The bottle, green and broken, and a black tarp sky-- she thought she could see the creases in that hadn't been smoothed out by the giant hand that had wrapped it over the world. It was a body bag, or a bodies bag. Live and breathe, die or leave-- you only left beneath dirt or as ashes, eventually sucked up in some vacuum cleaner sort of accident and lost in dirt again. It was late autumn and the leaves were crinkled and dying, their gush of vivacity and vigor trembling beneath the onslaught of the looming arctic darkness of winter. She wasn't sure if that looming was the looming of several weeks or several days. She had lost track of time. She'd almost lost track of her own name, but she thought it might be Maggie.
Only the bench, rough and uneven beneath her splayed fingertips, the sort of rough and uneven that threatened "splinter" with every careless caress. More fidgeting than careless, really. Not that she had much attention for "careful" anymore. Care only got you so far, and then, once it got you there, it just sort of abandoned you like an alcoholic mother would, on the curb in a cardboard box without even a blanket. It seemed like a good thing, unless you knew better.
All this went back to that night, of course. Always referred to as vaguely as possible, so that the topic would be known well enough without any unnecessary elucidation. Unnecessary, painful elucidation-- think, a hammer is held against your teeth and tap! tap! tap! until your toothless grin is no one's envy.
One of those places where it seemed a liberal hand had sprinkled a couple more stars than other areas possessed. Where Maggie was from, you couldn't see the stars for the streetlights. On the plus side, because of the streetlights you could see the human life. Here, you couldn't see humanity for the stars. It was curious. Maggie wasn't sure which one she preferred; she supposed it depended on the day you asked her, the way some people would, on one day, say, "I think I want this coffee nice and tar-black," and on another day might be thoroughly distressed at finding the sugar dispenser entirely devoid of any of those precious white granules and the creamer entirely disappeared and uncreamy.
A bat found its way across the moon, and the moon found its light temporarily lost.
She noticed the difference. At least, she thought she did. Of course, she thought a lot of things.
For instance, thought that led here: A short walk. Leg stretch. Eye-opening. It was quite plausible her eyes had opened too much. It was also quite plausible that she had stretched her legs a little too far, had proven that her notion of a "short walk" might be a little slanted. Either Maggie's mind had gotten away from her, or else miles had.
Even here, there was that aroma in the air. Maggie couldn't place it; it didn't seem to want to place itself.
It might have something to do with why she was here though. The scent had come on the world, flooding everything
Maggie took a deep breath. She would move on; what to, she didn't know. The miles would continue to pass her, and she would let them. The night, descended in arctic dark, seemed to shiver around her. She shivered inside it, and stayed there, waiting for boredom to overcome her weariness. It would happen, eventually, she was sure. Maybe she would even go back-- not that she was particularly sure if there would be much of anything for her to go back to.
Throughout her walk, she had heard it, filling her ears, until these last few miles. Silence had descended. Silence and ascended. Silence circled, like a vulture, and vultures only circle that which is dead.
Maggie took a breath.
The world, as a dead thing, was a notion she was entirely uncomfortable with. Walking, however, had not led her to any place alive. She listened. In other places, even the silence of night would be broken; by wind, by car, by the ceaseless voice of countless crickets. All Maggie could hear was her own breathing, and then, in the arctic dark, there was no more.