t are dead.
We sit at our windows and watch this world that is so empty and we can’t imagine Before even though we don’t know how long it’s been After.
We are alone, so desperately alone, and we cannot feel it anymore, which is a blessing because having to recognize how alone you really are is when you are drowning in the local pool and finally you get your head above water only to find that you are in the middle of a faraway ocean with hundreds of miles of bleak, empty, nothingness surrounding you and you wish you’d never put your head up in the first place.
The alarm sounds.
We had forgotten it.
It comes from our radios.
We had forgotten them.
We have been living in silence and solitude for so long now. The voice from the radio tells us to go outside and every molecule follows that voice even though we are dimly aware that it is far into After and if we go outside we will surely die but hearing it is nice, nice, so nice, like having a friend and we are just empty shells now but it has been so long since we’ve had friends.
Doors open in unison.
It is bright, bright, bright.
We do not remember After or Before.
We do not remember what divided them.
We remember looking up and down our streets and seeing that everyone is gone.
We remember Now.
Now is bleak and empty and scorching with loneliness.
Now is not spectacular, but
As was an Australian death certificate
a note from the artist-
"This piece was inspired by my frustrations with people being too caught up with their own lives to realize what happens in the world."
Follow Megan on Instagram @meganekingstonn