My fingers are cold. So I rub them together and hope for friction. Me breathing on them is the only sound for miles and miles. And the ash spreads across my knuckles.
I pull my jacket tighter to my body, and walk towards the shell of a building. My feet leaving prints in the soot.
I hold out my hands and hope for some warmth from the wreckage. But it’s as cold as everything else in this world.
I tuck my hands underneath my arms and hope for my pits to offer something close to heat. I keep my head down when the wind picks up.
It sounds like someone talking. Saying over and over again the word that graces my lips every few minutes. “Cold” it says. And I can almost see the wreckage of a man whisper it through a shattered jaw bone and fleshless grin.
And the others would say it, too. I see them poking out of the ground, fingers caught mid-pointing. A skeleton hugging another, a cloud of dust holding them together in their endless embrace. A sweater and scarf, frayed and stained, sitting on the frame of the corpse child.
They fall to pieces when I pull it off. It’s the last scarf I can afford to place, until my head becomes engulfed. They don’t need it.
And besides, I’m cold.
They used to say that running was a great way to warm up. But with the weight of the scarfs and the coats and the hats and the jeans and the snow pants, I would sweat till I dehydrate, and hunger till I shrivel.
So I walk, and after another hour I find the empty street. Empty of people, but not of cars. Look inside though, and they’re all empty as well. Not even the remains of a driver to claim it. The keys are still in the locks, but when I turn them on the car doesn’t even sputter.
I suppose in a way, there are corpses on the road then. With busted in lights, instead of spinal fractures.
I walk further, occasionally ripping the innards of a car seat and stuffing it in-between the layers of clothing that is more my skin than my God-given flesh. A shiver chatters my teeth, and cracks my filling.
And then I’m in the city. The skyscrapers fallen more often than standing. Every window wide open to the air, and the curtains in the hotel whipping like the ethereal faces of people who used to stay there.
There are cars here, just like the road. There are burned-out buildings too. I walk over to them like I always do and hope for something like the warmth of a person.
The road curves several times. But now I chase a vision off in the distance. The shining tower of a building still left with some type of warmth. Even if it’s just the warmth of existence.
It’s another long walk, vertically, and horizontally. The staircase broken but useable. The hip bone of woman lying in a heap with nothing else there to show who it belonged to. Twelve stories up. But I still climb.
I open the doors occasionally; to see the floors I don’t visit. What may be in each one intrigues me. But what I find is always another series of couches, or desks, or cubicles. Or an executive office with a receptionist and the owner caught in a now macabre infidelity.
But at the top floor there is no furniture. At the top of the world there is only a railing around the rim and the open sky. The clouds full of grey. I look around at the endless city and the statue off in the distance without a head.
And when I find nothing worth seeing, I look down at my hands. I allow them once again to burn with demonic fire. The atomic fire.
And still my hands are cold.
Special thanks to: Bob Gerkin, Collin Pearman, Dylan Alexander, Jerry Banfield, Michael The Comic Nerd, Pulsatilla Pratensis, SuperGoof Media, and Zeony.
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