When Chase Daniels first sees the little girl in umbrella socks tearing open the Rottweiler, he's not too concerned. As a longtime meth addict, he’s no stranger to horrifying, drug-fueled hallucinations.
But as he and his fellow junkies soon discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived.
The funny thing is, Chase’s life was over long before the apocalypse got here, his existence already reduced to a stinking basement apartment and a filthy mattress and an endless grind of buying and selling and using. He’s lied and cheated and stolen and broken his parents’ hearts a thousand times. And he threw away his only shot at sobriety a long time ago, when he chose the embrace of the drug over the woman he still loves.
And if your life’s already shattered beyond any normal hopes of redemption…well, maybe the end of the world is an opportunity.
Typewriter tells me to make a wish. His voice startles me, our drive nothing but silence after the gas station.
He points to the clock. He says, All the same digits.
How can he be making idle talk after what just happened? Make a wish, he says again. I look out of the car and it's so dark and I think about a TV show I saw about what will happen to our world after man dies. How the shrines we've built to money and security and happiness and love will be reduced to rubble in the blink of a geological eye. I know I'm at the precipice of the most important moment of mankind's history -- fuck the invention of the wheel, the happy accident of penicillin, the fungus over Hiroshima, the Internet -- because what's happening right now, it's biblical in scope, the end of fucking days.
I glance at Typewriter. His lips are moving but I can't hear him. Maybe he's making a wish, or praying, same thing really. That the Albino is still alive? That this is all a dream? He mouths the words with a sincerity I haven't seen in him before. And then I think of him as John, not Typewriter, a person, a son, and that's probably it, he's focused on his mother, because that was his moment, her passing, the moment he can't recover from, the moment that puts his lips to glass stem.
Pretty soon 1:11 is going to become 1:12 and it feels important that I make a wish because I'm pretty much out of other options. What comes to mind is KK -- her being alive, holed up in a fortress, with enough food to last years and books to pass the days.
The first time I ever saw her was in the psych ward in the Somali neighborhood of the South Minneapolis ghetto. I wound up in the ward because I'd dropped out of college to smoke scante and finally my parents came to the apartment they paid for after I'd quit answering their calls. They knocked and knocked while I sat in my room with all the shades drawn, trying not to breathe. They called the cops, who didn't think an arrest was in order, just a nice trip to the nuthouse. So there I sat in my scrubs and socks with little treads. I doodled during arts and crafts. That's when KK walked in. Just a wisp of a girl, nothing but sharp angles and a big nose and chopped blond hair, her arms pulled in tight across what little chest she had.
I'm not sure if I believe in love at first sight or any of that shit. But I know that sitting there in a room with half-retarded motherfuckers drooling from their lithium and trazodone, whatever I felt, it was close. Like I had this need to hold her, protect her bones from her parents or drugs or whatever wouldn't let her sleep at night, and I wanted her to think I was funny and sexy and smart and beautiful, just fucking beautiful. Sitting there while the tech introduced us to her, I wanted to be better than I was, not just to fuck this girl, but to be better for her. Guess that's a good enough definition of love.
Her waving really did me in. She kind of brought up her right hand all timid like. Her fingers didn't even move. She looked around the room and then brought her face back down, her bangs shielding her from our predatory stares. But she still looked at me -- two dots of topaz, not precious, but semiprecious.
That night, I started doing pushups. I quit masturbating to visions of the sluts from my recent past. I wanted to be better and I would be for her.
We hit it off, at least as well as any two people connecting in the psych ward can. We laughed sometimes. We rolled our eyes at stupid people. She told me she loved shooting speed and I felt like a fucking loser because I just smoked mine.
Then one day, toward the end of my stay, we stood at the garbage can scraping off our untouched beef Stroganoff, and she told me to meet her in the janitor's closet in ten minutes. I walked down the hall, excited because things were going to work out. I thought about rhyme and reason and about the universe putting me in the position to get to her, KK, my savior, the girl made of birdlike bones with swathes of gauze along her wrists.
She opened the door and there she was among the trash bags and wet mops and bottles of industrial cleaning supplies. She smiled a genuine smile, little kid and bashful. It was hard to do sober, bridge the gap between indecision and decision, but she met me halfway, our lips touching.
I made love until she told me to fuck her.
Afterward, she sat between my legs, her head resting on my raised knee. I was thinking about us working out in the long run. She could go into treatment and we could be sober and together. I was also thinking about my sperm finding a suitable home in her tiny tubes and about the different guys she'd fucked and I told myself to stop, that every dick she'd sucked was only to get her to me.
I buried my face in her hair. It was grapefruit and sleep. My hand was around her arm and she moved it to her wrist. I felt the thick gauze. I wanted to protest, to tell her this made me feel weird inside. She wrapped her fingers around my index finger. My face was buried in her hair and I was huffing her, greedily wanting to remember this moment, and she guided my finger under her gauze bandage. It was the strangest feeling, how tender and moist her fresh wound still was, how much it was raised above the rest of her forearm, and I thought about telling her no, that I could get it dirty, infect it. Then she moaned a little, maybe a gasp, and the warmth and intimacy of touching her most vulnerable moment are what books are written about.
I didn't mean to tell her I loved her.
My finger was still touching her gash when she said, I love you too.
So with the digital clock still reading 1:11, I wish for KK to be safe. But that's not all. I wish for her to be thinking of me, praying that I am safe, needing me, wanting me. I wish that KK and I can live the rest of our lives together, whatever that might mean, just together, to feel the tickle of her nose against my neck.
We park at the end of the dirt drive. I rush out to open up the gate. There's nothing but pine trees. I sprint back to the car and we drive into the Albino's compound. The little log cabin is pitch black inside. This doesn't necessarily mean anything. The Albino is a sort of minimalist, no phone, a woodstove, that kind of thing. But still, I'm not trying to fight his reanimated corpse.
Just hope he cooked a big ol' batch, Typewriter says. For real, I say.
Neither of us cares if he's dead or alive, just that our ounce is there, shrink-wrapped like a package of ground beef.