Here’s a curious aside. You sitting down? Ok, let’s go.
With everything going on in my life and the world, my emotional energy to sit down and write has been pretty limited for a while. But as I’ve been getting back on that horse in the last few weeks, I have been going through some old folders.
I don’t know if a lot of other writers do this, but I have a graveyard of started and abandoned stories. Sometimes it’s only a paragraph. Some times it’s thousands of words. They pretty much all have titles that made sense at the time, but as time goes on, the meanings get kind of ambiguous so digging back through the old seeds uncovers some weird stuff from time to time.
And so it was that I opened up an old document this morning titled “At the End of All Things.” Not long. Only a page long, actually. And truthfully, I don’t know where exactly it was going. All I know is that it was perhaps enspired by a certain degree of uncertainty in the world.
I’d been out of work for a long time, money was tight. The world was crushing me. It felt like everything was falling apart, and maybe that wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Oh, I should note that this was written February 9th, 2020. At that point, the first case of COVID-19 had shown up in Washington State, but it was far from an epidemic at that point. In fact, as of February 23rd, they’d only detected 14 cases in the country. It was a scary disease, but it didn’t feel like the end of the world yet.
What I’d written that day lands differently now. And since I have no idea where I was going with the story, I’m unlikely to do anything with it now. But it felt… relevant, I guess? It’s certainly prophetic that since writing it, the cohort and I packed up our shit and moved out of the city six months later for the suburbs, surrounded by tall pines. It was never a consideration before. Maybe things just need to happen the way they do sometimes.
So I’m sharing it here. Think of it as a very, very short story, maybe. Enjoy.
At the end of all things
At the end of all things, we withdrew to the familiar comfort of the pines, carrying the world upon our tired backs. There were too few of us. We had never expected to make it this far. Better people had fallen by the wayside. People with strength, resources, health, now nothing more than memories that snapped at our retreating heels.
At night, when we looked back the way we came, we could see the silhouette of the city above the tree line. If we were lucky, the sun might break through the constant clouds and make the glass and steel of the abandoned necropolis sparkle. It was fool’s gold. Those manmade canyons of commerce were dark, filled with the stink of death and disease. There were those still tethered there, unable to move on from the faded promise of civilization. People who waited for order to be restored, waited for rescue.
There was no one coming for them.
There was no one coming to save us but us.
And so, the pines, our bindles packed with a carefully negotiated balance of what we needed to survive and what we could not live without. Because the two were not mutually exclusive. Nestled down among camp knife, warm socks, medicine, waterproof tarps, were pens and notebooks, woodcarver tools, battered paperbacks, paint and brushes.
Civilization as we knew it was over. It was hard for some of us, but we all agreed, we’d had a good run. Too good, maybe. And civilizations fell. It’s what they did. Nothing lasted forever. And to tie yourself to a dying notion was to tie yourself to sinking ship. Those who didn’t have the foresight to swim free of the wreckage and imagine a future elsewhere were doomed.